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Author: Southwell, Charles
Title: An Apology for Atheism Addressed to Religious Investigators of Every Denomination by One of Its Apostles
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Title: An Apology for Atheism
       Addressed to Religious Investigators of Every Denomination
       by One of Its Apostles

Author: Charles Southwell

Release Date: August 11, 2005 [EBook #16512]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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An Apology for Atheism by Charles Southwell (1814-1860)
First published anonymously in 1846

Transcribed by the Freethought Archives, www.freethought.vze.com









AN APOLOGY FOR ATHEISM:

ADDRESSED TO
RELIGIOUS INVESTIGATORS OF EVERY DENOMINATION
BY ONE OF ITS APOSTLES.




"Not one of you reflects, that you ought
know your Gods before you worship them."




LONDON:
J. WATSON, 5, PAUL'S ALLEY, PATERNOSTER ROW.
AND ALL BOOKSELLERS.

1846





AN APOLOGY FOR ATHEISM


It would be absurd to doubt that religion has an important bearing on
all the relations and conditions of life. The connexion between
religions faith and political practice is, in truth, far closer than is
generally thought. Public opinion has not ripened into a knowledge that
religious error is the intangible but real substratum of all political
injustice. Though the 'schoolmaster' has done much, there still remain
and hold some away among us, many honest and energetic assertors of 'the
rights of man,' who have to learn that a people in the fetters of
superstition, can never achieve political freedom. Many of these
reformers admit the vast, the incalculable influence of Mahommedanism on
the politics of Constantinople, and yet persist in acting as if
Christianity had little or nothing to do with the politics of England.

At a recent meeting of the Anti-State Church Association it was
remarked, that 'throw what we would into the political cauldron, out it
came in an ecclesiastical shape'. If the newspaper report may be relied
on, there was much laughing among the hearers of those words, the deep
meaning of which it may safely be affirmed, only a select few of them
could fathom.

Hostility to state churches by no means implies a knowledge of the close
and important connection between ecclesiastical and political questions.
Men may appreciate the justice of voluntaryism in religion, and yet have
rather cloudy conceptions with respect to the influence of opinions and
things ecclesiastical on the condition of nations. They may clearly see
that he who needs the priest, should disdain to saddle others with the
cost of him, while blind to the fact that no people having faith in the
supernatural ever failed to mix up such faith with political affairs.
Even leading members of the 'Third Estate' are constantly declaring
their disinclination for religious controversy, and express particular
anxiety to keep their journals free of everything 'strictly
theological.' Their notion is, that newspaper writers should endeavour
to keep clear of so 'awful' a topic. And yet seldom does a day pass in
which this self-imposed editorial rule is not violated--a fact
significant as fact can be, of that connection between religion and
politics the author thinks has been far too little regarded.

It is quite possible the editors of newspapers have weighty reasons for
their repugnance to agitate the much vexed question of religion, but it
seems they cannot help doing so. In a leading article of this day's
_Post_, [Endnote 4:1] we are told--'The stain and reproach of Romanism
in Ireland is, that it is a political system, and a wicked political
system, for it regards only the exercise of power, and neglects utterly
the duty of improvement.' In journals supported by Romanists, and of
course devoted to the interests of their church, the very same charge is
made against English Protestantism. To denounce each other's 'holy
apostolic religion' may be incompatible with the taste of 'gentlemen of
the press,' but certainly they do it with a brisk and hearty vehemence
that inclines one to think it a 'labour of love.' What men do _con
amore_ they usually do well, and no one can deny the wonderful talent
for denunciation exhibited by journalists when writing down each other's
'true Christianity.' The unsparing invective quoted above from the
_Post_ is a good specimen. If just, Irish Romanism _ought_ to be
destroyed, and newspaper writers cannot be better employed than in
helping on the work of its destruction, or the destruction of any other
religion to which the same 'stain and reproach' may be fairly attached.

The author of this Apology has no spite or ill-will towards Roman
Catholics, though opposed to their religion, and a willing subscriber to
the opinion of Romanism in Ireland, expressed by the _Post, because
convinced of its truth._ The past and present condition of that country
is a deep disgrace to its priests, the bulk of whom, Protestant as well
as Romanist, can justly be charged with 'regarding only the exercise of
power, while neglecting utterly the duty of improvement.'

The intriguing and essentially political character of Romanism, it would
be idle to deny. No one at all acquainted with its cunningly contrived
'system' will hesitate to characterise it as 'wickedly political,'
productive of nothing but mischief--a system through whose accursed
instrumentality millions are cheated of their sanity as well as
substance, and trained like the dog to lick the hand that smites them.
So perfect is their degradation that literally they 'take no thought for
to-morrow,' it being their practice to wait 'till starvation stares them
in the face,' [5:1] and _then_ make an effort against it.
Notwithstanding the purely Christian education of which they are taught
to boast, nothing can exceed the superstitious recklessness displayed in
their daily conduct.

The _Globe_ of Thursday, October 30th, 1845, contains an article on the
damage sustained by the potato crops here and in Ireland, full of matter
calculated to enlighten our first rate reformers, who seem profoundly
ignorant that superstition is the bane of intellect, and most formidable
of all the obstacles which stand between the people and their rights:
one paragraph is so peculiarly significant of the miserable condition to
which Romanism and Protestantism have reduced a peasantry, said to be
'the finest in the world,' that we here subjoin it--

     'The best means to arrest the progress of the pestilence in the
     people's food have occupied the attention of scientific men. The
     commission appointed by government, consisting of three of the most
     celebrated practical chemists, has published a preliminary report,
     in which several suggestions, rather than ascertained results, are
     communicated, by which the sound portions of the root may, it is
     hoped, be preserved from the epidemy, and possibly, the tainted be
     rendered innoxious, and even partially nutritious. Followed
     implicitly, their directions might mitigate the calamity. But the
     care, the diligence, the persevering industry which the various
     forms of process require, in order to effecting the purposes which
     _might_ result if they were promptly adopted and properly carried
     out, are the very qualities in which the Irish peasantry are most
     deficient. In the present crisis, the people are more disposed to
     regard the extensive destruction of their crops in the light of an
     extraordinary visitation of Heaven, with which it is vain for human
     efforts to contend, than to employ counteracting or remedial
     applications. "Sure the Almighty sent the potato-plague, and we
     must bear it as well as we can!" is the remark of many; while, in
     other places, the copious sprinklings of holy water on the potato
     gardens, and on the produce, as it lies upon the surface, are more
     depended on for disinfecting the potatoes than the suggestions of
     science, which require the application of patient industry.'

Daniel O'Connell may continue to boast about Irish morale and Irish
intellect--the handsome women, and stalwart men of his 'beloved
country;' but no sensible persons will pay the least attention to him.
It is, at all events, too late in the day for we 'Saxons' to be either
cajoled or amused by such nonsense. An overwhelming majority of the
Irish people have been proved indolent beyond all parallel, and not much
more provident than those unhappy savages who sell their beds in the
morning, not being able to foresee they shall again require them at
night. A want of forethought so remarkable, and indolence so abominable,
as characterize the peasantry of Ireland, are results of their religious
education. Does any one suppose the religion of that peasantry has
little, if anything, to do with their political condition; or can it be
believed they will be fit for, much less achieve political emancipation,
while priests, and priests alone, are their instructors? We may rely
upon it, that intellectual freedom is the natural and necessary
precursor of political freedom. Education, said Lord Brougham, makes men
easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to
enslave. The Irish peasantry clamour for 'Repeal,' never considering
that did they get it, no essential change would be made in their social,
moral, or to say all in one word, _political_ condition; they would
still be the tool of O'Connell and other unprincipled political
mountebanks--themselves the tool of priests.

Great has been the outcry raised against the 'godless colleges, that
Sir Robert Peel had the courageous good sense to _inflict_ on Ireland.
Protestant as well as Romanist priests are terribly alarmed lest those
colleges should spoil the craft by which they live. Sagacious enough to
perceive that whatever influence they possess must vanish with the
ignorance on which it rests, they moved heaven and earth to disgust the
Irish people with an educational measure of which religion formed no
part. Their fury, like 'empty space,' is boundless. They cannot endure
the thought that our ministers should so far play the game of
'infidelity' as to take from them the delightful task of teaching
Ireland's young ideas 'how to shoot.' Sir Robert Inglis _christened_
this 'odious' measure, a 'gigantic scheme of godless education,' and a
large majority of Irish Roman Catholic Prelates have solemnly pronounced
it 'dangerous to faith and morals,' Neither ministerial allurements, nor
ministerial threats can subdue the cantankerous spirit of these bigots.
They are all but frantic, and certainly not without reason, for the
Irish Colleges Bill is the fine point of that wedge which, driven home,
will shiver to pieces their 'wicked political system.' Whatever improves
Irish intellect will play the mischief with its 'faith,' though not at
all likely to deteriorate its 'morals.' The best guarantee for national
morality is to be found in national intelligence; nor need any one feel
alarmed at the progress of principles and measures inimical to faith in
either Romanism or Protestantism. Let the people of Ireland be properly
employed, as a preliminary to being well educated, and speedily they may
_deserve_ to be singled out as 'the most moral people on the face of the
earth.'

An educated nation will never tamely submit to be priest-ridden, and
well do Ireland's enslavers know it. The most stupid of her priests,
equally with the shrewdest of her 'patriots,' are quite alive to the
expediency of teaching as facts, the fraudulent fables of the 'dark
ages.' To keep the people ignorant, or what is worse, to teach them only
what is false, is the great end of _their_ training; and if a British
ministry propose anything better than the merest mockery of education,
they call it 'dangerous to faith and morals.'

The sage who writes 'leaders' for the _Morning Herald_, is of opinion
that Ireland would indeed be 'great, glorious, and free,' if its Roman
Catholic people were to cease all efforts for Repeal, and turn good
Protestants. But the _Herald_ does greatly err not knowing human nature
and the source of Irish evils. It is not by substituting Protestantism
for Romanism that those evils are to be cured. Were every Romanist in
Ireland at once to turn 'good Protestant,' their political emancipation
would be far off as ever. Protestantism everywhere, like Romanism
everywhere, is 'a political system, and a wicked political system, for
it regards only the exercise of power, and neglects utterly the duty of
improvement.'

Religion is the curse of Ireland. To the rival churches of that country
may be traced nearly all the oppressions suffered by its people, who
never can be materially improved till purged of their faith in priests.
When that salutary work shall be accomplished, Ireland will indeed be 'a
nation' in the secure enjoyment of political liberty. The priest-ridden
may talk of freedom, but can never secure it; for, as truly said by one
of our most admired poets--

          Tis man's base grovelling nature makes the priest,
          Who always rides a superstitious beast.

And he is a poor politician who expects to see political liberty
achieved or enjoyed by nations made up of 'base, grovelling' specimens
of human nature.

What then can be thought of the first-rate reformers before alluded to,
who are going to emancipate every body without the least offence to any
body's superstition? It should be borne in memory that other people are
superstitious as well as the Irish, and that the churches of all
countries are as much parts of 'a wicked political system' as are the
churches of Ireland. The judges of our own country frequently remind us
that its laws have a religious sanction; nay they assure us Christianity
is part and parcel of those laws. Do we not know that orthodox
Christianity means Christianity as by law established? And can any one
fail to perceive that such a religion must needs be political? The
cunning few, who make a market of delusion, and esteem nothing apart
from their own aggrandisement, are quite aware that the civil and
criminal law of England is intimately associated with Christianity--they
publicly proclaim their separation impossible, except at the cost of
destruction to both. They are sagacious enough to perceive that a people
totally untrammelled by the fears, the prejudices, and the wickedness of
religion would never consent to remain in bondage.

Hence the pains taken by piety-mongers to perpetuate the dominion of
that ignorance which proverbially is 'the mother of devotion.' What care
they for universal emancipation? Free themselves, their grand object is
to rivet the chains of others. So that those they defraud of their hard
earned substance be kept down, they are not over scrupulous with respect
to means. Among the most potent of their helps in the 'good work' are
churches, various in name and character, but in principle the very same.
All are pronounced true by priests who profit by them, and false by
priests who do not. Every thing connected with them bears the mark of
despotism. Whether we look at churches foreign or domestic, Popish or
Protestant, that mark of the 'beast' appears in characters as legible
as, it is fabled, the hand writing on the wall did to a tyrant of old.
In connection with each is a hierarchy of intellect stultifiers, who
explain doctrines without understanding them, or intending they should
be understood by others; and true to their 'sacred trust,' throw every
available impediment in the way of improvement. Knowledge is their
devil. So far as antagonism to progression goes, there is no sensible
difference between the hierarchies of Rome or of England, or of
Constantinople. To diffuse the 'truth' that 'will set men free' is no
part of their 'wicked political system.' On the contrary, they labour to
excite a general disgust of truth, and in defence of bad governments
preach fine sermons from some one of the many congenial texts to be
gathered in their 'Holy Scripture.'

Nor is it found that non-established priesthoods are much more disposed
to emancipate 'mind' and oil the wheels of political progression than
those kept in state pay. The air of conventicles is not of the freest or
most bracing description. No doubt the 'voluntary principle' is
just--only brazen faced impostors will say it is right to tax a man for
the support of those who promulgate doctrines abhorrent to his feelings
and an insult to his judgment. Still, the fact is incontestable, that
Dissenting Priests are, for the most part, opposed to the extension of
political rights, or, what is equal, that' knowledge which would
infallibly secure them. The Methodist preacher, who has the foolish
effrontery to tell his congregation 'the flesh lusteth always contrary
to the spirit; and, therefore, every person born into the world
deserveth God's wrath and damnation,' may be a liberal politician, one
well fitted to pilot his flock into the haven of true republicanism: but
the author is extremely suspicious of such persons, and would not on any
account place his liberty in their keeping. He has little faith in
political fanaticism, especially when in alliance with the frightful
doctrines enunciated from conventicle pulpits, and has no hesitation in
saying that Anti-State Church Associations do not touch the root of all
political evils. Their usefulness is great, because they give currency
to a sound principle, but that principle, though important, is not
all-important--though powerful, is not all-powerful. If universally
adopted, it is questionable that any useful change of a lasting
character would be worked in the economy of politics.

Priests of all religion are the same, said Dryden--the religions they
teach are false, and in their tendency anti-progressive, say Atheists,
who put no trust in doctrine which involves or assumes supernatural
existence. Believing that supernaturalism reduced to 'system' cannot be
other than 'wickedly political,' the Atheist, truly so called, sees no
hope for 'slave classes,' apart from a general diffusion of
anti-religious ideas. According to his theory, religion is in part a
cunningly and in part a stupidly devised fable. He cannot reconcile the
wisdom of theologians with undoubted facts, and though willing to admit
that some 'modes of faith' are less absurd than others, is convinced
they are all essentially alike, because all fundamentally erroneous.
Rousseau said 'philosophy can do nothing that religion cannot do better,
and religion can do many things which philosophy cannot do at all.' But
Atheists believe religion the most formidable evil with which
progressors have to cope, and see in philosophy that mighty agent in the
work of improvement so beautifully described by Curran as _the
irresistible genius of universal emancipation_.

Speculative thinkers of so decidedly irreligious a temper are not
numerous. If esteemed, as happens to certain commodities, in proportion
to their scarcity they would enjoy a large share of public respect.
Indeed, they are so few and far between, or at least so seldom make
their presence visible, that William Gillespie is convinced they are an
anomalous species of animal, produced by our common parent 'in a moment
of madness.' Other grave Christian writers, though horrified at
Atheism--though persuaded its professors, 'of all earth's madmen, most
deserve a chain;' and, though constantly abusing them, are still unable
to believe in the reality of such persons. These, among all the
opponents of Atheism and Atheists, may fairly claim to be considered
most mysterious; for, while lavishing on deniers of their Gods every
kind of sharp invective and opprobrious epithet, they cannot assure
themselves the 'monsters' did, or do actually exist. With characteristic
humour, David Hume observed 'There are not a greater number of
philosophical reasonings displayed upon any subject than those which
prove the existence of Deity, and refute the fallacies of Atheists, and
yet the most religious philosophers still dispute whether any man can be
so blinded as to be a speculative Atheist;' 'how (continues he) shall we
reconcile these contradictions? The Knight-errants who wandered about to
clear the world of dragons and of giants, never entertained the least
doubt with regard to the existence of these monsters.' [10:1]

The same Hume who thus pleasantly rebuked 'most religious philosophers,'
was himself a true Atheist. That he lacked faith in the supernatural
must be apparent to every student of his writings, which abound with
reflections far from flattering to the self-love of religionists, and
little calculated to advance their cause. Many Deists have been called
Atheists: among others Robert Owen and Richard Carlile, both of whom
professed belief in something superior to nature, something acting upon
and regulating matter, though not itself material. [11:1] This something
they named _power_. But Hume has shown we may search 'in vain for an
idea of power or necessary connection in all the sources from which we
would suppose it to be derived. [11:2] Owen, Carlile, and other
Atheists, falsely so called, supposed power the only entity worthy of
deification. They dignified it with such appellations as 'internal or
external cause of all existence,' and ascribed to it intelligence, with
such other honourable attributes as are usually ascribed to 'deified,
error.' But Hume astonished religious philosophers by declaring that,
'while we argue from the course of nature and infer a particular
intelligent cause, which first bestowed, and still preserves order in
the universe, we embrace a principle which is both uncertain and
useless. It is uncertain, because the subject lies entirely beyond the
reach of human experience. It is useless, because our knowledge of this
cause being derived entirely from the course of nature, we can never,
according to the rules of just reasoning, return back from the cause
with any new inference, or making additions to the common and
experienced course of nature, establish any principles of conduct and
behaviour. [11:3]

Nor did Hume affect to consider Christianity less repugnant to reason
than any other theory or system of supernaturalism. Though confessedly
fast in friendship, generous in disposition, and blameless in all the
relations of life, few sincere Divines can forgive his hostility to
their faith. And without doubt it was hostility eminently calculated to
exhaust their stock of patience, because eminently calculated to damage
their religion, which has nothing to fear from the assaults of ignorant
and immoral opponents; but when assailed by men of unblemished
reputation, who know well how to wield the weapons of wit, sarcasm, and
solid argumentation, its priests are not without reason alarmed lest
their house should be set _out_ of order.

It would be difficult to name a philosopher at once so subtle, so
profound, so bold, and so _good_ as Hume. Notwithstanding his heterodox
reputation, many learned and excellent Christians openly enjoyed his
friendship. A contemporary critic recently presented the public with 'a
curious instance of contrast and of parallel,' between Robertson and
Hume. 'Flourishing (says he) in the same walk of literature, living in
the same society at the same time; similar in their habits and generous
dispositions; equally pure in their morals, and blameless in all the
relations of private life: the one was a devout believer, the other a
most absolute atheist, and both from deep conviction, founded upon
inquiries, carefully and anxiously conducted. The close and warm
friendship which subsisted between these two men, may, after what we
have said, be a matter of surprise to some; but Robertson's Christianity
was enlarged and tolerant, and David Hume's principles were liberal and
philosophical in a remarkable degree.' [12:1]

This testimony needs no comment. It clearly tells its own tale, and
ought to have the effect of throwing discredit upon the vulgar notion
that disgust of all religion is incompatible with talents and virtues of
the highest order; for, in the person of David Hume, the world saw
absolute Atheism co-existent with genius, learning, and moral
excellence, rarely, if ever, surpassed.

