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H.G. Wells: None so detestable as the god of war

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

H.G. Wells: Selections on war

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H.G. Wells
From Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916)

WellsHG

“But he must let these things happen. Or why do they happen?”

“No,” said Mr. Britling. “It is the theologians who must answer that. They have been extravagant about God. They have had silly absolute ideas – that He is all powerful. That He’s omni-everything. But the common sense of men knows better. Every real religious thought denies it. After all, the real God of the Christians is Christ, not God Almighty; a poor mocked and wounded God nailed on a cross of matter…Some day He will triumph…But it is not fair to say that He causes all things now. It is not fair to make out a case against him. You have been misled. It is a theologian’s folly. God is not absolute; God is finite…A finite God who struggles in his great and comprehensive way as we struggle in our weak and silly way – who is with us – that is the essence of all real religion…I agree with you so – Why! if I thought there was an omnipotent God who looked down on battles and deaths and all the waste and horror of this war – able to prevent these things – doing them to amuse Himself – would spit in his empty face…”

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Another son had gone – all the world was losing its sons…

He found himself thinking of young Heinrich in the very manner, if with a lesser intensity, in which he thought about his own son, as of hopes senselessly destroyed. His mind took no note of the fact that Heinrich was an enemy, that by the reckoning of a “war of attrition” his death was balance and compensation for the death of Hugh. He went straight to the root fact that they had been gallant and kindly beings, and that the same thing had killed them both…

By no conceivable mental gymnastics could he think of the two as antagonists. Between them there was no imaginable issue. They had both very much the same scientific disposition; with perhaps more dash and inspiration in the quality of Hugh; more docility and method in the case of Karl. Until war had smashed them one against the other…

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The letters reinforced the photographs in their reminder how kind and pleasant a race mankind can be. Until the wild asses of nationalism came kicking and slaying amidst them, until suspicion and jostling greed and malignity poison their minds, until the fools with the high explosives blow that elemental goodness into shrieks of hate and splashes of blood. How kindly men are – up to the very instant of their cruelties! His mind teemed suddenly with little anecdotes and histories of the goodwill of men breaking through the ill-will of war, of the mutual help of sorely wounded Germans and English lying together in the mud and darkness between the trenches, of the fellowship of captors and prisoners, of the Saxons at Christmas fraternising with the English…Of that he had seen photographs in one of the daily papers…

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