Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

People who call themselves atheists often say rather strange things about people with faith¯things like, "Well, if you need the comfort, go on and believe."

An odd notion, that there is "comfort" in faith. Serious believers often don’t find it so.

Actually, it has sometimes seemed to me that the persistence of horrible evils in the world creates no discomfort at all for consistent atheists. Why should the world be otherwise, since everything springs from absurdity, chance, meaninglessness? For that matter, the obviousness of great evil in the world is often used by atheists to account for their atheism.

It is the believer who suffers great pain internally in coming face to face with horrid poverty in Haiti, and in the heat of swarming, overcrowded Bangladesh, and with images of human brutality and sadism, generation after generation. For the believer holds that God is good¯all-seeing, all-powerful¯and yet he allows so much human suffering to continue.

Who feels in tumult internally about evil in the world¯the believer or the unbeliever?

And who feels discomfited when seasons of dryness and aridity blow through the soul, when no God appears, when there is in imagination, senses, memory, and intelligence no presence of God at all, no sign, only nothingness?

If it is comfort that you seek, do not go to belief. Stay with those who take malicious pleasure in chance, meaninglessness, and nothingness "all the way down," in what Richard Rorty calls "nihilism with a smiling face."

And feel superior to those so weak they still need the "comforts" of belief.

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter Web Exclusive Articles

Related Articles