The unpopularity of that creed it would be vain to deny. A vast majority
of mankind associate with the idea of disbelief in their Gods every
thing stupid, monstrous, absurd, and atrocious. Absolute Atheism is
thought by them the inseparable ally of most shocking wickedness,
involving as it manifestly does that 'blasphemy against the Holy Ghost'
which we are assured shall not be forgiven unto men 'neither in this
world nor in that which is to come.' Educated to consider it 'an
inhuman, bloody, ferocious system, equally hostile to every restraint
and to every virtuous affection,' the majority of all countries detest
and shun its apostles. Their horror of them may be likened to that it is
presumed the horse feels towards the camel, upon whom (so travellers
tell us) he cannot look without _shuddering_.

To keep alive and make the most of this strong religious feeling has
ever been the object of Christian priests, who rarely hesitate to make
charges of Atheism, not only against opponents, but each other; not only
against disbelievers but believers in God. The Jesuit Lafiteau, in a
Preface to his 'Histoire des Sauvages Americanes,' [13:1] endeavours to
prove that only Atheists will dare assert that God created the
Americans. Scarcely a metaphysical writer of eminence has escaped the
'imputation' of Atheism. The great Clarke and his antagonist the greater
Leibnitz were called Atheists. Even Newton was put in the same category.
No sooner did sharp-sighted divines catch a glimpse of an 'Essay on the
Human Understanding' than they loudly proclaimed the Atheism of its
author. Julian Hibbert, in his learned account 'Of Persons Falsely
Entitled Atheists,' says, 'the existence of some sort of a Deity has
usually been considered undeniable, so the imputation of Atheism and the
title of Atheist have usually been considered as insulting.' This
author, after giving no fewer than thirty and two names of 'individuals
among the Pagans who (with more or less injustice) have been accused of
Atheism,' says, 'the list shews, I think, that almost all the most
celebrated Grecian metaphysicians have been, either in their own or in
following ages, considered, with more or less reason, to be
Atheistically inclined. For though, the word Atheist was probably not
often used till about a hundred years before Christ, yet the imputation
of _impiety_ was no doubt as easily and commonly bestowed, before that
period, as it has been since.' [13:2]

Voltaire relates, in the eighteenth chapter of his 'Philosophie de
L'Histoire,' [13:3] that a Frenchman named Maigrot, Bishop of Conon, who
knew not a word of Chinese, was deputed by the then Pope to go and pass
judgment on the opinions of certain Chinese philosophers: he treated
Confucius as Atheist, because that sage had said 'the sky has given me
virtue, and man can do me no hurt.'

On grounds no more solid than this, charges of Atheism are often erected
by 'surpliced sophists.' Rather ridiculous have been the mistakes
committed by some of them in their hurry to affix on objects of their
hate the brand of impiety. These persons, no doubt, supposed they were
privileged to write or talk any amount of nonsense and contradiction.
Men who fancy themselves commissioned by Deity to interpret his
'mysteries,' or announce his 'will,' are apt to make blunders without
being sensible of it, as did those worthy Jesuits who declared, in
opposition to Bayle, that a society of Atheists was impossible, and at
the same time assured the world that the government of China, by
Voltaire and many others considered the most ancient on earth, was a
society of Atheists. So difficult it is for men inflamed by religious
prejudices, interests, and animosities to keep clear of sophisms, which
can impose on none but themselves.

Many Atheists conceal their sentiments on account of the odium which
would certainly be their reward did they avow them. But the unpopularity
of those sentiments cannot, by persons of sense and candour be allowed,
in itself, a sufficient reason for their rejection. The fact of a creed
being unpopular is no proof it is false. The argument from general
consent is at best a suspicious one, for the truth of any opinion or the
validity of any practice. History proves that the generality of men are
the slaves of prejudice, the sport of custom, and foes most bigotted to
such opinions concerning religion as have not been drawn in from the
sucking-bottles, or 'hatched within the narrow fences of their own
conceit.' No prudent searcher after truth will accept an opinion because
it is the current one, but rather view it with distrust for that very
reason. The genius of him who said, in our journey to the other world
the common road is the safest, was cowardly as deceptive, and therefore
opposed to sound philosophy. Like horses yoked to a team, 'one's nose in
t'others tail,' is a mode of journeying anywhere the opposite of
dignified, pleasant, or improving. They who are enamoured of 'the common
road,' unless handsomely paid for journeying thereon, must be slavish in
feeling, and willing submitters to every indignity sanctioned by custom,
that potent enemy of truth, which from time immemorial has been 'the law
of fools.'

Every day experience demonstrates the fallibility of majorities. It
palpably exhibits, too, the danger as well as the folly of presuming the
unpopularity of certain speculative opinions an evidence of their
falsity. A public intellect, untainted by gross superstition, can
nowhere be appealed to. Even in this favoured country, 'the envy of
surrounding nations and admiration of the world,' the multitude are
anything but patterns of moral purity and intellectual excellence. They
who assure us _vox populi_ is the voice of God, are fairly open to the
charge of ascribing to Him what orthodox pietists inform us exclusively
belongs to the Father of evil. If by 'voice of God' is meant something
different from noisy ebullitions of anger, intemperance, and fanaticism,
they who would have us regulate our opinions in conformity therewith are
respectfully requested to reconcile mob philosophy with the sober
dictates of experience, and mob law with the law of reason.

A writer in the _Edinburgh Review_ [15:1] assures us 'the majority of
every nation consists of rude uneducated masses, ignorant, intolerant,
suspicious, unjust, and uncandid, without the sagacity which discovers
what is right, or the intelligence which comprehends it when pointed
out, or the morality which requires it to be done.' And yet religious
philosophers are fond of quoting the all but universal horror of Atheism
as a formidable argument against that much misunderstood creed.

The least reflection will suffice to satisfy any reasonable man that the
speculative notions of rude, uneducated masses, so faithfully described
by the Scotch Reviewer, are for the most part grossly absurd and
consequently the reverse of true. If the masses of all nations are
ignorant, intolerant, suspicions, unjust, and uncandid, without the
sagacity which discovers what is right, or the intelligence which
comprehends it when pointed out, or the morality which requires it to be
done; who with the least shadow of claim to be accounted reasonable will
assert that a speculative heresy is the worse for being unpopular, or
that Atheism is false, and must be demoralising in its influence because
the majority of mankind declare it so.

The Author of this Apology does not desire it may be inferred from the
foregoing remarks, that horror of Atheism, and detestation of its
apostles, is confined to the low, the vulgar, the base, or the
illiterate. Any such inference would be wrong, for it is certainly true
that learned, benevolent, and very able Christian writers, have
signalised themselves in the work of obstructing the progress of Atheism
by denouncing its principles, and imputing all manner of wickedness to
its defenders. It must indeed be admitted by the really enlightened of
every name, that their conduct in this particular amply justifies pious
Matthew Henry's confessions, that 'of all the christian graces, zeal is
most apt to turn sour.'

One John Ryland, A.M. of Northampton, published a 'Preceptor, or General
Repository of useful information, very necessary for the various ages
and departments of life' in which 'pride and lust, a corrupt pride of
heart, and a furious filthy lust of body,' are announced as the
atheist's 'springs of action,' 'desire to act the beast without control,
and live like a devil without a check of conscience,' his only 'reasons
for opposing the existence of God;' in which he is told 'a world of
creatures are up in arms against him to kill him as they would a
venomous mad dog,' in which among other hard names he is called 'absurd
fool,' 'beast,' 'dirty monster,' 'brute,' 'gloomy dark animal,' 'enemy
of mankind,' 'wolf to civil society,' 'butcher and murderer of the human
race,' in which moreover he is _cursed_ in the following hearty terms:

'Let the glorious mass of fire burn him, let the moon light him to the
gallows, let the stars in their courses fight against the atheist, let
the force of the comets dash him to pieces, let the roar of thunders
strike him deaf, let red lightnings blast his guilty soul, let the sea
lift up her mighty waves to bury him, let the lion tear him to pieces,
let dogs devour him, let the air poison him, let the next crumb of bread
choke him, nay, let the dull ass spurn him to death.'

Dr. Balguy in the course of a Treatise which the 'liberal' author of a
Sketch of the Denominations of the Christian World, 'considered an
excellent antidote against atheistical tenets,' expresses himself in the
following manner: 'Of all the false opinions which ever infested the
mind of man, nothing can possibly equal that of atheism, which is such a
monstrous contradiction of all evidence, to all the powers of the
understanding and the dictates of common sense, that it may well be
questioned whether any man can really fall into it by a deliberate use
of his judgment. All nature so clearly points out, and so clearly
proclaims a Creator of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, that
whoever hears not its voice and sees not its proofs may well be thought
wilfully deaf and obstinately blind.'

These are notable specimens of zeal turned sour.

Now, when it is considered that such writings are carefully put into
popular hands, and writings of an irreligious character as carefully
kept out of them, astonishment at human intolerance must cease. So far,
indeed, from wondering that the 'giddy multitude' shrink aghast from
Atheists we shall conceive it little short of miraculous, that they do
not fall upon and tear them to pieces.

Beattie, another Christian doctor, towards the close of his celebrated
Essay on the Immutability of Truth, denounces every sincere outspoken
unbeliever as a 'murderer of human souls,' and it being obvious that the
murderer of a single soul must to the 'enlightened' majority of our
people appear an act infinitely more horrible than the butchery of many
bodies, it really does at first view seem 'passing strange' that body
murderers are almost invariably hanged, whilst they who murder 'souls,'
if punished at all, usually escape with some harmless abuse and a year
or two's imprisonment.

Even the 'tolerant' Richard Watson, Lord Bishop of Llandaff, wrote with
contemptuous bitterness of 'Atheistical madmen,' and in his Apology for
the Bible, assured Deistical Thomas Paine, Deism was so much better than
Atheism, he (Bishop Watson) meant 'not to say anything to its
discredit.'

The Rev. Mr. Ward, whose 'Ideal of a Christian Church' spread such
consternation in the anti-popish camp, describes his own hatred of
Protestantism as 'fierce and burning.' Nothing can go beyond that--it is
the _ne plus ultra_ of bigotry, and just such hatred is displayed
towards Atheists by at least nine-tenths of their opponents. Strange to
say, in Christians, in the followers of him who is thought to have
recommended, by act and word, unlimited charity, who is thought to have
_commanded_ that we judge not, that we be sat judged; the Atheist finds
his most active foe, his bitterest and least scrupulous maligner. To
exaggerate their bigotry would be difficult, for whether sage or simple,
learned or unlearned, priests or priest-led, they regularly practise the
denunciation of Atheists in language foul as it is false. They call them
'traitors to human kind,' yea 'murderers of the human soul,' and unless
hypocrites, or much better than their sentiments, would rather see them
swing upon the gibbet than murderers of the body, especially if like
John Tawell, 'promoters of religion and Christian Missions.'

Robert Hall was a Divine of solid learning and unquestionable piety,
whose memory is reverenced by a large and most respectable part of the
Christian world. He ranked amongst the best of his class, and generally
speaking, was so little disposed to persecute his opponents because of
their heterodox opinions, that he wrote and published a Treatise on
Moderation, in the course of which he eloquently condemns the practice
of regulating, or rather attempting to regulate opinion by act of
parliament: yet, incredible as it may appear, in that very Treatise he
applauds Calvin on account of his conduct towards Servetus. Our
authority for this statement is not 'Infidel' but Christian--the
authority of Evans, who, after noticing the Treatise in question, says,
'he (Bishop Hall) has discussed the subject with that ability which is
peculiar to all his writings. But this great and good man, towards the
close of the same Treatise, forgetting the principles which he had been
inculcating, devotes one solitary page to the cause of intolerance: this
page he concludes with these remarkable expressions: "Master Calvin did
well approve himself to God's Church in bringing Servetus to the stake
in Geneva."'

Remarkable, indeed! and what is the moral that they point? To the Author
of this Apology they are indicative of the startling truth, that neither
eloquence nor learning, nor faith in God and his Scripture, nor all
three combined, are incompatible with the cruelest spirit of
persecution. The Treatise on Moderation will stand an everlasting
memorial against its author, whose fine intellect, spoiled by
superstitious education, urged him to approve a deed, the bare
remembrance of which ought to excite in every breast, feelings of horror
and indignation. That such a man should declare the aim of Atheists is
'to dethrone God and destroy man,' is not surprising. From genuine
bigots they have no right to expect mercy. He who applauded the bringing
of Servetus to the stake must have deemed the utter extermination of
Atheists a religious duty.

That our street and field preaching Christians, with very few
exceptions, heartily sympathise with the fire and faggot sentiments of
Robert Hall, is well known; but happily, their absurd ravings are
attended to by none save eminently pious people, whose brains are
unclogged by any conceivable quantity of useful knowledge. In point of
intellect they are utterly contemptible. Their ignorance, however, is
fully matched by their impudence, which never forsakes them. They claim
to be considered God's right-hand men, and of course duly qualified
preachers of his 'word,' though unable to speak five minutes without
taking the same number of liberties with the Queen's English. Swift was
provoked by the prototypes of these pestiferous people, to declare that,
'formerly, the apostles received the gift of speaking several languages,
a knowledge so remote from our dealers in the art of enthusiasm, that
they neither understand propriety of speech nor phrases of their own,
much less the gift of tongues.'

The millions of Christian people who have been trained up in the way
they should _not_ go, by this active class of fanatics, are naturally
either opposed to reason or impervious to it. Hence, arguing with them
is sheer waste of brains and leisure--a casting of pearls before swine.
They are convinced not only that the wisdom of the world is foolishness
with God, but that wisdom with God is foolishness with the world; nor
will any one affirm their 'moderation' in respect to unbelievers one
tittle more moderate than Robert Hall's; or that they are one tittle
less disposed than 'that good and great man,' to think those who bring
heretics to the stake at Geneva or elsewhere, 'do well approve
themselves to God's Church.' Educated, that is to say, _duped_ as they
are, they cannot but think unbelief highly criminal, and when
practicable, or convenient, deal with it as such. Atheists would, be
'astonished with a great astonishment' if they did not. Their crafty
teachers adjure them to do so 'on peril of their souls;' and if, as Mr.
Jay, of Bath, said in one of his best sermons, 'the readiest way in the
world to thin heaven, and replenish the regions of hell, is to call in
the spirit of bigotry,' the Author of this Apology would not for all the
treasures of India stand in the shoes of these men, whose whole time and
energies are employed in generating and perpetuating that detestable
spirit. But when your Rylands, and Balguys and Beatties, and Watsons and
Halls make a merit of abusing those who cannot believe as they believe,
what can be hoped or expected from the tribe of illiterate canters, who
'go about Mawworming?'

It is nevertheless true, that Atheists have been helped to some of their
best arguments by adversaries. Bishop Watson, to wit, has suggested
objections to belief in the Christian's Deity, which they who hold no
such belief, consider unanswerable. In his famous 'Apology' he desired
to know what Paine thought 'of an uncaused cause of everything, and a
Being who has no relation to time, not being older to day than he was
yesterday, nor younger to day than he will be to-morrow--who has no
relation to space, not being a part here and a part there, or a whole
anywhere? of an omniscient Being who cannot know the future actions of
man, or if his omniscience enables him to know them, of the contingency
of human actions? of the distinction between vice and virtue, crime and
innocence, sin and duty? of the infinite goodness of a Being who existed
through eternity, without any emanation of his goodness manifested in
the creation of sensitive beings? or if it be contended that there was
an eternal creation of an effect coeval with its 'cause, of matter not
posterior to its maker? of the existence of evil, moral and natural, in
the work of an Infinite Being, powerful, wise, and good? finally, of the
gift of freedom of will, when the abuse of freedom becomes the cause of
general misery?' [20:1]

These questions imply what, to the author of this Apology, appears an
ample _justification_ of Atheism. That they flowed from the pen of a
Bishop, is one of many extraordinary facts which have grown out of
theological controversy. They are questions strongly suggestive of
another. Is it possible to have experience of, or even to imagine a
Being with attributes so strange, anomalous, and contradictory? To that
question reason prompts an answer in the negative--It is plain that
Bishop Watson was convinced 'no man by searching can find out God.' The
case is, that he, in the hope of converting Deists, ventured to
insinuate arguments highly favourable to Atheism, whose professors
consider an admission of utter ignorance of God, tantamount to a denial
of His existence. Many Christians, with more candour, perhaps, than
prudence, have avowed the same opinion. Minutius Felix, for example,
said to the Heathen, 'Not one of you reflects that you ought to know
your gods before you worship them.' [20:2] As if he felt the absurdity
of pretending to love and honour an unknown 'Perhaps.' That he did
himself what he ridiculed in them proves nothing but his own
inconsistency. To the Author of this Apology it seems certain, a God
whose being is not as our being, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts,
and whose ways are not as our ways, is neither more nor less than the
merest figment of ill-regulated imagination. He is _sure_ a Being, above
nature, can only be conceived of by itself; it being obviously true that
the natural cannot attain to the supernatural.

The Christian, equally with the Heathen, is open to the reproach of
worshipping he knows not what. Yes, to idol-hating, enlightened
Christians, may fairly be applied the severe sarcasm Minutius Felix so
triumphantly levelled at idol-loving 'benighted Heathens.' Will any one
say the Christian absolutely knows more about Jehovah than the Heathen
did about Jupiter? The Author believes that few, if any, who have
attentively considered Bishop Watson's queries, will say the 'dim
Unknown,' they so darkly shadow forth, is conceivable by any effort,
either of sense or imagination.

Under cover, then, of what reason Christians can escape the imputation
of pretending to adore what they have no conception of, the Author of
this Apology is unable to divine. The very 'book of books,' to which
they so boldly appeal, is conclusive against them. In its pages they
stand convicted of idolatry. Without doubt a God is revealed by
revelation; but not _their_ God; not a supernatural Being, infinite in
power, in wisdom, and in goodness. The Bible Deity is superhuman in
nothing; all that His adorers have ascribed to Him being mere
amplification of human powers, human ideas, and human passions. The
Bible Deity 'has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he
hardeneth;' is 'jealous,' especially of other Gods; changeful,
vindictive, partial, cruel, unjust, 'angry with the wicked every day;'
and altogether a Being far from respectable, or worthy to be considered
infinite in wisdom, power, and goodness. Is it credible that a Being
supernaturally wise and good, proclaimed the murderous adulterer David,
a man after his own heart, and commanded the wholesale butchery of
Canaanites? Or that a God of boundless power, 'whose tender mercies are
over all his works,' decreed the extermination of entire nations for
being what he made them? Jehovah did all three. Confessedly a God of
armies and Lord of Hosts; confessedly, too, a hardener of men's hearts
that he might destroy them: he authorised acts at which human nature
shudders, and of which it is ashamed: yet to love, respect, yea,
reverence Him, we are commanded by the self-styled 'stewards of his
mysteries,' on peril of our 'immortal souls.' Verily, these pious
anathematisers ask our credulity a little too much.' In their zeal for
the God of Israel, they are apt to forget that only Himself can compass
impossibilities, and altogether lose sight of the fact that where, who,
or what Jehovah is, no man knoweth. Revelation (so-called) reveals
nothing about the imagined creator of heaven and earth on which a
cultivated intellect can repose with satisfaction. Men naturally desire
positive information concerning the superhuman Deity, belief in whom is
the _sine qua non_ of all religion. But the Bible furnishes no such
information concerning Jehovah. On the contrary, he is their pronounced
'past finding out,' incomprehensible, and the like. 'Canst thou, by
searching, find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to
perfection?' are questions put by an 'inspired writer,' who felt the
cloudy and unsatisfactory nature of all human conceit about Gods.

