Voltaire once said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." Why would he say that? Ultimately, does it really matter whether or not God exists?


Voltaire's faith is somewhat enigmatic to me. By some accounts he was a deist, though by others he sometimes sounds more Christian by appealing to distinctly Christian ideas. The quote you mention is from his Epistle to the Author of the Book The Three Impostors. In the poem, Voltaire appears to suggest that the idea of God is necessary to social order. Since this poem was written in 1768, this quote may reflect statements made against him by Bouillier many years prior, which are also reflected by the officer of the Inquisition in Candide. Specifically, a corollary of Bouillier's statements would seem to be that denial of God's existence removes all ground for eternal reward and punishment, thereby leaving man totally uninhibited and free to do according to his own desires. If God did not exist, man would have to invent God in order to offer and threaten sufficient rewards to inspire an orderly society.

Your question, "Ultimately, does it really matter whether or not God exists?" is of an entirely different nature, touching on all sorts of metaphysical, philosphical, theological and issues. I'll try to offer just a brief affirmative defense. Ultimately, it is of supreme importance that God exists. If God did not exist, there would be no heaven for believers after this life. Consciousness and existence would end at death. Life, by most accounts, would be meaningless, empty and void. Pleasures and posterity are not enough to satisfy man's longing for the eternal. The older we get, the more we realize the superficiality of a merely ephemeral existence (compare the philosophy of Ecclesiastes). While either a real or imagined God might be able to inspire social order, only God's actual existence can satisfy the longings of man's heart. Only the true God can meet the needs we were made to feel, and can plan and fulfill our need for significance.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.