Blaise Pascal is best remembered for his genius in mathematics, but his work as a philosopher and theologian remains perhaps the most insightful of all his works. Born in France in 1623, Pascal was reared by his father and an older sister after his mother's death in 1626. Though he was often ill, he displayed a sharp intellect at an early age.
By the time he was thirty-one he was well known for his contributions in the fields of math and science. However, it was in that year that he visited his sister at a religious community in Port Royal, where he heard a sermon that brought about a profound religious experience. He remembered that day—November 23, 1654—as the key moment in his life. He wrote the following on a piece of paper, sewed it into the lining of his coat, and carried it with him for the rest of his life: "Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars. Certainty, certainty, heartfelt joy, peace. God of Jesus Christ. Joy, joy, joy, oceans of joy!"
Whatever doubts Pascal had before that time had been dispelled. For the next six years he lived with that community (though not as a member), studying the Bible and the Church Fathers. At the age of thirty-seven he began writing a defense of the Christian faith, but his death at age thirty-nine prevented him from finishing. These random notations or "thoughts" were gathered together following Pascal's death and became the world-famous book Pensees.