Hermann Marcus Kottinger.

The youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment online

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years ; but some day it must happen, and indeed happen in all dominions of
the Universe. (56.)

State associations are dissolved by the attacks of enemies or by revolutions.
The evolution of organic beings is ended by death (in the more general signifi-
cation). After death their ingredients are decomposed in gases. This process
happens slower or quicker, and depends much on the degree of temperature. It
occurs faster in summer and in hot countries, than in winter and cold regions.
Carcasses of mammoth elephants that have died long ago, and were buried in ice
at the mouths of Siberian rivers, were found unhurt, wherefore their flesh, if dug
out, is eaten by wolves. Inorganic bodies often remain a long time without any
perceptible change. Masses of alluvial earth and stones harden from the pres-
sure of new alluvions, and become rocks, and so can rest unchanged millions of
years; but by rain, and frost, and air they also can crumljle, and by fire even be
volatilized into gases. Some natural philosophers (57) and astronomers even
assert that the earth and whole system of stars — of course only after an im
measurable series of years — must again return into a gaseous condition ; hut that
after eveiy universal dissolution a new evolution will follow, because the creation
of the Universe had neither a beginning, nor will have an end. Greek philoso-
phers maintained already this opinion,


What follows from the doctrine of the evolution of the Universe?

If this doctrine is correct, the belief in a personal God, who stands outside of
the world, in divine revelations, in miracles and supernatural forces, in everlast-
ing religionb. in the different stories of the origin of the Universe and ot the


creation of the organisms (of plants, animals and men), in merely spiritual
beings, in a personal immortality, in heaven, and hell, etc., loses its hold, and
Darwin's theory of man's origin is vindicated.

§ 16. The Unknowable in the Universe.

The unkn(nvablc in the Universe. (58.)

Whereby are the sensations, the objects effect in us, necessarily originated ?
By causes ; e. g., the sounds we hear are the effect of the oscillations of air,
which touch our organ of hearing.

What do we find, if from a next cause we investigate farther ?
We find a cause more remote ; e. g,, the oscillations of the air can be caused
by discharging a cannon, or by a tempest.

How long must we continue to inquire from cause to cause ?
Until we arrive at^last cause ; e, g., in order to understand the process of
respiration, we notice that the air is rushing into the lungs. The condition of
this movement is the expansion of the chest ; but this expansion depends on
another cause and this again on another, etc. Thus we are obliged to proceed
from cause to cause, until we arrive at one which we must suppose to be the
last ; for if it were not the last, another must yet follow after it.
Is this only so with some things ?

No, the existence of eveiything depends on an ultimate cause.
What does oblige us to admit this hypothesis ?

Our common consciousness. It is to be found in every man and all people who
are tolerably well civilized. It is the essence of every religion.
I low does history confirm that this consciousness is correct ?
That all men hold it in common.
What creed do all religions hold in common ?
The creed that there is a last, unknown cause of all phenomena.
Is it possible to adduce proofs of the existence of an ultimate cause, in the
proper sense of the word ?

No, for it transcends the sphere of our intellectual faculty. Its correctness is
merely a fact of consciousness.

Where is the last cause of things manifested ?
It is manifested in all phenomena of nature and human being.
How must all matter and force of the Universe be considered ?
They must be considered to be the effect of this first cause ; it is the eternal,
persevering force which lies at the bottom of all forces, both the physical (e. g.,
of heat, light, electricity), and moral (e. g., the faculty of perceptions, of the
intellect, of the volition).

What is its relation to the evolution of the Universe ?

It is the cause of every evolution proceeding in general, and especially in the
orgnnic life, in the human mind and in society.


Is it limited or unlimited ?

It is unlimited in space and time.

Is the last cause of all reality to be looked for within or without the Universe ?

It is existing within it, because it is also a force. There are no forces without
the Universe.

How far does its efficacy reach ?

As far as there is any phenomenon of nature.

Is it physical or spiritual ?

Neither the one, nor the other.

What, then, is it ? How can it be known and explained ?

Being unlimited and absolute, to human intellect and tinite understanding, it
remains forever an unknowable, inexplicable, nay, even unthinkable mystery.
It is that veiled image of Sais. (59.)

