IS THERE A REAL GOD?
by Marshall J. Gauvin,
From "Fundamentals of Freethought"; 1922
Peter Eckler Publishing Company, New York
From the early morning of the world, until very recent times, the best energies of mankind have been wasted in the worship of gods. All these gods have been naturally produced. They originated in the minds of men who, by their invention, sought to account for the facts of nature. The poor savage found himself surrounded by phenomena he did not understand. Knowing nothing of natural law and order, ignorant of the relation of cause and effect, his simple mind was terrified and amazed by the things that he observed. The plaintive moan of the wailing wind, the thunder's awful roar, the lightning's blinding flash, the devastating flood, the lingering disease that tortured and deformed, and death that stilled the voices of the ones he loved, convinced him of the presence of evil powers that worked to bring about his ruin.
But there were other things that seemed to strive in his behalf. The genial warmth of the sun, the soft light of the moon, the pleasant showers of summer days, the abundance of fish and forest foods, and the health and happiness that he enjoyed--these led him to believe that some of nature's powers were his devoted friends. Thus all the friendly and unfriendly phenomena were personified; and thus were made the gods. The savage mind filled the earth and air with friends and foes. Whatever brought him good was a friend--a god; whatever brought him harm was a foe--a devil. To him, nothing was natural. Everything that happened had a supernatural cause. The world was filled with miracles and marvels. All things were the sport and prey of good and evil gods.
These beliefs have been common to certain stages of mental development the world over. To the savage tribes of our own day, the wind and sky, the sun and sea are personalities. Not only have nature's forces been made into gods, but also nearly every kind of bird and beast has been deified and worshipped. Among the Thlinkit Indians the crow is worshipped as the supreme god. The hawk is the god of the people of North Borneo. The Bijagis of Africa pay divine honors to a goat. The dog is worshipped by the Nosarii of Western Asia. The leopard is believed to be a god by many tribes in Western Africa. Among the Siberian tribes great reverences is paid to the bear. The monkey-god, Hanuman, is worshipped in India. In Siam the white elephant is sacred; it is believed that it may contain the soul of Buddha. Even the loathsome lizard is deified by the people of the Pacific; and for many thousand years, serpent worship has been common in many parts of the world. Nor have savage tribes been alone in worshipping animals as gods. The Egyptians, whose civilization is still the wonder of the world, worshipped as a god the bull Apis. To this god, they sacrificed white oxen; from him the priests pretended to receive sacred oracles; and when he died he was mummified and buried in a rock tomb, another bull being worshipped in his stead.
As man has advanced from savagery to civilization, he has improved the character of his gods. The highest conception of man is man; therefore, the evolution of God has been towards the human form.
To the Egyptians, Osiris was the Lord of Lords--the sum of all the noblest agencies. Sometimes he was represented as the sun, sometimes as the river Nile, and sometimes as a man, wearing on is head a crown a globe or a lotus-flower. His wife was the goddess Isis, the mother of Horus; and her worship continued for several thousand years.
In India, the great Brahma, the master of fate and life and death, is still represented with four heads and as many arms. In his four hands he holds a manuscript of the sacred Vedas--the inspired Bible of the Hindus.
The Greek god Zeus bore the perfect human form. He was the father of all men and the king of all gods. His special interest was the protection of the stranger, the suppliant, the family and the nation. His consort was Hera, though other goddesses and some mortal women shared his love, and bore him many gods and goddesses.
Jupiter, the Roman, was worshipped as the best and the greatest of the gods. In his hand he held a scepter, symbolizing his supreme authority. With his wife, Juno, the queen of heaven, he watched over the lives of the Romans, and carefully protected their property. The greatest triumph of human art was the colossal statue of Jupiter Olympus made in ivory and gold by the immortal Phidias. Standing below these supreme gods in the order of divinity were multitudes of lesser gods. The attributes and passions were deified, and every department of human activity was presided over by some particular divinity.
All these gods were worshipped in gorgeous temples; all were attended by robed and solemn priests, who offered them sacrifices and performed their sacred rites; their statues crowded the pantheons; their loves, and hates and rivalries, their good and evil deeds, made up the popular mythologies; and countless millions of human beings believed them to be real, and worshipped them with pious adoration. It seems almost incredible that highly civilized nations should have been, for so many centuries, so thoroughly deceived. It seems amazing that rational human beings should have invented gods and then have fallen to their knees and worshipped them.
Yet so it was. In the names of scores of false gods, priests have proclaimed promises and threats. In the names of these gods, countless prophesies have been made. At the command of priests, millions have sacrificed to these imaginary phantoms, their flocks and herds, their precious babes, their liberty and their very lives. Nothing is more cruelly sad than the history of religion! No suffering has been greater than that which man has borne in the worship of the gods, that he has made.
