The Necessity of Atheism (Brooks)/Chapter XI
The human race has suffered three grave humiliations: when Copernicus showed that the earth was not the center of the universe; when Darwin proved that man's origin was not the result of direct creation; when Freud explained that man was not the master of his own thoughts or actions. Llewelyn Powys
In the writings of the Greek and Roman philosophers are found the germinal concepts of geological truths. But as Christianity took control of the world instead of a steady progression of knowledge in this field there was a distinct retrogression. According to the prevailing belief the earth was soon to be destroyed and the collecting of knowledge was futile and any study of its nature was vain.
St. Jerome stated that the broken and twisted crust of the earth exhibited the wrath of God against sin. Tertullian asserted that fossils resulted from the flood of Noah. A scientific explanation of fossil remains was attempted by De Clave, Bitaud, and De Villon in the seventeenth century. The theological faculty of Paris protested against the scientific doctrine as unscriptural, destroyed their treatises, and banished their authors-from Paris.
In the middle pf the eighteenth century Buffon, in France, produced a thesis attempting to state simple geological truths. The theological faculty of the Sorbonne dismissed him from his high position and forced him to print a recantation stating, "I declare that I had no intention to contradict the text of the Scripture; that I believe most firmly all therein related about the creation, both as to order of time and matter of fact. I abandon everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth and generally all which may be contrary to the narrative of Moses!"
The doctrine which Buffon abandoned is now as firmly established as that of the earth's rotation upon its axis. Yet, in his day, it was heatedly asserted by ecclesiastics that the scientific doctrine that fossils represent animals which died before Adam contradicts the theological doctrine of Adam's fall, and the statement that death entered the world by sin and this objection was further strengthened when the ecclesiastics became cognizant that geology had proved that the earth was vastly older than the 6000 years determined by Archbishop Ussher's interpretation of the Old Testament.
About 1580, there was published by authority of Pope Gregory XIII, the Roman Martyrology, revised in 1640 under Pope Urban VIII, which declared that the creation of man took place 5199 years before Christ. In 1650, Archbishop Ussher announced after careful study that man was created 4004 years before the Christian era. But, this proving too vague, Dr. John Lightfoot, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, assured the world that, "Heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created together, in the same instant, and clouds full of water ... and this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on the 23d of October, 4004 B.C. at nine o'clock in the morning"
When the Egyptologists, Assyriologists, archeologists, and anthropologists showed that man had reached a far advanced stage of civilization long before the 6000 years given as the age of the earth, their efforts were ridiculed by the clergy, and these scientists were forced to bring their findings before the world in the face of the well known methods of ecclesiastical opposition.
At a very early period in the evolution of civilization men began to ask questions regarding language, and the answers to these questions were naturally embodied in the myths, legends, and chronicles of their sacred books. Language was considered God-given and complete. The diversity of language was firmly held to be explained by the story of the Tower of Babel; and since the writers of the Bible were merely pens in the hand of God the conclusion was reached that not only the sense, but the words, letters, and even the punctuation proceeded from the Holy Spirit.
At the end of the seventeenth century, the ecclesiastical contention that the Hebrew punctuation was divinely inspired seemed to be generally disproven. The great orthodox body of "religiosa dementia" fell back upon the remainder of the theory that the Hebrew language was the first of all languages which was spoken by the Almighty, given by Him to Adam, transmitted through Noah to the world after the deluge, and that the confusion of tongues was the origin of all other tongues.
It has only been in comparatively recent time, and in spite of the opposition of the clergy, that language has been accepted as the result of evolutionary processes in obedience to laws more or less clearly ascertained. Babel thus takes its place quietly among the other myths of the Bible.
In a purely civil matter, the infallible Church from its inception had displayed a marked hostility to loans at interest. From the earliest period the whole weight of the Church was brought to bear against the taking of interest for money. Pope Leo the Great solemnly adjudged it a sin worthy of severe punishment. In the thirteenth century, Pope Gregory IX dealt an especially severe blow at commerce by his declaration that even to advance on interest the money necessary in maritime trade was damnable usury. The whole evolution of European civilization was greatly hindered by this policy.
Religion and EvolutionEdit
Darwinism, which at first was declared by the clergy to be brutal, degrading, atheistic, and anti-Christian, is now included as part of the Bible teaching.
In a similar manner, the Copernican theory, the theory of gravitation, the nebular hypothesis, the theory of uniformity in geology, and every scientific advance has been opposed on the same grounds; that is, that these are against the teachings of the Christian Church. And how many Galileos, Brunos, and Darwins, and other would-be benefactors to the human race have died mute because of this opposition and fear of persecution by the Church?
In 1877, an eminent French Catholic physician, Dr. Constantin James, published an elaborate answer to Darwin's book. He called it, "On Darwinism, or the Ape Man." A copy was sent to Pope Pius IX, who was so pleased with it that he sent the author a reply in which he stated that it "refutes so well the aberrations of Darwinism, a system which is repugnant at once to history, to the traditions of all peoples, to exact science, to observed facts, and even to reason itself, would seem to need no refutation did not alienation from God and the leaning toward materialism, due to depravity, eagerly seek support in all this tissue of fables."
The Protestant clergy were no less vigorous in their opposition. In our own country it was opposed by Dr. Noab Porter, president of Yale College, and most bitterly by the Rev. Dr. Hodge and the Rev. Dr. Duffield, both leading authorities at Princeton University.
Fundamentalism in the United States furnished the spectacle of the trial, in 1925, of a school teacher named Scopes, for teaching the theory of evolution. Dayton, Tennessee, became the laughingstock of the educated world, and the derision with which this effort to obstruct knowledge at this late date was met with by the comments of the press in this country and abroad is at least encouraging. But it is an excellent example of what effect religious obscurantism may exert in backward sections of our country:
Dr. Max Carl Otto, considering the implications of evolution, calls attention to the following: "Take the evolution of living forms. The more we learn about biological history the clearer it becomes that the process has been, from the human point of view, incredibly bungling and wasteful. There have been futile experiments without number; highly successful achievements have been thrown aside; one type of life after another has arisen and has pushed up a blind alley to extinction. If there is a God whose method has been Evolution, then seemingly his slogan was 'We'll fight it out along this line if it takes a billennium' but, unlike Grant, he has always surrendered. In this maelstrom, the human species, as Thomas Huxley said 'plashed and floundered amid the general stream of evolution, keeping its head above water as best it might, and thinking neither of whence nor whither.' Many volumes have been written to give a purposive interpretation of the rise and evolutionary ramifications of living forms. The course of evolution itself is their refutation."
When the Churches could no longer ignore the rising tide of secular opinion, they resorted to compromise and called to their aid a certain number of intellectually dishonest scientists. The attempt to harmonize Christianity and Evolution can only be accounted for in terms of either dishonesty or stupidity.
"And that is true of the whole range of science. Science is, in fact, atheistic or nothing. It knows nothing of God, it does not bother about God, its triumphs are achieved by leaving God out of account." (C. Cohen.)
What has heretofore been mentioned is but a mere trifle when one considers the vast number of similar incidents in which religion has played the role of barrier to progress. These examples, though few, are sufficient to impress the mind of any clear-minded, intelligent individual with the conviction, in spite of all the sophistry and casuistry of the ecclesiastical apologies, that progress in this world has taken place in direct proportion to the degree that the mind of man has liberated itself from the control of theology and the myth of religion.