Now, a Revelation from God, at least so thinks the Author of this
Apology, might reasonably be expected to make the mode and nature of His
existence manifest. But the Christian Bible falls infinitely short in
this particular. It teaches there is a God; but throws no light on the
dark questions, who, what, or where is God? Numerous and various as are
Scripture texts, none can be cited in explanation of a Deity no older
to-day than he was yesterday, nor younger to-day than he will be
to-morrow; of a Deity who has no relation to space, not being a part
here and a part there, or a whole anywhere: in short, of that Deity
written about by Bishop Watson, who, like every other sincere Christian,
made the mistake of resting his religious faith on 'words without
knowledge.'

It is to this description of faith Atheists object. They think it the
root of superstition, that greatest of all plagues, by which poor
humanity is afflicted. Are they to blame for thus thinking? The
Christian has no mercy on the superstition of the Heathen; and should
scorn to complain when the bitter chalice is returned to his own lips.
Atheists believe the God of Bishop Watson a supernatural chimera, and to
its worshippers have a perfect right to say, 'not one of you reflects
that you ought to know your Gods before you worship them.' These
remarkable words, originally addressed to the Heathen, lose none of
their force when directed against the Christian.

No one can conceive a supernatural Being, and what none can conceive,
none ought to worship, or even assert the existence of. Who worships a
something of which he knows nothing, is an idolater. To talk of, or bow
down to it, is nonsensical; to pretend affection for it, is worse than
nonsensical. Such conduct, however pious, involves the rankest
hypocrisy; the meanest and most odious species of idolatry; for
labouring to destroy which, Atheists are called 'murderers of the human
soul,' 'blasphemers,' and other foolish names, too numerous to mention.

It would be well for all parties, if those who raise against Atheists
the cry of 'blasphemy,' were made to perceive that godless unbelievers
cannot be blasphemers; for, as contended by Lord Brougham in his Life of
Voltaire, blasphemy implies belief, and, therefore, Atheists who do not
believe in God, cannot logically or justly be said to blaspheme him. The
blasphemer, properly so called, is he who imagines Deity, and ascribes
to the idol of his own brain, all manner of folly, contradiction,
inconsistency, and wickedness. Yes, the blasphemer is he who invents a
monster and calls it God; while to reject belief therein, is an act both
reasonable and virtuous.

Superstition is universally abhorred, but no one believes himself
superstitious. There never was a religionist who believed his own
religion mere superstition. All shrink indignantly from the charge of
being superstitious; while all raise temples to, and bow down before,
'thingless names.' The 'masses' of every nation erect 'thingless names'
into substantial realities, and woe to those, who follow not the insane
example. The consequences--the fatal consequences--are everywhere
apparent. In our own country, one consequence is social disunion on the
grandest possible scale. Society is split up into an almost infinite
variety of sects, whose members imagine themselves patented to think
truth, and never to be wrong in the enunciation of it. This if no idle
or frivolous charge, as the Author of this Apology can easily show.

Before him is _Sanders' News Letter and Daily Advertiser_ of Feb. 18,
1845, which, among other curiosities, contains an 'Address of the Dublin
Protestant Operative Association, and Reformation Society,' one sentence
of which is--'We have raised our voices against the spirit of
compromise, which is the opprobrium of the age; we have unfurled the
banner of Protestant truth, and placed ourselves beneath it, we have
insisted upon Protestant ascendancy as just and equitable, because
Protestant principles are true and undeniable.'

Puseyite Protestants tell a tale the very reverse of that so modestly
told by their nominal brethren of the Dublin Operative Association.
They, as may be seen in Palmer's Letter to Golightly, 'utterly reject
and anathematise the principle of Protestantism, as a heresy with all
its forms, sects, or denominations.' Nor is that all our 'Romeward
Divines' do, for in addition to rejecting utterly and cursing bitterly,
as well the name as the principle of Protestantism, they eulogise the
Church of Rome because forsooth 'she yields,' says Newman in his Letter
to Jelf, 'free scope to feelings of awe, mystery, tenderness, reverence,
and devotedness;' while we have it on the authority of Tract 90, that
the Church of England is 'in bondage, working in chains, and (tell it
not in Dublin) teaching with the stammering lips of ambiguous
formularies.' Fierce and burning is the hatred of Dublin Operative
Association Christians to Popery, but the reader has seen exactly that
style of hatred to Protestantism is avowed by Mr. Ward. Both sets of
Christians are quite sure they are right: but (alas! for infallibility)
a third set of Christians insist that they are both wrong. There are
Papists or Roman Catholics who consider Protestant principles the very
reverse of true and undeniable, and treat with derisive scorn the
'fictitious Catholicism' of Puseyite Divines.

Count De Montalambert, in his recently published 'Letter to the Rev. Mr.
Neale on the Architectural, Artistical, and Archaeological Movements of
the Puseyites,' enters his 'protest' against the most unwarranted and
unjustifiable assumption of the name of Catholic by people and things
belonging to the actual Church of England. 'It is easy,' he observes,
'to take up a name, but it is not so easy to get it recognised by the
world and by competent authority. Any man, for example, may come out to
Madeira and call himself a Montmorency, or a Howard, and even enjoy the
honour and consideration belonging to such a name till the real
Montmorencys or Howards hear something about it, and denounce him, and
then such a man would be justly scouted from society, and fall down much
lower than the lowness from which he attempted to rise. The attempt to
steal away from us and appropriate to the use of a fraction of the
Church of England that glorious title of Catholic is proved to be an
usurpation by every monument of the past and present; by the coronation
oath of your sovereigns--by all the laws which have established your
Church--even by the recent answer of your University of Oxford to the
lay address against Dr. Pusey, &c., where the Church of England is
justly styled the Reformed Protestant Church. The name itself is spurned
at with indignation by the greater half, at least, of the inhabitants of
the United Kingdom. The judgment of the whole indifferent world--the
common sense of humanity--agrees with the judgment of the Church of
Rome, and with the sense of her 150,000,000 of children, to dispossess
you (Puseyites) of this name. The Church of England, who has denied her
mother, is rightly without a sister. She has chosen to break the bonds
of unity and obedience; let her therefore stand before the judgment-seat
of God and of man. Again, supposing the spirit of the Camden Society
ultimately to prevail over its Anglican adversaries; supposing you do
one day get every old thing back again; copes, letters, roodlofts,
candlesticks, and the abbey lands into the bargain, what will it all be
but an empty pageant, like the Tournament of Eglington Castle, separated
from the reality of Catholic truth and unity, by the abyss of three
hundred years of schism? The question then is, have you, the Church of
England, got the picture for your frame? have you got the truth, the one
truth; the same truth as the men of the middle ages? The Camden Society
says yes; but the whole Christian world, both Protestant and Catholic,
says no; and the Catholic world adds that there is no truth but in
unity, and this unity you most certainly have not. Once more; every
Catholic will repeat to you the words of Manzoni, as quoted by M. Faber:
'The greatest deviations are none if the main point be recognised; the
smallest are damnable heresies, if it be denied. That main point is the
infallibility of the Church, or rather of the Pope.'

Our Anti-Romish priests would have us think the more and more we have
of-faith, the more and more we have of happiness. Faith they exalt far,
very far, above hope or even charity. 'Oh Lord, increase our faith,' is
the text on which they love to enlarge. Faith is their panacea for all
human ills: but their faith is worse than useless if it be not true
faith. And how can we so test conflicting faiths as to distinguish the
true from the false? Aye, there's the rub! Undoubtedly faith is to
religion what the root is to the tree; and men in search of 'saving
faith' are naturally anxious to find it. No one desires to be eternally
punished; and therefore, if any one embrace a false faith it is because
he makes the mistake of supposing it the true one. The three sets of
Christians just adverted to, may all be equally sincere, but cannot all
have the true faith. Protestant principles as taught by the Dublin
Operative Association, may be true. Anglo-Catholic principles, as taught
by the Oxford Tractmen, may be true. Roman Catholic principles, as
taught by the Count de Montalambert, may be true; but they cannot all be
true. It is impossible to reconcile that orthodox Papists' 'main point',
_i.e._ the infallability of the (Romish) Church, or rather of the Pope,
with the 'main point' of orthodox protestants, who denounce 'the great
harlot of Babylon,' that 'scarlet lady who sitteth upon the seven hills,
in the most unmeasured and virulent terms. Anti-Christ is the name they
'blasphemously' apply to the actual 'old chimera of a Pope.' Puseyite
Divines treat his Holiness with more tenderness; but even they boggle at
his infallibility, and seem to occupy a position between the rival
churches of Rome and England analogous to that of Captain Macheath when
singing between two favourite doxies--

          How happy could I be with either,
            Were t'other dear charmer away;
          But while you thus teaze me together,
            The devil a word can I say.

The Infallibility of Popes is the doctrine insisted upon by Count De
Montalambert as essential--as doctrine, the smallest deviation from
which is damnable heresy. Believe and admit 'Antichrist' is not
Antichrist, but God's accredited vicegerent upon earth, infinite is the
mercy in store for you; but woe to those who either cannot or will not
believe and admit anything of the kind. On them every sincere Roman
Catholic is sure God will pour out the vials of his wrath, as if the
'Great Perhaps,'

          Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
          A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,

could be angry with creatures of his own creation for thinking what they
cannot help thinking, and being what they cannot help being. Every one
has heard of the Predestinarian, who, having talked much of his God, was
asked by a bystander to speak worse of the Devil if he could; but
comparatively few persons feel the full force of that question, or are
prepared to admit God-worshippers in general, picture their Deities as
if they were demons. 'Recognise,' exclaims the Roman Catholic Priest,
'the "main point" of our holy apostolic religion, or God will judge and
eternally punish you.' The priests of nearly all religional
denominations ascribe to Deity the low grovelling vindictive feelings
which agitate and disgrace themselves. If Roman Catholic principles are
true and undeniable, none but Roman Catholics will be saved from the
wrath to come. If Anglo-Catholic principles are true and undeniable,
none but Anglo-Catholic will be saved from the wrath to come. If
orthodox Protestant principles are true and undeniable, none but
orthodox Protestants will be saved from the wrath to come. Thus do
religionists

                              Grunt and groan,
          And curse all systems but their own;

Never scrupling to assure the advocates of those systems a hell is
waiting to receive them. Agreeing in little else save disagreement, the
'main point' of this class of believers is a matter of little
consequence to that class of believers, and no matter at all to a third
class of believers. Look at the thousand-and-one sects into which the
Christian world is divided. 'Some reject Scripture; others admit no
other writings but Scripture. Some say the devils shall be saved, others
that they shall be damned; others that there are no devils at all. Some
hold that it is lawful to dissemble in religion, others the contrary.
Some say that Antichrist is come, some say not; others that he is a
particular man, others that he is not a man, but the devil; and others
that by Antichrist is meant a succession of men. Some will have him to
be Nero, some Caligula, some Mohammed, some the Pope, some Luther, some
the Turk, some of the tribe of Dan, and so each man according to his
fancy will make an Antichrist. Some only will observe the Lord's day,
some only the Sabbath; some both, and some neither. Some will have all
things in common, some not. Some will have Christ's body only in Heaven,
some everywhere; some in the bread, others with the bread, others about
the bread, others under the bread, and others that Christ's body is the
bread, or the bread his body. And others that his body is transformed
into his divinity. Some will have the Eucharist administered in both
kinds, some in one, some not at all. Some will have Christ descend to
hell in respect of his soul, some only in his power, some in his
divinity; some in his body, some not at all. Some by hell understand the
place of the damned, some _limbus partum_, others the wrath of God,
others the grave. Some will make Christ two persons, some give him but
one nature and one will; some affirming him to be only God, some only
man, some made up of both, some altogether deny him. Some will have his
body come from Heaven, some from the Virgin, some from the elements.
Some will have our souls mortal, some immortal; some bring them into the
body by infusion, some by traduction. Some will have souls created.
before the world, some after; some will have them created altogether,
others severally; some will have them corporeal, some incorporeal; some
of the substance of God, some of the substance of the body. So
infinitely are men's conceits distracted with a variety of opinions,
whereas _there is but one Truth_, which every man aims at, but few
attain it; every man thinks he hath it, and yet few enjoy it.' [27:1]

The chiefs of these sects are, for the most part, ridiculously
intolerant; so many small Popes, who fancy that whomsoever they bind on
earth shall be bound in heaven, and whomsoever they loose on earth shall
be loosed in heaven. They remorselessly cobble the true faith, without
which to their 'sole exclusive heaven,' none can be admitted;

          As if religion were intended,
          For nothing else but to be mended,

and rarely seem so happy as when promising eternal misery to those who
reject their chimeras. Even Dissenting ministers, from whom better
things might be expected, have been heard to declare at public meetings,
called by themselves for the purpose of sympathising with, and
supporting one of themselves who was suffering for 'conscience sake,'
that when they spoke of liberty to express opinions, they meant such
liberty for religionists, not irreligionists. When learned and 'liberal'
Dissenters gratuitously confess this species of faith, none have a right
to be surprised that the 'still small voice of truth' should be drowned
amid the clamour of fanaticism, or that Atheists should be so recklessly
villified.

But wisdom, we read, is justified of her children; and to the wise of
every nation the Atheist confidently appeals. He rejects religion,
because religion is based on principles of imaginative ignorance. Bailly
defines it as 'the worship of the unknown, piety, godliness, humility,
before the _unknown_.' Lavater as 'Faith in the supernatural, invisible,
_unknown_.' Vauvenargus as 'the duties of men towards the _unknown_.'
Dr. Johnson as 'Virtue founded upon reverence of the unknown, and
expectation of future rewards and punishments.' Rivarol as 'the science
of serving the _unknown_.' La Bruyere as 'the respectful fear of the
unknown.' Du Marsais, as 'the worship of the _unknown_, and the practice
of all the virtues.' Walker as 'Virtue founded upon reverence of the
_unknown_, and expectation of rewards or punishments: a system of divine
faith and worship as opposed to other systems.' De Bonald as 'Social
intercourse between man and the _unknown_.' Rees as 'the worship or
homage that is due to the _unknown_ as creator, preserver, and with
Christians as redeemer of the world.' Lord Brougham as 'the subject of
the science called Theology:' a science he defines as 'the knowledge and
attributes of the _unknown_;' which definitions agree in making the
essential principle of religion a principle of ignorance. That they are
sufficiently correct definitions will not be disputed, and upon them the
Atheist is satisfied to rest his case. To him the worship or adoration
of what is confessedly _unknown_ is mere superstition; and to him
professors of theology are 'artists in words,' who pretend to teach what
nobody has any conception of. Now, such persons may be well-intentioned;
but their wisdom is by no means apparent. They must be wonderfully
deficient of the invaluable sense so falsely called 'common.' Idolisers
of 'thingless names,' they set at naught the admirable dictum of Locke,
that it is 'unphilosophic to suppose names in books signify real
entities in nature, unless we can frame clear and distinct ideas of
those entities.'

Theists of every class would do well to calmly and fully consider this
rule of philosophising, for it involves nothing less than the
destruction of belief in the supernatural. The Jupiter of Mythologic
History, the Allah of Alkoran, and the Jehovah of 'Holy Scripture,' if
entities at all, are assuredly entities that baffle human conception. To
'frame clear and distinct ideas of them' is impossible. In respect to
the attribute of _unknowability_ all Gods are alike. They are all
supernatural; and the merely natural cannot attach rational ideas to
names assumed to stand for something above nature. It is easy to talk
about seeing the Creator in creation, looking through nature up to
nature's God, and the like, but very difficult to have any idea whatever
of a God without body, parts, or passions; that is to say, the God set
forth in one of the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles.

No such God can be believed to exist by reasoners who rigidly abide by
John Locke's rule of philosophising, and if it be urged that he, the
author of the rule, was a Theist and a Christian--our answer is, that in
such case, like many other philosophers, he practically gave the lie to
his own best precept.

Books have been written to exhibit the difficulties of (what priests
choose to call) Infidelity; and without doubt unbelief _has_ its
difficulties. But according to a universally recognised rule of
philosophising, of two difficulties we are in all cases to choose the
least. From a rule so palpably just no one can reasonably depart, and
the Atheist, while freely admitting a great difficulty on his own side,
is satisfied there can be demonstrated an infinitely greater difficulty
on the side of his opponents. The Atheist labours to convince mankind
they are not warranted by the general course of Nature in assigning to
it a Cause, inasmuch as it is more in accordance with experience to
suppose Nature the uncaused cause, than to imagine, as religionists do,
that there is an uncaused cause of Nature.

Theologians ask, who created Nature? without adducing satisfactory
evidence that Nature was created, and without reflecting that if it is
difficult to believe Nature self-existent, it is much more difficult to
believe some self-existent Super-nature, capable of producing it. In
their anxiety to get rid of a natural difficulty, they invent a
supernatural one, and accuse Atheists of 'wilful blindness,' and
'obstinate deafness,' for not choosing so unphilosophic a mode of
explaining universal mystery. Call upon them to define their
'all-creative Deity,' and they know not what to answer. Ask them who,
what, or where He is, and at once you have them on the hip; at once you
spy their utter ignorance, and reduce them to a condition very similar
to that of Master Abraham Slender, when with stammering lips he 'sings
small like a woman.' To assume everything they are always ready; but to
prove anything concerning their Immense Supernatural, they are never
prepared. Regularly drilled to argue in a circle, they foolishly imagine
everybody else should do the same, and marvel at the man who rigidly
adheres to just rules of philosophising and considers experience of
natural derivation a far safer guide than their crude, undigested,
extravagant, contradictory notions about the confessedly _unknown_.

The rule of philosophising just adverted to--that rule which forbids us,
in any case, to choose the greater of two difficulties--is of immense
importance, and should be carefully considered by every one anxious to
arrive at correct conclusions with respect to theology. For if believers
in God do depart from that rule--if their belief necessarily involve its
violation--to persist in such belief is to persist in what is clearly
opposed to pure reason. Now, it has been demonstrated, so far as words
can demonstrate any truth whatever, that the difficulty of him who
believes Nature never had an author, is infinitely less than the
difficulty of him who believes it had a cause itself uncaused. In the
'Elements of Materialism,' an unequal but still admirable work by Dr.
Knowlton, a well-known American writer, this question of comparative
difficulty is well handled, and the Author of this Apology conceives
most satisfactorily exhausted.

