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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/263

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"COWARDLY AGNOSTICISM."

does not lie on the surface, such, meaning as may lie on the surface it will utterly take away. It will indeed tell us that the soul which sins shall die; but it will tell us in the same breath that the soul which does not sin shall die the same death. Instead of telling us that we are responsible for our actions, it will tell us that if anything is responsible for them it is the blind, and unfathomable universe; and if we are asked to repent of any shameful sins we have committed, it will tell us we might as well be repentant about the structure of the solar system. These meditations, these communings with scientific truth, will be the exact inverse of the religious meditations of the Christian. Every man, no doubt, has two voices—the voice of self-indulgence or indifference, and the voice of effort and duty; but whereas the religion of the Christian enabled him to silence the one, the religion of the agnostic will forever silence the other. I say forever, but I probably ought to correct myself. Could the voice be silenced forever, then there might be peace in the sense in which Roman conquerors gave the name of peace to solitude. But it is more likely that the voice will still continue, together with the longing expressed by it, only to feel the pains of being again and again silenced, or sent back to the soul saying bitterly, I am a lie.

Such, then, is really the result of agnosticism on life, and the result is so obvious to any one who knows how to reason, that it could be hidden from nobody, except by one thing, and that is the cowardice characteristic of all our contemporary agnostics. They dare not face what they have done. They dare not look fixedly at the body of the life which they have pierced.

And now comes the final question to which all that I have thus far urged has been leading. What does theologic religion answer to the principles and to the doctrines of agnosticism? In contemporary discussion the answer is constantly obscured, but it is of the utmost importance that it should be given clearly. It says this: If we start from and are faithful to the agnostic's fundamental principles, that nothing is to be regarded as certain which is not either demonstrated or demonstrable, then the denial of God is the only possible creed for us. To the methods of science nothing in this universe gives any hint of either a God or a purpose. Duty; and holiness, aspiration and love of truth, are "merely shadows of our own mind's throwing," but shadows which, instead of making the reality brighter, only serve to make it more ghastly and hideous. Humanity is a bubble; the human being is a puppet, cursed with the intermittent illusion that he is something more, and roused from this illusion with a pang every time it flatters him. Now, from this condition of things is there no escape? Theologic religion answers. There is one, and one only, and this is the repudiation of the principle on which all agnosticism rests.