This segment of the text by Sartre discusses an example of the idea of “bad faith.” Sartre characterizes “bad faith” by explaining that it is a behavior, a series of “efforts taken in order not to be present to the experienced pleasure,” and therefore “to deny it” (Sartre 96). He uses, in this segment, the example of a young woman who is on a date with a suitor for the first time, and whose mind is not yet made up about how she feels about this young man. She wants to make sure that she does not lead him astray as to her desires, but because she is undecided in those desires, she acts in bad faith.

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“She does not want to see possibilities of temporal development which his conduct presents” (Sartre 96); that is, she denies the eventual possibility of consequences in order to behave as though everything is in the present, as though everything is only composed of explicit meaning. In this particular example, she desires a very precise kind of attention: one that contains nuances of sexual interest but that plays mostly to her personality, the very being of who she is. Sartre goes on to posture what her behavior and thoughts are when the young man takes her hand: “This act of her companion risks changing the situation by calling for an immediate decision” (Sartre 97).

She therefore engages in a division of her body from her mind—by immediately engaging in lofty, intellectual conversation, she segregates the romantic action of handholding from what it implies by pretending it is not there, by steering the conversation towards consciousness, and leaving the hand “inert:” “the young woman leaves her hand there, but she does not notice that she is leaving it. She does not notice because it happens by chance that she is at this moment all intellect” (Sartre 97). The central issue here is the use of bad faith in order to simultaneously enjoy the desire of the young man while still leaving his motives and attempts inert. The antidote to this behavior is to realize that the woman is subjecting herself to adopting the idea that she has no other choice, and to realize the burden of freedom that is upon her—that she actually has many choices.

This solution may or may not be successful, depending on what is defined as “successful” in this case. In order for the woman to be herself with integrity, she would need to expose all the choices for what they are, to acknowledge the man’s choices in his desire and his action in holding her hand. However, these actions would invite the consequences that led her to choose to act in bad faith in the first place. Therefore, the success of her freedom is dependent on the relative severity and worth of either of these choices. If we were to apply the idea of acting in bad faith to the question of whether God exists or not, we would have to consider the actions of man in adopting God as a truth.

The action of deciding that God were to exist also comes with the action of adopting a moral system to choose his behaviors for him, and to deny that he can act beyond this system. However, this does not mean one cannot have religious beliefs; it in no way instructs that we must give up religion. It simply means that one cannot adopt the church’s expectations as their own. One cannot use the church in order to justify what one can and cannot do, because that would be acting in bad faith. Existentialism focuses on the individual within the struggle for life, within the world, instead of the idea of the world as a whole. Religion, and God’s existence, bears no relevance within it.