Now, if the idea of God has been a slow and painful growth in the human mind, if the savage was mistaken in deifying the powers of the world, if the mighty nations of antiquity worshipped a host of gods that were but children born of the imagination of poets and of priests, why may not the Jews have been mistaken in their worship of Jehovah? If the splendid Zeus of the intellectual Greek was but a poet's dream, what evidence can there be that the deity of the uncultured Jews was the true and only God? If the mighty Jupiter, who led to victory the gallant armies of imperial Rome, was but a figment of the brain, where shall we find the proof that the god of barbaric slaves was the God who framed a universe of stars?
Jehovah was the god of a few wandering tribes. These tribes finally settled in Palestine, a bleak and barren corner of the world, a wilderness of mountains and rocks. They were without art, without science, without commerce. They had no navy and their army was but a plundering horde that butchered women and babes. They lived in miserable tents and huts. They had no schools or colleges and knew no system of education. For many centuries, they had no written language and possessed no line of literature. They were woefully ignorant, pitiably poor, cruel to the last degree, and benighted in the most frightful superstitions. For ages, they sacrificed their sons and daughter to their imaginary god, and afterwards sought for many centuries to appease the wrath of their divinity by the sacrifice of a ceaseless procession of oxen, lambs and doves. Surrounded by many nations whose civilizations are to-day yet mighty in their ruins, the ancient Jews have left no evidence to indicate that they were aught but barbarians.
The religion of the Jews made them narrow and fanatical. They imagined themselves the chosen children of the Deity, and looked on other people as the objects of God's revenge and wrath. And yet, nearly always, they were the slaves of stronger nations; and while the other peoples flourished and prospered, they remained miserable, poor and despised. If history proves anything, it proves that the religion of the Jews has been to them an unadulterated curse. I ask again, why should we believe that the god of such a people is a real and supreme being?
It may be well to note that in earlier times Jehovah was not the god of the Jews. He was the god of the Midianites, an Arabian by birth. From the Midianites the Jews borrowed him, and we, in turn, borrowed him from the Jews. Jehovah was a tribal god. He was worshipped as the god of war. In this respect, however, he was not alone. Even in the limited territory of Canaan, he had to share military honors with several other tribal gods. In times of war, the Sidonians put their trust in Ashtoreth; the Ammonites prayed to Milcom; the Moabites relied on Chemosh, and the Jews sought victory at the hands of Jehovah.
By and by the Jews began to write. Their literature took a religious form. They wrote their hatred and contempt of other nations, magnified themselves and glorified their god. They made Jehovah mightier than all the other gods combined. Stories of victories were invented to illustrate his power and protection. He was represented as conversing with their ancestors, leading them in their migrations, giving them their laws, establishing their religion, watching over their lives, helping them to kill surrounding nations to get possession of their land, and making them in every way his chosen and beloved race. Fanatical prophets and lying priests solemnized their fabrications by frequently repeating, "Thus saith the Lord," and the nation was kept in intellectual slavery and religious fear by the inventions of false religious leaders. These writings were afterwards collected in book form, and have since been known as the Holy Bible.
The god described in the Bible is the God of the Christian world. Let us see if he is real. According to the Bible, God created the human race and pronounced them good. He also created a devil--a powerful enemy--knowing that this devil would corrupt his helpless children. The very first day God allowed his wicked rival to be victorious, to hurl humanity from the height of perfect innocence to the depth of vilest sin. God knew all this would happen; in fact, he left the stage to allow the tragedy to go on. Would a real God create a rival and allow the fiend to pollute the morals of his perfect world? The story sounds like fiction at the start.
Centuries rolled away, and mankind did not improve. Then God resolved to drown the human race, excepting eight persons, in a universal flood. Why did God drown his children? Why did he cover the world with the swollen corpses of his sons and daughters? Was it because they were wicked? Why did he not reform them? Better still, why did he not destroy the devil and thereby keep his children pure? Think of the character of a God who will allow his own devil to drive him to such desperation that his only hope of peace lies in the drowning of a world! Can such a god be real?
The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh was the tyrant who oppressed them. God made up his mind to liberate them and to punish, not only Pharaoh, but the innocent Egyptians as well. And this is how he proceeded. He turned all the water of Egypt into blood; he filled their houses, their chambers and their beds with loathsome frogs; he covered their bodies with lice; he tortured them with flies; he killed their cattle with a plague of murrain; he destroyed their crops with fire and hail; he filled their country with locusts to eat the remnant of their wasted food; he plunged them into thick darkness for three days, and yet he was not satisfied. Again he hardened Pharaoh's heart. What for? So that he might yet further wreak his vengeance on a people who had done no wrong. And what did he do next? He murdered all the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon." Throughout the whole nation there was not a home "where there was not one dead."
