The Necessity of Atheism (Brooks)/Chapter XIX
One should recall the charge of atheism directed against the keenest thinkers of antiquity and the greatest of its moral reformers. But what was personal and incidental in the past, depending largely upon the genius and inspiration of seers and leaders, has now become a social movement, as wide as science. James T. Shotwell.
The drift from God is a movement of events, a propulsion of vital experience, not a parade of words to be diverted by other words. Max Carl Otto.
In the Babylonian and Assyrian mythologies we have the chief deities as Ishtar, Tammuz, Baal, and Astarte. In the Phrygian religion we have the Goddess Cybele and her husband Attis. Among the Greeks we have the Goddess Aphrodite and the God Adonis. The Persians had their Mithra. Adonis and Attis flourished in Syria. In the Egyptian religion was found the Goddess Isis and the God Osiris. The Semites have their Jehovah, the Mohammedans their Allah, and the Christians the Goddess Mary, the God the Father, and a son Jesus.
Christianity has divided itself into Catholicism and Protestantism; and when Protestantism gave the right of interpretation of the Bible to each individual, there were evolved such forms of Protestantism as Christian Science, Holy Rollerism, Seventh Day Adventism, Swedenborgianism, and the cults of the Doukhobors, the Shakers, the Mennonites, the Dunkards and the Salvation Army.
In the early days of the Church were seen the wrangling of sects, the incomprehensible jargon of Arians, Nestorians, Eutychians, Monotheists, Monophysites, Mariolatrists, etc. Today we behold the incomprehensible jargon of the first-mentioned sects.
Christ, born of an immaculate virgin, died for mankind, arose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven.
Buddha, who lived over 500 years before Jesus, was born of the Virgin Maya, which is the same as Mary. Maya conceived by the Holy Ghost, and thus Buddha was of the nature of God and man combined. Buddha was born on December 25, his birth was announced in the heavens by a star, and angels sang. He stood upon his feet and spoke at the moment of his birth; at five months of age he sat unsupported in the air; and at the moment of his conversion he was attacked by a legion of demons. He was visited by wise men, he was baptized, transfigured, performed miracles, rose from the dead, and on his ascension through the air to heaven, he left his footprint on a mountain in Ceylon.
The Hindu Savior, Krishna, was born of a virgin 600 years before Christ. A star shone at his birth which took place in a cave. He was adored by cowherds who recognized his greatness, he performed miracles, was crucified, and is to come to judge the earth.
Christ died for mankind, so did Buddha and Krishna. Adonis, Osiris, Horus, and Tammuz, all virgin-born gods, were saviors and suffered death. Christ rose from the dead, so have Krishna and Buddha arisen from the dead and ascended into Heaven. So did Lao Kium, Zoroaster, and Mithra.
A star shone in the sky at the births of Krishna, Rama Yu, Lao Tsze, Moses, Quetzalcoatl, Ornuzd, Rama, Buddha, and others. Christ was born of a virgin, so was Krishna and Buddha. Lao Tsze was also born of a virgin. Horus in Egypt was born of the Virgin Isis. Isis, with the child Horus on her knee, was worshiped centuries before the Christian era, and was appealed to under the names of "Our Lady," "Queen of Heaven," "Star of Heaven," "Star of the Sea," "Mother of God," and so forth. Hercules, Bacchus, and Perseus were gods born by mortal mothers. Zeus, father of the gods, visited Semele in the form of a thunderstorm and she gave birth, on the 25th of December, to the great savior and deliverer, Dionysis.
Mithra was born of a virgin, in a cave, on the 25th of December. He was buried in a tomb from which he rose again. He was called savior and mediator and sometimes figured as a lamb. Osiris was also said to be born about the 25th of December; he suffered, died, and was resurrected. Hercules was miraculously conceived from a divine father and was everywhere invoked as savior. Minerva had a more remarkable birth than Eve; she sprang full-armed from the brow of Jupiter. He did this remarkable feat without even losing a rib.
The Chinese Tien, the holy one, died to save the world. In Mexico, Quetzalcoatl, the savior, was the son of Chimalman, the Virgin Queen of Heaven. He was tempted, fasted forty days, was done to death, and his second coming was eagerly looked for by the natives. The Teutonic Goddess Hertha, was a virgin, and the sacred groves of Germany contained her image with a child in her arms. The Scandinavian Goddess Frigga was a virgin who bore a son, Balder, healer and savior of mankind.
When one considers the similarity of these ancient pagan legends and beliefs with Christian traditions if one believes with Justin Martyr, then indeed the Devil must have been a very busy person to have caused these pagans to imitate for such long ages and in such widespread localities the Christian mysteries. Indeed, Edward Carpenter comments, "One has only, instead of the word 'Jesus' to read Dionysis or Krishna or Hercules or Osiris or Attis, and instead of 'Mary' to insert Semele or Devaki or Alcmene or Neith or Nona, and for Pontius Pilate to use the name of any terrestrial tyrant who comes into the corresponding story, and lo! the creed fits in all particulars into the rites and worship of a pagan God."
A legend stated that Plato, born of Perictione, a pure virgin, suffered an immaculate conception through the influences of Apollo (B.C. 426). The God declared to Ariston, to whom she was about to be married, the parentage of the child.
St. Dominic, born A.D. 1170, was said to be the offspring of an immaculate conception. He was free from original sin and was regarded as the adopted son of the Virgin Mary.
St. Francis, the compeer of St. Dominic, was born A.D. 1182. A prophetess foretold his birth; he was born in a stable; angels sang forth peace and good will into the air, and one, in the guise of Simeon, bore him to baptism.
The Egyptian trinities are well known: thus, from Amun by Maut proceeds Khonso; from Osiris by Isis proceeds Horus; from Neph by Saté proceeds Anouké. The Egyptians had propounded the dogma that there had been divine incarnations, the fall of man, and redemption.
In India, centuries before Christianity, we find the Hindu trinity; Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. In the Institutes of Manu, a code of civil law as well as religious law, written about the ninth century before Christ, is found a description of creation, the nature of God, and rules for the duty of man in every station of life from the moment of birth to death.
Professor James T. Shotwell when speaking of paganism reminds us, "Who of us can appreciate antique paganism? The Gods of Greece or Rome are for us hardly more than the mutilated statues of them in our own museums; pitiable, helpless objects before the scrutiny and comments of a passing crowd. Venus is an armless figure from the Louvre; Dionysos does not mean to us divine possession, the gift of tongues, or immortality; Attis brings no salvation. But to antiquity the 'pagan' cults were no mockery. They were as real as Polynesian heathenism or Christianity to-day." (James T. Shotwell: "The Religious Revolution of To-day")
It is seen, therefore, that from time immemorial, man does not discover his gods, but invents them. He invents them in the light of his experience and endows them with capacities that indicate the stage of man's mental development.
