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a month or two since in "The Nineteenth Century" I shall point
out things which will probably startle the public, the author himself
included, in case he cares to attend to them.

Before going further, however, let me ask and answer this question.
If Prof. Huxley should tell us that he does not believe in God, why
should we think the statement, as coming from him, worthy of an
attention which we certainly should not give it if made by a person
less distinguished than himself? The answer to this question is as
follows: We should think Prof. Huxley's statement worth considering
for two reasons: Firstly, he speaks as a man pre-eminently well
acquainted with certain classes of facts. Secondly, he speaks as a
man eminent, if not pre-eminent, for the vigor and honesty with
which he has faced these facts, and drawn certain conclusions from
them. Accordingly, when he sums up for us the main conclusions of
science, he speaks not in his own name, but in the name of the phys-
ical universe, as modern science has thus far apprehended it; and
similarly, when from these conclusions he reasons about religion, the
bulk of the arguments which he advances against theology are in no
way peculiar to himself, or gain any of their strength from his reputa-
tion; they are virtually the arguments of the whole non-Christian
world. He may possibly have, on some points, views peculiar to him-
self. He may also have certain peculiar ways of stating them. But
it requires no great critical acuteness, it requires only ordinary fair-
ness, to separate those of his utterances which represent facts
generally accepted, and arguments generally influential, from those
which represent only some peculiarity of his own. Now, all this is
true not of Prof. Huxley only. With various qualifications, it is
equally true of writers with whom Prof. Huxley is apparently in con-
stant antagonism, and who also exhibt constant antagonism among
themselves. I am at this moment thinking of two especially Mr.
Frederic Harrison and Mr. Herbert Spencer. Mr. Harrison, in
his capacity of religious teacher, is constantly attacking both Mr.
Spencer and Prof. Huxley. Prof. Huxley repays Mr. Harrison's
blows with interest; and there are certain questions of a religious
and practical character as to which he and Mr. Spencer would
be hardly on better terms. But, underneath the several questions
they quarrel about, there is a solid substructure of conclusions,
methods, and arguments, as to which they all agree agree in the

* " The Bishop of Peterborough departed so far from his customary courtesy and self-respect as
to speak of ' cowardly agnosticism.' " PBOF. HDZXKT, p. .1.



most absolute way. What this agreement consists in, and what prac-
tical bearing, if taken by itself, it must have on our views of life, I
shall now try to explain in a brief and unquestionable summary; and
in that summary, what the reader will have before him is not the pri-
vate opinion of these eminent men, but ascertained facts with regard
to man and the universe; and the conclusions which, if we have
nothing else to assist us, are necessarily drawn from those facts by the
necessary operations of the mind. The mention of names, however,
has this signal convenience it will keep the reader convinced that I
am not speaking at random, and will supply him with standards by
which he can easily test the accuracy and the sufficiency of my asser-

The case, then, of science, or modern thought, against theological
religion or theism, and the Christian religion in particular, substan-
tially is as follows:

In the first place, it is now an established fact that the physical
universe, whether it ever had a beginning or no, is, at all events, of
an antiquity beyond what the imagination can realize ; and also that,
whether or no it is limited, its extent is so vast as to be equally
unimaginable. Science may not pronounce it absolutely to be either
eternal or infinite, but science does say this, that so far as our faculties
can carry us they reveal to us no hint of either limit, end, or begin-

It is further established that the stuff out of which the universe is
made is the same everywhere and follows the same laws whether at
Clapham Common or in the farthest system of stars and that this
has always been so to the remotest of the penetrable abysses of time.
It is established yet further that the universe in its present condition
has evolved itself out of simpler conditions, solely in virtue of the
qualities which still inhere in its elements and make to-day what it
is, just as they have made all yesterdays.

