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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/249

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"COWARDLY AGNOSTICISM."

meaning by hope, and with a constant motive by sympathy. The basis of the other religion is not only different from this, but opposed to it. Just as this demands that we turn away from the universe, and concentrate our attention upon humanity, so the other demands that we turn away from humanity and concentrate our attention on the universe. Mr. Herbert Spencer calls this the Religion of the Unknowable; and though many agnostics consider the name fantastic, they one and all of them, if they resign the religion of humanity, consider and appeal to this as the only possible alternative.

Now I have already in this review, not many months since, endeavored to show how completely absurd and childish the first of these two religions, the Religion of Humanity, is. I do not propose, therefore, to discuss it further here, but will beg the reader to consider that for the purpose of the present argument it is brushed aside like rubbish, unworthy of a second examination. Perhaps this request will sound somewhat arbitrary and arrogant, but I have something to add which will show that it is neither. The particular views which I now aim at discussing are the views represented by Prof. Huxley; and Prof. Huxley rejects the Religion of Humanity as completely as I do, and with a great deal less ceremony, as the following passage will demonstrate:

Out of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of his lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent than the other brutes; a blind prey to impulses which, as often as not, lead him to destruction; a victim to endless illusions which, as often as not, make his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his physical life with barren toil and battle. He attains a certain degree of physical comfort, and develops a more or less workable theory of life, in such favorable situations as the plains of Mesopotamia or Egypt, and, then, for thousands and thousands of years, struggles with varying fortunes, attended by infinite wickedness, bloodshed, and misery, to maintain himself at this point against the greed and the ambition of his fellow-men. He makes a point of killing or otherwise persecuting all those who try to get him to move on; and when he has moved on a step, foolishly confers post-mortem deification on his victims. He exactly repeats the process with all who want to move a step yet further. And the best men of the best epoch are simply those who make the fewest blunders and commit the fewest sins. . . . I know of no study so unutterably saddening as that of the evolution of humanity as it is set forth in the annals of history; . . . [and] when the positivists order men to worship humanity—that is to say, to adore the generalized conception of men, as they ever have been, and probably ever will be—I must reply that I could just as soon bow down and worship the generalized conception of a "wilderness of apes."[1]

Let us here pause for a moment and look about us, so as to see where we stand. Up to a certain point the agnostics have all gone together with absolute unanimity, and I conceive myself to have

  1. "Agnosticism," "Nineteenth Century," February, 1889, pp. 191, 192, and "Popular Science Monthly," April, 1889, pp. 772, 773.