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In this system is included a belief that all morality proceeds from theology alone, and it fosters the notion that morality cannot exist without it. It attempts to force a despotic adherence to certain dogmatic principles and observances upon all, condemning all who cannot accept its dogmas as guilty of a moral wrong, notwithstanding the negative results of a strict scientific investigation of the evidence it produces in its favour, and never neglects an opportunity by which it may force itself into every walk in life. It is this system which has been the cause of nearly every war that has taken place in Europe in former days, and which is responsible for the deaths of millions of people. The wickedness and iniquity of the Crusades are so well known that it is not necessary to recapitulate them here. In this system thought and reason are stifled, private opinion being regarded as a temptation of the Devil; the Church is the voice of God, whose mouthpiece is the clergy ; to this divine teacher all must submit at all costs, and, where submission is refused, it is only lack of power and opportunity that prevents persecution. Ecclesiasticism is gentle, docile, and charitable where opportunity is lacking ; but, where it offers, is ferocious, cruel, and spares none. It has been the greatest enemy of all intellectual progress and of the advancement of civilization, wherever it has been powerful, for it simply means blind submission to the clergy. The despotic power desired to be wielded by them, and which they continually aim at, is identical with that wielded by the pagan magician priest of pre-Christian times, with the simple difference that in the one case it is a class, highly educated and refined, but equally as subtle, while in the other it was a caste : both traded, and trade, on the ignorance and credulity of the people, chiefly the tender and more impressionable sex.
ABBREVIATIONS. A.V., Authorized Version ; R.V., Revised Version; D.V., Douai
Version ; L.V., Latin Vulgate ; O.T., Old Testament ; N.T., New Testament.
EVOLUTION --- CAUSE AND EFFECT — THE INSCRUTABLE
POWER—THE UNIVERSE AND SOME OF ITS MORE COMMON PHENOMENA (STARS, MOONS, SOLAR SYSTEM, SUN, PLANETS, CRUST OF THE EARTH, GLACIERS, GEOLOGICAL EPOCHS, THE ATMOSPHERE, THE SEASONS) -THE ZODIAC.
In order to understand how the evolution of man has come about, we must know, not only what evolution means, but something about the universe within which, and the earth upon which, man has been evolved. EVOLUTION, then, means an opening out of something already existing-in other words, a change of form ; but it is a change of form in which the simple passes into the complex, the general into the special ; in which low developments pass into high developments. And this process is to be seen continually going on throughout nature. Nature knows nothing of annihilation, nor of the formation of something out of nothing, for matter is indestructible and eternal. Every planet that we see in the heavens, and every animal and plant that finds a home on our planet, has been evolved from something more simple that previously existed. Where the elementary matter from which every compound body has been evolved came from in the first instance is beyond human comprehension, and is as inscrutable as is the nature of the power which produced it, but which is indubitably manifested to us in all the phenomena throuyhout, nature.
Evolution, scientifically defined by the great philosopher, Herbert Spencer, consists of “an integration for coming together of elements to form a whole] of matter, and a concomitant dissipation of motion, during which matter passes from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity [i.e., of
like elements] to a definite coherent heterogeneity [i.e., of unlike elements); and during which the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation.” The factors in the process of evolution are: (1) The Instability of the homogeneous, or unstable equilibrium, which is apparent throughout the range of phenomena, in the evolution of mechanics as in the evolution of the species ; each species being an assemblage of organisms, which does not remain uniform, but is ever becoming multiform. (2) The Multiplication of effects, or production of many consequences by a single cause. (3) Segregation, or gathering of like units into groups, by that clustering of similar things into aggregates which goes on simultaneously with the grouping of the other aggregates or dissimilar things by which we get that individuality or definiteness which all objects manifest, and which takes place throughout all phenomena. (4) Equilibration, being the goal to which the instability of the homogeneous, the multiplication of effects and segregations, inevitably tend ; that universal balancing of active and re-active forces which necessitates the rhythm of motion and the harmony of nature, the limit beyond which evolution cannot proceed.