Religion is not the product of civilized, man. Man inherits his god just as he inherits his physical qualities. The idea of a supernatural being creating and governing this earth is a phantom born in the mind of the savage. If it had not been born in the early stages of man's mental development, it surely would not come into existence now. History proves that as the mind of man expands, it does not discover new gods, but that it discards them. It is not strange, therefore, that there has not been advanced a new major religious belief in the last 1300 years. All modern religious conceptions, no matter how disguised, find their origin in the fear-stricken ignorance of the primitive savage.
A Christian will admit that the gods of others are man-made, and that their creed is similar to the worship of the savage. He looks at their gods with the vision of a civilized being; but when he looks at his own god, he forgets his civilization, he relapses centuries of time, and his mental viewpoint is that of the savage.
Christianity, with its primitive concepts, can make its adherents firm in the belief of great monstrosities. When its adherents believed that the Bible sanctioned the destruction of heretics and witches, they were certainly doing things from a Christian standpoint. It was this standpoint that justified an embittered denunciation of evolution at one time and then recanting, adopted it as a part of the, Bible teaching. When the Spaniards blotted out an entire civilization in South America, when Catholics butchered Protestants, or Protestants butchered Catholics, they were all justified from the Christian standpoint.
Man has been living on this planet some 500,000 years. Jesus appeared less than 2000 years ago to save mankind. What of those countless millions of men that died before Christ came to save the world from damnation? If the Christian creed, that except a man believes in the Lord Jesus Christ he cannot be saved, is maintained, then it must be that those millions of human beings who lived before Christ and had no chance to believe, are in hell-fire.
It is probable that one of the factors that turned primitive man's attention away from his cruel and short, earthly existence to the thought of a more lengthy and. less cruel existence in a hereafter, was the extreme uncertainty and short duration of his own life. And this primitive trend of thought that turns man's mind from the here and now to a contemplation of a mythical hereafter persists to this day, produces the same slavish resignation. This false release from the actualities constitute a mental aberration which we see in the hysterical and weak-minded. When such an individual is confronted by problems that tax his mental strength, if that individual has not strength of mind to reason and to persevere so that he overcomes his environmental difficulties, he will seek an avenue of escape in a fanciful existence which the physician recognizes in hysteria and certain forms of mental disease. So, throughout the ages, man has sought release from the realities of his existence into a fanciful and pleasantly delusional flight into a hereafter. "There is no salvation in that sickly obscurantism which attempts to evade realities by confusing itself about them. Safety lies only in clarity and the struggle for the light. No subliminal nor fringe of consciousness can rank in the intellectual life beside the burning focal center where the rays of knowledge converge. The hope must be in following reason, not in thwarting it. To turn back from it is not mysticism, it is superstition. No; we must be prepared to see the higher criticism destroy the historicity of the most sacred texts of the Bible, psychology analyze the phenomena of conversion on the basis of adolescent passion, anthropology explain the genesis of the very idea of God. An where we can understand, it is a moral crime to cherish the un-understood. (James T. Shotwell: "The Religious Revolution of To-day.") Religious beliefs are clearly mental aberations from which it is high time that the progress of knowledge should lead to a logical cure. Man is steadily overcoming and conquering his environment; the uncertainty of life and cruelty are much diminished as compared with the past ages, but man has not as yet fully utilized the means of an emancipating measure from his mental enslavement and fear of his environment.
Chapman Cohen, in his "Theism or Atheism," clearly states: "We know that man does not discover God, he invents him, and an invention is properly discarded when a better instrument is forthcoming. To-day, the hypothesis of God stands in just the same relation to the better life of to-day as the fire drill of the savage does to the modern method of obtaining a light. The belief in God may continue awhile in virtue of the lack of intelligence of some, of the carelessness of others, and of the conservative character of the mass. But no amount of apologizing can make up for the absence of genuine knowledge, nor can the flow of the finest eloquence do aught but clothe in regal raiment the body of a corpse."
Religion arose as a means of explanation of natural phenomena at a time when no other explanation of the origin of natural phenomena had been ascertained. God is always what Spinoza called it, "the asylum of ignorance." When causes are unknown, God is brought forward; when causes are known, God retires into the background. In an age of ignorance, God is active; in an age of science, he is impotent. History attests this fact.
"The single and outstanding characteristic of the conception of God at all times, and under all conditions is that it is the equivalent of ignorance. In primitive times it is ignorance of the character of the natural forces that leads to the assumption of the existence of Gods, and in this respect the God idea has remained true to itself throughout. Even to-day, whenever the principle of God is invoked, a very slight examination is enough to show that the only reason for this being done is our ignorance of the subject before us." (Chapman Cohen.)
The belief in God is least questioned where civilization is lowest; it is called into the most serious question where civilization is most advanced. It is clear that had primitive man known what we know today about nature, the gods would never have been born.
"The suspicious feature must be pointed out that the belief in God owes its existence, not to the trained and educated observation of civilized times, but to the uncritical reflection of the primitive mind. It has its origin there, and it would indeed be remarkable, if, while in almost every other direction the primitive mind showed itself to be hopelessly wrong, in its interpretation of the world in this particular respect, it has proved itself to be altogether right." (Chapman Cohen.)
All intelligent men admit that human welfare depends upon our knowledge and our ability to harness the forces of nature. "I myself," writes Llewelyn Powys, "do not doubt that the good fortune of the human race depends more on science than on religion. In all directions the bigotry of the churches obstructs amelioration ... as long as the majority of men rely upon supernatural interference, supernatural guidance, from a human point of view all is likely to be confusion. ... Trusting in God rather than in man it is in the nature of these blind worshippers to oppose every advance of human knowledge. It was they who condemned Galileo, who resisted Darwin and who to-day deride the doctrines of Freud." Science has given us an account of the operation of the universe sans God, and investigation has also given us a clear conception of the evolution of all religious beliefs from the crude conceptions of the savage to the but little altered form of the modern conception.
"If we are to regard the God idea as an evolution which began in the ignorance of primitive man, it would seem clear that no matter how refined or developed the idea may become, it can rest on no other or sounder basis than which is presented to us in the psychology of primitive man. Each stage of theistic belief grows out of the proceeding stage, and if it can be shown that the beginning of this evolution arose in a huge blunder, I quite fail to see how any subsequent development can convert this unmistakable blunder into a demonstrable, truth." (Chapman Cohen.)
Men of today are trying to force themselves to believe that there must be something true in that which had been believed by so many great and pious men of old. But it is in vain; intellect has outgrown faith. They are aware of the fallacy of their opinions, yet angry that another should remind them of it. And these men who today are secretly sceptics, are loudest in their public denunciation of others who publicly announce their scepticism. In ancient Greece, when the philosophers came into prominence, Zeus was superseded by the air, and Poseidon by the water; in modern times, all hitherto supernatural events are being explained by physical laws. Plato regarded it as a patriotic duty to accept the public faith although he full well knew the absurdities of that faith. Today, there are many Platos that hold to the same conviction. The freethinkers hold to the view of Xenophanes who denounced the public faith as an ancient blunder which had been converted by time into a national imposture. All religion is a delusion which transfers the motives and thoughts of men to those who are not men. No ecclesiastic has as yet offered a satisfactory answer as to why there has been a marvelous disappearance of the working of miracles, and why human actions alone are now to be seen in this world of ours.
