In facing the terrible realities of living with and dying from cancer, those affected—the teenagers, their families, and friends—are left looking for answers, meaning, and comfort for the situations they find themselves in. Many characters in the novel turn to religion to provide answers for their fates. This idea is established from the start of the novel as Hazel attends the support group, which is held in the basement of a church. The church is shaped like a cross and the room is positioned where Jesus’ heart would have been during his crucifixion. Hazel, Isaac, and Augustus joke that the group takes place in the “Literal Heart of Jesus”, but in a figurative sense, the position of the group alludes to the beliefs of some people—that the sick hold a special place in Jesus’ heart.
Religion provides easy answers for the affliction and provides a sense of hope that the fate of the characters is resting in the hands of some higher power. For many of the characters, however, including Hazel and Augustus, religion or God is not sufficient in explaining their situation. Hazel, August, and other characters turn toward different philosophical explanations to find meaning in their lives and deaths. These philosophical notions span from existentialism, as in Augustus’ search for meaning in his life, to nihilism, as in the philosophical leanings of Peter Van Houten. It is along these philosophical lines that Hazel’s character experiences the greatest transformation.
At the beginning of the novel, Hazel responds to Augustus’ fear of oblivion by stating that everything will die, that there was a time before consciousness and there will be a time after it. She fears that her own death will only hurt others and that after she dies nothing of her will be left behind. Because of this fear, she turns to An Imperial Affliction in hopes of finding answers to her fears. She is seeking to understand what happens after the end of the novel, as she feels it will reveal something about what will happen to her after her life ends, answering the looming existential questions the burden her. Through her relationship with Augustus, however, her philosophical standpoint changes. She realizes that after death people live on through their relationships with their loved ones and the impacts they make on the lives of other people. In this way, the nihilistic philosophy she upholds at the beginning of the book transforms, and she develops a new philosophy about life and death that provides her some hope and comfort about her fate.
Religion and Philosophy ThemeTracker
Religion and Philosophy Quotes in The Fault in Our Stars
Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time thinking about death.
There was a time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be a time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
Augustus half smiled. “Because you’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence…I mean, particularly given that, as you so deliciously pointed out, all of this will end in oblivion and everything.”
“That’s exactly what we found with families at Memorial when we were in the thick of it with Gus’s treatment…Everybody was so kind. Strong, too. In the darkest days, the Lord puts the best people into your life.”
Cancer kids are essentially side effects of the relentless mutation that made the diversity of life on earth possible.
“Oh,” he said. “Caroline is no longer suffering from personhood.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I’d known plenty of dead people, of course. But I’d never dated one. I couldn't even imagine it, really.
“Not your fault, Hazel Grace. We’re all just side effects, right?”
“Barnacles on the container ship of consciousness,” I said, quoting AIA.
Everyone in this tale has a rock-solid hamartia: hers, that she is so sick; yours, that you are so well. Were she better or you sicker, then the stars would not be so terribly crossed, but it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in our selves.”
“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.
“Augustus,” I said.
“I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasures of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have and I am in love with you.”
It looked like an old painting, but real—everything achingly idyllic in the morning light—and I thought about how wonderfully strange it would be to live in a place where almost everything had been built by the dead.
Van Houten pursed his lips. “I regret that I cannot indulge your childish whims, but I refuse to pity you in the manner to which you are well accustomed.”
“I don’t want your pity,” I said.
“Like all sick children,” he answered dispassionately, “you say you don’t want pity but your very existence depends on it…sick children inevitably become arrested: You are fated to live out your days as the child you were before you were diagnosed, the child who believes there is life after a novel ends.”
“You get to battle cancer,” I said. “That’s your battle. And you’ll keep fighting,” I told him.
“Some war,” he said dismissively. “What am I at war with? My cancer. And what is my cancer? My cancer is me. The tumors are made of me. They’re made of me as surely as my brain and my heart are made of me. It is a civil war, Hazel Grace, with a predetermined winner.”
I took a few breaths and went back to the page. “I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million… There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”
“Would you like to share a memory of Augustus with the group?”
“I wish I would just die, Patrick. Do you ever wish you would just die?”
“Yes,” Patrick said, without his usual pause. “Yes, of course. So why don't you?”
I thought about it. My old stock answer was that I wanted to stay alive for my parents, because they would be all gutted and childless in the wake of me, and that was still true kind of, but that wasn't it, exactly. “I don’t know.”
I missed the future…I would probably never again see the ocean from thirty thousand feet above, so far up that you can’t make out the waves or any boats, so that the ocean is a great and endless monolith. I could imagine it. I could remember it. But I could never see it again, and it occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.
You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.
I do, Augustus.