Recently, someone gave me a free copy of an old book on submarines.  The author was a leading United States Navy man in the War in the Atlantic starting in 1942 when the German submarines were at the height of their successes against British and American shipping.  I found  a tremendous little section that I was not expecting about the reason that most sailors believe in God.  I thought it was worth sharing here.

“Sailors are supposed to be notoriously superstitious and to believe in all sort of omens religiously. When you get down to brass tacks, these so-called superstitions are fundamentally religious in nature.  They are an admission that man doesn’t run this Universe to suit himself and that his plans are subject to veto by a Higher Power.  Sailors instinctively understand this and believe in God because they have a better chance than men who stay ashore to observe and think about the handiwork of God.

They see the daily miracles of sunrise and sunset and understand the Power that regulates them better than the scientists do.  The scientists can “explain” the whole thing in terms of Newton’s Laws and show you that there is no miracle to it at all, the sun can’t help rising and setting.  But sailors who know nothing about Newton’s Laws are wiser than the scholars who expound laws which sailors can’t understand.  They go beyond the mathematics of the sunrise and see in it the hand of the One Who created these laws of mathematics as well as everything else.

They rub elbows with God’s power and majesty in the storms at sea, and when the ocean worships God by raising great sweeping mountains of water that dwarf in power and majesty anything we see ashore, they get drenched to the skin in worship.

During the night watches when the sky is clear, sailors gaze out into the depths of the starry universe in which we live.  Each night they see how perfectly all parts of creation fit together.  They see how harmoniously the whole magnificent machine operates everywhere except on this puny planet where man can interfere.

Men who live close to these wonders every day on a tiny ship, absorb and learn some things that smarter men may miss in the strife and turmoil of life ashore.  They know instinctively that we and this universe were created by a Supreme Being, more powerful than the effect which He created, and not simply by the haphazard operation of the laws of probability.

Sailors often speak of “good luck,” but when they do they do not mean gambler’s luck controlled by the laws of probability.  When a sailor speaks of good luck, he means God’s blessing, and there is certainly no better luck you can enjoy than that.”

From Daniel V. Gallery, Twenty Million Tons Under the Sea: The Daring Capture of the U-505 (H. Regnery Co., 1956), 128-29.