We are witnessing today what happened in the Roman empire during the decline of polytheism. Draper states: "Between that period during which a nation has been governed by its imagination, and that in which it submits to reason, there is a melancholy interval. The constitution of man is such that, for a long time after he has discovered the incorrectness of the ideas prevailing around him, he shrinks from openly emancipating himself from their dominion, and, constrained by the force of circumstances, he becomes a hypocrite, publicly applauding what his private judgment condemns. Where a nation is making this passage, so universal do these practices become that it may be truly said hypocrisy is organized. It is possible that whole communities might be found living in this deplorable state."
And, indeed, in our own country we are witnessing an example of this very thing. Religion has led to widespread hypocrisy. Our religious influences have created a race of men mentally docile and obedient to the dictates of tyrannical ecclesiasticism. It has created a fear of truth, and our minds are still brutish and puerile in our methods of reasoning. Credulity has led to stultification, and stultification of the mind is the bitter fruit which we have been reaping for thousands of years.
There are probably hundreds of thousands of men and women in these United States that give lip-service to their creed, but deep in the recesses of their minds a small voice cries to them and shames them, for as soon as they reason, they become sceptics. How can we know the actual number of earthlings that are sceptics? It is impossible in our present state of development. Religious persecution today is just as active as it was during the Middle Ages. Surely, a man is not burned at the stake for his scepticism in this age; but is he not done to death? If the grocer, the butcher, the doctor, the lawyer, the scholar, the business man, were to boldly announce his scepticism, what would happen to him? The answer is well known to all. Immediately, each of his religious customers would take it upon himself to act as a personal inquisition. The sceptic would be shunned socially, he would be ignored, his wares would be sought after elsewhere, and he would suffer. His wife, his family, his children, would suffer with him, for our economic scheme makes the would-be sceptic dependent upon the whims of the majority believers. He is forced to hold his tongue, or else is tortured. Are not the wants of his family, the hunger, and ostracism torture? Thus thousands are forced into hypocrisy. Many others, although they have outgrown all fear of the -god of orthodoxy, the fear of the god of social pressure remains.
There are embodied in all creeds three human impulses: fear, conceit, and hatred; and religion has given an air of respectability to these passions. Religion is a malignant disease born of fear, a cancer which has been eating into the vitals of everything that is worth while" in our civilization; and by its. growth obstructing those advances which make for a more healthful life.
Morally and intellectually, socially and historically, religion has been shown to be a pernicious influence. Some of these influences falling into these classifications have been considered in previous chapters.
The modern Christian, in his amusing ignorance, asserts that Christianity is now mild and rationalistic, ignoring the fact that all its so-called mildness and rationalism is due to the teaching of men who in their own day were persecuted by all orthodox Christians.
"Historically, churches have stood on the side of the powers that be. They have defended slavery or have held their tongues about it. They have maintained serfdom and kept serfs. They have opposed every movement undertaken for the liberation of the masses of men; the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity are the creations of the camps of their, enemies, of the rationalists of the eighteenth century, and the liberals and socialists of the nineteenth century. They have defended and condoned the industrial exploitation of children. They have fought bitterly the enfranchisement of women. They have justified unjust war. They have fought with book and bill and candle and fagot every new great step in the advancement of science from gravitation to evolution. Wardens, ever since Constantine gave the schools of antiquity into the keeping of the Christian bishops, of the education of the people, they have fought with all their power the establishment of free public schools and the spread of literacy and knowledge among the people." (Horace M. Kallen: "Why Religion.")
If Christianity has made any progress in the assimilation of doctrines that are less barbarous than heretofore, they have been effected in spite of the most vigorous resistance, and solely as a result of the onslaught of freethinkers.
Throughout the ages, when a thinking man had questioned the how and why of any secular problem, so long as that problem had no direct or indirect bearing upon religion, or upon any branch of knowledge that was assumed to be infallibly foretold in the Bible, that man was unmolested. The problems falling into the above classification were extremely small due to the strongly defended theological lunacy that asserted itself in the declaration that all knowledge both spiritual and material was contained in the Bible as interpreted by the Church.
Man, however, when he broached his religious doubts, was regarded as the most sinful of beings, and it was forbidden him to question and yield to the conclusions that his mind evolved.
Think of the irony and tragedy of this self-enslavement of the human mind! There is one characteristic that man prides himself as having apart from all lower animals, his ability to reason and to think. Is it his superior musculature and brute strength that has placed man upon his present pinnacle of advanced civilization, or is it his mental development, his mind, that has taught him to harness the forces of nature? Has not his mind so coordinated his movements that he has enslaved those forces of nature to be his aid? And yet, if mind is one thing that has enabled man to pull himself out of the morass of brute life, why has it been that man himself has been so persistently decrying and degrading the efforts of that mind?
The answer is, that religion has provided the shackles and securely and jealously enslaved the mind. With the aid of his religious beliefs man has been ensnared into a mental prison in which he has been an all too willing captive. Surely it is easier to believe than to think.
Napoleon, himself a sceptic, was cognizant of this slave philosophy. "What is it," he is reported to have asked, "that makes the poor man think it is quite natural that there are fires in my castle when he is dying of cold? That I have ten coats in my wardrobe while he goes naked? That at each of my meals enough is served to feed his family for a week? It is simply religion, which tells him that in another life I shall be only his equal, and that he actually has more chance of being happy than I. Yes, we must see to it that the doors of the churches are open to all, and that it does not cost the poor man much to have prayers said on his tomb."
How well the ecclesiastical psychologists have grasped this fact, and how well they have fashioned a strong chain for the mind out of this weakness of human minds!
Church and government have been well aware of this psychology, and have fought constantly the spread of Freethought literature to the masses. Professor Bury, in his "History of Freedom of Thought," speaking of England, tells us, "If we take the cases in which the civil authorities have intervened to repress the publication of unorthodox opinions during the last two centuries, we find that the object has always been to prevent the spread Of free thought among the masses."
Think but a moment how well the above is borne out by the attitude of the Church in the stand that it took during the Middle Ages, when she prohibited the reading of the Bible by any person except her clergy. When she prohibited, the printing of all books except those that she approved of; books that minutely agreed in all details with the phantastic fables of her Bible were the only ones allowed to be printed.
The Church also strenuously objected to the printing of Bibles in the languages of the masses. That most efficient shackle to the mind, that precept that there was no knowledge, whether material or spiritual, that was not contained in the Bible, how strenuously the Church upheld that doctrine!