Lastly, in this physical universe science has included man not
alone his body, but his life and his mind also. Every operation of
thought, every fact of consciousness, it has shown to be associated in
a constant and definite way with the presence and with certain condi-
tions of certain particles of matter, which are shown, in their turn, to
be in their last analysis absolutely similar to the matter of gases,
plants, or minerals. The demonstration has every appearance of being
morally complete. The interval between mud and mind, seemingly
so impassable, has been traversed by a series of closely consecutive
steps. Mind, which was once thought to have descended into matter,
is shown forming itself, and slowly emerging out of it. From forms
of life so low that naturalists can hardly decide whether it is right to
class them as plants or animals, up to the life that is manifested in
saints, heroes, or philosophers, there is no break to be detected in the
long process of development. There is no step in the process which
science finds any excuse for postulating or even suspecting the pres-
ence of any new factor.

And the same holds good of the lowest forms of life, and what Prof.
Huxley calls " the common matter of the universe." It is true that
experimentalists have been thus far unable to observe the generation
of the former out of the latter, but this failure may be accounted for
in many ways, and does nothing to weaken the overwhelming evi-
dence of analogy that such generation really does take place or has



taken place at some earlier period. " Carbonic acid, water, and ammo-
nia," says Prof. Huxley, "certainly possess no properties but those of
ordinary matter. . . . But when they are brought together under cer-
tain conditions they give rise to protoplasm; and this protoplasm
exhibits the phenomena of life. I see no breach in this series of steps
in molecular complication, and I am unable to understand why the
language which is applicable to any one form of the series may not be
used to any of the others." *

So much, then, for what modern science teaches us as to the uni-
verse and the evolution of man. We will presently consider the ways,
sufficiently obvious as they are, in which this seems to conflict with
the ideas of all theism and theology. But first for a moment let us
turn to what it teaches us also with regard to the history and the spe-
cial claims of Christianity. Approaching Christianity on the side of
its alleged history, it establishes the three following points: It shows
us first that this alleged history, with the substantial truth of which
Christianity stands or falls, contains a number of statements which
are demonstrably at variance with fact; secondly, that it contains
others which, though very probably true, are entirely misinterpreted
through the ignorance of the writers who recorded them ; and,
thirdly, that though the rest may not be demonstrably false, yet those
among them most essential to the Christian doctrine are so mon-
strously improbable and so utterly unsupported by evidence that we
have no more ground for believing in them than we have in the wolf
of Eomulus.

Such, briefly stated, are the main conclusions of science in so far as
they bear on theology and the theologic conception of humanity.
Let us now consider exactly what their bearing is. Prof. Huxley dis-
tinctly tells us that the knowledge we have reached as to the nature
of things in general does not enable us to deduce from it any absolute
denial either of the existence of a personal God or of an immortal soul
in man, or even of the possibility and the actual occurrence of mira-
cles. On the contrary, he would believe to-morrow in the miraculous
history of Christianity if only there were any evidence sufficiently
cogent in its favor; and on the authority of Christianity he would
believe in God and in man's immortality. Christianity, however, is
the only religion in the world whose claims to a miraculous authority
are worthy of serious consideration, and science, as we have seen, con-
siders these claims to be unfounded. What follows is this whether
there be a God or no, and whether he has given us immortal souls or
no, science declares bluntly that he has never informed us of either
fact , and if there is anything to warrant any belief in either, it can
be found only in the study of the natural universe. Accordingly, to
the natural universe science goes, and we have just seen what it finds
there. Part of what it finds bears specially on the theologic concep-
tion of God, and part bears specially on the theologic conception of
man. With regard to an intelligent creator and ruler, it finds him on
every ground to be a baseless and a superfluous hypothesis. In former
conditions of knowledge it admits that this was Otherwise that the
hypothesis then was not only natural but necessary ; for there were
many seeming mysteries which could not be explained without it. But
now the case has been altogether reversed. One after another these

* ' Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews," pp. 114, 117.