May we give the ultimate cause particular attributes, e. g., personality,
omnipotence, infinite benevolence, or other qualities and feelings in the highest
grade ?

No 1 for by eveiy attribute it would be limited and humanized.

How far do all historical religions contradict themselves ?

As far as on the one hand they confess that the last cause cannot be under-
stood, but on the other they give it definite attributes.

Why ought we not to confess any religion?

Because all religions contain unprovable doctrines.

Against which spirit does he act who teaches untrue dogmas, and commands
us to believe that the ultimate cause of all things exists in any definite manner?

Against the spirit of genuine piety.

Which people are generally called pious and religious?

Those who pretend to stand behind the unknown Poiver, and to know the
conditions according to which it is obliged to act.

To which object can such men be compared, if they call their opponents
atheists ?

They can be compared to the pert clock, which believed that the watchmaker,
like her, is moved in his actions by springs, wheels and scapements, and called
every other clock, which did not assent to its opinion, atheistic.

What is, then, wisdom and religious duty ?

To consider the ultimate existence which causes the subsistence of all things,
as the Unknowable and Unthinkable, (60.)

What reasons do several German philosophers object to the hypothesis of
an ultimate existence ?

They say : As nature has neither a Ijeginning nor an end, this hypothesis
cannot be admitted. The foundation of any object lies deeper, and was sooner
extant than the structure which reposes on it ; therefore, if there were a first
cause of the Universe, it would have been extant before the latter, and so the
Universe would be limited in space ancl lime, while it is unlimited in both

regards. The series of causes is infinite, like Nature itself. Experience teaches
only the existence of an almighty Power in Nature, though with our limited
intellect we cannot understand the way and manner ol its existence. (Cf.
^2.) (6i.)

§ 17. The Conception of God. 1.— In the Christian Churoh.

In what do the Christian Churches believe ?

In an almighty, all-wise, all-bountiful and all-just God, the creator and con-
servator of the world.

What is the foundation of their belief?

A presupposed revelation of God.

What does science answer them with regard to this belief?

It answers : I. The Christians believe in God's existence, because he himself
has revealed it to them ; herewith they presuppose already his existence, which
they first ought to prove. True, in order to prove that a revelation really has
happened, they appeal to miracles, asserting that these did concomitale the
revelation ; but they are neither able to prove the genuineness of the miracles.
Jesus Christ himself lamented that his cotemporaries would not believe him,
though they saw his wonders. Besides, miracles are impossible. (Cf. ^ 3.)

2. With the benevolence, wisdom and justice of God, the many evils on
earth, e. g., diseases, wars, famines, earthquakes, etc., are at variance. We see
often the innocent pine in misery, and the criminal revel in abundance. Thou-
sands of generations live and die in wretchedness. Useful species of animals
have died away ; pernicious ones (e. g., locusts, migratory pigeons, field-mice),
prevail to excess, tormenting men and beasts; some men are born blind, etc.


Does, then, the law of conformity to the purpose rule in nature ?

No, the alleged facts testify to the contrary ; nature's works neither manifest
intelligence or design, nor are they consequences of a 'olind chance ; but it cre-
ates evei^where according to definite, immutable laws. (63.)

3. The doctrine of the Christian church contradicts itself ; for, according
to it, God has damned mankind for ever, because Adam and Eve had transgressed
his command ; God's son had to propitiate him by his death, and suffered it on a
cross ; nevertheless the most men continue to be damned, because God has pre-
destinated them to damnation ; the damned must for ever burn in the fire pool of
hell, etc. Such dogmas can not be reconciled with the idea of an all-kind and
all-just God.

4. The expressions *' Creator, kind and wise God" signify a personal being,
similar to man, though infinitely more perfect than this. The word " God "
literally means : the good one, and attributes to the supreme being even a peculiar
sex. {64.)

From what being are all notions man forms of God, derived?
From man.

What would the bird, imagine God to be, if it could get an idea of Him ?
" He would imagine Him to be a bird, only larger, finer and stronger than it
is itself." (65.)

How do different men and people always imagine God ?

