God Is a Question, Not an Answer

William Irwin

March 26, 2016

Near end of Albert
Camus’s existentialist novel “The Stranger,” Meursault, the protagonist,
is visited by a priest who offers him comfort in the face of his
impending execution. Meursault, who has not cared about anything up to
this point, wants none of it. He is an atheist in a foxhole. He
certainly has not been a strident atheist, but he claims to have no time
for the priest and his talk of God. For him, God is not the answer.

Some 70 years later,
Kamel Daoud, in his 2013 novel “The Meursault Investigation,” picks up
the thread of Camus’s story. In one scene late in the that novel, an
imam hounds Harun, the brother of the unnamed Arab who was killed in
“The Stranger.” In response, Harun gives a litany of his own impieties,
culminating in the declaration that “God is a question, not an answer.”
Harun’s declaration resonates with me as a teacher and student of
philosophy. The question is permanent; answers are temporary. I live in
the question.


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