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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/264

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Let us see what this repudiation amounts to, and we shall then realize what, in the present day, is the intellectual basis which theologic religion claims. Theologic religion does not say that within limits the agnostic principle is not perfectly valid and has not led to the discovery of a vast body of truth. But what it does say is this: That the truths which are thus discovered are not the only truths which are certainly and surely discoverable. The fundamental principle of agnosticism is that nothing is certainly true but such truths as are demonstrated or demonstrable. The fundamental principle of theologic religion is that there are other truths of which we can be equally or even more certain, and that these are the only truths that give life a meaning and redeem us from the body of death. Agnosticism says nothing is certain which can not be proved by science. Theologic religion says, nothing which is important can be. Agnosticism draws a line round its own province of knowledge, and beyond that it declares is the unknown void which thought can not enter, and in which belief can not support itself. V/here Agnosticism pauses, there religion begins. On what seems to science to be unsustaining air, it lays its foundations—it builds up its fabric of certainties. Science regards them as dreams, as an "unsubstantial pageant"; and yet even to science religion can give some account of them. Prof. Huxley says, as we have seen, that "from the nature of ratiocination," it is obvious that it must start "from axioms which can not be demonstrated by ratiocination"; and that in science it must start with "one great act of faith"—faith in the uniformity of nature. Religion replies to science: "And I, too, start with a faith in one thing. I start with a faith which you, too, profess to hold—faith in the meaning of duty and the infinite importance of life; and out of that faith my whole fabric of certainties, one after the other, is reared by the hands of reason. Do you ask for proof? Do you ask for verification? I can give you one only, which you may take or leave, as you choose. Deny the certainties which I declare to be certain—deny the existence of God, deny man's freedom and immortality, and by no other conceivable hypothesis can you vindicate for man's life any possible meaning, or save it from the degradation at which you profess to feel so aghast." "Is there no other way," I can conceive science asking, "no other way by which the dignity of life may be vindicated except this—the abandonment of my one fundamental principle? Must I put my lips, in shame and humiliation, to the cup of faith I have so contemptuously cast away from me? May not this cup pass from me? Is there salvation in no other?" And to this question, without passion or preference, the voice of reason and logic pitilessly answers "No."

Here is the dilemma which men, sooner or later, will see before