And in our own day, the ridiculous assumption that "mysteries" (a special form of ignorance) are the special province of the Church. Considering these few examples as well as all ecclesiastical endeavor, no rational mind can escape the fact that that primeval curse, religion, has had for its object, down through the centuries, the sadistic desire to enslave and trample on the mind of man: It has been a defensive measure on the part of the Church, for she well recognizes that once the mind is free, it will free itself of the shackles of religion also.
Nor is this all. I execrate the enslavement of the mind of our young children by the ecclesiastics. Is anything so pitiful to behold as the firm grasp that the Church places on the mind of the youngest of children? Children at play, children of four and five years of age, will be heard to mention with fearful tones various religious rites, such as baptism and confirmation, and to perform in their manner these rites with their dolls. Fear! Fear! instilled into the minds of the impressionable children! Think of the degradation that the ecclesiastics practice when they insist that from the time a child is out of its infancy its instruction shall be placed in their hands. They take the most precious possession of man, his mind, and mould it to their desire. The mind of a child is plastic, it is like a moist piece of clay and they mould it and form it to their desire. Warped and poured into the ecclesiastic mould of fear, the mind of the child becomes set and fixed with the years. Then it is too late for rational thinking, as far as religious matters go, the mind of the adult is firmly set in the form that the ecclesiastic has fashioned for him in his youth. It is impossible for the adult so taught to reason clearly and rationally concerning his religion; the mould is too strong, the clay has set, reason cannot penetrate into that hardened form. That is why it is almost impossible for the adult who, has been exposed to this mental moulding from his infancy to break away from the fears and superstitions learned on his mother's knee.
If Christianity, Hebrewism, Mohammedanism, or any other creed is true, its truth must be more apparent at the age of twenty-five than it is at the age of five. Why does the ecclesiastic not leave off his advances until the child reaches a mature age, an age when he can reason? Then, if theism is true, he can accept it with a reasoning mind, not a blindly faithful mind. The theist realizes, however, that belief is at one pole, reason at the other. Belief, creed, religion, are ideations of the primitive mind and the mind of the child; reason is the product of mature thought. Schopenhauer remarked that, "The power of relligious dogma when inculcated early is such as to stifle conscience, compassion, and finally every feeling of humanity."
It is an undeniable fact that if the clergy would but leave their tainted hands off the minds of our children until they would have reached a mature age, there would be no religious instinct. Religious instinct is a myth. Give me but two generations of men who have not been subjected to this religious influence in childhood, and there will be a race of atheists.
The ecclesiastic has from earliest times taken the standpoint that the masses of people are of crude susceptibility and clumsy intelligence, "sordid in their pursuits and sunk in drudgery; and religion provides the only means of proclaiming and, making them feel the high import of life." (Schopenhauer.} Thus the theist is led to the conclusion that the end justifies the means.
Theism is a hypothesis which, among other things, attempts an explanation of the universe. The theist recognizes a creator who created the universe and is responsible for its operation. The atheist clearly perceives that the assumption of a creator does not advance him in the slightest degree towards the solution of the mysterious problem of the universe. The oft-repeated question still admits of no answer, "Who created the creator"?
It is an absurd answer to reply that the creator created himself, yet, even if this is granted, may not the universe have created itself? If the theist puts forward the statement that God has always existed, the atheist may well reply that if God has always existed, why can he not say that the universe has always existed? The atheist is not concerned with the creation of the universe; to him it presents a problem which is beyond the comprehension of his present mental capacities. He comprehends the fact of its being, and that is as far as he or any rational mind can go. Atheism confines itself to a refutation of theism, and avoids the theistic fallacy of assuming without any proofs or reasonable arguments to substantiate the assumption of an intelligent, omnipotent, omniscient, anthropomorphic, and anthropocentric creator. The theistic assumption has but retarded the advance of practical knowledge, and prepared the soil for superstition and the countless terrors of religious beliefs.
Atheism, as far as a rational explanation of the universe is covered, although it does not offer an explanation of the "ultimate," or "the riddle of the universe," does insist that any view held be one that shall be based on truth and conformity to reality. It further maintains that if a view be propagated it should be held in the same position that any scientific proposition is held. It must be open to verification; if it be verified as any scientific theory is verified, it will be accepted in part, or in toto, and be proven to be true or displaced by a closer approximation to the truth. To certain types of men there may be a negative attitude expressed in this credo, which leaves the mind unsatisfied. This is but an emotional bias and has nothing to do whatsoever with the attainment of truth. A delusion may be more comforting than the truth, but that does not necessitate the conclusion that a delusion may be of more ultimate benefit than a constant striving for the truth. It has often been said that atheism, in that negative aspect, places a question mark upon our problems. However, while a question mark may indicate a negative value, it may also prove to be a mental provocative. A period placed at the end of a problem denotes that it has been definitely solved. In connection with the origin of the universe, no period can be placed at the end of that problem, and since we are awaiting the solution, it is v much more to the interest of further advances to place the question mark there, than to consider the matter solved. Surely, sufficient instances have been enumerated in this discussion to show the stultification and retardation that ensues when an institution maintains an insistence that a problem be held to conform in any of its explanatory aspects to a preconceived infallible statement, or considers a problem not to exist, or closes its eyes to, the inconsistencies in an explanation which is being maintained by mental persuasion and force. When the Bible was considered as containing the answer to all our problems we have seen what the result was. If atheism places a question mark upon the problem of the universe, it does so in a constructive manner; for that mark points to the direction in which a logical solution may be possible. Such is the mental attitude of the scientist. He places an interrogation point upon his problems and that mark is the impetus, the mental stimulus, that leads him on to take infinite pains in his labors and, as time passes, each question mark is replaced by knowledge; it is knowledge and knowledge alone, reason not faith, that furnishes the period.
It was Haeckel who asserted that, "The most dangerous of the three great enemies of reason and knowledge is not malice, but ignorance, or perhaps, indolence." The question mark as applied to a problem that is recognizably not solved is a signpost, to the knowledge that time must bring. The spurious period placed at the end of a probelm is the death warrant for that problem and there it must lie devitalized by ignorance and indolence.
It has often been affirmed that what we see in this universe is phenomena, and all explanations but interpret the manifestations of these phenomena. What is in back of and beyond these phenomena may never be known, and if it be known, would be of no further use to us. It is equally as true that if we but see phenomena and our mental capacities deny us a conception of the reality beyond phenomena, yet, we have a growing knowledge of the laws that govern these phenomena. And it is, a comprehensive knowledge of these invariable laws that govern the universe that are of universal value. These laws have been ascertained by the questioning mental attitude, and not by a futile reliance on faith.
Human knowledge has expanded immensely in the last fifty years, and this by the purely scientific method, the materialistic method, and the questioning attitude. The value of these findings when they can be converted into practical applications in industry are. well known to all.