'The sentiment,' says the Doctor,' that a being exists which never
commenced existence, or what is the same thing, that a being exists
which has existed from all eternity, appears to us to favour Atheism,
for if one being exist which never commenced existence--why not
another--why not the universe? It weighs nothing, says the Atheist, in
the eye of reason, to say the universe appears to man as though it were
organised by an Almighty Designer; for the maker of a thing must be
superior to the thing made; and if there be a maker of the universe
there can be no doubt, but that if such maker were minutely examined by
man, man would discover such indications of wisdom and design that it
would be more difficult for him to admit that such maker was not caused
or constructed by a pre-existing Designer, than to admit that the
universe was not caused or constructed by a Designer. But no one will
contend for an infinite series of Makers; and if, continues the Atheist,
what would, if viewed, be indications of design, are no proofs of a
designer in the one case, they are not; in the other; and as such
indications are the only evidence we have of the existence of a Designer
of the universe, we, as rational beings, contend there is no God. We do
not suppose the existence of any being, of which there is no evidence,
when such supposition, if admitted, so far from diminishing would only
increase a difficulty, which at best is sufficiently great. Surely, if a
superior being may have existed from all eternity, an inferior may have
existed from all eternity; if a great God sufficiently mighty to make a
world may have existed from all eternity, of course without beginning
and without cause, such world may have existed from all eternity,
without beginning, and without cause.' [31:1]

These are 'strong reasons' for Atheism--they prove that Theists set at
nought the rule of philosophising which forbids us to choose the greater
of two difficulties. Their system compels them to do so, for having no
other groundwork than the strange hypotheses that time was when there
was no time--something existed when there was nothing, which something
created everything; its advocates would be tongue-tied and lost if
reduced to the hard necessity of appealing to facts, or rigidly
regarding rules of philosophising, which have only their reasonableness
to recommend them. They profess ability to account for nature, and are
of course exceedingly eager to justify a profession so presumptuous.
This eagerness betrays them into courses, of which no one bent on
rejecting whatever is either opposed to, or unsanctioned by experience,
can possibly approve. It is plain that of the God they tell us to
believe 'created the worlds,' no man has any experience. This granted,
it follows that worship of such fancied Being is mere superstition.
Until it be shown by reference to the general course of things, that
things had an author, Himself uncreated or unauthorised, religious
philosophers have no right to expect Atheists to abandon their Atheism.
The duty of priests is to reconcile religion with reason, if they can,
and admit their inability to do so, if they cannot.

Romanists will have nothing to do with reason whenever it appears at
issue with their faith. All sects, as sects, play fast and loose with
reason. Many members of all sects are forward enough to boast about
being able to give a reason for the faith that is in them; but an
overwhelming majority love to exalt faith above reason. Philosophy they
call 'vain,' and some have been found so filled with contempt for it, as
to openly maintain that what is theologically true, is philosophically
false; or, in other terms, that the truths of religion and the truths of
philosophy have nothing in common. According to them, religious truths
are independent and superior to all other truths. Our faith, say they,
if not agreeable to _mere_ reason, is infinitely superior to it. Priests
are 'at one' on the point. Dissenting and Protestant, as well as
Romanising priests, find it convenient to abuse reason and extol faith.
As priests, they can scarcely be expected to do otherwise; for reason is
a stern and upright judge, whose decrees have hitherto been unfavourable
to religion. Its professors who appeal to that judge, play a part most
inconsistent and dangerous, as is evident in the case of Origen
Bachelor, who more zealous and candid than prudent, declared the real
and only question between Atheism and Theism a question of fact,
reducing it to these terms--'Is there reason, all things considered, for
believing that there is a God, an intelligent cause of things, infinite
and perfect in all his attributes and moral qualities? [32:1]

Now, the reader has seen that the hypothesis of 'an intelligent cause of
things' involves difficulties, greater, infinitely greater than the
_one_ difficulty, involved in the hypothesis that things always existed.
He has seen the folly of explaining natural, by the invention of
supernatural mystery, because it manifestly violates a rule of
philosophising, the justness of which it would be ridiculous to dispute.
Having clearly perceived thus much, he will perhaps think it rather 'too
bad' as well as absurd, to call Atheists 'madmen' for lacking faith in
the monstrous dogma that nature was caused by 'something amounting to
nothing' itself uncaused.

There is something. That truth admits not of being evidenced. It is,
nevertheless, accepted. It is accepted by men of all religious opinions,
equally with men of no religious opinions. If any truth be self evident
and eternal, here is that truth. To call it in question would be worse
than idle. We may doubt the reality of an external world, we may be
sceptical as to the reality of our own bodies, but we cannot doubt that
there is something. The proposition falls not within the domain of
scepticism. It must be true. To suppose it false is literally
impossible. Its falsehood would involve a contradiction, and all
contradiction involves impossibility. But if proof of this were needed,
we have it in the fact that no man, sage or simple, ever pretended to
deny there is something. Whatever men could doubt or deny they have
doubted or denied, but in no country of the world, in no age, has the
dogma--there is something, been denied or even treated as doubtful. Here
then Atheists, Theists, and Polytheists agree. They agree of necessity.
There is no escape from the conclusion that something is, except we
adopt the unintelligible dogma there is nothing, which no human being
can, as nothing amounts to nothing and of what amounts to nothing no one
can have an idea. To define the word something by any other word, would
be labour in vain. There is no other word in any language whose meaning
is better understood, and they who do not under stand what it means, if
such persons there be, are not likely to understand the meaning of any
word or words whatever. Ideas of nothing none have. That there is
something, we repeat, must be true; all dogmas or propositions being
necessarily true whose denial involves an impossibility. What the nature
of that something may be is a secondary question, and however determined
cannot affect the primary dogma--things are things whatever may be their
individual or their aggregate nature. Nor is it of the least consequence
what name or names we may see fit to give things, so that each word has
its fixed and true meaning. Whether, for example, we use for the sign of
that something which is, the word Universe, or God, or Substance, or
Spirit, or Matter, or the letter X, is of no importance, if we
understand the word or letter used to be merely the sign of that
something. Words are only useful, when they are the signs of true ideas;
evidently therefore, their legitimate function is to convey such ideas;
and words which convey no ideas at all, or what is worse, only those
which are false, should at once be expunged from the vocabularies of
nations. Something is. The Atheist calls it matter. Other persons may
choose to call it other names; let them. He chooses to call it this one
and no other.

There ever has been something. Here again, is a point of unity. All are
equally assured there ever has been something. Something is, something
must always have been, cry the religions, and the cry is echoed by the
irreligious. This last dogma, like the first, admits not of being
evidenced. As nothing is inconceivable, we cannot even imagine a time
when there was nothing. Atheists say, something ever was, which
something is matter. Theists say, something has been from all eternity,
which something is not matter, but God. They boldly affirm that matter
began to be. They affirm its creation from nothing, by a something,
which was before the universe. Indeed, the notion of universal creation
involves first, that of universal annihilation, and second, that of a
something prior to everything. What creates everything must be before
everything, in the same way that he who manufactures a watch must exist
before the watch. As already remarked. Atheists agree with Theists, that
something ever has been; but the point of difference lies here. The
Atheist says, matter is the eternal something, and asks proof of its
beginning to be. The Theist insists that matter is not the eternal
something, but that God is, and when pushed for an account of what he
means by God, he coolly answers, a Being, having nothing in common with
anything, who, nevertheless, by his Almighty will created everything.

It may without injustice be affirmed, that the sincerest and strongest
believers in this mysterious Deity, are often tormented by doubts, and,
if candid, must own they believe in the existence of many things with a
feeling much closer allied to certainty than they do in the reality of
their 'Great First Cause, least understood.' No man can be so fully and
perfectly satisfied there is a God in heaven as the Author of this
Apology cannot but be of his own existence on earth. No man's faith in
the imaginary is ever half so strong as his belief in the visible and
tangible.

But few among professional mystifiers will admit this, obviously true as
it is. Some have done so. Baxter, of pious memory, to wit, who said, 'I
am not so foolish as to pretend my certainty be greater than it is,
because it is dishonour to be less certain, nor will I by shame be kept
from confessing those infirmities which those have as much as I, who
hypocritically reproach with them. _My certainty that I am a man is
before my certainty that there is a God._'

So candid was Richard Baxter, and so candid are _not_ the most part of
our priests, who would fain have us think they have no more, and we
ought to have no more, doubt about God's existence than our own.
Nevertheless, they write abundance of books to convince us 'God is,'
though they never penned a line in order to convince us, we actually
are, and that to disbelieve we are is a 'deadly sin.'

Could God be known, could his existence be made 'palpable to feeling as
to sight,' as unquestionably is the existence of matter, there would be
no need of 'Demonstrations of the existence of God,' no need of
arguments _a priori_ or _a posteriori_ to establish that existence.
Saint John was right; 'No man hath seen God at any time,' to which 'open
confession' he might truly have added, 'none ever will,' for the unreal
is always unseeable. Yet have 'mystery men' with shameless and most
insolent pertinacity asserted the existence of God while denying the
existence of matter.

Define your terms, said Locke. Atheists do so, and where necessary
insist upon others following the philosophic example. On this account
they are 'ugly customers' to Priests, who, with exceptions, much dislike
being called upon to explain their idealess language. Ask one to define
the word God and you stagger him. If he do not fly into a passion deem
yourself fortunate, but as to an intelligible definition, look for
nothing of the sort. He can't furnish such definition however disposed
to do so. The incomprehensible is not to be defined. It is difficult to
give an intelligible account of an 'Immense Being' confessedly
mysterious, and about whom his worshippers admit they only know, they
know nothing, except that

                              'He is good,
          And that themselves are blind.'

Spinoza said, _of things which have nothing in common, one cannot be the
cause of the other;_ and to the Author of this Apology, it seems
eminently unphilosophic to believe a Being having nothing in common with
anything, capable of creating or causing everything. 'Only matter can be
touched or touch;' and as the Christian's God is not material, his
adorers are fairly open to the charge of superstition. An unknown Deity,
without body, parts or passions, is of all idols the least tangible; and
they who pretend to know and reverence him, are deceived or deceivers.
Knowledge of, and reverence for an object, imply, the power of
conceiving that object; but who is able to conceive a God without body,
parts, or passions?

In this Christian country where men are expected to believe and called
'infidel' if they cannot believe in a 'crucified Saviour,' it seems
strange so much fuss should be made about his immateriality. All but
Unitarian Christians hold as an essential article of faith, that in him
dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily, in other words, that our
Redeemer and our Creator; though two persons are one God. It is true
that Divines of our 'Reformed Protestant Church,' call everything but
gentlemen those who lay claim to the equivocal privilege of feasting
periodically upon the body and blood of Omnipotence. The pains taken by
Protestants to show from Scripture, Reason and Nature, that Priests
cannot change lumps of dough into the body, and bumpers of wine into the
blood of their God, are well known and appreciated. But the Roman
Catholics are neither to be argued nor laughed out of their 'awful
doctrine' of the real presence, to which they cling with desperate
earnestness. Proselytes are apt to misunderstand, and make sad mistakes
about, that doctrine. Two cases are cited by Hume in his 'Essay of the
Natural History of Religion,' which he announces as 'pleasant stories,
though somewhat profane.' According to one, a Priest gave inadvertently,
instead of the sacrament, a counter, which had by accident fallen among
the holy wafers. The communicant waited patiently for some time,
expecting that it would dissolve on his tongue, but finding that it
still remained entire, he took it off. I hope, said he, to the Priest,
you have not made a mistake; I hope you have not given me God the
Father, he is so hard and tough that there is no swallowing him. The
other story is thus related. A famous General, at that time in the
Muscovite Service, having come to Paris for the recovery of his wounds,
brought along with him a young Turk whom he had taken prisoner. Some of
the doctors of the Sorbonne (who are altogether as positive as the
dervises of Constantinople) thinking it a pity that the poor Turk should
be damned for want of instruction, solicited Mustapha very hard to turn
Christian, and promised him for encouragement, plenty of good wine in
this world and paradise in the next. These allurements were too powerful
to be resisted; and therefore having been well instructed and
catechised, he at last agreed to receive the sacraments of baptism and
Lord's Supper. Nevertheless, the Priest to make everything sure and
solid, still continued his instructions, and began the next day with the
usual question, _How many God's are there? None at all_, replied
Benedict, for that was his new name. _How! None at all?_ Cries the
Priest. _To be sure_, said the honest proselyte, _you have told me all
along that there it but one God; and yesterday I ate him._

This is sufficiently ridiculous; and yet if we fairly consider the whole
question of divinity there will be found no more absurdity in the notion
of our Benedict eating the Creator, than in Jews crucifying Him. Both
notions involve materiality. A God without body, parts, or passions,
could no more be nailed upon a cross than taken into the stomach. And if
it be urged there is something awful in the blasphemy of him who talks
of swallowing his God, the Author of this Apology can as conscientiously
urge that there is something very disgusting in the idea of a murdered
Deity.

Locke wrote rather disparagingly of 'many among us,' who 'will be found
upon inquiry, to fancy God in the shape of a man sitting in heaven, and
have other absurd and unfit conceptions of him.' As though it were
possible to think of shapeless Being, or as though it were criminal in
the superstitious to believe 'God made man after his own image.' A
'Philosophical Unbeliever,' who made minced meat of Dr. Priestley's
reasonings on the existence of God, well remarked that 'Theists are
always for turning their God into an overgrown Man. Anthropomorphites
has long been a term applied to them. They give him hand and eyes, nor
can they conceive him otherwise than as a corporeal Being. We make a
Deity ourselves, fall down and worship him. It is the molten calf over
again. Idolatry is still practised. The only difference is that now we
worship idols of our own imagination before of our hands.' [37:1]

This is bold language, but if the language of truth and soberness no one
should take offence at it. That Christians as well as Turks 'have had
whole sects earnestly contending that the Deity was corporeal and of
human shapes,' is a fact, testified to by Locke, and so firmly
established as to defy contradiction. And though every sincere
subscriber to the Thirty Nine Articles must believe, or at least must
believe he believes in Deity without body, parts, or passions, it is
well known that 'whole sects' of Christians do even now 'fancy God in
the shape a man sitting in heaven, and entertain other absurd and unfit
conceptions of him.'

Mr. Collibeer, who is considered by Christian writers 'a most ingenious
gentleman,' has told the world in his treatise entitled 'The Knowledge
of God,' that Deity must have some form, and intimates it may probably
be the spherical; an intimation which has grievously offended many
learned Theists who consider going so far 'an abuse of reason,' and warn
us that 'its extension beyond the assigned boundaries, has proved an
ample source of error.' But what the 'assigned boundaries' of reason
are, they don't state, nor by whom 'assigned.' That if there is a God,
He must have some form is self-evident; and why Mr. Collibeer should be
'called over the coals' by his less daringly imaginative brethren, for
preferring a spherical to a square or otherwise shaped Deity, is to my
understanding what God's grace is to their's.

But admitting the unfitness, and absurdity, and 'blasphemy' of such
conceptions, it is by no means clear that any other conceptions of the
'inconceivable' would be an improvement upon them. The Author's serious
and deliberate opinion is, that ascribing to Deity a body analagous to
our own, is less ridiculous than affirming he has _no_ body; nor can he
admire the wisdom of those Christians who prefer a partless, passionless
God, to the substantial piece of supernaturalism adored by their
forefathers. Undoubtedly, the matter-God-system has its difficulties,
but they are trifles in comparison with those by which the
spirit-God-system is encompassed: for, one obvious consequence of faith
in bodiless Divinity is, an utter confusion of ideas in those who have
it, as regards possibilities and impossibilities. The Author confidently
submits that, no man having 'firm faith' in a Deity--without body parts
and passions--can be half so wise as the famous cook of my Lord
Hoppergollop, who said,

          What is impossible can't be,
          And never never comes to pass.

He, moreover, confidently submits that, granting the existence of so
utterly incomprehensible a Deity, still such Deity could not have caused
nature, or matter, unless we deny the palpably true proposition of
Spinoza, to wit--Of things which have nothing in common, one cannot be
the cause of the other. In harmony with this proposition, Atheists
cannot admit the supernatural caused the natural; for, between the
natural and the supernatural it is impossible to imagine any thing in
common.

The universe is an uncaused existence, or it was caused by something
before it. By universe we mean matter, the sum total of things, whence
all proceeds, and whither all returns. No truth is more obviously true
than the truth that matter, or something not matter, exists of itself,
and consequently is not an effect, but an uncaused cause of all effects.

From such conviction, repugnant though it be to vulgar ideas, there is
no rational way of escape; for however much we may desire, however much
we may struggle to believe there was a time when there was nothing, we
cannot so believe. Human nature is constituted intuitively or
instinctively to feel the eternity of something. To rid oneself of that
feeling is impossible. Nature, or something not nature must ever have
been, is a conclusion to which, what poets call Fate--

          Leads the willing and drags the unwilling.

But does this undeniable truth make against Atheism? Far from it--so
far, indeed, as to make for it: the reason is no mystery. Of matter we
have ideas clear, precise, and indispensable, whereas, of something not
matter we cannot have any idea whatever, good, bad, or indifferent. The
Universe is extraordinary, no doubt, but so much of it as acts upon us
is perfectly conceivable, whereas, any thing within, without, or apart
from the Universe is perfectly inconceivable.

The notion of necessarily existing matter seems to the Author of this
Apology fatal to belief in God; that is, if by the word God be
understood something not matter, for 'tis precisely because priests were
unable to reconcile such belief with the idea of matter's self-existence
or eternity, that they took to imagining a 'First Cause.' In the
'forlorn hope' of clearing the difficulty of necessarily existing
_matter_, they assent to a necessarily existing _spirit_; and when the
nature of spirit is demanded from these assertors of its existence they
are constrained to avow that it is material or nothing.

Yes, they are constrained to make directly or indirectly one or other of
these admissions; for, as between truth and falsehood there is no middle
passage, so between something and nothing there is no intermediate
existence. Hence the serious dilemma of Spiritualists, who gravely tell
us their God is a Spirit, and that a Spirit is not any thing, which not
any thing or nothing (for the life of us we cannot distinguish between
them) 'framed the worlds nay, _created_ as well as framed them.

If it be granted, for the mere purpose of explanation, that Spirit is an
entity, we can frame 'clear and distinct ideas of'--a real though not
material existence, surely no man will pretend to say an uncreated
reality called Spirit, is less inexplicable than uncreated Matter. All
could not have been caused or created unless nothing can be a Cause, the
very notion of which involves the grossest of absurdities.

'Whatever is produced,' said Hume, 'without any cause, is produced by
nothing; or, in other words, has nothing for its cause. But nothing
never can be a cause no more than it can be something or equal to two
right angles. By the same intuition that we perceive nothing not to be
equal to two right angles, or not to be something, we perceive that it
can never be a cause and consequently must perceive that every object
has a real cause, of its existence. When we exclude all causes we really
do exclude them, and neither suppose nothing nor the object itself to be
the causes of the existence, and consequently can draw no argument from
the absurdity of these suppositions to prove the absurdity of that
exclusion. If everything must have a cause, it follows that upon the
exclusion of other causes we must accept of the object itself or nothing
as causes. But it is the very point in question whether everything must
have a cause or not, and therefore, according to all just reasoning
ought not to be taken for granted. [40:1]

This reasoning amounts to logical demonstration (if logical
demonstration there can be) of a most essential truth, which in all ages
has been obstinately set at nought by dabblers in the supernatural. It
demonstrates that something never was, never can be caused by nothing,
which can no more be a cause, properly so called, than 'it can be
something, or equal to two right angles;' and therefore that everything
could not have had a cause which the reader has seen is the very point
assumed by Theists--the very point on which as a pivot they so merrily
and successfully turn their fine metaphysical theories, and immaterial
systems.