mysteries have been analyzed, not entirely, but to this extent at all
events, that the hypothesis of an intelligent creator is not only
nowhere necessary, but it generally introduces far more difficulties
than it solves. Thus, though we can not demonstrate that a creator
does not exist, we have no grounds whatever for supposing that he
does. With regard to man, what science finds is analogous. Accord-
ing to theology, he is a being specially related to God, and his con-
duct and his destinies have an importance which dwarfs the sum of
material things into insignificance. But science exhibits him in a
very different light; it shows that in none of the qualities once
thought peculiar to him does he differ essentially from other phenom-
ena of the universe. It shows that just as there are no grounds for
supposing the existence of a creator, so there are none for supposing
the existence of an immortal human soul ; while as for man's impor-
tance relative to the rest of the universe, it shows that, not only as an
individual, but also as a race, he is less than a bubble of foam is when
compared with the whole sea. The few thousand years over which
history takes us are as nothing when compared with the ages for
which the human race has existed. The whole existence of the
human race is as nothing when compared with the existence of the
earth; and the earth's history is but a second and the earth but a
grain of dust in the vast duration and vast magnitude of the All.
Nor is this true of the past only, it is true of the future also. As the
individual dies, so also will the race die ; nor would a million of addi-
tional years add anything to its comparative importance. Just as it
emerged out of lifeless matter yesterday, so will it sink again into life-
less matter to-morrow. Or, to put the case more briefly still, it is
merely one fugitive manifestation of the same matter and force which,
always obedient to the same unchanging laws, manifest themselves
equally in a dung-heap, in a pig, and in a planet matter and force
which, so far as our faculties can carry us, have existed and will exist
evervwhere and forever, and which nowhere, so far as our faculties
avail to read them, show any sign, as a whole, of meaning, of design,
or of intelligence.

It is possible that Prof. Huxley, or some other scientific authority,
may be able to find fault with some of my sentences or my expressions,
and to show that they are not professionally or professorially accurate.
If they care for such trifling criticism they are welcome to the enjoy-
ment of it ; but I defy any one to show, putting expression aside and
paying attention only to the general meaning of what I have stated,
that the foregoing account of what science claims to have established
is not substantially true, and is not admitted to be so by any contem-
porary thinker who opposes science to theism, from Mr. Frederic Har-
rison to Prof. Huxley himself.

And now let us pass on to something which in itself is merely a
matter of words, but which will bring what I have said thus far into
the circle of contemporary discussion. The men who are mainly
responsible for having forced the above views on the world, who have
unfolded to us the verities of nature and human history, and have
felt constrained by these to abandon their old religious convictions
these men and their followers have by common consent agreed, in
this country, to call themselves by the name of agnostics. Now
there has been much quarreling of late among these agnostics as to
what agnosticism the thing which unites them is. It must be



obvious, however, to every impartial observer, that the differences
between them are little more than verbal, and arise from bad writ-
ing rather than from different reasoning. Substantially the meaning
of one and all of them is the same. Let us take, for instance, the two
who are most ostentatiously opposed to each other, and have lately
been exhibiting themselves, in this and other reviews, like two terriers
each at the other's throat. I need hardly say that I mean Prof.
Huxley and Mr. Harrison.

Some writers, Prof. Huxley says, Mr. Harrison among them, have
been speaking of agnosticism as if it was a creed or a faith or a phil-
osophy. Prof. Huxley proclaims himself to be " dazed " and " bewild-
ered" by the statements. Agnosticism, he says, is not anyone of
these things. It is simply I will give his definition in his own

a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle. . . . Posi-
tively, the principle may be expressed : In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as It
will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively : In matters of the
intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.
That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep v> hole and undented, he shall not b0
ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.

