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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/246

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Sirius; but if any action depended on our believing this to be true, lie would certainly not hesitate to declare that it was a foolish and fantastic falsehood. Who would think the better of him—who would not think the worse—if in this matter he gravely declared himself to be an agnostic? And precisely the same may be said of him with regard to the existence of God. For all practical purposes he is not in doubt about it. He denies it. I need not, however, content myself with my own reasoning. I find Prof. Huxley himself indorsing every word that I have just uttered. He declares that such questions as are treated of in volumes of divinity "are essentially questions of lunar politics, . . . not worth the attention of men who have work to do in the world": and he cites Hume's advice with regard to such volumes as being "most wise"—"Commit them to the flames, for they can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."[1] Quotations of a similar import might be indefinitely multiplied; but it will be enough to add to this the statements quoted already, that agnosticism is to theologic religion what death is to life; and that physiology does but deepen and complete the gloom of the gloomiest motto of paganism—"Debemur morti." If then agnosticism is not an absolute and dogmatic denial of the fundamental propositions of theology, it differs from an absolute and dogmatic denial in a degree that is so trivial as to be, in the words of Prof. Huxley himself, "not worth the attention of men who have work to do in the world." For all practical purposes and according to the real opinion of Prof. Huxley and Mr. Harrison equally, agnosticism is not doubt, is not suspension of judgment; but it is a denial of what "most people mean by religion"—that is to say, the fundamental propositions of theology, so absolute that Prof. Huxley compares it to their death.

And now let us pass on to the next point in our argument, which I will introduce by quoting Prof. Huxley again. This denial of the fundamental propositions of theology "affects," he says, "men's whole conception of life." Let us consider how. By the Christian world, life was thought to be important owing to its connection with some unseen universe, full of interests and issues which were too great for the mind to grasp at present, but in which, for good or evil, we should each of us one day share, taking our place among the awful things of eternity. But at the touch of the agnostic doctrine this unseen universe bursts like a bubble, melts like an empty dream; and all the meaning which it once imparted to life vanishes from its surface like mists from a field at morning. In every sense but one, which is exclusively physical, man is remorselessly cut adrift from the eternal; and whatever importance or interest anything has for any of us, must

  1. "Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews," p. 125.