But there are better minds who take up mystical theories (by which I mean all those which have no possibility of being mechanically explained). These are persons who are strongly prejudiced in favor of such theories. We all have natural tendencies to believe in such things; our education often strengthens this tendency; and the result is, that to many minds nothing seems so antecedently probable as a theory of this kind. Such persons find evidence enough in favor of their views, and in the absence of any recognized logic of induction they cannot be driven from their belief.
But to the mind of a physicist there ought to be a strong presumption against every mystical theory; and therefore it seems to me that those scientific men who have sought to make out that science was not hostile to theology have not been so clear-sighted as their opponents.
It would be extravagant to say that science can at present disprove religion; but it does seem to me that the spirit of science is hostile to any religion except such a one as that of M. Vacherot. Our appointed teachers inform us that Buddhism is a miserable and atheistical faith, shorn of the most glorious and needful attributes of a religion; that its priests can be of no use to agriculture by praying for rain, nor to war by commanding the sun to stand still. We also hear the remonstrances of those who warn us that to shake the general belief in the living God would be to shake the general morals, public and private. This, too, must be admitted; such a revolution of thought could no more be accomplished without waste and desolation than a plantation of trees could be transferred to new ground, however wholesome in itself, without all of them languishing for a time, and many of them dying. Nor is it, by-the-way, a thing to be presumed that a man would have taken part in a movement having a possible atheistical issue without having taken serious and adequate counsel in regard to that responsibility. But, let the consequences of such a belief be as dire as they may, one thing is certain: that the state of the facts, whatever it may be, will surely get found out, and no human prudence can long arrest the triumphal car of truth—no, not if the discovery were such as to drive every individual of our race to suicide!
But it would be folly to suppose that any metaphysical theory in regard to the mode of being of the perfect is to destroy that aspiration toward the perfect which constitutes the essence of religion. It is true that, if the priests of any particular form of religion succeed in making it generally believed that religion cannot exist without the acceptance of certain formulas, or if they succeed in so interweaving certain dogmas with the popular religion that the people can see no essential analogy between a religion which accepts these points of faith and one which rejects them, the result may very well be to render those who cannot believe these things irreligious. Nor can we ever hope that any body of priests should consider themselves more teachers of religion in general than of the particular system of theology