We have added nothing to our store of. knowledge except by the exercise of our mentality and reason. The application of the scientific method to the workings of the mind has made more progress in explaining the mind in the brief period of fifty years than philosophical deductions had made in the past two thousand years. Every new fact that has been discovered has fitted into the mechanistic scheme of the universe, and not one new fact has been disclosed that suggested anything beyond nature. The theistic interpretation of the universe has been completely discredited by the scientific investigations. Science has brought to the confines of invariable laws multitudes of problems that had hitherto been supposed to point to "spiritual" interference. Theology has been driven out of the, open spaces of reason and still persists in clinging to the twilight zone of the present unknown, only to be driven from its precarious position constantly by our increasing knowledge and with increasing rapidity from shadow to shadow.
There has been an increasing tendency shown by physicists to consider that matter and energy are interchangeable, and that the one ultimate reality is energy. If this be so, we are still dealing with an ultimate that is a material reality. The Nobel prize in medicine for the year 1932 was awarded to two British investigators, Sir Charles Scott Sherrington, professor of physiology at Oxford University, and Dr. Edgar Douglas Adrian, professor of physiology at Cambridge University. Their researches seem to have settled definitely a problem that has long been a bone for contention. Nerve energy has been shown conclusively to be of an electric type of energy. The old question of whether mind was part of the material world has been shown by these experiments to be answered in the affirmative. There is no duality, mind and matter are one, and mind is but a special property of highly specialized matter.
It is with a great deal of regret that the freethinker contemplates the attitude of such scientists as Jeans, Eddington, Millikan, and the philosopher Professor Whitehead. Their hesitation to divorce themselves completely from all conceptions of a supernatural force leads to a great deal of confusion. An acquaintance with the writings of Einstein brings one the certainty that he is as much in accordance with the attitude of freethought as is the most militant atheist. The "cosmic sense" and "totality of existence" of Einstein is as far removed from the conception of a Yahveh as is the mentality of an Australian black man from that of Einstein's mental grasp. Similarly with the cosmic consciousness expressed in the writings of Jeans, Eddington, and Whitehead. With characteristic disregard for the truth certain modern theologians have grasped this cringing attitude of the above-mentioned men and have stressed their viewpoints by a dishonest interpretation that these men actually give a scientific certitude to their own theologic creeds and dogmas. Nothing can be further from the truth. The freethinker would have each theologian who tells his adherents that these men lend credence to their beliefs to consider the following: if the above-named men would be asked if they believed in a deity who actively interposed his will and influence in the lives of men, as is commonly expressed in the term "Providence." if they ascribed to the belief in personal immorality, if they themselves believed in the existence of a "soul," if they ascribed to the statement that "prayer" influenced the opinion of an all-powerful being to intercede for them in their problems and grief, if they believed that the Bible was a book dictated by God, or that a god caused to be written for him his "revelations"; that heaven and hell exist in the meaning that theologians assure their adherents that they do; that sin and morality is what theologians still hold it to be; that there has been a "fall" and therefore the necessity for a "redemption" of man; and that creed and dogma are necessary factors in the worship of a deity, what would their answers be? Eddington, Jeans, Einstein, and Whitehead would answer these questions exactly as would the most militant atheists.
The mental attitude of these men can best be explained when one considers certain similarities between theological asceticism and scientific asceticism. And it is the duty of the freethinker clearly to point out why this confusion has arisen. During the ages of faith, the world beheld a swarm of men and women who retired from the grim realities of a world which at that time was made abhorrent to all sensitive men by the most exacting insistence of theologians that "faith" was the all necessary ingredient of life, and that closed its eyes completely to the degrading actualities of life" that this insistence led to. Multitudes of men retired to the desert and to the protective walls of monasteries. There, by constant privations, fastings, continual prayer, flagellation, and introspection, they spent their lives. These ascetic individuals by these means were enabled to enter what may be called a "theologic trance" and their subsequent hallucinations, illusions, and delusions gave to them what they deemed to be a transcendental insight into the construction of the universe and what was expected between "fallen" and debased man and his omnipotent creator. These men keenly apprehended what some today, in a gentler age, have called "cosmic consciousness."
I do not mean to imply that these before-mentioned scientists have applied such a rigor to their lives. What is meant to be stated is that these men by their research and comprehension of the vastness of the universe stand in awe and fear before this brain-benumbing aspect. Modern astrophysics, to one who attempts to comprehend its vastness, imposes on the mind but a faint comprehension of the vastness of the universe in space, time, and size; but imposes a deep conviction of the infinitesimal meaning of our planet Earth, both as to size and its relation to the millions of related heavenly bodies. The evolution of man on our planet in this broad conception of space and time is most infinitesimal. It has been just a few hours ago in this widened conception of time that Halley's comet was excommunicated from the skies by Pope Calixitus III, who looked upon this comet as one of unheard-of magnitude and from the tail of which was flung down upon the earth, disease, pestilence, and war.
Most certainly the minds of Jeans and Eddington carry in their recesses a vast amount of knowledge that was not common to men living in 1456, the year in which the above-mentioned comet caused such consternation. Much as one admires the superiority of the minds of these present-day physicists, yet one cannot help but think that if our present rate of progress meets no serious obstacle, then in another five hundred years, the attitude of awe of Jeans and Eddington towards the vastness of our universe will be held in some similar position to which Jeans and Eddington now hold the misguided conception of Halley's comet in the year 1456. The mind of man is just beginning to emerge from its swaddling clothes and we cannot assume to judge what its broadest capabilities may be. Certain great modern minds, therefore, when they contemplate this vastness of astrophysics are apt to dwell a bit too literally on the "music of the heavenly spheres," and under the influence of these celestial harmonies fall into the trance of scientific asceticism. Men who can no longer seriously hold to a belief in an anthropomorphic god, the soul and immortality are apt to allow themselves when in this mood to emotionalize their knowledge; and these same men are the ones who would in their scientific endeavors be the first to eliminate all emotions from their reasoning efforts in their laboratories. One seems justified, therefore, in stating that this conception of "cosmic consciousness" is but another instance of the mere illusions of a craving heart.
Discussing the question as to whether science and religion conflict, the physicist Professor Bazzoni, of the University of Pennsylvania, in a recent work "Energy and Matter," makes the following pointed comment: "Some scientists resort to metaphysics and make contact with a kind of mysticism which may be taken for a religious belief at precisely that point where ignorance prevents further progress along sound scientific lines. The primitive medicine man appealed to the gods to explain the precipitation of rain and the phase changes of the moon, and some modern scientists appeal to metaphysics and mysticism to explain the limits of the infinite and the nature of electricity."
He further cautions theologians against placing undue emphasis on the opinions of scientists when they express their minds on religious topics, and he remarks: "They (the laity) should realize that in the spiritual field the opinion of an eminent scientist has exactly the same weight as the opinion of any other cultivated and thoughtful individual."
When the scientist examines with the impartial mind of the laboratory the science of the origin of religious beliefs and delves into the complicated intricacies of religious history, he becomes as convinced as any other thoughtful individual that the facts of science and history are deadly to religion. Moreover, as man contemplates the construction and forces at work in the universe he still must exclaim, "end, beginning, or purpose, it knows not of."