Now anything worse expressed than this for the purpose of the dis-
cussion he is engaged in, or, indeed, for the purpose of conveying hia
own general meaning, it is hardly possible to imagine. Agnosticism,
as generally understood, may, from one point of view, be no doubt
rightly described as " a method." But it is a method with no results.
or with results that are of no interest ? If so, there would be hardly
a human being idiot enough to waste a thought upon it. The inter-
est resides in its results, and its results solely, and specially in those
results that effect our ideas about religion. Accordingly, when the
word agnosticism is now used in discussion, the meaning uppermost
in the minds of those who use it is not a method, but the results of a
method, in their religious bearings; and the method is of interest
only in so far as it leads to these. Agnosticism means, therefore, pre-
cisely what Prof. Huxley says it does not mean. It means a creed, it
means a faith, it means a religious or irreligious philosophy. And
this is the meaning attributed to it not only by the world at large,
but in reality by Prof. Huxley also quite as much as by anybody. I
will not lay too much stress on the fact that, in the passage just
quoted, having first fiercely declared agnosticism to be nothing but a
method, in the very next sentence he himself speaks of it as a "faith."
I will pass on to a passage that is far more unambiguous. It is taken
from the same essay. It is as follows:

" ' Agnosticism [says Mr. Harrison] is a stage in the evolution of religion, an entirely negative
stage, the point reached by physicist*, a purely mental conclusion, with no relation to things social
at all.' I am [says Prof. Huxley] quite dazed by this declaration. Are there then any ' con-
clusions ' that are not ' purely mental ' ? Is there no relation to things social in ' mental conclu-
sions ' which affect men's whole conception of life ? . . . ' Agnosticism is a stage In the evolution
of religion.' If ... Mr. Harrison, like most people, means by 'religion ' theology, then, in my
judgement, agnosticism can be eaid to be a stage in its evolution only as death may be said to be
the final stage iu the evolution of life."

Let us consider what this means. It means precisely what every
one else has all along been saying, that agnosticism is to all intents
and purposes a doctrine, a creed, a faith, or a philosophy, the essence,
of which is the negation of theologic religion. Now the fundamental
propositions of theologic religion are these: There is a personal God,
who watches over the lives of men ; and there is an immortal soul in
man, distinct from the flux of matter. Agnosticism, then, expressed
in the briefest terms, amounts to two articles not of belief, but of



disbelief. 1 do not believe in any God, personal, intelligent, or with a
purpose ; or, at least, with any purpose that has any concern with
man. I do not believe in any immortal soul, or in any personality or
consciousness surviving the dissolution of the body.

Here I anticipate from many quarters a rebuke, which men of
science are very fond of administering. I shall be told that agnostics
never say "there is no God," and never say "there is no immortal
soul." Prof. Huxley is often particularly vehement on this point.
He would have us believe that a dogmatic atheist is, in his view, as
foolish as a dogmatic theist ; and that an agnostic, true to the etymology
of his name, is not a man who denies God, but who has no opinion
about him. But this even if true in some dim and remote sense is
for practical purposes a mere piece of solemn quibbling, and is utterly
belied by the very men who use it whenever they raise their voices to
speak to the world at large. The agnostics, if they shrink from say-
ing that there is no God, at least tell us that there is nothing to sug-
gest that there is one, and much to suggest that there is not. Surely,
if they never spoke more strongly than this, for practical purposes
this is an absolute denial. Prof. Huxley, for instance, is utterly
unable to demonstrate that an evening edition of the " Times" is not
printed in Sirius; but if any action depended oil our believing this to
be true, he would certainly not hesitate to declare that it was a foolish
and fantastic falsehood. Who would think the better of him who
would not think the worse if in this matter he gravely declared him-
self to be an agnostic? And precisely the same maybe said of him
with regard to the existence of God. For all practical purposes he is
not in doubt about it. He denies it. I need not, however, content
myself with my own reasoning. I find Prof. Huxley himself indors-
ing every word that I have just uttered. He declares that such
questions as are treated of in volumes of divinity "are essentially
questions of lunar politics, . . . not worth the attention of men who
have work to do in the world": and he cites Hume's advice with
regard to such volumes as being " most wise" " Commit them to the
flames, for they can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."*
Quotations of a similar import might be indefinitely multiplied; but
it will be enough to add to this the statements quoted already, that
agnosticism is to theologic religion what death is to life; and that
physiology does but deepen and complete the gloom of the gloomiest
motto of paganism " Debemur morti" If then agnosticism is not an
absolute and dogmatic denial of the fundamental propositions of
theology, it differs from an absolute and dogmatic denial in a degree
that is so trivial as to be, in the words of Prof. Huxley himself, " not
worth the attention of men who have work to do in the world." For
all practical purposes and according to the real opinion of Prof. Hux-
ley and Mr. Harrison equally, agnosticism is not doubt, is not suspen-
sion of judgment; but it is a denial of what "most people mean by
religion " that is to say, the fundamental propositions of theology,
so absolute that Prof. Huxley compares it to their death.