Would a good God punish the innocent for a crime of the guilty? Would he overwhelm a nation with frightful plagues and assassinate the firstborn child in every home, to avenge himself on a petty tyrant? If the devil had been dealing with the Egyptians, could his conduct have been more infamous than was that of Jehovah? Can such a god be real?
But the Jews themselves fared worse at the hands of their god that did their Egyptian masters. They were promised a land flowing with milk and honey. For this land, they were induced to leave their Egyptian homes. Soon, however, they had reason to regret having taken Jehovah at his word. He was to them a worse tyrant than Pharaoh. He plagued and tortured and slew them by thousands. After having strewn the wilderness with the bleaching bones of multitudes, he told those that remained that they would never see the promised land, that only their children would, that their carcasses would fall in the wilderness and that they would "know his breach of promise." Of all the Jews who started out from Egypt, only two Caleb and Joshua, reached the land of Canaan. Jehovah promised his people freedom and a fertile soil. He led them to exile and death upon a weary waste. Can such a god be real?
The god of the Old Testament was difficult to please. He was continually calling for sacrifices. To satisfy his craving, a Niagara of blood poured from the veins of butchered beasts. His priests were ever cutting the throats of lambs and bulls. Of all the gods, Jehovah was probably the most fussy. Everything had to be done in his own particular way. In the twenty-ninth chapter of Exodus, he instructs the Jewish priests in the following manner: "Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about." It is hard to say how many people Jehovah would have killed had they happened to put the blood on the left ear or on the wrong toe. So far as we know, the god of the Jews never smiled, and he probably held the fragrance of flowers in supreme contempt; but when he saw his priests well decorated with the blood of beasts, and the air thick with his favorite perfume, --the smoke of burning flesh--the wrinkles of his wrath may have relaxed a little.
In Ezekiel, Jehovah tells his people: "And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a this, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet;" in Deuteronomy, he says to them: "The Lord thy God is a consuming fire;" in Jeremiah, he assures them: "Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger which shall burn forever;" in Isaiah, he proclaims: "And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine;" and in I Samuel, he utters this frightful command: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." So the god of the Bible describes himself as being untruthful, a consuming fire, forever angry, the high priest of cannibalism, and the commander-in-chief over wholesale murder! Can such a god be real?
Why should humanity believe that a book containing such descriptions of deity is inspired and divine? Why should we go to barbarians for our ideals of divinity? Why should we worship a cannibal god? Why should we build temples in honor of a god who took extreme delight in witnessing the long drawn-out tortures and the death of helpless women and innocent babes? If Jehovah were to come to earth, he would be the most undesirable citizen in the world. Why, he is said to have killed, on one occasion, fifty thousand and seventy persons merely because they had looked into a wooden box. Can such a god be real?
According to Christianity, Jehovah is the only god; and yet we are assured that Jehovah had a son, who is also a god. This son was born among the peasants of Judea, about two thousand years ago. His mother was the wife of a Jewish mechanic. The child grew to manhood as other children grew. His habits were like those of other men. He ate and slept, wore clothes and worked, preached a while and died. Those who knew him thought he was a man; but if the church is right, he was really an infinite God.
At this point, we are confronted with mystery and miracle. While it is held that Jehovah was the father of Christ, it is also claimed that Christ was the son of the Holy Ghost. Of course, it is argued that the god of the Jews and the Holy Ghost were one and the same person; but of this there is not the slightest evidence, and the case is not strengthened at all by the fact that the whole Jewish religion is a passionate denial that Jehovah ever had a son.
Another peculiar thing about the parentage of Christ, the God of Christianity, is the claim that he was born of a virgin. Of course, everybody knows that virgins do not give birth to children, and most of us believe that when women do become mothers, their children are very seldom gods. Be that as it may, the mother of Christ, whatever may be said of her being a virgin, was, in fact, a married woman. The first page of the New Testament assures us that Joseph was her husband, and that she, Mary, was Joseph's wife. The belief that Joseph was the father of Christ is confirmed by Mary herself. Finding her with child in the temple one day, she said to him: "Thy father and I have sought thee, sorrowing." And yet, in spite of the fact that Joseph and Mary were husband and wife long before Christ was born, in spite of the fact that Mary called Joseph the father of her child, in spite of the fact that every Jew ever did, and ever will, deny that Jehovah became the father of another god, the churches teach that Christ was God and the son of God. Can such a god be real?
According to Christianity, Jehovah is God, Christ is God and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet it is said that there are not three Gods, but only one God. This is the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine was developed by the Roman Catholic Church, and is to-day the basis of the faith of the Christian world. The Athanasian Creed, in part, reads as follows: "The Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father is, uncreated, the Son is uncreated and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal and the Holy Ghost eternal, and yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As also they are not three uncreated, nor three incomprehensible; but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible. In like manner, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise, the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord and the Holy Ghost is Lord. And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord. For as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the Catholic religion to say there are three Gods or three Lords."