The theologians are devoting a great deal of their time to the writings of physicists who venture into the field of theology. It may be that in this manner they can divert attention from the drastic findings concerning all religious beliefs that the anthropologists and psychologists are patiently accumulating. "Many physicists and biologists like Pupin, Millikan, Oliver Lodge, J. Arthur Thomson, and Henry Fairfield Osborn, have recently blossomed forth as liberal theologians. They are still emotionally attached to the older religious faith. They are aware that modern physics and biology have abandoned doctrines that once were hostile to religious claims. They, therefore, proclaim that there is no further conflict between religion and science. In so doing, however, they show themselves abysmally ignorant of all that anthropology and psychology have done to study religion and religious man scientifically. They show their ignorance of the philosophy that has built upon such data. They do not realize that the present-day conflict between religious faith and science is no longer with a scientific explanation of the world, but with a scientific explanation of religion." (J. H. Randall and J. H. Randall, Jr.: "Religion and the Modern World")
The cultured Greeks and Romans had their omnipotent gods and these have long ago died a death of ridicule. At a time when beauty and sculpture were at their height the religion of these ancient artists was absurd. Similarly, with some of our modern scientists, their religion has not kept pace with their intellect. Their emotions have overbalanced their reason in this field. Professor H. Levy, of the University of London, tersely remarks: "The assertion of contemporary scientists, who state that the universe is a fickle collection of indeterminate happenings, and a great thought in the Mind of its Architect, a Pure Mathematician, serves merely to divert the activity of the scientific brain from its concentration on the contradictions and confusions of the all too real outward world to a state of passive and unreal contemplation." (Professor H. Levy: "The Universe of Science")
Among the theologians, some at least have learned the futility of waxing indignant at each new scientific hypothesis that encroached, as they thought, within their domain. A great many liberal theologians have as yet not learned the extreme danger to their theology in grasping at some concept of science that for the present moment does not appear to be detrimental to their theology, or, as they think, seems to bolster up their particular creed. "The enthusiasm aroused in Certain theological circles by recent developments in mathematical physics," states Dr. M. C. Otto, "seems to me to indicate just one thing, that these theologians felt themselves to be in so desperate a state that a floating straw assumed the appearance of a verdure-clad island. I am of the opinion that all persons who would work for a more decent and happy existence for themselves and for their fellows must turn their backs^ upon religion just to the extent that religious leadership seeks spiritual renewal in these hallucinations of despair." (Drs. Wieman, Macintosh, and Otto: "Is There a God?")
It is only proper to point out that what certain emancipated minds are trying to reconstruct as a basis of religious belief is not what is held by the masses as their conception of religion. In a recent clear and frank statement of the religious revolution, John Herman Randall and John Herman Randall, Jr., state: "Such beliefs, even so fundamental a one as belief in God, must stand their chances with the philosophic interpretation men give their experience. . . . The really revolutionary effect of the scientific faith, so far as religion is concerned, has been not its new view of the world, but its new view of religion. Reinterpretations of religious belief have been unimportant compared with reinterpretations of religion itself. For those who have come to share the scientific world-view, even more for those who have absorbed the spirit of scientific inquiry, it has been impossible to view religion as a divine revelation entrusted to man. It has even been impossible to see it as a relation between man and a cosmic deity. Religion has rather appeared a human enterprise, an organization of human life, an experience, a social bond, and an inspiration." (J. H. Randall and J. H. Randall, Jr.: "Religion and the Modern World") To the man who literally entreats his deity, "Our Father, who art in Heaven, grant us our daily bread," the above reinterpretation of what is meant by religion can have no meaning. To the cultivated mind that comprehends what is meant, the above interpretation is what he conceives of as his social secular activities for the betterment of his fellowmen. A living philosophy of life is a much better name for this attitude than is the misnomer "religion," and avoids a great deal of confusion.
Some of our "scientists on a holiday," as they have been facetiously called when they stepped into a field in which they had not become well acquainted with the ground, have proceeded to lend assurance that God is by subtracting so drastically from what is generally attributed to the conception of God, that there is nothing much left to what they conceive as what God means. They have stripped the conception of what has been heretofore regarded as fundamental, namely, the conception that God is a superhuman personality or mind.
In Mr. Whitehead's philosophy, God is spoken of as, "God is not concrete, but He is the ground for concrete actuality." I believe such confusion of language may have been in the mind of Dr. M. C. Otto when he remarked: "Some persons endeavor more than ever to make necessary distinctions to keep meanings as clear as possible; and to have an eye on the tendency of language to become its own object. Other persons repudiate these obligations. They act as if it were a virtue to love darkness rather than light if your intentions are good. Under their manipulations conceptions are dimmed or replaced by vague intimations. One boundary line after another is obliterated until the whole substance of things swims in mists."
History has illustrated that the greatest source of evil on this planet has arisen from the fact that physical phenomena for which our limited mental capacities were not able to formulate a logical solution, were ascribed to preternatural causes.
From this original stem arose religion and the Church, the two greatest obstacles which have been a burden to mankind for 2000 years and a barrier to all progress which has made life endurable and desirable.
The lower man is in the scale of civilization, the more does he call in the supernatural to explain all the happenings and experiences of his life. When he had been beset by an intellectual failure he had been thrown back to religion. Lacking the courage and mental capacity to proceed further against obstacles he succumbed to the drug of religious explanations. The need was not for a narcotic, but for a stimulant.
The mental stimulant was provided for man in the form of science. Science is but organized knowledge, and it is this knowledge that has elevated man to the position where he is now, his own god. When difficulties confront him in this age, he blames them upon his own ignorance and incompetence. And, when he sets about to overcome these difficulties, he does not rely on divine revelation or supernatural aid or on miracles; he relies on his reason. He knows that when a problem eludes his mental capacity, it is not the supernatural which eludes him but some natural force, some law which he has not been able to grasp as yet. There is no resignation in this attitude; only resolute, peaceful patience. The problem that he cannot solve at present will yield to his reason eventually. The ecclesiastic is well "aware that science is his natural and implacable enemy. He knows that every time the bounds of exact knowledge are widened, the domain of religion is narrowed.
Man's knowledge of the universe is still incomplete, but it is certainly more complete than it was fifty years ago; and when we consider what that knowledge was a few thousand years ago, it is no breach of logic to state that all natural processes, in the course of time, will be brought into the confines of invariable laws.
Sir Arthur Keith clearly states: "The ancient seeker, to explain the kingdom of life, with man as its Regent, had to call in the miracle of creation. The modern seeker finds that although life has the appearance of the miraculous, yet all its manifestations can be studied and measured, and that there is a machinery at work in every living thing which shapes, evolves, and creates. His inquiries have led him to replace the miracle of creation by the laws of evolution.
"Whichever department of the realm of Nature the man of science has chosen for investigation, the result has always been the same; the supernatural has given place to the natural, superstition is succeeded by reason. The world has never had such armies of truth seekers as it now has. Those equipped with. ladders of science have so often scaled the walls which surround cities of ignorance that they march forward in the sure faith that none of Nature's battlements are impregnable."
