At the heart of all temptations is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. Constructing a world by our own lights, without reference to God, building on our own foundation, refusing to acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the political and material, while setting God aside as an illusion—that is the temptation that threatens us in many varied forms. Moral posturing is part and parcel of this temptation. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place. It claims, moreover, to speak for true realism: what’s real is what is right there in front of us—power and bread. By comparison, the things of God fade into unreality, into a secondary world that no one really needs. God is the issue: is he real, reality itself, or isn’t he? Is he good or do we have to invent the good ourselves? The God question is the fundamental question, and it sets us down right at the crossroads of human existence.
This isn’t Pope Francis—it’s Pope Benedict—and it’s terrific; it’s terribly important.
God is the issue. Is he real, or isn’t he?