Such, in part, is the Catholic definition of God. Upon that foundation has been reared the entire structure of orthodox Christianity, Protestant as well as Catholic. If that definition fails, Christianity falls. And can such Trinitarian jargon satisfy, for one moment, the mind of a thinking man? Can we conceive of anything more incomprehensible than the statement that three Eternals are only one Eternal, that three Almighties are but one Almighty, and that three Gods are, in fact, exactly one God? Is there anything in language more thoroughly irrational, more utterly idiotic? If a man is supposed to believe such an absurdity, why is he endowed with reason? Or is it true that belief in God is possible only after we have thrown away our reason? Can such a god be real?
But what is God? Does the word describe any particular thing? Is God an actual being "Christians say that God is a spirit. Well, what is that? Is it something that can be seen and felt and heard? Does it have weight? Does it occupy space? If the word "spirit" corresponds to anything that is known, what is that thing?
Again I ask, "What is God? The Episcopalian Creed answers as follows: "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts or passions." Take note of the words, "without body, parts, or passions." A more striking definition of nothing could not be imagined! In endeavoring to define God, Protestantism succeeds only in denying his existence! No body, no parts, no passions--that is to say, no head, no brains, no knowledge, no love, no hate, no anything -- and yet he is "everlasting." Everlasting what? Why, everlasting Nothingness?
The fact is that the human mind cannot conceive of a spiritual existence. We cannot grasp the thought of life apart from matter. Whatever lives, must have material form. All nature denies that there can be spirit where there is no substance. If reason and experience count for anything, we are forced to the conclusion that those who say that God has neither "body, parts nor passions," simply give expression to what they do not know. God is either something or nothing. If he is something, he must have a body--he must be material. If God thinks, he must have a brain. If he feels, he must have nerves. There is, there can be, no thought apart from brain; and there can be no sensation, no feeling, where there are no nerves. Again, a brain and a nervous system cannot be conceived of apart from a stomach. Whatever lives must eat. No exception to this rule can be imagined. We can reason only from what we know. But how can a being having a body and a brain, a nervous system and digestive organs, be conceived of as a God? How can a being that bears the form of man, or of any other Creature, be infinite in power and in knowledge?
We are told that God thinks, makes plans, and carries out intentions, and that he is jealous, loving and kind. If this is true, he must be like a human being--he must have personality. But if God is personal, how can he be infinite? An infinite personality is a contradiction in terms. Personality cannot contain infinity any more a cent can contain a million dollars. The personal and the infinite are opposite extremes. In saying that God is a personal being, man simply projects himself into the darkness of nature. Unable to conceive of any creature of nobler outline than his own, he thinks of God as having a human form. Thus, man makes God in his own image. Civilized man magnifies the attributes of the god of primitive man, and then tries to think of Deity as both infinite and personal.
The science of astronomy proves the idea of a personal god to be utterly childish. Let us glance for a moment at the structure of the universe. The earth on which we live has a diameter of about 8,000 miles. Our sun is a molten mass of fire with a diameter of 866,200 miles, and his circumference is more than two and a half million miles. The magnitude of the sun is 1,305,000 times the size of our little globe. Several of the planets of the Solar system are vastly larger than the one on which we live. Uranus has 59 times the volume of the earth, Neptune 103 times, Saturn 848 times; and it would take 1,389 worlds like ours to make globe of the size of Jupiter. The sun is 93,000,000 miles from us. Neptune, whose path marks the boundary line of the solar system, is separated from the sun by 2,792,000,000 miles. The mighty orbit of this planet is 5,584,000,000 miles wide. An express train speeding at the rate of a mile a minute, and traveling night and day, would require 176 years to go from the earth to the sun. In making the long journey from the sun to the planet Neptune, the same train, dashing at the same speed, would continue in its flight 5,280 years.
And yet, our whole solar system is but a speck of foam in the midst of a shoreless ocean. An infinite universe lies beyond our little group of worlds. It would take seven hundred times as many planets as our solar system contains, to equal the weight of the sun. But it would take 1,500,000 suns like ours to reach the grand dimensions of the star Arcturus. Our sun glorifies the day from a distance of 93,000,000 miles, but Arcturus revels in brilliant splendor 100,500,000 times farther away. Sirius, the Dog Star, brandishes his swords of light fifty-eight thousand billions of miles from our little grain of sand; while Polaris, the wondrous Star of the North, pours his silver flood upon us through the awful distance of two hundred and ten thousand billions of miles. Our flying train would reach the sun in 176 years; but how long would it take to reach this flaming monarch of the sky 2,378,000 times farther away?
