How Is It Possible To Believe In God? In considering the glories of the world around him, writer and conservative commentator William F. Buckley, Jr. finds it easier to believe in a divine creator than in the vagaries of nature.
NPR logo

How Is It Possible To Believe In God?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
How Is It Possible To Believe In God?

How Is It Possible To Believe In God?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Unidentified Man #1: I believe in the power of love.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe that a generation of young people...

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe it deeply and sincerely.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the importance of passing this knowledge on.

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe that everyone wants to love and be loved.

Unidentified Man #4: All these add up to my belief in the dignity of the individual.

Unidentified Man #5: I believe in people.

Unidentified Man #6: This I believe.


On Mondays, we bring you our revival of the 1950s Edward R. Murrow radio series "This I Believe." This week our essayist is William F. Buckley Jr., the conservative media icon, the founder of the National Review and host of the long-running television show "Firing Line." Here's the curator for our series, independent producer Jay Allison.


Generally the language of media is simple: short sentences, accessible vocabulary. Those are not, however, the trademarks of William F. Buckley Jr. If you are slouching in the back of the classroom, this would be a good time to sit up, and you might want to keep your thesaurus handy. There'll be bonus points for defining animadversion. Here is William F. Buckley with his essay for "This I Believe," which considers nothing less than the fundamental, intellectual decision to believe in a god.

Mr. WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY Jr.: I've always liked the exchange featuring the excited young Darwinian at the end of the 19th century. He said grandly to the elderly scholar, `How is it possible to believe in God?' The imperishable answer was, `I find it easier to believe in God than to believe that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop.' That rhetorical bullet has everything, wit and profundity. It's more than once reminded me that the skepticism about life and nature is most often expressed by those who take it for granted that belief is an indulgence of the superstitious, indeed, "their opiate," to quote a historical cosmologist most profoundly dead. Granted, that to look up at the stars comes close to compelling disbelief. How can such a chance arrangement be other than an elaboration near infinite of natural impulses?

Yes, on the other hand, who is to say that the arrangement of the stars is more easily traceable to nature than to nature's molder? What is the greater miracle, the raising of the dead man in Lazarus or the mere existence of the man who died and the witnesses who swore to his revival? The skeptics get away with fixing the odds against the believer mostly by pointing to phenomena which are only explainable, you see, by the belief that there was a cause for them always deducible. But how can one deduce the cause of Hamlet or St. Matthew's passion? What is the cause of inspiration? This I believe, that it is intellectually easier to credit a divine intelligence than to submit dumbly to felicitous congeries of nature.

As a child, I was struck by the short story told of a man at a bar who boasted of his rootlessness, derisively dismissing the jingoistic patrons to his left and to his right. But late in the evening, one man speaks in animadversion on a little principality in the Balkans and is met with the clenched fists of the man without a country, who would not endure this insult to the place where he was born. So I believe that it is as likely that there's to be a man without a country as a world without a creator.

ALLISON: William F. Buckley Jr., reading his essay for "This I Believe." At our Web site,, you can read and listen to all our essayists along with many who wrote in the 1950s. You will also find guidelines for writing your own three-minute statement of the principles that guide your life. For "This I Believe," I'm Jay Allison.

MONTAGNE: Next Monday on "All Things Considered," an essay from physicist Brian Greene.


MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.