God and the Atom


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By Ronald Knox

The atomic bomb marked a catastrophic leap in the history of human achieve­ment. Never before had a man-made instrument dealt out, in an instant, such death and destruction. Once done, it could not be undone. The leap was made; the atomic age begun. To live in this new age, a new spirit was required—a spirit that would prevent mankind becoming the destroyer of all worlds. The father of the atomic bomb himself, J. Robert Oppenheimer, perceived this need, calling for “radical changes not only in spirit, not only in law, but also in conception and feeling” between nations and peoples. And what are those changes? The priest, not the scientist, gives the answer. In God and the Atom, Monsignor Knox re-states the ever-ancient, ever-new principles of God’s revelation and commandments, and their application to the conditions of the atomic age. 

Then Cain said to his brother, Let us go out together; and while they were out in the open, Cain turned upon his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)

The people of this world must unite or they will perish. The atomic bomb has spelled these words out for all men to understand. Other men have spoken them in other times, and of other wars, of other weapons. They have not prevailed. (J. Robert Oppenheimer)

First published in 1945, amid the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima and Naga­saki, God and the Atom was one of the first theological considerations of the atomic age and the ramifications and risks of atomic weaponry and proliferation. To a world which refuses to let peace prevail, Knox’s work remains deeply—and tragically—relevant.

Ronald Knox (1888–1957) was an English Catholic priest, theologian, and author, and one of the most prominent twentieth-century converts from Anglicanism to Cath­olicism. Best known for his contemporary English translation of the Scriptures (the “Knox Bible”), he wrote numerous works of apologetics and collections of ser­mons, retreat conferences, and lectures, as well as six detective novels. 

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Paperback: 194pp.

ISBN: 978-1685952976