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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/250

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

gone with them. They have all been, unanimous in their rejection of theology, and in regarding man and the race of men as a fugitive manifestation of the all-enduring something, which always, everywhere, and in an equal degree, is behind all other phenomena of the universe. They are unanimous also in affirming that, in spite of its fugitive character, life can afford us certain considerations and interests, which will still make duty binding on us, will still give it a meaning. At this point, however, they divide into two bands. Some of them assert that the motive and the meaning of duty is to be found in the history of humanity, regarded as a single drama, with a prolonged and glorious conclusion, complete in itself, satisfying in itself, and imparting, by the sacrament of sympathy, its own meaning and grandeur to the individual life, which would else be petty and contemptible. This is what some assert, and this is what others deny. With those who assert it we have now parted company, and are standing alone with those others who deny it—Prof. Huxley among them, as one of their chief spokesmen.

And now addressing myself to Prof. Huxley in this character, let me explain what I shall try to prove to him. If he could believe in God and in the divine authority of Christ, he admits he could account for duty and vindicate a meaning for life; but he refuses to believe, even though for some reasons he might wish to do so, because he holds that the beliefs in question have no evidence to support them. He complains that an English bishop has called this refusal "cowardly"—"has so far departed from his customary courtesy and self-respect as to speak of 'cowardly agnosticism.'" I agree with Prof. Huxley that, on the grounds advanced by the bishop, this epithet "cowardly" is entirely undeserved; but I propose to show him that, if not deserved on them, it is deserved on others, entirely unsuspected by himself. I propose to show that his agnosticism is really cowardly, but cowardly not because it refuses to believe enough, but because, tried by its own standards, it refuses to deny enough. I propose to show that the same method and principle, which is fatal to our faith in the God and the future life of theology, is equally fatal to anything which can give existence a meaning, or which can—to have recourse to Prof. Huxley's own phrases—"prevent our 'energies' from being 'paralyzed,' and 'life's beauty' from being destroyed." I propose, in other words, to show that his agnosticism is cowardly, not because it does not dare to affirm the authority of Christ, but because it does not dare to deny the meaning and the reality of duty. I propose to show that the miserable rags of argument with which he attempts to cover the life which he professes to have stripped naked of superstition, are part and parcel of that very superstition itself—that, though they are not the