According to their grade of culture, to their passions, to the properties of
their race and country, therefore rude people adored an elephant, a cow, a cro-
codile, a tree, and even a stone. (66.) The cheerful Greeks formed themselves
merry gods, the stern Hebrews an ireful Jehovah, the negroes — gods vi^ith black
skins and curley hair, the Mongolian — with a yellow complexion. Zeus was a
perfect Greek, and Jove looked as though a member of the Roman Senate.
The gods of the northern countries were represented warmly clad in robes of
fur ; those of the tropics were naked. Everyone changes his conceptions of God
according to the degree of culture to which he advances. (67.)

How are also the sacrifices adapted which man offers to his gods?

They are adapted to his habits of living. The Heathens sacrificed meat and
wine; the Roman peasants cakes of milet ; the Hebrews only " clean " animals,
no pork, because they themselves were not used to eat it ; the peasants in
Lithania flitches (to the thunder-god Perkune) ; the peasants in Prussia parcels
of hogs, geese, chickens and calves (to the god Ziemienic) ; the Ostiake stuffs
tobacco in the nose of his god, etc.

How do others contrive to prove the existence of God ?

By asserting that all people on earth believed and continue to beiieve in a
highest being.

Is this assertion true ?

No ! Many people had and have no idea of God, e. g., many Indian tribes.
(68.) The original religion of Buddha is ignorant of God and immortality,
(69); besides, two of the religious systems of the Chinese have no expressions
for the idea of God and immortality in their language. Individual men, too,
who grow up without education, have no idea of God. (70.) Moreover,
according to that assertion there must exist, too, demons, because the belief in
them is still wider spread, than that in an all-kind being.

From whom did the Christians and Mohammedans receive the conception of a
personal God ?
From the Jews.

When did the belief in a personal God originate ?

At the time when men yet stood in the lowest degree of civilization ; for then
they did not know the causes of the phenomena of nature. (71.)

Which doctrine of astronomy did shake the belief in a personal God ?
The doctrine that the fixed stars are similar bodies to our sun ; hence he has
no more home in heaven. (72.)


§ 18, Concluded. 2.— From the Standpoint of Modern Science-

"What's the view of modern science with regard to the notion of a God ?

Its adherents form several classes. One of them, indeed the most numerous,
discarded those ideas of God, which too grossly contradict the advanced culture
of our age, and now imagine him as the infinite being, infinite in power, sanctity
and benevolence (73) : as the law-giver of Nature.

Can this notion of God be correct ?

No, for it also contains the feature of a personal being. His attributes, though
conceived to be infinite, contradict each other. Being infinitely just, he must
punish every sinner ; being infinitely merciful, he must pardon every one. The
evil on earth contradicts his infinite benevolence and power; for it exists either
by or against his permission ; in the first case he is not infinitely benevolent, in
the second he is not omnipotent.

Is there a law giver of Nature, like law givers of States?

No; the words "law" of Nature and "law" of any Stale have different
meanings; the latter is the expression of the will of a superior; the former, the
generalized expression of the manner in which certain phenomena occur.

How does another school define the divine idea ?

It defines God as the invisible, first cause of all existence and life. " As sure
as a living spirit dwells in man, we must in the Universe recognize a living,
forming, disposing highest spirit: this is God.'' (74.)

On what foundation does the divine idea of this school rest ?

On the religious sentiment. They say : " Man feels his dependence on a
first cause ; that is a religious feeling. Every more diffuse description is defective.
Even the phrases, ' God is the father of men, the spirit of the Universe, the
supreme intellect,' cannot afford any sufficient representation of the first cause
of all things. The religious sentiment approaches the notion of God closer than

How is (according to their view) the religious feeling manifested ?

By amazement, reverence, joy, confidence, and resignation in God.

How do they continue to define this sentiment ?

They call it (he most powerful, for it sacrifices even life; it created the
splendid temples and statues of the Greeks, etc. Still (as they say) its condi-
tion depends on education ; therefore it differs so widely in diverse times, both
in the individuals and nations ; e. g., some worship only one God, others several
gods, etc.

Which error does also the doctrine of the religious emotions contain in com-
mon with the two preceding ideas of God ?