In the last analysis, if we reach a point in thinking where we cannot proceed further, a fathomless landmark, must we revert to the theological error of "thinking," and assume it must be of supernatural character? Because the unknown in the past has been assigned to the supernatural is no indication for us also, in the present age, to relegate the unknown to divine cause. It is unseemly that minds that have emancipated themselves should go just so far as far as their own reason can explain the unknown and when their limited reason can go no further to revert back to the primitive stage where solution is considered impossible to man save it be "revealed to him by God." If man's mind is free, if no coercion of any kind is placed on its exercise, it will expand and unravel what at present is still fathomless. Give man endless centuries and ample opportunities and he will unravel the miracles of development and growth just as he has done other miracles which at first seemed impossible of rational solution.
For how much longer will man be a slave to his inferiority complex with regard to his own rational capacities? If faith is vital to man, why not relate it to that which at least holds a promise of solution? Man's mind has not as yet arrived at the point which might give even the slighest indication of its ultimate exhaustion, We cannot assume the knowledge of what man's fullest capacities are. All things must unravel themselves with the progress of his mind, those things that he cannot explain now, he must not assign to a superhuman force; man must use his reasoning faculties to investigate and search for the truth so that these unknown may become part of the known.
Again to quote Sir Arthur Keith: "Only eighty years have come and gone since the anatomist obtained his first glimpse of the structural complexity of the human brain; it will take him eight thousand years and more to find out the exact part played by every departmental unit of this colossal system of government which carries on the mental life of a human being. We have no reason to think there is anything supernatural in its manifestation. As our knowledge of the brain accumulates, the names and terms we now use will give place to others which have a more precise meaning. In our present state of ignorance we have to use familiar and loose terms to explain the workings of the brain such words as "soul," "spirit," "heart," "superstition," and "prejudice." These manifestations of the mind will be dissected and made understandable."
Science has as yet not fully explained the origin of life on earth, but there is reason to believe that it will do so in the future. The laws governing the production of life itself are under investigation in the laboratories and it is highly probable that this law will be unraveled at some future date. It will be interesting for our posterity to witness the confusion of the ecclesiastics and their attempted confirmation of this fact in the Bible; their finding of some obscure phrase that will be interpreted by them as a prediction of the fact in the Bible.
The theists have maintained, as we have seen, many false beliefs that have cost the lives of innumerable men and suffering incalculable; beliefs which they themselves have subsequently recognized as false but relinquished only by the onslaught of rising secular knowledge, It was the ecclesiastic who pointed to the God-dictated phrase, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," and the various precepts that have been enumerated in the preceding chapters. Surely sufficient evidence has been noted to convince a thinking being that reason is a better guide than theism. Belief is the antithesis of reason; reason is rationality; religious belief is clearly mental abnormality.
If a religionist is asked what he thinks of a secular institution which vigorously condemns and persecutes inquiry, experiment, and truth, he will reply with the logical answer. When it is pointed out to him that religion has done and still is doing this, he will hem and haw until he manufactures some illogical answer. It has been stated that the more we think, the less we believe; and that the less we think, the more we believe. The Christian will analyze the creed of the Mohammedan and find it ridiculous; the Mohammedan analyzes the creed of the Christian and in turn finds it ridiculous. That is thinking. But does the Mohammedan or the Christian analyze as critically each his own belief? Will he endeavor to analyze it at all ? That is believing. The ecclesiastic concerns himself not with truth or knowledge; it is creed which is his shrine. He definitely is at war with knowledge and he wants to learn only such things as fit in with his preconceived notions and prejudices. When the minds of men are from infancy perverted with these ideals, how can mankind build a virile race?
It is often asserted that the alleged universality of the belief in God is an argument' for its truth. But what of the fact that men had everywhere come to the conclusion that the earth was flat, and yet a wider and truer knowledge proved that universal belief to be false! In the discussion of witchcraft, it has been shown that a delusion may be as widespread as a truth. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Spanish Moors had recognized the sphericity of the earth and were teaching geography from globes in their common schools. Rome, during the same ages, was asserting in all its absurdity the flatness of the earth. It was not until almost five hundred years later that Rome was forced to see its absurdity and then only when the enlightened world mocked at its error.
In this twentieth century, certain enlightened men are teaching the absurdity and harmfulness of a belief in a deity. Must it take five hundred years for all mankind to come to a similar conclusion? May it not well be that in a few centuries our posterity will view belief in a deity in the same light that we in this age view the Church's insistence that the earth was flat?
The God idea has been one of the most divisive and anti-social notions cherished by mankind. In fact it has been asserted that the idea of God has been the enemy of man. It has driven multitudes of men and women into the unnatural asceticisms and wasted lives of the convent and abbey. It has taxed the economic resources of every nation. Every church, no matter of what creed, is a pathetic monument of God-ridden humanity which has been built by the pennies sweated by the poor, and wrested from them by fraudulent promises of reward, appeals to fear, and the pathetic human tendency to sacrifice.
The theologians have in their arguments resorted to philosophy. The consequence of this transference of the idea of God to the sphere of philosophy is the curious position that the god in which people believe is not the god whose existence is made the product of an experirmental argument, and the god of the argument is not the god of belief.
"It is a nice question," remarks Walter Lippmann, "whether the use of God's name is not misleading when it is applied by modernists "to ideas so remote from the God men have worshipped. Plainly the modernist churchman does not believe in the God of Genesis who walked in the garden in the cool of the evening and called for Adam and his wife who had hidden themselves behind a tree; nor in the God of Exodus who appeared to Moses and Aaron and seventy of the Elders of Israel, standing with his feet upon a paved walk as if it were a sapphire stone; nor even in the God of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah who in his compassion for the sheep who had gone astray, having turned everyone to his own way, laid on the Man of Sorrows the iniquity of us all." (Walter Lippmann: "A Preface to Morals.")
It is one kind of god that is being set up in argument, and it is really another god that is being depended upon and believed. The philosophical conception of a deity, that may be in control of phenomena is an impersonal physical law, and has nothing to do with the conception of a personal deity to whom people pray for active intervention in their troubles. Religious belief is a monstrous apparition; the philosophy of atheism is a solid structure laboriously founded on solid rock.