The universe, quoth they, must have had a cause, and that cause must
have been a First Cause, or cause number one, because nothing can exist
of itself. Oh, most lame and impotent conclusion! How in consistency can
they declare nothing can exist without a cause in the teeth of their oft
repeated dogma that God is uncaused. If God never commenced to be _He_
is an uncaused existence, that is to say, exists without a cause. The
difference on this point between Theists and Atheists is very palpable.
The former say, Spirit can exist without a cause; the latter say Matter
can exist without a cause. Whole libraries of theologic dogma would be
dearly purchased by Hume's profound remark--'if everything must have a
cause, it follows that upon the exclusion of other causes we must accept
of the object itself or of nothing as causes.'

If the God of our Deists and Christians is not matter, what is He? Upon
them devolves the difficult duty of answering that question. They are
morally bound to answer it or make the humiliating confession that they
'ignorantly worship;' that with all their boasted certainty as to the
existence of their 'deified error' they can furnish no satisfactory, or
even intelligible account of His [41:1] nature, if indeed a supernatural
or rather Unnatural Being can properly be said to have a nature.

The author of 'Good Sense' has observed, that names which may be made to
mean anything in reality mean nothing. Is not God a name of this class?
Our 'state puppet showmen,' as my Lord Brougham nicknamed Priests, who
talk so much about Gods, forcibly remind one of that ingenious exhibitor
of puppets, who, after saying to his juvenile patronisers--'Look to the
right, and there you will see the lions a dewouring the dogs,' was
asked--Which is the lion and which is the dogs?' to which query he
replied, 'Vichever you please, my little dears, it makes no difference
votsomnever.' For in exactly the same spirit do our ghostly exhibitors,
they who set up the state puppet show meet the inquiries of the grown
children they make so handsomely (again we are under an obligation to
Lord Brougham) 'to pay for peeping.' Children of this sort would fain
know what is meant by the doctrines concerning the many 'true Gods' they
hear such precious rigmaroles about in Church and Conventicle, as well
as the many orthodox opinions of that God, whose name is there so often
'taken in vain.' But Priests like the showman in question, answer, in
language less inelegant to be sure, but substantially the same,
'Vichever you please, my little dears, it makes no difference
votsomnever.'

He who declared that the word God was invented by philosophers to screen
their own ignorance, taught a valuable truth, though the Author of this
Apology never fails mentally to Substitute _quacks_ for _philosophers_.

Saint Augustin more candid than modern theologians, said, 'God is a
being whom we speak of but whom we cannot describe, and who is superior
to all definitions.' Atheists on the other hand, as candidly deny there
is any such being. To them it seems that the name God stands for
nothing, is the archetype of nothing, explains nothing, and contributes
to nothing but the perpetuation of human imbecility, ignorance and
error. To them it represents neither shadow nor substance, neither
phenomenon nor thing, neither what is ideal nor what is real; yet is it
the name without full faith in which there could be no religion. If to
the name God some rational signification cannot be attached away goes,
or at least away _ought_ to go, that belief in something supernatural
which is 'the fundamental principle of all false metaphysics.' 'No such
belief can for a moment be entertained by those who see in nature the
cause of all effects, and treat with the contempt it merits, the
preposterous notion that out of nothing at the bidding of something, of
which one can make anything, started everything.

The famous Mr. Law, in his 'Appeal to all that doubt or disbelieve the
truths of the Gospel,' gratuitously allows 'it is the same impossibility
for a thing to be created out of nothing as by nothing,' for which
sensible allowance 'insane philosophy' owes him much. Indeed the dogma,
if true, proves all religion false, for it strikes full at belief in a
God, a belief which, it cannot be too often repeated, is to religion
what blood is to the brain and oxygen to the blood.

Materialism is hated by priests, because no consistent Materialist can
stop short of disbelief in God. He believes in Nature and Nature alone.
By Nature he understands unity. The ONE which; includes all, and is all.

That it pertains to the nature of substance to exist; and that all
substance is necessarily infinite, we are told by Spinoza, who
understood by substance that which exists in itself, and is conceived
through itself; _i.e._ the knowledge of which does not require the
knowledge of anything antecedent to it.

This substance of Spinoza is just the matter of Materialists. With him
most likely, with them certainly, matter and substance are convertible
terms. They have no objection to the word substance so long as it is the
sign of something substantial; for substantiality implies materiality.
Whether we say--Substance exists, and is conceived through itself;
_i.e._ the knowledge of which does not require the knowledge of anything
antecedent to it, or--Matter exists and is conceived through itself;
_i.e._ 'the knowledge of which does not require the knowledge of
anything antecedent to itself'--our meaning is exactly the same.

To exclude matter from our conception (if it were possible) would be to
think universal existence out of existence, which is tantamount to
thinking without anything to think about. The ideas of those who try
their brains at this odd sort of work, have been well likened to an
atmosphere of dust superintended by a whirlwind. They who assume the
existence of an unsubstantial _i.e._ immaterial First Cause, outrage
every admitted rule and every sound principle of philosophising. Only
pious persons with ideas like unto an atmosphere of dust superintended
by a whirl wind would write books in vindication of the monstrously
absurd assumption that there exists an unsubstantial Great First Cause
of all substantialities. Nothing can be wilder than the speculations of
such 'hair brained' individuals, excepting only the speculations of
those sharp-sighted enough to see reason and wisdom in them.

A Great Cause, or a Small Cause, a First Cause, or a Last Cause,
involves the idea of real existence, namely, the existence of matter. By
cause of itself, said Spinoza, I understand that which involves
existence, or that the nature of which can only be considered as
existent. And who does not so understand Cause? Why Gillespie and other
eminently dogmatic Christian writers whose Great First Cause cannot be
considered an entity, because they assert, yes, expressly assert its
immateriality.

If Nature is all, and all is Nature, nothing but itself could ever have
existed, and of course nothing but itself can be supposed ever to have
been capable of causing. To cause is to act, and though body without
action is conceivable, action without body is not. Neither can two
Infinites be supposed to tenant one Universe. Only 'most religious
philosophers' can pretend to acknowledge the being of an infinite God
co-existent with an infinite universe.

Atheists are frequently asked--What moves matter? to which question,
_nothing_ is the true and sufficient answer. Matter moves matter. If
asked how we know it does, our answer is, because we see it do so, which
is more than mind imaginers can say of their 'prime mover.' They tell us
mind moves matter; but none save the _second sighted_ among them ever
saw mind; and if they never saw mind, they never could have seen matter
pushed about by it. They babble about mind, but nowhere does mind exist
save in their mind; that is to say, nowhere but nowhere. Ask these
broad-day dreamers where mind is, _minus_ body? and very acutely they
answer, body is the mind and mind is the body.

That this is neither joke nor slander, we will show by reference to
No. 25 of 'The Shepherd,' a clever and well known periodical, whose
editor, [44:1] in reply to a correspondent of the 'chaotic' tribe,
said 'As to the question--where is magnetism without the magnet? We
answer, magnetism is the magnet, and the magnet is magnetism.' If so,
body is the mind and the mind is body; and our Shepherd, if asked,
'Where is mind without the body?' to be consistent, should answer, body
is the mind and the mind is the body. Both these answers are true or
both are false; and it must be allowed--

          Each lends to each a borrowed charm,
          Like pearls upon an Ethiop's arm.

Ask the 'Shepherd' where is mind without the body? and if not at issue
with himself, he must reply, mind is the man and man is the mind.

If this be so,--if the mind is the man and the man is the mind, which
none can deny who say magnetism is the magnet and the magnet
magnetism--how, in Reason's name, can they be different, or how can the
'Shepherd' consistently pretend to distinguish between them: yet he does
so. He writes about the spiritual part of man as though he really
believed there is such apart. Not satisfied, it would seem, with body,
like Nonentitarians of vulgarest mould, he tenants it with Soul or
Spirit, or Mind, which Soul, or Spirit, or Mind, according to his own
showing, is nothing but body in action: in other terms, organised matter
performing vital functions. Idle declamation against 'fact mongers' well
becomes such self-stultifying dealers in fiction. Abuse of
'experimentarians' is quite in keeping with the philosophy of those who
maintain the reality of mind in face of their own strange statement,
that magnetism is the magnet and the magnet magnetism.

But we deny that magnetism is the magnet. Those words magnetism and
magnet do not, it is true, stand for two things, but one thing: that one
and only thing called matter. The magnet is an existence; _i.e._, that
which moves. Magnetism is not an existence, but phenomenon, or, if you
please, phenomena. It is the effect of which magnetic body is the
immediate and obvious cause.

Cause implies action; and till Nonentitarians can explain how nothing
may contrive to cause something, they should assume the virtue of
modesty, even if they have it not. To rail at 'fact mongers' is,
doubtless, far easier than to overturn facts themselves. The 'Shepherd'
calls Atheists 'Chaotics' and Materialism 'the philosophy of lunacy,'
which is a very free and very easy way of 'Universalising.' But
arguments grounded on observation and experience are not to be borne
down by hard names. Man, like the magnet, is something--he acts. Dust
and ashes he was; dust and ashes he will be.--He may be touched, and
tasted, and seen, and smelt. In the immateriality of _his_ composition
no one believes; and none but Nonentitarians pretend to do so. He
thinks--thinking is the very condition of his existence. To think is to
live. To the sum total of vital manifestations we apply the term mind.
To call mind matter, or matter mind, is ridiculous--_genuine_ lunacy. It
would be as wise to call motion matter and wind up the spiritual work by
making nothing of both. The man who ran half round our planet in search
of his soul did not succeed in finding it. How should he when there is
no such thing as soul.

To evade the charge of Materialism, said Dr. Engledue, we
(Phrenologists) content ourselves with stating that the immaterial makes
use of the material to show forth its powers. What is the result of
this? We have the man of theory and believer in supernaturalism
quarrelling with the man of fact and supporter of Materialism. We have
two parties; the one asserting that man possesses a _spirit_ superadded
to, but not inherent in, the brain--added to it, yet having no necessary
connexion with it--producing material changes, yet immaterial--destitute
of any of the known properties of matter--in fact an _immaterial
something_ which in one word means nothing, producing all the cerebral
functions of man, yet not localised--not susceptible of proof; the other
party contending that the belief in spiritualism fetters and ties down
physiological investigation--that man's intellect is prostrated by the
domination of metaphysical speculation--that we have no evidence of the
existence of an essence, and that organised matter is all that is
requisite to produce the multitudinous manifestations of human and brute
cerebration.

We rank ourselves with the second party, and conceive that we must cease
speaking of 'the mind,' and discontinue enlisting in our investigations
a spiritual essence, the existence of which cannot be proved, but which
tends to mystify and perplex a question sufficiently clear if we confine
ourselves to the consideration of organised matter--its forms--its
changes--and its aberrations from normal structure. [46:1]

The eccentric Count de Caylus, when on his death-bed, was visited by
some near relations and a pious Bishop, who hoped that under such trying
circumstances he would manifest some concern respecting those
'spiritual' blessings which, while in health, he had uniformly treated
with contempt. After a long pause he broke silence by saying, 'Ah,
friends, I see you are anxious about my soul;' whereupon they pricked up
their ears with delight; before, however, any reply could be made, the
Count added, '_but the fact is I have not got one, and really my good
friends, you must allow me to know best_.'

If people in general had one tenth the good sense of this _impious_
Count, the fooleries of spiritualism would at once give place to the
philosophy of Materialism; and none would waste time in talking or
writing about nonentities. All would know that what theologians call
sometimes spirit, sometimes soul, and sometimes mind, is an imaginary
existence. All would know that the terms _immaterial something_, do in
very truth mean _nothing_. Count de Caylus died as became a man
convinced that soul is not an entity, and that upon the dissolution of
our 'earthly tabernacle,' the particles composing it cease to perform
vital functions, and return to the shoreless ocean of Eternal Being.
Pietists may be shocked by such _nonchalance_ in the face of their 'grim
monster,' but philosophers will admire an indifference to inevitable
consequences resulting from profoundest love of truth and contempt of
superstition. Count de Caylus was a Materialist, and no Materialist can
consistently feel the least alarm at the approach of what religionists
have every reason to consider the 'king of terrors.' Believers in the
reality of immaterial existence cannot be 'proper' Materialists.
Obviously, therefore, no believers in the reality of 'God' can be _bona
fide_ Materialists, for 'God' is a name signifying something or nothing;
in other terms, matter, or that which is not matter. If the latter, to
Materialists the name is meaningless--sound without sense. If the
former, they at once pronounce it a name too many; because it expresses
nothing that their word MATTER does not express better.

Dr. Young held in horror the Materialist's 'universe of dust.' But there
is nothing either bad or contemptible in dust--man is dust--all will be
dust. A _dusty_ universe, however _shocked_ the poetic Doctor, whose
writings analogise with--

          Rich windows that exclude the light,
          And passages that lead to nothing.

A universe of nothing was more to his taste than a universe of dust, and
he accordingly amused himself with the 'spiritual' work of imagining
one, and called its builder 'God.'

The somewhat ungentle 'Shepherd' cordially sympathises with Dr. Young in
his detestation of 'the Materialist's universe' of dust, and is sorely
puzzled to know how mere dust contrives to move without the assistance
of 'an immaterial power between the particles;' as if he supposed
anything could be between everything--or nothing be able to move
something. Verily this gentleman is as clever a hand at 'darkening
counsel by words without knowledge' as the cleverest of those he rates
so soundly.

We observe that motion is caused by body, and apart from body no one can
conceive the idea of motion. Local motion may, but general motion cannot
be accounted for. The Shepherd contends there is nothing more mysterious
than motion. There he is right; and had he said nothing is _less_
mysterious than motion he would have been equally so.

For telling these unpalatable truths the Atheist is bitterly detested.
'The Shepherd' is a most unorthodox kind of Pantheist; yet even he does
not scruple to swell the senseless cry against 'Godless infidels,' whom
he calls an almost infinite variety of bad names, and among other
shocking crimes accuses them of propounding a 'dead philosophy.' Yet the
difference between his Pantheism and our Atheism is only perceptible to
the microscopic eye of super-sublimated spiritualism. The subjoined is
offered to the reader's notice as a sample of Pantheism so closely
resembling Atheism, that, like the two Sosias in the play, to
distinguish them is difficult:

'What Coleridge meant by the motto (all Theology depends on mastering
the term nature) concerns us not. We appropriate the motto, but we do
not profess to appropriate it in the same sense as Coleridge
appropriated it. Every man must appropriate it for himself. Coleridge
perceived what every thinking mind has perceived--the difficulty of
believing in two self-determining powers, viz., God and Nature, as also
the consequences of regarding them as identical. If Nature be one power
and God another power, and if God be not responsible for what Nature
does, then Nature is a self-subsisting God. If God and Nature be
esteemed one universal existence, this is Pantheism, which is
denominated an accursed doctrine by the disciples of Sectarianism, and
formed no part of the creed, of the great dialectician of modern times.
The attempt to separate God from Nature will mistify the clearest head:
not even Coleridge could wade the depths of this vulgar Theology. Is
there any man who can rest satisfied in the faith of two independent
powers who exist together in any other sense than the two polar energies
of a magnet, which are really one? No: and men are afraid to regard them
as one. On the one hand they are puzzled to understand an unintelligible
absurdity, and on the other, they are afraid to admit a simple truism
which leads to the abolition of all ceremonial forms, and lip
professions of religion, and is execrated by priests and their
accomplices on this very account. We do not pretend to understand
anything. Every subject whatsoever is too high, too deep, and too broad
for us. But coming into a world where men act upon certain modes of
reasoning, which are unsatisfactory to our minds, we battle immediately
with these men, like an animalcule thrown into a glass of water amongst
other animalcules of opposite principles, and in doing so we act from
the impulse within which is our sole authority--that impulse within is
the preference we give to a mode of reasoning which begins by regarding
the existing of every kind and, degree as a 'perfect unity,' and making
the unity, responsible for every mode--the cause of every mode.' [49:1]
That is to say, dealing with it as what it is, the only existence; the
one, or all and in all. Can Atheists object to that? No, surely, for
they uniformly thus reason with respect to Nature; and unless traitors
to their own principles, cannot object to Pantheistical philosophy _as
here laid down_. Atheists say, Nature never had an Author--so do
Pantheists of the 'Shepherd' school. Atheists say Nature is at once the
womb and grave and cause and effect of all phenomena--so do they.
Atheists say 'death is nothing, and nothing death;' all matter breathing
the breath of life--so do they. Indeed, notwithstanding their talk about
God and Devil, they think Nature both, which amounts to denying both.
Can Atheists do more? or can Pantheists do so much without themselves
being Atheists?

But the Rev. Mr. Smith is no Atheist; at least he makes no profession of
Atheism. _Au contraire_, he makes fine sport with those who do. Himself
a Pantheist of the all-God school, he took to calling Atheists 'ugly
names,' as if quite innocent that no 'thinking mind' can fail to
perceive the downright lunacy, or something worse, of supposing a pin to
choose on the score of piety, between universal Deity and no Deity at
all. The 'Shepherd' of a new philosophic flock should have known better
than to attempt the reform of 'vulgar theology' by setting forth the
mystical nonsense of 'vulgar' Pantheism. All falsehood is 'vulgar'; but
the most 'vulgar' of falsehood is that which assumes the convenient garb
of transcendentalism, with a view to throw dust in the eyes of 'vulgar'
lookers-on. If Pantheists of this reverend gentleman's school are
neither sophists nor simpletons, Materialism is neither true nor false.
They do not plainly write down philosophy of so strangely negative a
kind; that would be too ridiculous; but every reader of the 'Shepherd'
knows that, in their way, they cleverly demonstrate all doctrine--their
own of course excepted--true _and_ false, which, no one need mount a
pair of 'universal' spectacles to see, comes to neither true _nor_
false. Spiritualism receives at their hands no better treatment than
Materialism, nor Southcottianism than either. Southcottianism (they say)
is true and false; Materialism is true and false; Spiritualism is true
and false: in brief, all doctrine, positive or negative, faithful or
unfaithful, is true and false, except the doctrine of Pantheism alias
Universalism, which is, bye and bye, to supersede every other. According
to this mystically wise, but rather inconsistent school, Atheists are
stupid as Christians, Christians stupid as Mohammedans, and Mohammedans
stupid as nearly everybody else. These men are peculiarly fitted to make
in the world of intellect the best possible 'arrangements for general
confusion.' Atheists in all but good sense, and seemingly without
knowing it, they contrive to mix up, with skill worthy of better
employment, a very novel and amusing species of philosophical
hodge-podge. Their Reverend leader or 'Shepherd' was wont to rail most
furiously against dogmatists, especially those of the Atheistic sort;
but his own dogmatism is at least a match for theirs. He did more than
dogmatize when combatting Materialism, he from ignorance or design,
libelled it by putting, according to a custom 'more honoured in the
breach than the observance,' words into the mouths of Materialists that
no real Materialist could utter. Take an example. In the periodical just
referred to and quoted from, [50:1] are these words:--'The mode of
(matter's) existence is the only subject in dispute. The Materialist
says, it is an infinite collection of dead unintelligent particles of
sand; the spiritualist, that it is the visible and tangible development
of an infinite, eternal, omnipresent, thinking, sentient mind.' Now, the
truth is, Materialists contend that matter _as a whole_ cannot in
strictness be considered either dead or living, intelligent or
non-intelligent, but simply matter; which matter when in certain
well-known states is called dead, and when in other equally well-known
states is called living. If where motion is there is life, then there is
no dead matter; for all matter, or at least all matter of which we have
experience, moves. To charge upon Materialists the dogma of matter's
deadness is a paltry trick which a writer like Mr. Smith should disdain
to practice. Nor does it become him to lecture Atheists about their
dogmatism, while from his own published writings can be adduced such
passages as the following:--

'We know that the two principal attributes of matter are visibility and
tangibility, and these two properties are purely spiritual or
immaterial. Thus resistance is nothing but that mysterious power we call
repulsion--a power which fills the whole universe--which holds the sun,
moon, and stars in its hand, and yet is invisible.'

