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Jean Paul Sartre was a militant atheist most of his life. In fact he and his lover, Simone de Beauvoir, became two of the 20th century's foremost atheists. Though de Beauvoir remained an atheist until the very end, Sartre appears to have come to the realization that he had been wrong -- to the shock and dismay of all his followers and admirers.

The one who revealed Sartre’s astonishing change was his friend and ex-Maoist, Pierre Victor (A.k.a. Benny Levy), who spent much of his time with the dying Sartre and interviewed him on several of his views. According to Victor, Sartre had a drastic change of mind about the existence of God and started gravitating toward Messianic Judaism. This is Sartre’s before-death profession, according to Pierre Victor: “I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured. In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God.”[i]

This statement effectively closes Sartre’s existential phase to the consternation of his followers and his lover, Simone de Beauvoir, in particular. During Sartre’s funeral, De Beauvoir reportedly behaved like a bereaved widow, but later became quite critical of Sartre in her “Cérémonie Des Adieux.” Later on, she revealed her anger at his change of mind by stating, “How should one explain this senile act of a turncoat? All my friends, all the Sartreans, and the editorial team of Les Temps Modernes supported me in my consternation.”[ii]

Further evidence that supports Sartre’s move toward belief in God is found in an unlikely source, “”  This fanatical atheist web site, tells us that in 1980, about a month before Sartre's death, he was interviewed by one of his assistants, Benny Lévy, and within these interviews he expressed interest in Messianic Judaism. The web site again adds that Sartre was only interested in the “metaphysical” aspects of Judaism, but that he continued to reject the idea of an existing God.[iii]

In the next paragraph they admit that in a 1974, in an interview with Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre said that at times he saw himself "as a being that could, it seems, only come from a creator." However, they point out, he added that "this is not a clear, exact idea..." As expected, they then proceed to assure us that before and after these statements Sartre makes clear that he was and remained an atheist. [iv]

Finally they admit that Sartre’s supporters were upset about Sartre’s acceptance of “something” in Judaism, which was a clear rejection of Marxism, a philosophy which had been a huge and central part of his philosophical thoughts. Unfortunately for them, Sartre confirmed that Levy’s interviews were authentic. [v]

One cannot but smile at the reticence on the part of these atheists to admit that the evidence betrays that something “major” was happening in Sartre’s thinking. By putting two and two together it appears that Sartre did not have a last minute conversion at all, but that over several years there was a gradual transformation in his thinking that he “hesitantly” admitted to in 1974, probably so as not to upset De Beauvoir and his followers, and that he finally appears to have fully confessed his transformation to his dear friend Victor before his death. The fact that he confirmed that Victor’s interviews were genuine adds plenty of support to this conclusion. Thus, the fanatical atheist, Jean Paul Sartre, appears to have seen the light toward the last years of his life -- unfortunately after having influenced many around the world into accepting the philosophy of Atheism.

i. National Review, June 11, 1982, p. 677. Cited in McDowell, J. Stewart, D. Handbook of Today’s Religions – Existentialism. (viewed December 27, 2007)

ii. Ibid.

iii., Sartre, Jean Paul, (Viewed December 27, 2007)


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