On a clear night, we behold the field of heaven thickly sown with twinkling stars How many of us reflect that our nearest neighbor in the starry realms, Alpha Centauri, is distant from us twenty millions of millions of miles? It takes a ray of light, traveling at the velocity of 186,000 miles a second, more than three years and a half to reach us from that star. The stars We see are glowing suns. Twenty millions of them are scattered along the path of the Milky Way. Separated by inconceivable distances, alone, in groups, and in galaxies, they fill every region of the infinite expanse with the matchless glory of their splendor. In the presence of such a universe, a universe where countless millions of suns and worlds wheel in orbits great and small inconceivable velocity--a universe so vast that the dying arrows of light spend millions of years in crossing but a part of its domain -- in the awful presence of such infinitude, our little baby earth seems but a speck of dust.
How could a personal God be master of such a universe? How could he be everywhere in it at the same time? Give God a stature a million miles in height; give him a brain as large as the volume of all the oceans, and yet, in the presence of the countless billions of complications, movements and destinies of our infinite universe, he would be as helpless as a babe lost amid the crags of a mountain. Can such a god be real?
"But," says the Christian, "God must control the universe, for he created it."
Let us see. If the universe was created, an eternity must have passed away before the work of creation began. During that eternity, there could have been nothing in existence -- not a ray of light, not a grain of sand--nothing, except God. Think of an infinite God spending eternity in an empty universe, enveloped in darkness, like eternal convict in the solitary confinement of a dungeon! By and by God made up his mind to create the suns and worlds. Where did he get his material? Did he create it out of nothing? How could nothing be transformed into the wondrous stars? Can we conceive of nothing becoming something?
On the other hand, if matter previously existed, the universe was already here, and there was no creation. It must be assumed that either God or the universe never had beginning. Now, if God could exist from eternity, why could not the universe? What reason can there be for the belief that God could exist from eternity but that that universe could not? If the universe had to come from somewhere, where did God come from? If material enough, to make a God existed without beginning, why not enough to make a universe? The fact is that to put a God back of the universe only creates a mystery. God and creation are both inconceivable. To argue that there was a time when the universe did not exist, to say that it was brought into existence out of nothing, and to invent an inconceivable creator to account for it, is utterly unscientific. The universe is here. It is composed of matter and force. Science has demonstrated that matter and force cannot be separated, and cannot be destroyed. Logic forces us to conclude that that which cannot be destroyed could not have been created. Thus the evidence of science proves that the universe is eternal, and that matter and force, ever in motion, building, changing and transforming, produce all the forms and wonders we behold.
Although millions have abandoned the belief that the universe was designed, that belief is still held by Christians. They compare the universe to a watch, and they say that as the watch needs a watchmaker, so the universe could not exist without a designer. A moment's consideration reveals the folly of this argument.
The universe is not like a watch, and there is not the slightest evidence that it was designed. Besides, if the universe needed a god to design it, how does it happen that God could exist without a designer to design him? Could anything be more illogical than the assertion that an infinite designer could exist without design, but that the universe could not? In Christian reasoning, the design argument runs: The watch is a wonderful thing; therefore, it must have been designed: the watchmaker is more wonderful; therefore, he must have been designed: the universe is more wonderful still; therefore, it, to, must have had a designer. But God, the most wonderful thing of exists without design! When the design argument reaches God, it destroys itself. To give this argument logical value would require an endless succession of designing Gods, each one designed by a previous designer. Such an argument proves too much; consequently: proves nothing.
How can a thinking man look out upon the world and come to the conclusion that back of all things there is a great designer, who is infinitely wise and good? It will not do to say that some things are designed and that other things are not. If nature is controlled by an infinite God, that God must be responsible for everything that happens. Every form and fact and change in nature's vast domain of action must be the work of his designing hand. Did a good God design a world where life feeds on life--a world in which ferocious beasts eat the flesh and drink the blood of other creatures? Eternal agony sits in every forest where the cries of half devoured victims never die away. Every sea is filled with fan red and frightful monsters in eager search of something to consume. Millions of human beings have been devoured by carnivorous beasts.
Not far from a jungle in the province of Bengal, a mother sits in a hammock, reading. Her little child is playing at her side. The awful nearness of a tiger is unknown. The monster's eye surveys the scene, and he steals with noiseless tread toward the unhappy pair. The child greets the tiger with a smile. A little scream is heard. The mother turns and, horror struck, sees her child hurried away to the jungle in the fangs of the devourer. Armed men make search. The tiger is found and killed. In his stomach is found the flesh of the frantic mother's babe. Is the tiger the work of God's design? Would a good God destroy a child to satisfy the appetite of a tiger?
Did an infinite God fill the world with every kind of foul disease, in order that his children might be tortured and deformed? Are leprosy, cancer and consumption a part of God's design? The cancer is as wonderful as any fact in nature.
It is as perfect in its way as is the human brain.
