Life of Pi

Just a quote I wanted to share from the book "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel:

There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if the Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few paise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, "Business as usual." But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening.

These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defence, not God's, that the self-righteous should rush.


  1. Hello,
    I think this quote is interesting. In some ways I can sympathize but overall must disagree. I would suggest to Mr. Martel, that yes man cannot harm God, if as Mr. Martel says He is "the Ultimate Reality". Certainly man cannot destroy reality. Yet man can lose sight of God, and fall away from Him. This loss of faith would also mean the loss of reality and hence one's life as well as any sense of truth. If this follows, why then is it strange or inappropriate to be indignant when someone slights God? Has this person not spit upon something holy to all of man? It would appear that this indignation is both for God and man. Indeed both have been insulted. In objecting one rushes to the defense of God but also to man (including the widows and homeless children).
    The defense of God from the "inside" is a staggeringly weak and selfish defense. Consider that the man in question is not the only one who hears the slur, has he not allowed others (and also himself) to possibly lose faith and reality? Why would one keep silent, does this silence somehow feed and clothe the hungry? Does it not starve their souls? What about the man who uttered this insult, is he not clearly in need of help if he is separate from the ultimate reality?
    Charity certainly is a virtue and one which must be practiced correctly throughout one's life. However to place physical needs before the needs of the soul does not make much sense.
    Just a few thoughts! Thanks for posting the quote, it really stirred me up.

  2. Well, more the way I interpreted this quote was like this: the only heart you have the ability to change is your own. Therefore, you should cultivate a relationship with God there. From that, your actions and words will naturally speak for the existence of God.

    I think in his experience (if you read the beginning of the book), and from my own, those who feel the need to defend God (that is, to argue a lot and try to win logical debates about the existence of God or about certain theological points) are often really defending themselves and their own point of view, not God.

    Nobody will ever be turned towards God simply because they were defeated in a logical debate. Nor will they, if they truly have a relationship with God, be turned away from Him simply because they were defeated in a logical debate. That, I feel, is why the outward "defense" of God in this sense is pointless. Cultivating a relationship of your own, and then living in all areas of life as if that relationship is a reality makes a much stronger case for the existence and reality of God than arguing logic.

    I don't think he is arguing that one should be silent about God, but simply that one should worry about correcting one's own point of view before trying to put everyone else in line.

  3. Also, I think physical needs and the needs of the soul are all wrapped up, you can't really distinguish between them, because they are both fulfilled by the act of love given to a person.

    How can someone even begin to understand the love of God if they have not experienced love from man?

    Being shown love, I believe, is essential to being able to understand God.