This is what our Rev. Pantheist calls one of Spiritualism's 'splendid
arguments,' and splendidly absurd it certainly is; quite equal,
considered as a provocative of mirth, to Robert Owen's sublimest
effusions about that very mysterious and thoroughly incomprehensible
power which 'directs the atom and controuls the aggregate of nature.'
But the argument though 'splendid,' is false. Who is ignorant that
resistance is _not_ a power at all, though we properly enough give the
name resistance to one of matter's phenomena. Only half crazed
Spiritualists would confound phenomena with things by which they are
exhibited. Matter under certain circumstances resists, and under certain
other circumstances attracts. But neither repulsion nor attraction
exists, though we see every day of our lives that matter does repel and
does attract. Its doing so proves it is able to do so, and proves
nothing more. Mr. Smith says, 'if we want repose for our minds upon this
subject we may find it; but it can only be found in the universal mind.'
He does not however explain the co-existence of universal mind with
universal matter. He does not tell us how two universals could find room
in one universe.

'We are gravely assured (by spiritualising Pantheists among the rest)
that God is something out of time and space; but since our knowledge is
intuition comprehended under conception, we cannot have any knowledge of
that which is not received into the imaginary recipients of time and
space, and consequently God is not an entity.

'But here comes the jugglery--reason forms the idea of the soul or a
substance out of nature, by connecting substance and accident into
infinite and absolute substance. What is that verbiage, but that the
reason gives the name of soul to something that does not exist at all?'

'Reason forms the idea of God or of Supreme Intelligence out of Nature,
by connecting action and reaction into infinite and absolute
concurrence. What is God out of Nature? Where is out? Where is God? What
is God?--an absolute nothing.'

'For an imagination to exist there must be two properties or qualities
coming in contact with each other to produce that imagination. For these
two properties or qualities to exist there must be matter for them to
exist in; and for matter to exist there must be space for it to exist
in, and so on. Matter might exist without two different properties to
produce an imagination; but neither two properties nor one property can
exist without matter for it to exist in. Man may exist for a time as he
does when he is dead without an imagination; but the imagination cannot
exist without the material man. Matter cannot become non-existent, but
the imagination can and does become so. Matter therefore is the reality
and the imagination a nonentity, an unsubstantial idea; or an
imagination only.' [52:1]

The anonymous writer of the passages here given within inverted commas
clearly draws the line of demarcation between the real and the unreal.
His remarks on imagination are specially important. Theologians do not
seem to be aware that imagination is a modification of mind, and mind
itself a modification of sensibility--no sensations--no thought--no
life. Though awkwardly expressed, there is truth in the dogma of
Gassendi--_ideas are only transformed sensations._ All attempts to
conceive sensibility without organs of sense are vain. As profitably
might we labour to think of motion where nothing exists to be moved, as
sensibility where there is no organ of sense. We often see organs void
of sensibility, but who ever saw, or who can imagine sensibility
independent of organs? Pantheists and other Divinitarians write about
mind as if it were an existence; nay, they claim, for it the first place
among existences, according to 'mere matter' the second. The 'Shepherd'
plainly tells us mind is a _primary_ and matter a _secondary_ existence.
Having conjured up an Universal Mind God, it was natural he should try
to establish the supremacy of mind--but though a skilful logician he
will be unable to do so. Experience is against him. On experience of
natural operations Materialists base their conclusion that matter
without mind is possible, and mind without matter is impossible. It has
been proved that even the modification of mind called imagination is
indebted for all its images, yea, for its very existence as imagination,
to the material world.

D'Alembert states in the Discourse prefixed to the French Encyclopaedia
that 'the objects about which our minds are occupied are either
spiritual or material, and the media employed for this purpose are our
ideas either directly received or derived from reflection'--which
reflection he tells us 'is of two kinds, according as it is employed in
reasoning on the objects of our direct ideas, or in studying them as
models for imitation.' And then he tells us 'the imagination is a
creative faculty, and the mind, before it attempts to create, begins by
reasoning upon what it sees and knows.' He lauds the metaphysical
division of things into Material and Spiritual, appending however to
such laudation these remarkable words--'With the Material and Spiritual
classes of existence, philosophy is equally conversant; but as for
imagination, her imitations are imitations entirely confined to the
material world.'

Des Cartes, in his second 'Meditation,' says--_Imaginari nihil aliud est
quam rei corporeos figuram seu imaginem contemplari_--which sentence
indicates that he agreed with D'Alembert as to the exclusive limitation
of imagination to things material and sensible.

The same opinion seems to have been held by Locke, who in the concluding
chapter of his 'Essay on the Human Understanding,' states as something
certain, and therefore beyond dispute, that 'the understanding can only
compass, first--the nature of things as they are in themselves, their
relations and manner of operation--or secondly, that which man ought to
do, as a rational and voluntary agent, for the attainment of any end,
especially happiness--or thirdly, the ways and means by which the
knowledge of both the one and the other of these is attained and
communicated.'

Adam Smith too, in book 5, c. 1, of his 'Wealth of Nations,' assures us
the ancient Greek philosophy was divided, into three branches--Physics,
Ethics, and Logic; and after praising such general division of
philosophy, as being perfectly agreeable to the nature of things, says
that, 'as the human, mind and the Deity, in whatever their essence may
be supposed to consist, are parts of the great system, of the universe,
and parts too, productive of the most important effects, whatever was
taught in the ancient schools of Greece concerning their nature, made a
part of the system of Physics.'

Dr. Campbell, in his 'Philosophy of Rhetoric,' ventures to assign 'local
habitation,' as well as 'name' to spirit itself. Nay, he makes something
of Deity, and the Soul; for spirit, says he, which here comprises only
the Supreme Being and the human Soul, is surely as much included under
the idea of natural object as body is, and is knowable to the
philosopher purely in the same way--by observation and experience.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of these
opinions--they are eminently worthy of attention. If God is a
spirit--and spirit 'is surely as much a natural object as body is'--the
idea of something supernatural cannot for one instant be entertained. If
God is really no more than a 'part' of the great system of the universe,
to immaterialise Him is absurd, inconsistent, and idolatrous. Let it be
granted that God is 'part of nature, and a part too, productive of most
important effects;' and what Logician will be fool-hardy enough to
declare Him without body, parts, or passions?

Nor are Locke's _dicta_ as to the compass of the understanding easier to
be explained away than these of Dr. Campbell and Adam Smith. If we
cannot know more than 'the nature of things as they are in themselves,'
their relations, manner of operation, &c. only ignorant or cunning men
will pretend acquaintance with the supernatural. That nothing natural
can possibly conceive what is above nature is indeed so palpably true as
to deserve a place among philosophical axioms. Imagination itself,
however lofty, wild, or daring its flights, cannot quit the
universe--matter is its prison, where, like Sterne's starling, it is
'caged and can't get out.' Fortunately, however, imagination, though a
prisoner, has abundance of room to legitimately exercise itself in. But,
is it not obvious that if, as Des Cartes and D'Alembert contended, the
'imitations of imagination are imitations entirely confined to the
material world,' all conceits about a Supernatural somebody, or
Supernatural somebodies, are necessarily false, because of purely
natural origin, and should be viewed as at best 'mere cobwebs of
learning, admirable indeed, for the fineness of the thread and work, but
of no substance or profit.' [54:1]

It is unfortunate for Theologians that the fundamental principle of
their 'science' either cannot be comprehended, or, if comprehended,
cannot be reconciled with any known principle of nature. 'God is,' they
pompously declare; but what He is they are unable to tell us, without
contradicting themselves and each other. Some say God must be material;
some say, nay, He must be no such thing; some will have Him spiritual,
others immaterial, others again neither spiritual nor material, nor
immaterial, nor even conceivable. Some say, if a Spirit, He can only be
known by His place and figure; some not. Some call Him the author of
Sin, some the permitter of sin, while some are sure He could not
consistently, with his own perfections, either authorize sin or grant to
sinners a permit. Some say He made the Devil, others that the Most Low
bedevil'd himself; others that He created Him angelic and upright, but
could not keep him so. Some say He hardens men's hearts, others that
they harden their own hearts; others again, that to harden men's hearts
is the Devil's peculiar and exclusive privilege. Some say He has
prepared a Hell for all wicked people, others that Hell will receive
many good as well as tricked, while others cannot believe either the
just or the unjust, the faithful or the unfaithful, will be consigned to
perdition and made to endure torments unutterable by a God 'whose tender
mercies are over all his works.' Some affirm His omnipotency, some deny
it; some say He is no respecter of persons, some the reverse. Some say
He is Immensity, others that He fills Immensity; others that He don't
fill anything, though 'the Heaven, of Heavens cannot contain Him;'
others again, that He neither contains nor is contained, but 'dwells on
his own thoughts.' Some say He created matter out of nothing; some say
it is quite a mistake--inasmuch as creation meant bringing order out of
chaos. Some say He is not one person, but three persons--the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Ghost, which together constitute Godhead; others that
He is 'one and indivisible,' while others believe Him 'our father which
art in heaven,' but will have nothing to do with the Son and the Holy
Ghost, Unitarians, for example, one of whose popular preachers in the
town of Manchester, was about twelve months ago charged with having in
the course of a single sermon 'killed, two Gods, one Devil, and slacked
out Hell Fire.'

The names of Newton and Clarke are held in great esteem by all who are
familiar with the history of mechanical and metaphysical philosophy. As
a man of science, there is no individual, ancient or, modern, who would
not suffer by comparison with Sir Isaac Newton; while common consent has
assigned to Dr. Samuel Clarke the first place among religious
metaphysicians. It would be difficult, if not impossible; to cite any
other Theists of better approved reputation than these two, and
therefore we introduce them to the reader's notice in this place; for as
they ranked among the most philosophic of Theists, it might be expected
that their conceptions of Deity, would be clear, satisfactory, and
definite.--Let us see, then, _in their own writings_, what those
conceptions were.

Newton conceived God to be one and the same for ever, and everywhere,
not only by his own virtue or energy, but also in virtue of his
substance--Again, 'All things are contained in him and move in him, but
without reciprocal action.' (_sed sine mutua passione_) God feels
nothing from the movements of bodies; nor do they experience any
resistance from his universal presence. [56:1]

Pause reader, and demand of yourself whether such a conception of Deity
is either clear, satisfactory, or definite,--God. is _one_.--Very
good--but one _what_? From the information, 'He is the same for ever and
everywhere,' we conclude that Newton thought him a Being. Here however,
matter stops the way; for the idea of Being is in all of us inseparably
associated with the idea of substance. When told that God is an 'Immense
Being,' without parts, and consequently unsubstantial, we try to think
of such a Being; but in vain. Reason puts itself in a _quandary_, the
moment it labours to realise an idea of absolute nothingness; yet
marvellous to relate, Newton did distinctly declare his Deity 'totally
destitute of body,' and urged that _fact_ as a _reason_ why He cannot be
either seen, touched, or understood, and also as a _reason_ why He ought
not to be adored under any corporeal figure!

The proper function of 'Supernaturality or Wonder,' according to
Phrenologists, is to create a belief in the reality of supernatural
beings, and begets fondness for news, particularly if extravagant. Most
likely then, such readers of our Apology as have that organ 'large' will
be delighted with Newton's rhodomontade about a God who resists nothing,
feels nothing, and yet with condescension truly divine, not only
contains all things, but permits them to move in His motionless and
'universal presence'; for 'news' more extravagant, never fell from the
lips of an idiot, or adorned the pages of a prayer-book.

By the same great _savan_, we are taught that God governs all, not as
the soul of the world, but as the Lord and sovereign of all things; that
it is in consequence of His sovereignty He is called the Lord God, the
Universal Emperor--that the word God is relative, and relates itself
with slaves--and that the Deity is the dominion or the sovereignty of
God, not over his own body, as those think who look upon God as the soul
of the world, but over slaves--from all which _slavish_ reasoning, a
plain man who had not been informed it was concocted by Europe's pet
philosopher, would infallibly conclude some unfortunate lunatic had
given birth to it. That there is no creature now tenanting Bedlam who
would or could scribble purer nonsense about God than this of Newton's,
we are well convinced--for how could the most frenzied of brains imagine
anything more repugnant to every principle of good sense than a
self-existent, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent Being, creator of all
the worlds, who acts the part of 'universal emperor,' and plays upon an
infinitely large scale, the same sort of game as Nicholas of Russia, or
Mohammed of Egypt plays upon a small scale. There cannot be slavery
where there is no tyranny, and to say as Newton did, that we stand in
the same relation to a universal God, as a slave does to his earthly
master, is practically to accuse such God, at reason's bar, of
_tyranny_. If the word of God is relative, and relates itself with
slaves, it incontestably follows that all human beings are slaves, and
Deity is by such reasoners degraded into the character of universal
slave-driver. Really theologians and others who declaim so bitterly
against 'blasphemers,' and take such very stringent measures to punish
'infidels,' who speak or write of their God, should seriously consider
whether the worst, that is, the least religious of infidel writers, ever
penned a paragraph so disparaging to the character of that God they
affect to adore, as the last quoted paragraph of Newton's. If even it
could be demonstrated that there _is_ a super-human Being, it cannot be
proper to clothe him in the noblest human attributes--still less can it
be justifiable in pigmies, such as we are, to invest Him with odious
attributes belonging only to despots ruling over slaves. Besides, how
can we imagine a God who is 'totally destitute of body and of corporeal
figure,' to have any kind of attributes? Earthly emperors we know to be
substantial and common-place sort of beings enough, but is it not sheer
abuse of reason to argue as though the character of God were at all
analogous to theirs; or rather, is it not a shocking abuse of our
reasoning faculties to employ them at all about a Being whose existence,
if it really have an existence, is perfectly enigmatical, and allowed to
be so by those very men who pretend to explain its character and
attributes? We find no less a sage than Newton explicitly declaring as
incontestable truth, that God exists necessarily--that the same
necessity obliges him to exist always and everywhere--that he is all
eyes, all ears, all brains, all arms, all feeling, all intelligence, all
action--that he exists in a mode by no means corporeal, and yet this
same sage, in the self-same paragraph, acknowledges God is _totally
unknown to us_.

Now, we should like to be informed by what _reasonable_ right Newton
could pen a long string of 'incontestible truths,' such as are here
selected from his writings, with respect to a Being of whom, by his own
confession, he had not a particle of knowledge. Surely it is not the
part of a wise man to write about that which is 'totally unknown' to
him, and yet that is precisely what Newton did, when he wrote about God.

There is, however, one remark of his respecting the God he thought
necessarily existed, worthy of notice, which is, that 'human beings
revere and adore Gad on account of his (supposed) sovereignty, and
worship him like his slaves;' for to all _but_ worshippers, the practice
as well as principle of worship does appear pre-eminently slavish.
Indeed, the Author has always found himself unable to dissociate the
idea of worshipping beings or things of which no one has the most remote
conception, from that of genuine hypocrisy. Christians despise the rude
Heathen for praying to a Deity of wood or stone, whom he soundly cudgels
if his prayer is not granted; and yet their own treatment of Jehovah,
though rather more respectful, is equally ridiculous. When praying, they
lay aside truth, sincerity, and sanity. Their language is the language
of fawning, lying, imbecile, cowardly slaves. Intending to exalt, they
debase the imaginary object of their adoration. They presume Him to be
unstable as themselves, and no less greedy of adulation than
Themistocles the Athenian, who, when presiding at certain games of his
countrymen, was asked which voice pleased him best? _'That,'_ replied
he, _'which sings my praises.'_ They love to enlarge on 'the moral
efficacy of prayer,' and would have us think their 'omnipotent tyrant'
best pleased with such of his 'own image' as best 'sing his praises.' Of
their 'living God' they make an amplified Themistocles, and thus reduce
(conscientiously, no doubt,) the Creator to a level with His creature.

The author is without God; but did he believe there is one, still would
he scorn to _affect_ for Him a love and a reverence that nothing natural
can feel for the supernatural; still would he scorn to _carry favour_
with Deity by hypocritical and most fulsome adulation.

Finely did Eschylus say of Aristides--

          To be and not to seem is this man's maxim;
          His mind reposes on its proper wisdom,
          And wants no other praise.

Tell us, ye men of mystery, shall a God need praises beneath the dignity
of a man? Shall the Creator of Nature act less worthily than one of his
creatures? To do God homage, we are quite aware, is reckoned by
Christians among their highest duties. But, nevertheless, it seems to us
impossible that any one can love an existence or creature of which he
never had any experience. Love is a feeling generated in the human
breast, by certain objects that strike the sense--and in no other
conceivable way can love be generated! But God, according to Newton, is
neither an _object_ nor a _subject_, and though, all eyes, all ears, all
brains, all arms, all feeling, all intelligence, and all action, he is
_totally unknown to us_. If Christians allow this to be a true
description of the God they worship, we wish to understand how they can
love Him so vehemently as they affect to do--or how they can pay any
other than _lip_ homage to so mysterious a Deity? It is usual for slaves
to feign an affection for their masters that they do not, cannot
feel--but that believers in a God should imagine that he who 'searcheth
all hearts,' can be ignorant of what is passing in theirs, or make the
tremendous mistake of supposing that their _lip homage_, or interested
expressions of love, are not _properly_ appreciated by the Most High
God, and 'Universal Emperor,' is indeed very strange. To overreach or
deceive a God who created the heavens and the earth, is altogether
beyond the power of puny mortals. Let not therefore those who bend the
knee, while the heart is unbent, and raise the voice of thankful
devotion, while all within is frost and barrenness, fancy they have
stolen a march upon their Deity; for surely _if_ the lord liveth, he
judgeth rightly of these things. But it were vain to expect that those
who think God is related to his creatures as a despot is related to his
slaves, will hope to please that God by aught save paltry, cringing, and
dishonestly despicable practices. Yet, no other than a despotic God has
the great Newton taught us to adore--no other than mere slaves of such a
God, has he taught us to deem ourselves. So much for the Theism of
Europe's chief religious philosopher. Turn we now to the Theism of
Dr. Samuel Clarke.

