Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/554

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sympathy, and that not only is this feeling far stronger and wider than has usually been supposed, but it is capable even now, when once the idea of progress has been apprehended, of inspiring the individual to work for the progress in which he shares, and is sure to acquire, as time goes on, a strength incalculably greater. It is because the religion of humanity takes (as he says) such a cheerful view of things in general that Mr. Mallock rechristens it "the creed of Optimism." All the holders of that creed believe, we are told, "that the human lot has something in it which makes it, in the eyes of all who can see clearly, a thing to be acquiesced in, not merely with resignation but devoutness." This is the idea which Mr. Mallock undertakes to dispel by showing (1) that the doctrine of a steady progress in human affairs is not proved; (2) that sympathy is not the powerful emotion that optimists take it to be; (3) that admitting progress to be a reality, and sympathy to be all that it is claimed to be, the thought of the miseries humanity had endured in the past would poison all the satisfaction resulting from its improved condition in the present and its brilliant prospects for the future; (4) that the more we dwell upon the practical perpetuity of the human race the more is individual influence dwarfed in comparison; (5) that it is difficult to imagine what form or character the happiness we anticipate for our posterity can take, seeing that the absence of pain is merely negative in its character, and that the idea of an abundance of creature comforts is not one that can give pleasure to any human being capable of any high conception of life; finally, (6) that if we are to see any meaning in life we must follow a light which is not that of science—the light of theological faith.

Such is the argument of our opponent, supported throughout, it must be admitted, by more or less aptly chosen instances and an abundance of plausible rhetoric. The question is, How does it affect, how does it touch, any vital issue of the present time? Is it true that there exists in the world to-day a "creed of optimism" held in common by a number of otherwise divergent schools of thought, and that the elements of that creed are as described by Mr. Mallock? To this question we venture to give a negative answer. It is quite possible that individuals here and there may have constructed for themselves some such metaphysical creed as the above; but to say that any large number of representative thinkers of our time could be got to take their stand on the propositions formulated and criticised by Mr. Mallock is to state what we are confident is not the case.

The situation to-day is simply this: A theological creed which had descended to our age from very early times has been found, when examined from the historical point of view, to be as little proof against criticism as the moral, political, and scientific ideas