But evolution is not only the law of organic progress, but it is the law of all progress, whether it be in the development of the earth, or of life upon its surface, or of society, government, manufactures, commerce, language, literature, science, or art. Also, there is a principle underlying all evolutionary processes—“the persistence of force”; and it is by this that there is a tendency in every organism to maintain a balanced condition. Different motions are resisted by opposing forces, thus continually suffering from deductions, the losses of which end in the cessation of motion. It is to the principle of persistence of force that may be traced the capacity of individuals, and of the species, to become adapted to new circumstances and surroundings.
Now, the various phenomena of the universe are effects manifested to us through our senses--sound, colour, feeling, taste, etc.—by some CAUSE ; each effect has its cause, and each cause its effect, for cause and effect are inseparable, and one cannot exist without the other. But what causes these causes and effects to work so harmoniously together, in accordance with, what science teaches us are, certain fixed
laws ? Our reason tells us that there must be a cause behind or beyond these ; and we call this cause the “first” and “supreme,” because causing and controlling all other causes. And, as we cannot think or conceive without relation, by likeness or difference, and as we have no consciousness of either of these regarding the existence of anything except that which is in and of the universe, we cannot conceive anything outside or beyond the universe. So that, if we can conceive a first cause, we conclude that it must be within and of the universe.
We have, so far, considered the first cause as a cause only, but every cause is a power producing results. There can be no cause and effect without power and result, or phenomena. The cause is, therefore, a power. But what do we know about this power which causes the various phenomena ? Nothing beyond the single and simple fact that it exists. And, because we know that it exists, we cannot define it as unknown; nor can we logically define it as unknowable, though it may appear to be so to our finite senses ; for, were we to do so, we should be claiming a knowledge of that which we are asserting to be unknowable. The extent of knowledge, too, is variable and dependent upon opportunity and the capability of each to mentally conceive. All that we can say regarding the FIRST and SUPREME CAUSE and POWER is, that it is, as Herbert Spencer says, “ inscrutable”-i.l., not understood, and therefore incapable of being explained by human reason. It therefore follows that nothing is or can be known, by any means that we know of at present, respecting the nature, substance, and à fortiori attributes, of the cause; "attributes derived,” as Spencer says, “ from our own natures,” which are not "elevations, but degradations.” Nor can we logically conceive it as a deity or god; for either conception would involve us again in a pretence to a knowledge of that which we have shown to be inscrutable; and the consideration of such hypotheses lands us within the boundaries of the absurd, if not the insane.
It appears to be a difficulty with some to recognize the cause and power as a being. Let us examine the point. A being may be living or non-living—animate or inanimate, the verb to be being only another mode of expressing the verb to exist. A being is, therefore, an existence, and an
existence is a being. But the first cause is only a being, existence, entity, or thing, as opposed to, or distinguished from, a non-being, a non-existence, a non-entity, or a nothing.
The first cause, or supreme power, is therefore a being, entity, or existence within the universe, and inscrutable or incomprehensible to man; and has been well defined as the “ first cause least understood.”
But mankind has, in different periods of the world's history, pretended to have an intimate knowledge of the first cause, even to identifying it, by form, shape, and attributes, as a human being, and of the male sex, and attributing to this anthropomorphous personification the iniquities recorded in the Bible. Such ignorance and superstition may be excusable in the savage, whose fears led him to attribute everything he could not understand to the action of invisible and supernatural persons, but is inexcusable and unwarrantable in persons pretending to some education and possessing ordinary intelligence. It is an attempt to encroach upon the domain of the speculative, which has been the cause of nearly all the troubles of mankind, and is responsible for the shocking acts of injustice, cruelty, and murder which crowd the pages of history, and which have been perpetrated under the name of “religion.” This unwarranted conception by man concerning the inscrutable cause has for centuries led people astray from the paths of science and truth, and into the realms of the imaginary and supernatural, and to the consequent evolution of religious systems equally unwarranted, and whose conceptions of the inscrutable power are far below the dignified and noble conception of the Agnostic and of science.
As no relations can exist between the conceivable and the inconceivable, the finite and the infinite—and it is assumed that the inscrutable power is infinite - no relations can exist between man and the inscrutable first cause. Anything that we do, or fail to do, cannot affect it ; and we can give it nothing, nor can it receive anything from us. Therefore addresses to it are useless and illogical, and those who do so address it seriously involve themselves in an illogical belief in the personality of the first cause, and in its possession of human attributes, such as hearing, seeing, etc.—a belief which is founded, as we have seen, on conjecture only.