Religionskritisches von William Josephus Robinson



William J. Robinson

Herausgegeben von Alois Payer (

Zitierweise / cite as:

Robinson, William J. (William Josephus) <1867 - 1936>: Providence.  -- Fassung vom 2007-11-16. -- URL:           

Ursprünglich erschienen in:

Robinson, William J. (William Josephus) <1867 - 1936>: If I were God : a freethinker's faith. Incorporating a discussion between the author and a catholic priest. -- New York : Freethought Press, 1930. -- 186 S. -- S. 134 - 141. -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2007-11-16

Erstmals publiziert: 2007-11-16



Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Religionskritik  von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

Chapter Twelve. PROVIDENCE

(Providence Divine interposition in human affairs. The care exercised by God over the Universe.)

IT WAS May 15, 1912 just one month to the day from the tragic night of the sinking of the Titanic. A patient, whom I had been  treating several years before and of whom I had lost track, came into the office to consult me again for some slight trouble. In spite of the slight trouble, he was in a happy buoyant mood. After the consultation was over, he told me: "You know, for the past month I have been a very happy man, and never again shall I doubt the omnipresence of Divine Providence!" I waited for him to go on, and he told me, in a tone of unconcealed glee, that he had intended to take the Titanic,, but almost at the last moment but a day or two before an obstacle arose, he could not finish the business that he had on hand, and he cancelled his reservation. And he went home a week later on a French boat. "There you see. It was the hand of Providence. If I had taken the Titanic, I might be now at the bottom of the Ocean." And he told the story with a certain pride, as if it was he who had done something heroic.

A man has a right to be a fool, but some men abuse the privilege ; and my patient belonged to this class, and with such people I never argue. I know too well that it would be a waste of time. I could have told him that if he had such a belief in Providence, then if Providence wanted him to live, he would have been among the living even if he had taken the Titanic, but, of course, you can't expect logic from superstitious fools. So I only asked him: "How about the 1503 men and women who went down with the Titanic and are now at the bottom of the sea where was Providence in their case?" He hemmed a bit. I saw clearly what was in his mind, but he just couldn't make himself say it. I said it for him: "I suppose you think that in the case of those 1503, God or Providence just wanted them to get drowned." I saw by his expression that I read his thoughts aright. "And how about the 703 who were saved? Did God just want them saved? If he did, why didn't he have them cancel their sailing as he did in your case a million is just as easy to God as one and instead of subjecting them to the horror of imminent death for hours a horror from which some people will never be entirely free as long as they live? No, Mr. G. I do not wish to argue the matter with you, but I cannot help telling you that God or Providence had nothing whatever to do with the sinking of the Titanic. The great tragedy was due to the carelessness of some of the officers, to the fact that some of them were drunk, drunk with champagne poured into them by some of the millionaire passengers, and the criminal lack of life-saving apparatus. If it was God that deliberately made the boat crash into the iceberg and caused unutterable horror to 2200 people, 1500 of whom he sent to a watery grave, then he must be a damnably cruel God, and the existence of such a monster I cannot admit. You see, though a freethinker, I am more charitable than you." He went away, not quite pleased, and I never saw him again.

I can listen to the silliest puerility, to the absurdest, wildest superstition, to the most grotesque religious bunk, and be just slightly amused; but there is one thing that riles me, that arouses my ire, and that is when some damned fool, who comes out safe and sound from some terrible accident in which hundreds or thousands of people had lost their lives, tells me that his miserable carcass was saved by the direct intervention of God, by the all-wise, loving interposition of divine providence. For this is the acme, both the zenith and the nadir, of stupid, vulgar, dastardly egotism. That thousands perished miserably is all right. Providence is not to be criticized, grumbled at, or held responsible, but because he was saved Providence is to be praised, sung paeans to, and imbecile ex-votes are to be nailed to the walls of the church.

