There is No God: Arthur Hugh Clough


`There is no God,’ the wicked saith,
`And truly it’s a blessing,
For what he might have done with us
It’s better only guessing.’

`There is no God,’ a youngster thinks,
`Or really, if there may be,
He surely didn’t mean a man
Always to be a baby.’

`There is no God, or if there is,’
The tradesman thinks, ` ’twere funny
If he should take it ill in me
To make a little money.’

`Whether there be,’ the rich man says,
`It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
Are not in want of victual.’

Some others, also, to themselves
Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
And do not think about it.

But country folks who live beneath
The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson’s wife,
And mostly married people;

Youths green and happy in first love,
So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
Calls guilt, in first confusion;

And almost everyone when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like him.

Arthur Hugh Clough

There is no God

The image is copyright: Bruce Rolff via Shutterstock

About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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4 Responses to There is No God: Arthur Hugh Clough

  1. “And almost everyone when age,
    Disease, or sorrows strike him,
    Inclines to think there is a God,
    Or something very like him.”

    Nice words, just diminished somewhat by being a lie.

    • layanglicana says:

      Mmm. I presume you mean that the statement ‘there is a God’ is a lie? Actually, the poem is about the idea that ‘there are very few atheists in the trenches’, in other words ‘when age, disease or sorrows strike’, many agnostics/atheists are inclined to think that perhaps God does exist after all. I don’t think anyone can possibly know whether this statement is true or not – it is unquantifiable (except of course by God!)

  2. Nope, the lie is, that everyone thinks that when something bad happens. There ARE atheists in the trenches, more than enough of them.

    But if you tend to believe everything you can’t know as false… What about fairies?

  3. layanglicana says:

    OK, thanks for the clarification – your proposition is more interesting if harder to resolve than what I thought you meant! I still think the numbers of atheists in the trenches is unquantifiable, but I take your point, we have no evidence for saying that the imminence of death turns everyone into deists either.

    Now, as to whether there are or are not fairies at the bottom of my (or your) garden…well, you are right in your surmise that I do not believe in their existence. But if I did, I would have no means of proving it to you. Equally I would have no means of disproving it, other than to say that the evidence of my senses had produced no evidence of their existence, therefore it seemed more reasonable to disbelieve than to believe. Would that be your position on the existence of a deity?

    Why do I persist in believing in the existence of God? I suppose for the same reason that I believe in the existence of, for example, love. Emotion is abstract, but that does not mean it is not real. Although you cannot experience anger, say, with your senses (other than its effect in raising your blood pressure), I think you would agree that anger is real. People who embark on anger management training do so because of the effects of their anger in the physical world, but this still does not make anger itself tangible. Did her experience of God lead Mother Teresa to devote her life to the poor in Calcutta? Yes, probably. Could she have proved the existence of God by argument? Probably not.

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