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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/262

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

duty of ethics and of religion is to draw a distinction between two states of emotion and two courses of action—to elevate the one and to degrade the other. But the argument we are now considering, though undoubtedly true in itself, has no bearing on this distinction whatever. It is invoked to show that religion and duty remain spiritual in spite of all materialism; but it ends, with unfortunate impartiality, in showing the same thing of vice and of cynical worldliness. If the life of Christ is elevated by being seen in this light, so also is the life of Casanova; and it is as impossible in this way to make the one higher than the other as it is to make one man higher than another by taking them both up in a balloon.

I have now gone through the whole case for duty and for religion, as stated by the agnostic school, and have shown that, as thus stated, there is no case at all. I have shown their arguments to be so shallow, so irrelevant, and so contradictory, that they never could have imposed themselves on the men who condescend to use them, if these men, upon utterly alien grounds, had not pledged themselves to the conclusion which they invoke the arguments to support. Something else, however, still remains to be done. Having seen how agnosticism fails to give a basis to either religion or duty, I will point out to the reader how it actively and mercilessly destroys them. Religion and duty, as has been constantly made evident in the course of the foregoing discussion, are, in the opinion of the agnostics, inseparably connected. Duty is a course of conduct which is more than conformity to human law; religion consists of the emotional reasons for pursuing that conduct. Now these reasons, on the showing of the agnostics themselves, are reasons that do not lie on the surface of the mind. They have to be sought out in moods of devoutness and abstraction, and the more we dwell on them, the stronger they are supposed to become. They lie above and beyond the ordinary things of life; but after communing with them, it is supposed that we shall descend to these things with our purposes sharpened and intensified. It is easy to see, however, if we divest ourselves of all prejudice, and really conceive ourselves to be convinced of nothing which is not demonstrable by the methods of agnostic science, that the more we dwell on the agnostic doctrine of the universe, the less and not the more shall duty seem to be binding on us.

I have said that agnosticism can supply us with no religion. Perhaps I was wrong in saying so, but if we will but invert the supposed tendency of religion, it can and it will supply us with a religion indeed. It will supply us with a religion which, if we describe it in theological language, we may with literal accuracy describe as the religion of the devil—of the devil, the spirit which denies. Instead of telling us of duty, that it has a meaning which