Its foundation is also the representation of a personal being ; for it uses, too,
the words "God" and "gods." Besides, the religious sentiment is not to be
found in every one; it is missing in the rude and uneducated man.

What does this school reply to that reproach ?


That at least the facuUy of it exists in every man ; but that it must be devel-

What other reasons are there why religious emotions cannot be the safe foun-
dation ol religion ?

Because they often misled men to follies and to the most ferocious actions,
even to kill their own children for their gods, to burn heretics and atheists, to
believe in a hell, to adore a piece of dough (which they called the holy host),

In what countries are the most and worst crimes committed ?

In those where the religious feelings have the highest sway, o. g., in Italy,
Such crimes are : murder, robbery and theft.

Does the religious feelings abandon the criminals during the perpetration of
their misdeeds ?

No ! With all fervor of a devouted mind they pray " God's mother " to assist
them at their criminal action ; in the most profound humility they cross them-
selves in the presence of •' the holy image," behind which they kill a traveler
in the next moment ; with the most scrupulous conscientiousness they confess the
committed sins. (75-)

What notion of God has a third class of the representants of the modern view
of the Universe .''

None at all; they do neither believe in a historical God (i. e., in such an one,
as men hitherto imagined), nor in a personal God generally. Theirs are also
the same objections which so far have been propounded. (76.)

Do they profess a new idea of God ?

No ; for 1st, from the statement of this idea, hitherto given, it is evident that
the notions which men until now devised of God, always were erroneous, nay
that they even contradicted each other ; therefore it is not probable that man
ever will succeed to form a correct idea of God,

2d. The word " God " always implies a personal being.

3d. If by it the power, manifesting itself in the Universe, is meant, the ex-
l)ression is however erroneously chosen. But it was already before (§ 15) proven
that this power will remain inscrutable forever ; therefore it will be ajways im-
possible to form a representation of it. (77.)

4th. Man is the highest standard wherewith we can measure the infinite
Power ; as soon as we outstep our nature, the conception and word fail us. God,
as men can imagine Him, will, then, always be a humanized being.

5th. As we can know only such things, as we are able to perceive with our
senses, and as God is said to be a supersensual (transcending) being : we can
never acquire any knowledge of Him, (78.)

6th. The only object of science are nature and her laws ; science cannot
acquire any knowledge but in the sphere of experience ; whatever transcends
this, remains precluded from its comprehension. Must we search for information
from theologians and philosophers? They do not know any more. The


wisest of them are teaching: " A God who could be comprehended, would be
no more a God at all." "It is blasphemy to think that God exists in the manner
as we believe that he must exist." (79-)

What corollary is to be derived from these reasonings with regard to humane
prayers ?

That they are of no use, because they are addressed to a person who does not

Which men are usually called atheists ?

Those who do not believe in the ruling notions of divinity. In this way the
Greeks and Romans called Socrates and other philosophers, and even the ancient
Christians, atheists, because they believed not in the gods of their countries;
and again the Christians used in all times to call so those who uncovered the
errors of their creed. (80.)

§ 19. The Religions.*

What is religious belief?

The belief in one or several gods.

What is usually added to this belief?

External rites and ceremonies, e. g., visiting the churches and temples,
prayers, etc.

What do most religions hold in common ?

They teach nearly the same morals ; beside, they profess supernatural, incom-
prehensible opinions, which men must believe to be true ; moreover they relate
many pious legends, transmitted from the olden times.

What verdict do many of our cotemporaries pass on religions ?

Many intelligent men think that they are not needed, some even assert that
they are obnoxious.

What reasons do the latter allege ?

1. That the religions contain several absurd, inconceivable and erroneous
dogmas, e. g., the dogma that three divine persons make one God.

2. That they contradict each other.

3. That they always have engendered hatred and persecution, bloody warsand
barbarous actions among men. So the Jews have exterminated such people who
would not adore Jehovah ; the Christians have burned millions of men on the
pretext that they were heretics; and the Mohammedans have made war against
the infidels (as they called the Christians and Jews) ; nay, even among them-
selves, one sect was fighting the other. (81.)

