God would have managed things for me. I would have been a signed masterpiece. Assured of playing my part in the universal concert, I would have patiently waited for Him to reveal His purposes and my necessity. I reached out for religion, I longed for it, it was the remedy. Had it been denied me, I would have invented it myself. It was not denied me. Raised in the Catholic faith, I learned that the Almighty had made me for His glory. That was more than I dared dream. But later, I did not recognize in the fashionable God in whom I was taught to believe the one whom my soul was awaiting. I needed a Creator; I was given a Big Boss. The two were one and the same, but I didn't realize it. I was serving, without zeal, the Idol of the Pharisees, and the official doctrine put me off seeking my own faith. What luck! Confidence and sorrow made my soul a choice soil for sowing the seeds of heaven. Were it not for that mistake, I would now be a monk. But my family had been affected by the slow movement of dechristianization that started among the Voltairian upper bourgeoisie and took a century to spread to all levels of society. Without that general weakening of faith, Louise Guillemin, a Catholic young lady from the provinces, would have made a show of greater reluctance to marry a Lutheran. Of course, our whole family believed in God, as a matter of discretion. Seven or eight years after the Combes cabinet, declared disbelief had the violence and raucousness of passion. An atheist was a "character," a wildman whom one did not invite to dinner lest he "lash out," a fanatic encumbered with taboos who refused the right to kneel in church, to weep sweetly there, to give his daughters a religious wedding, who took it upon himself to prove the truth of his doctrine by the purity of his morals, who hounded himself and his happiness to the point of depriving himself of the means of dying comforted, a God-obsessed crank who saw His absence everywhere and who could not open his mouth without uttering His name, in short, a gentleman who had religious convictions. The believer had none. For two thousand years, Christian certainties had had time to prove their worth. They belonged to everyone. They were asked to shine in the gaze of a priest, in the semi-darkness of a church, and to light up men's souls, but nobody had any need to assume them himself. They were the common heritage. Good Society believed in God in order not to speak of Him. How tolerant religion seemed! How comfortable it was: the Christian could desert the Mass and let his children marry in Church, could smile at "all that holy stuff" and shed tears as he listened to the Wedding March from Lohengrin. He was not obliged either to lead an exemplary life or to die in a state of despair; he was not even obliged to be cremated. In our circle, in my family, faith was merely a high-sounding name for sweet French freedom. I had been baptized, like so many others, in order to preserve my independence; in denying me baptism, the family would have feared that it was doing violence to my soul. As a registered Catholic, I was free, I was normal. "Later," they said, "he'll do as he likes." It was deemed at the time that it was much harder to gain faith than to lose it.
—Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mots, p. 97