As to gods, they have been, I find, countless, but even the names of most of them lie in the deep compost which is known as civilization, and the memories of few of them are green. There does not seem to me to be good reason for holding that some of them are false and some of them, or one of them, true. Each was created by the imaginations and wishes of men who could not account for the behavior of the universe ~ in any other satisfactory way.
No god has satisfied his worshipers forever. Sooner or later they have realized that the attributes once ascribed to him, such as selfishness or lustfulness or vengefulness, are unworthy of the moral systems which men have evolved among themselves. Thereupon follows the gradual doom of the god, however long certain of the faithful may cling to his cult.
In the case of the god who still survives in the loyalty of men after centuries of scrutiny, it can always be noted that little besides his name has endured. His attributes will have been so revised that he is really another god. Nor is this objection met by the argument that the concept of the god has been purified while the essence of him survived. In the concept alone can he be studied; the essence eludes the grasp of the human mind.
I may prefer among the various gods that god who seems to me most thoroughly purged of what I regard as undivine elements, but I make my choice, obviously, upon principles which come from observation of the conduct of men. Whether a god has been created in the image of gross desires or of pure desires does not greatly matter. The difference proves merely that different men have desired gods and have furnished themselves with the gods they were able to conceive.
A large part of Kafka's work consists of tentative steps toward perpetually changing possibilities of future. He cannot acknowledge a single future, there are many; this multiplicity of futures paralyzes him and burdens his every step.
People should not make a virtue out of their sensitivity. They may experience it and preserve it as it was experienced. But they should not adorn themselves with it. Sensitivity will make an addict out of anyone who displays its medals on his chest. He will require more and more objects to enable him to demonstrate his sensitivity, and if he runs out of them, he will simply make things up - and his sensitivity will then reveal itself for what it is: precious, brittle, and rotted through and through.
Through reading, the modern man succeeds in obtaining an "escape from time" comparable to the "emergence from time" effected by myths. Reading projects him out if his personal duration and incorporates him into other rhythms, makes him live in another "history."
When I say I am an unbeliever, I do not mean merely that I am no Mormon or no Methodist, or even that I am no Christian or no Buddhist. These seem to me relatively unimportant divisions and subdivisions of belief. I mean that I do not believe in any god that has ever been devised, in any doctrine that has ever claimed to be revealed, in any scheme of immortality that has ever been expounded.
There is nothing that man fears more than the touch of the unknown. He wants to see what is reaching towards him, and to be able to recognize or at least classify it. Man always tends to avoid physical contact with anything strange. In the dark, the fear of an unexpected touch can mount to panic. Even clothes give insufficient security: it is easy to tear them and pierce through to the naked, smooth, defenceless flesh of the victim.
When am I happy and when am I sad and what is the difference? What do I need to know to stay alive? What is true in the world? Her mind traveled crooked streets and aimless goat paths, arriving sometimes at profundity, other times at the revelations of a three-year-old.
First there is the lying in wait for prey; the prey is marked down long before it is aware of our designs on it. With feelings of pleasure and approval it is contemplated, observed and kept watch over; it is seen as meat whilst it is still alive, and so intensely and irrevocably seen as meat that nothing can deflect the watcher's determination to get hold of it. Already while he is prowling round it he feels that it belongs to him. From the moment he selects it as his prey, he thinks of it as incorporated into himself.