Who can see God's works of love in the earthquake, the pestilence and the famine? Who shall mark designing wisdom in the volcanoes that overwhelm the innocent, the floods that drown them, and the cyclones that strew the plain with their mangled corpses?
If an infinite God is master of the world, he is responsible for all the cruelty of the past--for all the suffering that has been endured. When mothers sacrificed their babes to loathsome serpents, they but fulfilled his wise design. When millions were enslaved, when earth ran red with cruel wars, when the virtuous starved, in dungeons, when the brave and the loving were consumed in the flames of persecution, when tyranny triumphed over liberty destroyed, his purpose was accomplished in the world.
If nature is the work of God's design, he is responsible for all the ignorance and superstition that have led mankind astray, for the spread of false religions that have filled the world with hate, for the overthrow of civilization, for the tortures of the Inquisition, for the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and for the rule and away of countless forms of wrong.
For more than three years, the most terrible war known to man has been sapping the vitality of civilization, filling the earth with millions of martyrs' graves, and spreading hate and grief throughout the world. If a God designed the facts and forces of existence, he is the author of the accumulated horrors this war has brought upon mankind.
There can be no escape from reason. We must face the facts. It is design or no design. Make it design and God must be accountable. It is not nature and God; it is nature or God. If God designed the human body, he also designed the parasites that feed upon its organs, and destroy it. If he designed the eye, he designed the cataract to take the sight away. A design that defeats design, hardly shows the wisdom of a God.
Admit design in nature and it must be held that everything was intended for its particular purpose. The poison in the serpent's fangs was made to poison his prey; the microbe was made to destroy the man: and every disaster in the world was intended to take its toll of human lives. The burning of a ship at sea, the wrecking of a train on land, the explosion of a mine--everything that wounds and kills, falls under God's design. The persecutor and the martyr are designed--the one to prepare the fagots, the other to die in the flames! Booth and Lincoln are designed--the one to be the assassin, the other to be his victim! When God designed a thing, he must have known just what that thing would be, and he must have intended that it should be just what it is. A world in which there is ugliness as well as beauty, vice as well as virtue, cruelty as well as kindness -- a world in which the strong consume the weak, where history on every page with the blood of martyred millions, is surely not the perfect handiwork of an infinitely wise designer.
Religion sees this great difficulty, and so, to account for the evil of the world it invents a devil. This devil is supposed to be ever warring with God and turning his works into ruin. God intends a thing to be good; the devil makes it bad. God creates souls for heaven; the devil lures them into hell.
During the Christian ages, it was believed that the world was a battlefield where God and the devil fought to gain control. Hosts of: angels served in the army of God while Satan's battalions were recruited from the imps of hell. These gods and devils interfered with all the phenomena of nature. The weather and the crops, health and disease, were in their hands.
They were interested in all human concerns. The poor people trembling with fear, resorted to every means that superstition could suggest to win the favor of the gods and to drive the devils away. They worshipped relies and wore charms; they counted beads and kissed crosses; they sprinkled holy water and rang bells; they made pilgrimages and processions -- they did all they could think of doing to escape the grim clutches of Satan's fiends. The world was filled with terror. Christendom was a madhouse. Christianity was insanity. It was believed by popes and priests, by statesmen and jurists, that human beings sold themselves, body and soul, to the Devil. Men and women were put to death for having entered into compacts with Satan to produce storms, to blight crops, to kill cattle, to prevent women from bearing children, to cause sickness, and to bring about the death of their neighbors. It was universally held that women, especially, yielded themselves to Satan's power.Thousands of women were accused of having ridden through the air on a broomstick or a goat, to attend a Witch Sabbath, of having borne children to Satan, of having changed themselves into wolves, and of having done hundreds of other impossible things.
For the victims of these awful accusations, there was no mercy in the Christian World. The whole church, Protestants well as Catholic, was fired with a holy zeal to destroy the kingdom of the Devil. Multitudes of men and women, who were guilty of no wrong, were broken on the wheel, stretched apart on racks of torture, whipped to death, hanged and burned alive, as victims of the devil superstition. Myriads of children were put to death in the same frightful ways, charged with the same impossible crimes.
No imagination can even faintly conceive of the horrible history of Christianity! No historian can compute the number of its victims. For many centuries, that fiendish religion filled the world with instruments of torture and chambers of death. And yet the Church was honest, she believed that God needed her support in his war against the Devil. She regarded it as a sacred duty to destroy those who joined the ranks of Satan.
The church of to-day is but the withered skeleton of what the church has been. She has largely passed out of the life of the world. The major portion of her power has been destroyed. The meaning has faded from her dogmas. On every side she sees to-day the rising tide of un-belief. All the little devils have disappeared and the prince of fiends lingers only in the minds of the benighted and the stupid. He is still prominent at revivals; but from the world of culture he has been banished forever.
