Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/626

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

nary run of men; in short, above what our author calls, boldly, atheism. "An atheist, in the proper sense of the word," he writes, "is not a man who disbelieves in the goodness of God, or in His distinctness from Nature, or in His personality. These disbeliefs may be as serious in their way as atheism, but they are different. Atheism is a disbelief in the existence of God—that is, a disbelief in any regularity in the Universe to which a man must conform himself under penalties." The religion of the future must combine all three worships. In the individual the results will be practically equivalent to culture, in the aggregate to civilization. The ideal of antiquity was one of separate nationalities, with separate religions; the ideal of the middle ages was an imperial state and a catholic church. The two ideals will be combined in the church and state of the future. The writer points out very clearly the connection between the spirit of nationality and the spirit of religion. The church of the future will be missionary, carrying its faith into uncivilized Asia and Africa; it will be undogmatic, it may even be without a temple, but it will not be without worship, for we have objects for this in nature on its various sides. He thus takes occasion to correct a very common misconception with regard to nature:

"It is often said that, when you substitute Nature for God, you take a thing heartless and pitiless instead of love and goodness. Undoubtedly much less of love and goodness can be discovered in Nature than Christians see in God. But when it is said that there are no such qualities in Nature, that Nature consists of relentless and ruthless laws, that Nature knows nothing of forgiveness, and inexorably exacts the utmost penalty for every transgression, a confusion is made between two different meanings which may be given to the word Nature. We are concerned here with Nature as opposed to that which is above Nature, not with Nature as opposed to man. We use it as a name comprehending all the uniform laws of the Universe as known in our experience, and excluding such laws as are inferred from experiences so exceptional and isolated as to be difficult of verification. In this sense Nature is not heartless or unrelenting; to say so would be equivalent to saying that pity and forgiveness are in all cases supernatural. It may be true that the law of gravitation is quite pitiless, that it will destroy the most innocent and amiable person with as little hesitation as the wrong-doer. But there are other laws which are not pitiless. There are laws under which human beings form themselves into communities, and set up courts in which the claims of individuals are weighed with careful skill. There are laws under which churches and philanthropical societies are formed, under which misery is sought out and relieved, and every evil that can be discovered in the world is redressed. Nature, in the sense in which we are now using the word, includes humanity, and therefore, so far from being pitiless, includes all the pity that belongs to the whole human fam-