And now let us pass on to the next point in our argument, which I
will introduce by quoting Prof. Huxley again. This denial of the
fundamental propositions of theology " affects," he says, " men's whole
conceptioh of life." Let us consider how. By the Christian world,

* " Lay Sermone, Addresses, and Reviews, p. 135.


life was thought to be important owing to its connection with some
unseen universe, full of interests and issues which were too great for
the mind to grasp at present, but in which, for good or evil, we should
each of us one day share, taking our place among the awful things of
eternity. But at the touch of the agnostic doctrine this unseen uni-
verse bursts like a bubble, melts like an empty dream ; and all the
meaning which it once imparted to life vanishes from its surface like
mists from a field at morning. In every sense but one, which is
exclusively physical, man is remorselessly cut adrift from the eternal ;
and whatever importance or interest anything has for any of us, must
be derived altogether from the shifting pains or pleasures which go to
make up our momentary span of life, or the life of our race, which in
the illimitable history of the All is an incident just as momentary.

Now supposing the importance and interest which life has thus lost
can not be replaced in any other way, will life really have suffered any
practical change and degradation ? To this question our agnostics
with one consent say Yes. Prof. Huxley says that if theologic denial
leads us to nothing but materialism, "the beauty of a life may be
destroyed," and "its energies paralyzed";* and that no one, not
historically blind, " is likely to underrate the importance of the
Christian faith as a factor in human history, or to doubt that some
substitute genuine enough and worthy enough to replace it will
arise." f Mr. Spencer says the same thing with even greater clear-
ness : while, as for Mr. Harrison, it is needless to quote from him ;
for half of what he has written is an amplification of these state-

It is admitted, then, that life, in some very practical sense, will be
ruined if science, having destroyed theologic religion, can not put,
some other religion in place of it. But we must not content ourselves
with this general language. Life will be ruined, we say. Let us consider
to what extent and how. There is a good deal in life which obviously
will not be touched at all that is to say, a portion of which is called
the moral code. Theft, murder, some forms of lying and dishonesty,
and some forms of sexual license, are inconsistent with the welfare of
any society; and society, in self-defense, would still condemn and
prohibit them, even supposing it had no more religion than a tribe of
gibbering monkeys. But the moral code thus retained would consist
of prohibitions only, and of such prohibitions only as could be
enforced by external sanctions. Since, then, this much would survive
the loss of religion, let us consider what would be lost along with it.
Mr. Spencer, in general terms, has told us plainly enough. What
would be lost, he says, is, in the first place, "our ideas of goodness,
rectitude, or duty," or, to use a single word, " morality." This is no
contradiction of what has just been said, for morality is not obedience,
enforced or even instinctive, to laws which have an external sanction,
but an active co-operation with the spirit of such laws, under pressure
of a sanction that resides in our own wills. But not only would
morality be lost, or this desire to work actively for the social good;
there would be lost also every higher conception of what the social
good or of what our own good is; and men would, as Mr. Spencer

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