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Albert Schweitzer

Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography

Selected excerpts

“By respect for life we become religious in a way that is elementary, profound and alive. Impart as much as you can of your spiritual being to those who are on the road with you, and accept as something precious what comes back to you from them. In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

[...] “It is not difficult to pretend that Jesus never lived. The attempt to prove it, however, invariably produces the opposite conclusion. In the Jewish literature of the first century the existence of Jesus is not attested to with any certainty, and in the Greek and Latin literature of the same period there is no evidence for it at all. Of the two passages in his Antiquities in which the Jewish writer Josephus makes incidental mention of Jesus, one was undoubtedly interpolated by Christian copyists. The first pagan witness to His existence is Tacitus, who, during the reign of Trajan in the second decade of the second century A.D., reports in his Annals that the founder of the “Christian” sect (which Nero accused of causing the great fire at Rome) was executed under the government of Tiberius by the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.”

[...] “By itself the affirmation of life can only produce a partial and imperfect civilization. Only if it turns inward and becomes ethical can the will to progress attain the ability to distinguish the valuable from the worthless. We must therefore strive for a civilization that is not based on the accretion of science and power alone, but which cares most of all for the spiritual and ethical development of the individual and of humankind.

[...] Doctors must go out to the colonies as a humane duty mandated by the conscience of society. Whoever among us has learned through personal experience what pain and anxiety really are must help to ensure that those out there who are in physical need obtain the same help that once came to him. He no longer belongs to himself alone; he has become the brother of all who suffer. It is this “brotherhood of those who bear the mark of pain” that demands humane medical services for the colonies. Commissioned by their representatives, medical people must do for the suffering in far-off lands what cries out to be done in the name of true civilization. It was because I relied on the elementary truth embodied in this idea, the “brotherhood of those who bear the mark of pain,” that I ventured to found the forest hospital at Lambaréné.