Civilization grows as religion dies. Once the world bowed and believed; now it stands erect and reasons. All questions relating to God and the Devil are now weighed in the balance of the brain. Every man who thinks at all knows now that the evil of the world cannot be explained by the agency of a devil. There can be only one infinite power in the universe. If that power is God and if there is a devil, the devil must be under God's control. He is what god made him and he can act only as God allows. God could kill the devil, but he keeps him for a purpose; therefore, God is responsible for all the devil does.
Having abandoned the idea of a devil and finding it impossible to believe that the ugliness and cruelty of nature are the work of a good God, some thinkers have supposed that God is limited in power, and that he is doing the best he can. This appears to be the belief of Mr. H. G. Wells in "God The Invisible King," the eminent novelist insists that God is not material but spiritual, yet a person, though without sex. He is a finite being neither all wise, nor all powerful, nor omnipresent. He did not create nor does he control the universe. He had a beginning and has grown with the growth of mankind. Confined within time, dwelling neither in matter nor space but in the life of humanity, his first purpose is to acquire knowledge to use his growing power. He is not providence. He operates solely through human intelligence. He may be known as a man knows a friend and yet of his existence there is no proof but the conviction that he is! Assuredly, such a contention is the child of despair. To deny creation, to hold that the universe is not controlled, is to deprive God of any function in nature.
To say that God had a beginning, that he has grown with time, is to bandy empty phrases -- words that correspond to no reality. Any argument that denies the supremacy of God as creator and controller denies also his existence. The fact is that nowhere in nature can man behold the footprints of Deity. So far as we can observe, the movements of the 'universe are never interfered with by any outside power. Everything we know mirrors forth the fact that nature is a unity, eternally existing of and by herself, embracing within her mighty sway all causes and all effects, ever producing new forms from old materials, unfolding an endless procession of life and death, growth and decay, and holding all forever in the infinite control of eternal and unchanging natural law.
The work of evolution is everlasting. In every region of the heavens there are condensing nebulae -- world in the process of formation. Millions of ages ago, one of these vast clouds of primal world stuff spread across our solar sky. The mighty cloud cooled, and condensed, and broke up into parts, and after illimitable time the sun and planets were formed. Innumerable ages rolled away--for nature knows no hurry---the molten earth cooled and crusted over; and by and by, in the warm. primeval ocean, some elements combined and generated life. The first life was extremely simple--each individual creature consisted of a single cell. In the course of evolution, the single cell grew and divided, and subdivided, until it became two layers of cells--the gastrula. Growth and change continued, and in time life reached a worm-like stage. This creature had no head, and only a pulsating tube for a heart. Then came the fish and later on the reptile, then the quadruped in many forms. Life spread out in all directions, and earth was filled with strange and fearful beasts. From a high branch of the tree of life, ape-like creatures were developed, and from these in time arose a race of fierce and brute-like men. By means of the survival of the fittest, nature continued her great refining process. Slowly, imperceptibly, unconsciously, the low forehead of primitive man was raised; his small brain was enlarged; his projecting jaw drawn in; the brute expression of his countenance softened into the human smile.
It took nature millions of ages to make a man. She filled the world with everything that crawled and flew and climbed countless ages, before our ancestors were born. And when at last man did appear upon the scene of nature, he was for hundreds of thousands of years the prey of fierce and hungry beasts. Our poor ancestors were shown no favors. No God ever taught mankind, a single fact. Painful experience alone has been the teacher of our race. As our fathers learned how to protect themselves, their arts and institutions gradually improved. Civilization was born of self defense.
The forward march of the race has been impeded in countless ways by the slavish spirit of religion. As in his forest home man was the victim of the devouring beast; so for untold ages since he has been the prey of the destroying priest. By ignorance and superstition, by falsehood and torture, the priest has made himself the greatest enemy of mankind. By bribing the believer with heaven and by threatening the doubter with hell, he poisoned the human mind with indolence and fear, and paralyzed for centuries the wholesome action of the brain.
During the frightful ages when the church controlled the world, it was a crime to reason, a crime to investigate, a crime to express any thought that differed from the Christian creed. Every question about nature was answered by an appeal to some ghostly personality. Everything was believed to have been created perfect a few thousand years ago. It was believed that the heavens were but a few miles above the earth. This was the only world in existence; the sun traveled round it every day; and the stars were little ornaments set out to beautify the sky. Nobody entertained the faintest conception of natural law, and the all-embracing fact of evolution was entirely unknown.
Since those days, science has completely revolutionized the thinking of intelligent mankind. The telescope has made the universe a limitless expanse. The stars have became glowing suns.
Our little earth is no longer the favored center of the cosmic scheme, but a grain of sand, on the shore of an infinite ocean.