He wrote a book about the being and attributes of God, in which he
endeavoured to establish, first, that 'something has existed from all
eternity;' second, that 'there has existed from eternity some one
unchangeable and independent Being;' third, that 'such unchangeable and
independent Being, which has existed from all eternity, without any
external cause of its existence, must be necessarily existent;' fourth,
that 'what is the substance or essence of that Being, which is
necessarily existing, or self-existent, we have no idea--neither is it
possible for us to comprehend it;' fifth, that 'the self-existent Being
must of necessity be eternal as well as infinite and omnipresent;'
sixth, that 'He must be one, and as he is the self-existent and original
cause of all things, must be intelligent;' seventh, that 'God is not a
necessary agent, but a Being endowed with liberty and choice;' eighth,
that 'God is infinite in power, infinite in wisdom, and, as He is
supreme cause of all things, must of necessity be a Being infinitely
just, truthful, and good--thus comprising within himself all such moral
perfections as becomes the supreme governor and judge of the world.'

These are the leading dogmas contained in Clarke's book--and as they are
deemed invincible by a respectable, though not very numerous, section of
Theists, we will briefly examine the more important of them.

The dogma that _something has existed from all eternity_, as already
shown, is perfectly intelligible, and may defy contradiction--but the
real difficulty is to satisfactorily determine _what that something is_.
Matter exists; and as no one can even imagine its non-existence or
annihilation, the materialist infers _that_ must be the eternal
something. Newton as well as Clarke thought the everlasting Being
destitute of body, and consequently without parts, figure, motion,
divisibility, or any other such properties as we find in matter--_ergo_,
they did not believe matter to be the eternal something; but if not
matter, again we ask, what can it be? Of bodilessness or incorporiety no
one, even among those who say their God is incorporeal, pretend to have
an idea. Abady insisted that _the question is not what incorporiety is,
but whether it be?_ Well, we have no objection to parties taking that
position, because there is nothing more easy than to dislodge those who
think fit to do so--for this reason: the advocates of nothing, or
incorporiety, can no more establish by arguments drawn from unquestioned
facts, that incorporiety _is_ than they can clearly show _what_ it is.
It has always struck the Author as remarkable that men should so
obstinately refuse to admit the possibility of matter's necessary
existence, while they readily embrace, not only as possibly, but
certainly, true, the paradoxical proposition that a something, having
nothing in common with anything, is necessarily existent. Matter is
everywhere around and about us. We ourselves are matter--all our ideas
are derived _from_ matter--and yet such is the singularly perverse
character of human intellect that, while resolutely denying the
possibility of matter's eternity, an immense number of our race embrace
the incredible proposition that matter was created in time by a
necessarily existing Being who is without body, parts, passions, or
positive nature!

The second dogma informs us that this always-existing Being is
unchangeable and independent. One unavoidable inference from which is
that Deity is itself immoveable, as well as unconnected with the
universe--for a moveable Being must be a changeable Being by the very
fact of its motion; while an independent Being must be motiveless, as it
is evident all motives result from our relationship to things external;
but an independent Being can have no relations, and consequently must
act without motives. Now, as no human action can be imagined without
necessary precursors in the shape of motives, reasoning from analogy, it
seems impossible that the unchangeable and independent Being, Clarke was
so sure must ever have existed, could have created the universe, seeing
he could have had no _motive_ or _inducement_ to create it.

The third dogma may be rated a truism--it being evidently true that a
thing or Being, which has existed from eternity without any external
cause of its existence, must be self-existent; but of course that dogma
leaves the disputed question, namely, whether matter, or something not
matter, is self-existent, just where it found it.

The fourth dogma is not questioned by Atheists, as they are quite
convinced that it is not possible for us to comprehend the substance or
essence of an immaterial Being.

The other dogmas we need not enlarge upon, as they are little more than
repetitions or expansions of the preceding one. Indeed, much of the
foregoing would be superfluous, were it not that it serves to
illustrate, so completely and clearly, Theistical absurdities. The only
dogma worth overturning, of the eight here noticed, is the _first_, for
if that fall, the rest must fall with it. If, for example, the reader is
convinced that it is more probable matter is mutable as regards _form_,
but eternal as regards _essence_, than that it was willed into existence
by a Being said to be eternal and immutable, he at once becomes an
Atheist--for if matter always was, no Being could have been before it,
nor can any exist after it. It is because men in general are shocked at
the idea of matter without beginning and without end, that they so
readily embrace the idea of a God, forgetting that if the idea of
eternal matter shock our sense of the _probable_, the idea of an eternal
Being who existed _before_ matter, _if well considered_, is sufficient
to shock all sense of the _possible_.

The man who is contented with the universe, who stops at _that_ has at
least the satisfaction of dealing with something tangible--but he who
don't find the universe large enough for him to expatiate in, and whirls
his brains into a belief that there is a necessarily existing something
beyond the limits of a world _unlimited_, is in a mental condition no
reasonable man need envy.

Of the universe, or at least so much of it as our senses have been
operated upon by, we have conceptions clear, vivid, and distinct; but
when Dr. Clarke tells us of an intelligent Being, not _part_ but
_creator_ of that universe, we can form no clear, vivid, distinct, or,
in point of fact, _any_ conception of such a Being. When he explains
that it is infinite and omnipresent, like poor Paddy's famed ale, the
explanation 'thickens as it clears;' for being ourselves _finite_, and
necessarily present on one small spot of our very small planet, the
words _infinite_ and _omnipresent_ do not suggest to us either positive
or practical ideas--of course, therefore, we have neither positive nor
practical ideas of an infinite and omnipresent Being.

We can as easily understand that the universe ever did exist, as we now
understand that it does exist--but we cannot conceive its absence for
the millionth part of an instant--and really it puzzles one to conceive
what those people can be dreaming about who talk as familiarly about the
extinction of a universe as the chemist does of extinguishing the flame
of his spirit-lamp.

The unsatisfactory character of all speculations having for their object
'nonentities with formidable names,' should long ere this have opened
men's eyes to the folly of _multiplying causes without necessity_--
another rule of philosophising, for which we are indebted to
Newton, but to which no religious philosophiser pays due attention.
Newton himself, in his Theistical character, wrote and talked as though
most blissfully ignorant of that rule. The passages given above from his
'Principia' palpably violate it. But Theists, however learned, pay
little regard to any rules of philosophising, which put in peril their
fundamental crotchet. If they did, Atheism would need no apologist, and
Theism have no defenders; for Theism, in all its varieties, presupposes
a supernatural Causer of what experience pronounces natural effects.

The Author is aware that 'Natural Theologians' seek to justify their
rebellion against the rules of philosophising, to which the reader's
attention has been specially directed, by appealing to (what they call)
evidences of design in the universal fabric. But though they think so
highly of the design argument, it is not the less true that that
argument rests on mere assumption of a disputed fact; that even though
it were proved the universe was designed, still whether designed by one
God, two Gods, or two million of Gods, would be unshown; and that Paley,
'the most famous of natural Theologians'--Paley, who wrote as never man
wrote before on the design question, has been satisfactorily refuted _in
his own words_. [63:1]

A distinguished modern Fabulist [63:2] has introduced to us a
philosophical mouse who praised beneficent Deity because of his great
regard for mice: for one half of us, quoth he, received the gift of
wings, so that if we who have none, should by cats happen to be
exterminated, how easily could our 'Heavenly Father,' out of the bats
re-establish our exterminated species.

Voltaire had no objection to fable if it were symbolic of truth; and
here is fable, which, according to its author, is symbolic of the little
regarded truth, that our pride rests mainly on our ignorance, for, as he
sagely says, 'the good mouse knew not that there are also winged cats.'
If she had her speculations concerning the beneficence of Deity would
have been less orthodox, mayhap, but decidedly more rational. The wisdom
of this pious mouse is very similar to that of the Theologian who knew
not how sufficiently to admire God's goodness in causing large rivers
almost always to flow in the neighbourhood of large towns.

To jump at conclusions on no other authority than their own ignorant
assumptions, and to Deify errors on no other authority than their own
heated imaginations, has in all ages been the practice of Theologians.
Of that practice they are proud, as was the mouse of our Fabulist.
Clothed in no other panoply than their own conceits; they deem
themselves invulnerable. While uttering the wildest incoherencies their
self-complacency remains undisturbed. They remind one of that ambitious
crow who, thinking more highly of himself than was quite proper,
strutted so proudly about with the peacock's feathers in which he had
bedecked himself.--Like him, they plume themselves upon their own
egregious folly, and like him should get well _plucked_ for their pains.

Let any one patiently examine their much talked of argument from design,
and he will be satisfied that these are no idle charges. That argument
has for its ground-work beggarly assumptions and for its main pillar,
reasoning no less beggarly. Nature must have had a cause, because it
evidently is an effect. The cause of Nature must have been one God;
because two Gods, or two million Gods, could not have agreed to cause
it. That cause must be omnipotent, wise, and good, because all things
are double one against another, and He has left nothing imperfect. Men
make watches, build ships or houses, out of pre-existing metals, wood,
hemp, bricks, mortar, and other materials, therefore God made nature out
of no materials at all. Unassisted nature cannot produce the phenomena
we behold, therefore such phenomena clearly prove there is something
supernatural. Not to believe in a God who designed Nature, is to close
both ears and eyes against evidence, therefore Atheists are wilfully
deaf and obstinately blind.

These are samples of the flimsy stuff, our teachers of what nobody
knows, would palm upon us as argument for, yea demonstration of, the
Being and Attributes of God.

Design, said Shelley, must be proved before a designer can be
inferred--the matter in controversy, is the existence of design in the
universe, and it is not permitted to assume the contested premises and
thence infer the matter in dispute. Insidiously to employ the words
contrivance, design and adaptation, before these circumstances are
apparent in the universe, thence justly inferring a contriver, is a
popular sophism against which it behoves us to be watchful.

To assert that motion is an attribute of mind, that matter is inert,
that every combination is the result of intelligence, is also an
assumption of the matter in dispute.

Why do we admit design in any machine of human contrivance? simply
because innumerable instances of machines having been constructed by
human art are present to our mind--because we are acquainted with
persons who could construct such machines; but if having no previous
knowledge of any artificial contrivance, we had accidently found a watch
upon the ground, we should have been justified in concluding that it was
a thing of nature, that it was a combination of matter with whose cause
we were unacquainted, and that any attempt to account for the origin of
its existence would be equally presumptuous and unsatisfactory. [64:1]

The acuteness and, accuracy of this reasoning can only be disputed by
persons wedded to system, who either lack capacity to understand what is
advanced in opposition to it, or,

          Being convinced against their will,
          Are of the same opinion still.

Experience, the only safe guide on religious as well as other topics,
lends no sanction to belief in design apart from material agency. By
artfully taking for granted what no Atheist can admit and assuming cases
altogether dissimilar to be perfectly analogous, our natural theologians
find no difficulty in proving that God is, was, and ever will be; that
after contemplating His own perfections, a period sufficiently long for
'eternity to begin and end in,' He said, let there be matter, and there
was matter; that with Him all things are possible, and He, of course,
might easily have kept, as well as made, man upright and happy, but
could not consistently with his own wisdom, or with due regard to his
own glorification. Wise in their generation, these 'blind leaders of the
blind' ascribe to this Deity of their own invention, powers impossible,
acts inconceivable, and qualities incompatible; thus erecting doctrinal
systems on no sounder basis than their own ignorance; deifying their own
monstrous errors, and filling the earth with misery, madness, and crime.

The writer who declared theology _ignorance of natural causes reduced to
system_, did not strike wide of the true mark. It is plain that the
argument from design, so vastly favoured by theologians, amounts to
neither more nor less than ignorance of natural causes reduced to
system. An argument to be sound must be soundly premised. But here is an
argument whose primary premise is a false premise--a mere begging of the
very question in dispute. Did Atheists _admit_ the universe was
contrived, designed, or adapted, they could not _deny_ there must have
been at least one Being to contrive, design, or adapt; but they see no
analogy between a watch made with hands out of something, and a universe
made without hands out of nothing--Atheists are unable to perceive the
least resemblance between the circumstance of one intelligent body
re-forming or changing the condition of some other body, intelligent or
non-intelligent, and the circumstance of a bodiless Being creating all
bodies; of a partless Being acting upon all parts; and of a passionless
Being generating and regulating all passions. Atheists consider the
general course of nature, though strangely unheeded, does proclaim with
'most miraculous organ,' that dogmatisers about any such 'figment of
imagination,' would, in a rational community, be viewed with the same
feelings of compassion, which, even in these irrational days, are
exhibited towards confirmed lunatics.

The Author was recently passing an evening with some pleasant people in
Ashton-under-Lyne, one of whom related that before the schoolmaster had
much progress in that _devil dusted_ neighbourhood, a labouring man
walking out one fine night, saw on the ground a watch, whose ticking was
distinctly audible; but never before having seen anything of the kind he
thought it a living creature, and full of fear ran back among his
neighbours, exclaiming that he had seen a most marvellous thing, for
which he could conceive of no better name than CLICKMITOAD. After
recovering from their surprise and terror, this 'bold peasant' and his
neighbours, all armed with pokers or ether formidable weapons, crept up
to the ill-starred ticker, and smashed it to pieces.

The moral of this anecdote is no mystery. Our clickmitoadist had never
seen watches, knew nothing about watches, and hearing as well as seeing
one for the first time, naturally judged it must be an animal. Readers
who may feel inclined to laugh at his simplicity, should ask themselves
whether, if accustomed to see watches growing upon watch trees, they
would feel more astonished than they usually do when observing crystals
in process of formation, or cocoa-nuts growing upon cocoa-nut trees; and
if as inexperienced with respect to watches, or works of art, more or
less analogous to watches, they would not under his circumstances have
acted very much as he did. Admirably is it said in the unpublished work
before referred to, that the analogy which theologians attempt to
establish between the contrivances of human art and the various
existences of the universe is inadmissable. We attribute these effects
to human intelligence, because we know beforehand that human
intelligence is capable of producing them. Take away this knowledge, and
the grounds of our reasoning will be destroyed. Our entire ignorance
therefore of the Divine Nature leaves this analogy defective in its most
essential point of comparison.

Supposing, however, that theologians were to succeed in establishing an
analogy between 'the contrivances of human art and the various
existences of the universe,' is it not evident that Spinoza's axiom--of
things which having nothing in common one cannot be the cause of the
others--is incompatible with belief in the Deity of our Thirty-Nine
Articles, or, indeed, belief in _any_ unnatural Designer or Causer of
Material Nature. Only existence can have anything in common with
existence.

Now an existence, properly so called, must have at least two attributes,
and whatever exhibits two or more attributes is matter. The two
attributes necessary to existence are solidity and extension. Take from
matter these attributes, and matter itself vanishes. This fact was
specially testified to by Priestley, who acknowledged the primary truths
of Materialism though averse to the legitimate consequences flowing from
their recognition.

According to this argument, then, nothing exists which has not solidity
and extension, and nothing is extended and solid but matter, which in
one state forms a crystal, in another a blade of grass, in a third a
butterfly, and in other states other forms. The _essence_ of grass, or
the _essence_ of crystal, in other words, those native energies of their
several forms constituting and keeping them what they are, can no more
be explained than can the _essentiality_ of human nature.

But the Atheist, because he finds it impossible to explain the action of
matter, because unable to state why it exhibits such vast and various
energies as it is seen to exhibit, is none the less assured it
_naturally_ and therefore _necessarily_ acts thus energetically. No
Atheist pretends to understand how bread nourishes his frame, but of the
_fact_ that bread does nourish it he is well assured. He understands not
how or why two beings should by conjunction give vitality to a third
being more or less analogous to themselves, but the _fact_ stares him in
the face.

Our 'sophists in surplices,' who can no otherwise bolster up their
supernatural system than by outraging all such rules of philosophising
as forbid us to choose the greater of two difficulties, or to multiply
causes without necessity, are precisely the men to explain everything.
But unfortunately their explanations do for the most part stand more in
need of explanation than the thing explained. Thus they explain the
origin of matter by reference to an occult, immense, and immensely
mysterious phantasm without body, parts or passions, who sees though not
to be seen, hears though not to be heard, feels though not to be felt,
moves though not to be moved, knows though not to be known, and in
short, does everything, though not to be _done_ by anything. Well might
Godwin say the rage of accounting for what, like immortal Gibbs, is
obviously unaccountable, so common among 'philosophers' of this stamp,
has brought philosophy itself into discredit.

There is an argument against the notion of a Supernatural Causer which
the Author of this Apology does not remember to have met with, but which
he considers an argument of great force--it is this. Cause means change,
and as there manifestly could not be change before there was anything to
change, to conceive the universe caused is impossible.

That the sense here attached to the word cause is not a novel one every
reader knows who has seen an elaborate and ably written article by Mr.
G.H. Lewes, on 'Spinoza's Life and Works,' [68:1] where effect is
defined as cause realised, the _natura naturans_ conceived as _natura
naturata_; and cause or causation is defined as simply change. When,
says Mr. Lewis, the change is completed, we name the result effect. It
is only a matter of naming.

These definitions conceded accurate, the conclusion that neither cause
nor effect _exist_, seems inevitable, for change of being is not being
itself, any more than attraction is the thing attracted. One might as
philosophically erect attraction into reality and fall down and worship
_it_, as change, which is in very truth, a mere "matter of naming." Not
so the things changing or changed: _they_ are real, the prolific parent
of all appearance we behold, of all sensation we experience, of all
ideas we receive; in short, of all causes and of all effects, which
causes and effects, as shown by; Mr. Lewis, are merely notional, for "we
call the antecedent cause, and the sequent effect; but these are merely
relative conceptions; the sequence itself is antecedent to some
subsequent change, and the former antecedent was once only a sequent to
its cause, and so on." Now, to reconcile with this theory of causation,
the notion of an

          Eternal, mighty, causeless God,

may be possible, but the Author of this Apology cannot persuade himself
that it is. His poor faculties are unequal to the mighty task of
conceiving the amazing Deity in question, whom Sir Richard Blackmore, in
his Ode to Jehovah, describes as sitting on an 'eternal throne'--

          Above the regions of etherial space,
          And far extended frontier of the skies;
          Beyond the outlines of wide nature's face,
          Where void, not yet enclosed, uncultivated lies;
          Completely filling every place
          And far outstretching all imaginary space.

Still less has he the right to pretend acquaintance with a process of
reasoning by which such

          Eternal, mighty, causeless God

can be believed in consistently with the conviction that cause is effect
realised, and means only CHANGE.

Ancient Simonides, when asked by Dionysius to explain the nature of
Deity, demanded a day to 'see about it,' then an additional two days,
and then four days more, thus wisely intimating to his silly pupil, that
the more men think about Gods; the less competent they are to give any
rational account of them.

