This, however, is not the most remarkable character of the sound of bells. This sound has a thousand secret relations with man. How oft, amid the profound tranquillity of night, has the heavy tolling of the death-bell, like the slow pulsations of an expiring heart, startled the adultress in her guilty pleasures! How often has it caught the ear of the atheist who, in his impious vigils, had perhaps the presumption to write that there is no God! The pen drops from his fingers. He hears with consternation the funeral knell which seems to say to him, And is there indeed no God? Oh, how such sounds disturbed the slumbers of our tyrants! Extraordinary religion, which, by the mere percussion of the magic metal, can change pleasures into torments, appal the atheist, and cause the dagger to drop from the hand of the assassin!

“How oft indeed,” as my friend and colleague Richard Gibson commented when reading this passage to me.

Chateaubriand, from The Genius of Christianity.