Turning their attention to the forms of life that everywhere surround us, the men of science have demonstrated that all the living creatures of the earth have been evolved from a single life stem; that man is but an animal of nobler form and finer brain; and that the work of evolution is going on in the present as it went on in the past.
Science has established, too, the greatest fact the mind of man can know the fact that all nature from sand to stars, from microbes to men, is controlled by universal and everlasting law. Nowhere in the universe is there the slightest room for chance. Cause and effect are everywhere supreme. No miracle can happen. No prayer can be answered. The order of nature is inviolable, and neither God nor Devil can interfere.
In the presence of this grand revelation of science, all bibles and religions, all heavens and bells, all devils and gods, dwindle into puerile superstitions. They but express the ignorance of men who lived in days when nature was unknown.
Science has investigated a thousand departments of nature and from every field her patient students have returned with truths that completely destroy the miraculous and the supernatural.
We know now that nature has no religious preference and knows no respect of persons; that earthquakes and volcanoes will consume human beings in spite of prayers and preaching; that the lightning strikes the virtuous as often as the vicious; that the drought and the flood never pay the slightest heed to piety and praise; that health and disease do not depend at all upon devotion to or disbelief in God; that no man can be good enough or bad enough to change in any way the course of nature's action. We know that nature does nothing out of regard for human beings; that she has no ear to hear our supplications, no hand to supply our wants. Unconscious of what we think, knowing nothing of our wants and ways, she bestows no blessings and seeks for no revenge. To her the sublime and the ridiculous are the same -- she cares as much for a mosquito as for a man. Toward everything that lives she sustains an attitude of infinite indifference.
Nature is, in fact, the very opposite of what religion has taught, and yet a true knowledge of her ways comes to us laden with the greatest hope and promise for the world. All the progress that mankind has made in the past has been due to the labor of those who have worked in accordance with nature's laws. The felling of forests, the cultivation of fields, the building of cities, the construction of ships, the invention of machinery, the founding of schools--all the achievements that have helped to refine and civilize the world, have proceeded in accordance with natural law.
Therefore, when men and women shall have learned that the universe in its entirety is governed by law, that a god is inconceivable, and that prayers cannot be answered, they will cease to seek aid from the supernatural. They will then rise from their knees and strive by every human means to improve the conditions of the world. They will learn how to conquer disease and how to lengthen life. They will turn all churches into schools where nature will be interpreted by honest men. They will endeavor to make men moral by developing the rational powers of the brain. They will re-arrange the industry of the world on principles of justice and pay to labor its just reward. They will look with pity on those who tread the weary paths of crime and seek by sanity and kindness to win them back to honorable ways. They will paralyze forever the murderous arm of war. They will do all that can be done to beautify the world and to make its people happy, generous and free.
This world is our real home; all mankind are our brothers and our sisters, and the life we now enjoy is our heaven and our hell. We now know that all religions are human institutions; that all ideas of God are mere guesses of men; that no divine revelation has ever come to earth and that no supernatural religion can possibly be true.
From the high vantage ground of twentieth century civilization, we can survey the religious history of our race and mark the birth and death of many gods. We see the naked savage trying to explain nature's forces by regarding them as personalities. We see him worshipping as gods even rivers, trees and animals. We see rude tribes like the Jews making their gods cruel, warlike and revengeful. We see nobler nations of higher ideals, picturing their gods as poetic, intellectual and kind. And we behold that in every country, man's highest conception of God assumes the form of a deified man. We behold the great pagan world -- India, Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome -- richly supplied with countless gods and goddesses, whose work of supervision and control extends over all the forces and functions of nature. We observe that the greatest gods are always those of the powerful and leading nations.
The scene keeps changing. One by one the nations disappear; their religions pass away; their gods die and are buried. New nations, new religions, and new gods arise and claim the allegiance of mankind. With the roll of the centuries, the number of gods grows less and less, until at last one supreme divinity is thought to rule the world. In the service of this god, mankind give up, for many centuries, every interest but religion. The world becomes tilled with priests and poverty, with superstition and persecution, with war and woe. Common sense is banished from the minds of men and the dark ages of Christianity enshroud mankind in religious gloom.
At last the surging mind of man, in the name of intellectual freedom, shatters the power of the Church. Reason returns, and men begin to investigate and learn. In the grand awakening, science is born. The universe is explored by patient searchers after truth, and everywhere is found the reign of natural law. The universe is found to be mechanical. Nowhere does it reflect the ideals and character of a god; nowhere can any trace of God be discovered. Thoughtful men and women come to regard the totality of nature as the one eternal being--as our mother, our teacher, and our tomb. The last god fades from the minds of millions and takes his place with the countless gods that are dead. Supernatural religion disappears, leaving a natural world, filled with enlightened men and women, to work for the improvement of mankind.