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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/802

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

agnostic in regard to it. He may withhold his judgment until the evidence is complete, but suspension of judgment is not agnosticism, which, if it means anything, means a profession of hopeless and, so to speak, invincible ignorance in regard to certain matters. But if it would be absurd for a man to profess himself an agnostic in regard to problems admitting or believed to admit of solution, is it not idle for any one to accept that designation because he believes that there are other problems or propositions which do not admit of solution? All one has to do in relation to the latter class of problems is to recognize their unreal or purely verbal character. It is the nature of the problem that requires to be characterized, not our mental relation thereto. The latter follows as a matter of course from the former. Moreover, why should any one wish or consent to be designated by a term purely negative in its meaning? It is what we know, not what we do not know, that should furnish us with a name, if it is necessary to have one. The little that a man knows is of vastly more consequence to him than all the untrodden continents of his ignorance. The chemist calls himself so because he professes to have a knowledge of chemistry: he does not invent for himself a name signifying his ignorance of political economy or metaphysics. Why, then, should any man adopt a name which defines his relation not to things that he knows or to questions to which he attributes a character of reality, but to things that he does not know and to questions which, so far as he can see, have no character of reality? Let others give him such a name if they will, but let no man voluntarily tie himself to a negation.

There are some, as I believe, who have adopted the appellation of agnostic thoughtlessly: some through indolence, as appearing to exempt them from the necessity of a decision in regard to certain difficult and, in a social sense, critical questions; and some possibly for the reason hinted at by the Bishop of Ontario, namely, lack of the courage necessary to take up a more decided position. Whatever the motive may be, however, I am persuaded that the term is a poor one for purposes of definition; and I should advise all earnest men, who think more of their beliefs than of their disbeliefs, to disown it so far as they themselves are concerned. If it be asked by what appellation those who do not believe in "revealed religion" are to be known, I should answer that it is not their duty to coin for themselves any sectarian title. They are in no sense a sect. They believe themselves to be on the high-road of natural truth. It is they who have cast aside all limited and partial views, and who are opening their minds to the full teaching of the universe. Let their opponents coin names if they will: they whom the truth has made free feel that their creed is too wide for limitation.

The Bishop of Ontario stands forth in the pamphlet before us simply as the champion of the two great doctrines of God and immortality. In reality, however, he is the champion of much more, for he