Yes, of all the religious imbecilities, this is the most nauseating. Yet, we come across it very frequently. After the sinking of the Lusitania, there were quite a number of imbeciles who ascribed their change of mind about sailing on that ill-fated vessel to Providence. That their decisions not to sail on the Lusitania were most likely caused by the warning that the German ambassador caused to be published in the American newspapers never entered their thick heads. If the idea did enter their mind, they discarded it in favor of Providence. That 1400 people perished most lamentably on that May 7, 1915, that didn't matter. Providence was asleep or was just amusing itself by drowning innocent men, women and children like rats; but because he didn't go on the Lusitania Providence be praised!

Only the other day, a young Frenchwoman told me she couldn't see how one could doubt the goodness of God and not believe in  Providence. One Friday in 1915 she was at that time only twelve years old she was sent out to buy a loaf of bread. She always used to get it at a bakery a block away to the left; but for some reason or other God must have whispered to her not to go there this day she went to the bakery a block away to the right. And while she was gone, a German bomb fell on that lefthand bakery, destroyed the building and eighteen people were killed. Had she gone to that bakery. . . . But how about those eighteen poor people? Why did Providence just save her, and let the others be shattered to bits? Ah, monsieur', On ne peut pas demander pourquoi: God's ways are not our ways. Can a lower grade of imbecility be imagined?

But it must not be assumed that it is only people at a low level of intelligence or education that speak so of Providence, think of it as a being that is interested in the smallest details of our lives, that knows everything we are doing, that makes us poor or rich, that controls our success or failure in business, that sends us stomachaches and boils and cures us of them when it thinks we have had them long enough, that makes us slip on a banana peel and break our leg, or manoeuvres so that we find a purse full of money, etc., etc., etc. Far from it. Some men of the highest culture, some great writers speak of Providence in a way that is disgusting and nauseating to a clear, freethinking, analytical mind.

I was between thirteen and fourteen years old. I was reading Victor Hugo's The History of a Crime. One of the deputies or barricade fighters was to be arrested and he was running away trying to hide somewhere in order to escape arrest. He finally came to some garden; the gate in that garden was usually locked; but in his desperation he pushed the gate and found that it was open. Hugo then asks who left that gate open? And he answers: Providence! I remember very well, when I came to that answer I called out loud: Imbecile! At that time I admired Hugo. I considered him one of the world's greatest writers, and one of the world's greatest geniuses. But, nevertheless, this seemed to me so idiotic. It was such a shock to my intelligence, that I could not refrain from calling him an imbecile out loud. Just think of it, I reasoned then, and the reasoning will hold good now; God permits Louis Napoleon to commit the crime of the coup d'état; he lets him destroy the constitution; he lets him, i.e., his hirelings, swoop down in the middle of the night on hundreds of deputies and carry them off half dressed to prison; he permits all these crimes, including exile and bloodshed ; but in order to permit one revolutionist to escape he goes down personally and lifts the latch or unlocks the lock of a certain garden. Isn't it childish, isn't it imbecile? Yes, it was imbecile then, according to my notions of a boy in his early teens, it is imbecile now.

And it is certainly time that intelligent people, people who are capable of some reasoning, ceased to refer to Providence as to some intelligent Being that is interested in and controls all our doings, little and big, picayune and important, and knows and influences the thoughts and feelings of every one of the two billion human beings on the face of the globe. Nay, it is time that this meaningless word, Providence, went out of use altogether, were eliminated from every language. And it is particularly discouraging and offensive to see thinkers and unbelievers bandy about that word. A man like Emil Ludwig, for instance, who is a freethinker, speaks of Providence controlling the fates of nations. This is just as imbecile as Hugo's Providence leaving the gate open. It is bad enough to speak of Determinism which rules nations and individuals (the world is not ruled by any determinism), but for a man like Ludwig to use the word Providence is utterly inexcusable.

The man who believed that it was Providence that made him change his reservation on the Titanic possesses no superior mentality than the savage who believes that the wooden idol will grant his requests if he puts a bead of strings around its neck.

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