I'm reading "Les Miserables", knowing almost nothing about his author, and I'm now approaching Volume II - Book VII - Chapter VI (The absolute goodness of prayer).

Here, Hugo is criticizing seclusion and convents, in particular the fact that many men and women ended up there out of their will. In the following pages though, it seems like he's doing a sort of apology of the religion, at least of its most spiritual sides. It seems like he thinks that atheists can't be actual atheists ("There are, as we know, powerful and illustrious atheists. At bottom, led back to the truth by their very force, they are not absolutely sure that they are atheists; it is with them only a question of definition, and in any case, if they do not believe in God, being great minds, they prove God."); he says that you can't deny infinity and God.

So, it seems to me that he believes in God, even if he doesn't always approve of the Church and catholic authorities.

Therefore, my question regards a specific sentence he wrote at the beginning of this chapter: "To erect a sense which we lack into a source of truth, is a fine blind man's self-sufficiency." I can't understand how I should interpret it: if I ignore everything I wrote above, I'd say that he means "we do not understand something, and instead of looking for a wise and scientific explanation for it, we decide to make that mystery a source of truth (God)", which is exactly what Catholics do with their "mysteries" of faith. So, it seems to me, a criticism of religion and God.

But it doesn't make any sense with all the above, so what did Hugo want to say with that sentence?

  • There is nothing inconsistent in believing that God exists, and that faith is good, but that the Catholic Church has got nearly everything wrong. I think the point is that we should make the decision about exactly what we believe and about faith, and not let the church do it for us.
    – Peter Shor
    Aug 28, 2022 at 20:23
  • I understand that, and I understand that is what Hugo thought. It seems to me though, that "to erect a sense we lack into a source of truth" is what everyone with some kind of faith does, regardless of also being part of a religion or not. When you put your faith in a God, you are finding your own truth in something you will never completely understand. But maybe that is just my own mindset?
    – Fede
    Aug 28, 2022 at 20:46


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