What do those desire who adhere to the latter view of religions?

They desire that the State religions (as they call them) ought to be abolished,
or at least separated from the governments of the States. In the latter case the
Slates should not appoint and pay the clergy, and not enjoin Sabbath laws; the

*This word is here understood in the historical sense.


property of the churches should not be exempt from public taxes; the public
schools not be controlled b)' the churches, etc.

What do they wish with regard to the religious instruction of youth ?

Youth ought not to receive any religious instruction; for experience proves
that such an one is detrimental to their education.

What detriment does it usually effect ?

1st, The juvenile mind receives an erroneous impression of the Universe, is
crammed with superstition, incited to sectarian hatred and fanaticism, and is
subdued to the sway of the churches.

2d. The time of instruction is wasted by it, and such branches which are
necessary and useful to the scholar, are neglected by it. Only the history of the
religions ought to be taught in order to warn and protect the youth against the
aberrations of human intellect.

§ 20. Death and Immortality.

What are the effects of old age ?

In old age the brain shrinks, the veins grow impassable, the senses dull, the
muscles slack, the hair white, the head and back bent; the weight of the body de-
creases, body and mind become incessantly weaker, and finally nature like a
mother receives us again in her lap.

What symptoms announce death ?

The body is not able to move, and the limbs to stir any more ; by and by the
breath stops ; at last the heart, too, ceases to beat, and the circulation of blood is
at an end. By degrees putrefaction sets in, and the different parts of the body
are changed in gases, salts and earth.

Is death a necessary result of human life ?

Yes ; for every moment, with every draught of breath and with every drop of
sweat a particle of ingredients by which the body is composed, returns to the
realm of ever changing nature. So e. g., a part of the blood forms nerves and
bones, and another already leaves again the body, dead and transformed in breath
and sweat. Death is born with the man, and is dwelling with him since his
birth (cf. § 14).

What truth is no longer doubted in regard to the body of man ?

It is no longer doubted that man's body in a certain meaning is immortal.
The existent mattei- of the Universe is eternal, consequently the matter of the
human body too. True, it is by death decomposed in its different primitive in-
gredients ; however, none of them is ever lost, but they are only united with
other forms of matter. Not the smallest particle of the body is ever lost (^ 2).

In what sense is the human mind immortal ?

That which man creates, invents, teaches, becomes an heritage of his children
and grandchildren, and even of mankind in general. The succeeding gener-
ation receives and increases the heritage. The literary productions of great


geniuses, and the generous actions of good men continue to live in the memory
of posterity. " Thus far the human mind is also immortal."' (S2.)

Is there also 2l personal continuation of mental life ?
No, a continuation of conscious mental life is impossible.

What reasons does the science of our age allege for this assertion ?

1st. The mind, in general, is a product of organization ; therefore it must
perish with organization, as the flower perishes with the gem.

2d. The mind is, especially, a product of the l)rain. It has its origin in the
brain ; its faculties develop as the brain develops, and decrease with it; it is in-
separable from it (see \ 10 and ii). Man becomes conscious of himself only
by the influence which the external world exerts on his senses ; now if the or-
gans of the senses, the nervous system and especially the brain get inactive or
even are destroyed, the consciousness and therefore the mental life must also
cease for some time or for ever. The first case happens during swooning and
sleep. During profound sleep man has no dreams, they do not begin but in
passing from sleep into the state of awaking. In the second case we say that
man is dead. Therefore sleep and death are called twins. In this way the
clock also stops, if its wheels are hindered to turn, or are disjoined. (83.)

3d. Every object which began to exist, must one day perish; soul did not
exist once, therefore it is perishable.

4th. Force and matter are closely united together, that is a quality of this ;
it disappears, when the material parts are separated and otherwise rejoined.
The soul is the force of the brain; if, then, the latter is dissolved, and enters
other combinations with other matters, the former must loose, too, its existence.
This happens in death. (84.)

5th. The humaii soul difl'ers from that of animals not in kind, but only in
degree of essence. (^ 12.) Now, if man's soul is immortal, we must also

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Online LibraryHermann Marcus KottingerThe youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment → online text (page 25 of 28)