The philosophy of atheism had temporarily failed in previous ages, since the knowledge of those ages did not furnish facts enough upon which to build. At the present, although our knowledge is far from complete and the surface has only been scratched, yet sufficient facts have been unearthed, to reveal that there is no supernatural and the greatest hope of advancement lies in the philosophy of atheism. A philosophy that builds upon a foundation of purely secular thought, that leaves the idea of God completely discarded as a useless and false relic of bygone days, is the essence of atheism. "Atheism is more than the speculative philosophy of a few, that it is in sober truth the logical outcome of mental growth. So far as any phase of human life can be called inevitable, atheism may lay claim to being inescapable. All mental growth can be seen leading to it, just as we can see one stage of social development giving a logical starting point for another stage, and which could have been foretold had our knowledge of all the forces in operation been precise enough. Atheism is, so to speak, implicit in the growth of knowledge, its complete expression is the consummation of a process that began with the first questionings of religion. And the completion of the process means the death of super-naturalisms in all forms. Circumstances may obstruct its universal acceptance as a reasoned mental attitude, but that merely delays, it does not destroy the certainty of its final triumph." (C. Cohen.}
The philosophy of atheism leads man to a critical, analytical, and logical examination of his environment, and it is this that has lead to all of our advances. Religion creates a stunted standard of reasoning. The pathetic cry of St. Augustine, "But if I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me, where I pray thee, O my God, where, Lord, or when was I, thy servant innocent?" typifies the major concern of the the narrow, egotistical mystic. From the time that the ideas of the later Greek philosophers had been forgotten until the present time, man has floundered in a sea of supernaturalism. It is high time that man faced his realities with fortitude in his own mentality, and when he does this, there will be produced a race of men who will seek, for truth, for truth's sake, a race of supermen who will lead the world intellectually.
It is to Russia that all eyes will turn in the next few generations. At the present, she is going through the throes of childbirth. She is immature, and as a child she staggers. The abuse and ridicule heaped upon her now is but the repetition of that given by all frightened societies of past ages, when they contemplated new-ideas which their immature minds could not fathom. But Russia will emerge in the not too distant future, and the infant will shortly reach maturity; and that maturity may set a standard for those timid and frightened societies that at present look with dilated eyes upon her daring.
The age is approaching when the god idea in its entirety will be classed with the gods of the Egyptians and Babylonians, when surplices and sacramental plate will be exhibited in museums; when nurses will relate to children the legends of the Christian mythology, as they now tell them fairy tales. The gods of monotheism will join the gods of polytheism and Yahveh and his associates will occupy in the minds of men the position now held by the gods of Olympus. To our ancestors Jupiter and Yahveh will have the same significance. "In a little time the cathedrals and churches will have taken upon themselves the proud, poetical glamour of abandoned temples. Men and women will enter them with reverent indulgence as they now in meditative mood visit the few remaining pantheons of the pagan worship." (Llewelyn Poivy's: "An Hour On Christianity.")
The age is aproaching when the current idea of the hereafter will be accounted a strange and selfish idea, just as we smile at the savage chief who believes that his station will be continued in the world beneath the ground, and that he will there be attended by his concubines and slaves. The age is fast approaching when love, not fear, will unite the human race. In that age, the ideal, not the idol, will be truth, and the one faith, not religion, but a sincere and lofty conception of the dignity and resourcefulness of the human mind; and an overwhelming desire to aid in the progress of all mankind, the extinction of disease, the perfection of genius, the perfection of love, and, therefore, the abolition of war, the exploration of the infinite, and the conquest of creation.
Such an age can never come to be during the mal-jurisdiction of a theistic philosophy. It can only come into being when the vast majority of men are by the force of advancing knowledge made aware of the truth of the atheistic philosophy.
An English observer, C. E. M. Joad, remarks: "The churches, no doubt, will continue to function for a time, but they will be attended increasingly, and in the end exclusively, by ignorant men, women, and children. Already, a stranger attending an average church of England service would almost be justified in assuming that the churches, like theatre matinees, were, kept up for the benefit of women and children. So far as present indications go, it seems not unlikely that science will deliver the coup de grace to organized Christianity within the next hundred years."
We have caught a glimpse of what theism has done, and what the philosophy of atheism might have done, and will yet achieve. Has man profited by having remained in his mental infancy so long? Atheism is an emancipating system of thought that frees the mind from myths, fables, and childish fancies. There can be no inquisition, no witchcraft delusion, no religious wars, no persecutions of one sect by another, no impediment to science and progress, no stultification of the mind, as a result of its teachings.
The philosophy of atheism teaches man to stand on his own feet, instills confidence in his reasoning powers, and forces him to conquer his environment. It teaches him not to subject himself and debase himself before mythical superhuman powers, for his reason is his power. The march from faith to reason is the march on which dwells the future hope of a really civilized mankind.
Atheism teaches man to endeavor constantly to better his own condition and that of all of his fellowmen, to make his children wiser and happier; it supplies the powerful urge to add something new to the knowledge of mankind. And all this, not in the vain hope of being rewarded in another world, but from a pure sense of duty as a citizen of nature, as a patriot of the planet on which he dwells. This is no cold and cheerless philosophy; it is an elevating and ennobling ideal which may console him in his afflictions and teach him how to live and how to die. It is a self-reliant philosophy that makes a man intellectually free, and this mental emancipation allows him to face the world without fear of ghosts and gods. It relates solely to facts, while theism resorts to opinions that are grounded only upon emotionalism. Joseph Lewis has well noted that, "Atheism does not believe that man's mission on earth is to love and glorify God, but it does believe in living this life so that when you pass on, the world will be better for your having lived."
The history of the past ages informs us what the world was like with God. The progress of secular knowledge and science have given us measures by which we could produce a better society than has ever existed under the obstructionism of the Gods.
"The knowledge exists by which universal happiness can be secured, the chief obstacle to its utilization for that purpose is the teaching of religion. Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethics of scientific cooperation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age, but if so, it will be necessary to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion." (Bertrand Russell.)
It is interesting to contemplate the changes that may occur in our civilization in the next few centuries. On the one hand we have that long period of sterile time, 15,000 years, for the stage of neolithic man, and on the other the vast material progress of the past three hundred years. We may not be able to discern with clarity in what direction changes will occur, but in one aspect we can discern a well-marked tendency. That is the inevitable conquest of the philosophy of atheism. And with this conquest can be clearly seen that it would give to this earth a much sounder foundation upon which to build our progress, and that long-delayed freedom, the emancipation of the mind from all myths and fables. The inevitableness of atheism has been well summed up by Chapman Cohen:
"Looking at the whole course of Human History, and noting how the vilest and most ruinous practices have been ever associated with religion, and have ever relied upon religion for support, the cause for speculation is, not what will happen to the world when religion dies out, but how human society has managed to flourish while the belief in the Gods ruled. ...
"Substantially, we have by searching found out God. We know the origin and history of one of the greatest delusions that; ever possessed the human mind. God has been found out; analytically and synthetically we understand the God-idea as previous generations could not understand it. It has been explained, and the logical consequence of the explanation is Atheism."
Man is fast attaining a mastery of his environment, and his religious creeds are becoming as irrational to him as the witchcraft delusion. Religion with its burden of fear ties him to the dead ages. But knowledge not, only supplies him with power, but also furnishes him with courage, and that courage will aid him in freeing himself from that fear religion. Religion is doomed to occupy the same place in history as the institution of slavery. Lies and imposture, no matter how powerfully sustained, can be dispelled by knowledge. The Church will destroy itself with its own poison. Knowledge and courage spell the doom of religion.