Cicero was sensible and candid enough to acknowledge that he found it
much easier to say what God was not, than what he was. Like Simonides,
he was _mere_ Pagan, and like him, arguing from the known course of
nature, was unable, with all his mastery of talk, to convey positive
ideas of Deity. But how should he convey to others what he did not,
could not, himself possess? To him no revelation had been vouchsafed,
and though my Lord Brougham is quite sure, without the proof of natural
Theology, revelation has no other basis than mere tradition, we have
even better authority than his Lordship's for the staggering fact that
natural Theology, without the prop of revelation, is a 'rhapsody of
words,' mere jargon, analogous to the tale told by an idiot, so happily
described by our great poet as 'full of sound and fury, signifying
nothing.' We have a Rev. Hugh M'Neil 'convinced that, from external
creation, no right conclusion can be drawn concerning the _moral_
character of God,' and that 'creation is too deeply and disastrously
blotted in consequence of man's sin, to admit of any satisfactory result
from an adequate contemplation of nature.' [69:1] We have a Gillespie
setting aside the Design Argument on the ground that the reasonings by
which it is supported are 'inapt' to show such attributes as infinity,
omnipresence, free agency, omnipotency, eternality, or unity,' belong in
any way to God. On this latter attribute he specially enlarges, and
after allowing 'the contrivances we observe in nature, may establish a
unity of _counsel_, desires to be told' how they can establish a unity
of _substance_. [69:2] We have Dr. Chalmers and Bishop Watson, whose
capacities were not the meanest, contending that there is no natural
proof of a God, and that we must trust solely to revelation.' [69:3] We
have the Rev. Mr. Faber in his 'Difficulties of Infidelity,' boldly
affirming that no one ever did, or ever will 'prove without the aid of
revelation, that the universe was designed by a single designer.'
Obviously, then, there is a division in the religious camp with respect
to the sufficiency of natural Theology, unhelped by revelation. By three
of the four Christian authors just quoted, the design argument is
treated with all the contempt it merits. Faber says, 'evident design
must needs imply a designer,' and that 'evident design shines out in
every part of the universe.' But he also tells us 'we reason
exclusively, if with the Deist we thence infer the existence of one and
_only_ one Supreme Designer.' By Gillespie and M'Neil, the same truth is
told in other words. By Chalmers and Watson we are assured that, natural
proof of a God there is none, and our trust must be placed _solely_ in
revelation; while Brougham, another Immense Being worshipper, declares
that revelation derives its chief support from natural Theology, without
which it has 'no other basis than vague tradition.'

Now, Atheists agree with Lord Brougham as to the traditionary basis of
Scripture; and as they also agree with Chalmers and Watson with respect
to their being no natural proof of a God, they stand acquitted to their
own consciences of 'wilful deafness' and 'obstinate blindness,' in
rejecting as inadequate the evidence that 'God is' drawn either from
Nature, Revelation, or both.

It was long a Protestant custom to taunt Roman Catholics with being
divided among themselves as regards topics vitally important, and to
draw from the fact of such division an argument for making Scripture the
only 'rule of faith and manners.' Chillingworth said, 'there are Popes
against Popes, councils against councils, some fathers against others,
the same fathers against themselves--a consent of fathers of one age
against a consent of fathers of another age, the church of one age
against the church of another age. Traditive interpretations of
Scripture are pretended, but there are few or none to be found. No
tradition but only of scripture can derive itself from the fountain, but
may be plainly proved, either to have been brought in in such an age
after Christ; or that in such an age it was not in. In a word, there is
no sufficient certainty but of Scripture only for any considering man to
build on. [70:1] And after reading this should 'any considering man' be
anxious to know something about the Scripture on which alone he is to
build, he cannot do better than dip into Dr. Watt's book on the right
use of Reason, where we are told 'every learned (Scripture) critic has
his own hypothesis, and if the common text be not favourable to his
views a various lection shall be made authentic. The text must be
supposed to be defective or redundant, and the sense of it shall be
literal or metaphorical according as it best supports his own scheme.
Whole chapters or books shall be added or left out of the sacred canon,
or be turned into parables by this influence. Luther knew not well how
to reconcile the epistle of St. James to the doctrine of justification
by faith alone, and so he could not allow it to be divine. The Papists
bring all their Apocrypha into their Bible, and stamp divinity upon it,
for they can fancy purgatory is there, and they find prayers for the
dead. But they leave out the second commandment because it forbids the
worship of images. Others suppose the Mosaic history of the creation,
and the fall of man, to be oriental ornaments, or a mere allegory,
because the literal sense of those three chapters of Genesis, do not
agree with their theories.

These remarks are certainly not calculated to make 'considering men' put
their trust in Scripture. Coming from a Protestant Divine of such high
talent and learning, they may rather be expected to breed in
'considering men' very unorthodox opinions as well of the authenticity
as the genuineness of _both Testaments_, and a strong suspicion that
Chillingworth was joking when he talked about their "sufficient
certainty." The author of this Apology has searched Scripture in vain
for 'sufficient certainty,' with respect to the long catalogue of
religious beliefs which agitate and distract society. Laying claim to
the character of a 'considering man,' he requires that Scripture to be
_proved_ the word of a God before appealed to, as His Revelation; a feat
no man has yet accomplished. Priests, the cleverest, most industrious,
and least scrupulous, have tried their hands at the pious work, but all
have failed. Notwithstanding the mighty labours of our Lardner's and
Tillemont's and Mosheim's, no case is made out for the divinity of
either the Old or New Testament. 'Infidels' have shown the monstrous
absurdity of supposing that any one book has an atom more divinity about
it than any other book. Those 'brutes' have completely succeeded in
proving that Christianity is a superstition, no less absurd than
Mohammedanism, and to the full as mischievous. To us, we candidly avow
that its doctrines, precepts, and injunctions appear so utterly opposed
to good sense, and good government, that we are persuaded even if it
were practicable to establish a commonwealth in harmony with them at
sun-rise it would infallibly go to pieces before sunset. The author has
read that Roman augurs rarely met to do the professional without
laughing at each other, and he is bothered to understand how Christian
priests contrive to keep their countenances, amid the many strong
temptations to mirth, by which, in their official capacity they are
surrounded. No doubt very many of them laugh immoderately in private, by
way of revenge for the gravity they are constrained to assume in public.
It is well known that hypocrites are most prone to an affectation of
sanctity; which marvellously steads them in this world, happen what may
in the world to come. Nine-tenths of those who make a parade of their
piety, are rotten at heart, as that Cardinal de Crema, Legate of Pope
Calixtus 2nd, in the reign of Henry 1st, who declared at a London Synod,
it was an intolerable enormity, that a priest should dare to consecrate,
and touch the body of Christ immediately after he had risen from the
side of a strumpet, (for that was the decent appellation he gave to the
wives of the clergy), but it happened, that the very next night, the
officers of justice, breaking into a disorderly house, found the
Cardinal in bed with a courtezan; an incident, says Hume, [72:1] "which
threw such ridicule upon him, that he immediately stole out of the
kingdom; the synod broke up, and the canons against the marriage of its
clergymen, were worse executed than ever."

Christian practice is after all, the best answer to Christian theory.
Men who think wisely, do not it is true, always act wisely; but
generally speaking, the moral, like the physical tree, is known by its
fruit, and bitter, most bitter, is the fruit of that moral tree, the
followers of Jesus planted. Notwithstanding their talk about the pure
and benign influence of their religion, an opinion is fast gaining
ground, that Bishop Kiddor was right, when he said, 'were a wise man to
judge of religion by the lives of its professors, perhaps, Christianity
is the last he would choose.'

No unprejudiced thinker who is familiar with the history of religion
will deny, that of all priests in this priest-ridden world Christian
priests are the worst. Though less potent they are not much less proud
or ambitious than when Pope Pascal II. told King Henry I. that all
ecclesiastics must enter into the church through Christ and Christ
alone, not through the civil magistrate or any profane laymen. Nor are
they less jealous of such as would fain reduce the dimensions of their
'spiritual jurisdiction,' than when that haughty Pope reminded his king
that 'priests are called God in Scripture as being the vicars of God;'
while in consideration for the poor and the oppressed, modern priests
are disadvantageously distinguished, from those 'vicars of God,' who
trod upon the necks of emperors and kings, made or unmade laws at
pleasure, and kept Europe, intellectual Europe, in unreasoning,
unresisting subjection. The reader who agrees with Milton that

          To know, what every day before us lies,
          Is the prime wisdom,

will in all likelihood not object to cast his eyes around and about him,
where proofs of modern priestly selfishness are in wonderful abundance.
By way of example may be cited the cases of those right reverend Fathers
in God the Bishops of London and Chester, prelates high in the church;
disposers of enormous wealth with influence almost incalculable; the
former more especially. And how stand they affected towards the poor? By
reference to the _Times_ newspaper of September 27th, 1845, it will be
seen that those very influential and wealthy Bishops are supporters _en
chef_ of a 'Reformed Poor Law,' the 'virtual principle' of which is 'to
reduce the condition of those whose necessities oblige them to apply for
relief, below that of the labourer of the _lowest class_.' A Reformed
Poor Law, having for its 'object,' yes reader, its object, the
restoration of the pauper to a position below that of the independent
labourer.' This is their 'standard' of reference, by rigid attention to
which they hope to fully carry out their 'vital principle,' and thus
bring to a satisfactory conclusion the great work of placing 'the pauper
in a worse condition than the independent labourer.' It appears, from
the same journal, that in reply to complaints against their dietary, the
Commissioners appointed to work the Reformed Poor Law, consider that
twenty-one ounces of food daily 'is more than the hard working labourer
with a family could accomplish for himself by his own exertions.' This,
observes a writer in the _Times_, being the Commissioners' reading of
their own 'standard,' it may be considered superfluous to refer to any
other authority; but, as the Royal Agricultural Society of England have
clubbed their general information on this subject in a compilation from
a selection of essays submitted to them, we are bound to refer to such
witnesses who give the most precise information on the actual condition
of the _independent labourer_, with minute instructions for his general
guidance, and the economical expenditure of his income. 'He should,'
they say, 'toil early and late' to make himself 'perfect' in his
calling. 'He should _pinch and screw_ the family, even in the _commonest
necessaries_,' until he gets 'a week's wages to the fore.' He should
drink in his work 'water mixed with some powdered ginger,' which warms
the stomach, and is 'extremely cheap.' He should remember that 'from
three to four pounds of potatoes are equal in point of nourishment to a
pound of the best wheaten bread, besides having the great advantage of
_filling_ the stomach. He is told that 'a lot of bones may always be got
from the butchers for 2d., and they are never scraped so clean as not to
have some scraps of meat adhering to them.' He is instructed to boil
these two penny worth of bones, for the first day's family dinner, until
the liquor 'tastes _something_ like broth.' For the second day, the
bones are to be again boiled in the same manner, but for _a longer
time_. Nor is this all, they say, 'that the bones, if again boiled for a
_still longer_ time, will _once more_ yield a nourishing broth, which
may be made into pea soup.'

This is the system and this the schoolmastership expressly sanctioned by
the Bishops of London and Chester. In piety nevertheless these prelates
are not found wanting. They may starve the bodies but no one can charge
them with neglecting the souls of our 'independent labourers.' Nothing
can exceed their anxiety to feed and clothe the spiritually destitute.
They raise their mitred fronts, even in palaces, to proclaim and lament
over the spiritual destitution which so extensively prevails--but they
seldom condescend to notice _physical_ destitution. When the cry of
famine rings throughout the land they coolly recommend rapid church
extension, thus literally offering stone to those who ask them for
bread. To get the substantial and give the spiritual is their practical
Christianity. To spiritualise the poor into contentment with the
'nourishing broth' from thrice boiled bones, and to die of hunger rather
than demand relief, are their darling objects. Verily, if these and men
like these do not grind the faces of the poor, the Author of this
Apology is unable to conceive in what that peculiar process consists. In
Scripture we are told, the bread of the poor is his life, and they who
defraud him thereof are men of blood; and by whom are the poor defrauded
of their bread if not by those who, like the Bishops of London and
Chester, legislate for poverty as if it were a crime, and lend theft
sanction to a system which, while it necessitates the wholesale pinching
and screwing even in the commonest necessaries of life 'of independent
labourers,' does also necessitate the wholesale starvation of still more
wretched paupers? Formerly our 'surplus populations' were 'killed off'
by bullet and sabre, now they are got rid of in Poor Law Unions by a
process less expensive perhaps, but not less effectual.

Did Atheists thus act, did they perpetrate, connive at, or tolerate such
atrocities as were brought to light during the Andover inquiry, such
cold blooded heartlessness would at once be laid to the account of their
principles. Oh yes, Christians are forward to judge of trees by their
fruit, except the tree called Christianity. Their great 'prophet' argued
that if the tree is good the fruit will be good; but when their own
religion is in question they give such argument the slip. The vices of
the Atheist they ascribe to his creed. The vices of the Christian to
anything but his creed. Let professors of Christianity be convicted of
gross criminality, and lo its apologists say such professors are not
Christians. Let fanatical Christians commit excesses which admit not of
open justification, and the apologist of Christianity coolly assures us
such conduct is mere rust on the body of his religion--moss which grows
on the stock of his piety.

It has been computed that the Spaniards in America destroyed in about
forty-five years ten millions of human creatures, and this with a view
of converting them to Christianity. Bartholomew Casa, who made this
computation, affirms that they (the Spaniards) hanged those unhappy
people _thirteen in a row_, in honour of the _thirteen Apostles_, and
that they also gave their infants to be devoured by dogs. [75:1]

Corsini, another religious author, tells us the Spaniards destroyed more
than fifteen millions of American aborigines, and calculates that the
blood of these devoted victims, added to that of the slaves destroyed in
the mines, where they were compelled to labour, would weigh as much as
all the gold and silver that had been dug out of them.

If these or similar horrors were perpetrated by Atheists, who can doubt
that Roman Catholics would at once ascribe them to the pestiferous
influence of Atheistical principles. And the Author of this Apology is
of opinion that they would be justified in so doing. When whole nations
of professed irreligionists shall be found conquering a country, and
hanging the aborigines of that country thirteen in a row, in honour of
some thirteen apostles of Atheism, their barbarity may fairly be
ascribed to their creed. Habit does much, and perhaps much of our
virtue, or its opposite is contingent on temperament; but no people
entertaining correct speculative opinions could possibly act, or
tolerate, atrocities like these. But strange to say, neither Roman
Catholic, nor any other denomination of Christians, will submit to be
tried to the same standard they deem so just when applied to Atheists.
Now sauce for the goose every body knows is equally sauce for the
gander, and it is difficult to discover the consistency or the honesty
of men, who trace to their creed the crimes or merest peccadilloes of
Atheists, and will not trace to their creed the shocking barbarity of
Christians. To understand such men is easy; to admire them is
impossible; for their conduct in this particular palpably shocks every
principle of truth and fairness. Why impute to Atheism the vices or
follies of its Apostles, while refusing to admit that the vices or
follies of Christians should be imputed to Christianity. Of both folly
and vice it is notorious professing Christians have 'the lion's share.'
Yet the apologists of Christianity, who would fain have us believe the
lives of Atheists a consequence of Atheism, will by no means believe
that the lives of Christians are a consequence of Christianity.

Let no one suppose the Author of this Apology is prepared to allow that
Atheists are men of cruel dispositions or vicious. He will not say with
Coleridge that only men of good hearts and strong heads can be Atheists,
but he is quite ready to maintain that the generality of Atheists are
men of mild, generous, peaceable studious dispositions, who desire the
overthrow of superstition, or true religion as its devotees call it,
because convinced a superstitious people never can be enlightened,
virtuous, free, or happy. Their love of whatever helps on civilisation
and disgust of war are testified to even by opponents. We may learn from
the writings of Lord Bacon not only his _opinion_ that Atheism leaves
men to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation,
all which, he justly observes, may be guides to an outward moral virtue,
though religion were not; but the _fact_ that 'the times inclined to
Atheism (as the times of Augustus Caesar) were civil times.' Nay, he
expressly declared 'Atheism did never perturb states; for it makes men
wary of themselves as looking no further.' [76:1] Can the same be said
of religion? Will any one have the hardihood to say religion did never
perturb states, or that the times inclined to religion (as the times of
Oliver Cromwell) were civil times, or that it makes man wary of
themselves as looking no further? During times inclined to religion more
than one hundred thousand witches were condemned to die by Christian
tribunals in accordance with the holy text, thou shalt not suffer a
witch to live. During times inclined to religion it was usual to burn,
broil, bake, or otherwise murder heretics for the glory of God, and at
the same time to spare the vilest malefactors. During times inclined to
religion, it has been computed that in Spain alone no less than 32,382
people were, by the faithful, burnt alive; 17,690 degraded and burnt in
effigy; and all the goods and chattels of the enormous number of 291,450
consigned to the chancery of the Inquisition. [77:1] In short, during
those 'good old times,' men yielded themselves up to practices so
strangely compounded of cruelty and absurdity, that one finds it
difficult to believe accounts of them, however well authenticated.

Speaking of the bigotted fury of certain ecclesiastics, Hippolyto Joseph
de Costa, in his 'Narrative of the persecution' he suffered while lodged
gratis by the Portuguese Inquisition for the pretended crime of Free
Masonry, says, it would exceed the bounds of credulity, had not facts in
corroboration of it been so established by witnesses, that nothing can
shake them. Among ecclesiastics of this denomination we may mention that
Pontiff, who, from a vile principle of hate for his predecessor, to whom
he had been an enemy, as soon as he ascended the Papal chair directed
the corpse to be taken out from the grave, had the fingers and the head
cut off and thrown into the sea, ordered the remainder of the body to be
burnt to ashes and excommunicated the soul. Could revenge be carried
farther than in this instance? The institution itself of the inquisition
and the cruelty with which its members persecute those whom they suspect
of tenets different from their own, may well excite surprise. In their
eyes the tortures and the death of their fancied enemies are a mere
amusement. They burn some of their prisoners alive, render their
memories infamous, and prosecute their children and all the connections
of these unhappy sufferers; they deprive orphans of the inheritance of
their parents, dishonour families in every possible shape, and at length
have recourse to the auto da fe, [77:2] on which occasion, while the
miserable wretches are lingering in torments, the members of the
inquisition not only feast their eyes with this Infernal spectacle, but
regale themselves with their friends at the expense of their unhappy
victims. Such are the practises of the Inquisition.

When those Spanish Christians who amused themselves by hanging poor
wretches, thirteen in a row, in honour of the thirteen apostles, were
taunted with cruelty, they boldly affirmed that as God had not redeemed
with his blood the souls of the Indians, no difference should be made
between them and the lowest of beasts. In Irvings history of New York is
a letter written, we are told, by a Spanish priest, to his superior in
Spain, which, 'among other curiosities, contain this question--'Can any
one have the presumption to say these savage pagans have yielded
anything more than an inconsiderable recompense to their benefactors, in
surrendering to them a little pitiful tract of this dirty sublunary
planet in exchange for a glorious inheritance hereafter.'

Such is the conceit as well as cruelty of men who imagine themselves the
vicegerents and avengers of Deity. In His name they burn, and slay, and
rob without compunction or remorse; nay, when like Sir Giles Overreach,
their ears are pierced by widows cries, and undone orphans wash with
tears their thresholds, they only think what 'tis to make themselves
acceptable in the sight of God. Believing pious ends justify any means,
they glory in conduct the most repugnant to every principle of decency,
equity, and humanity.

In the cathedral of Saragossa, is a magnificent tomb, raised, in honor
of a famous inquisitor; around it are six pillars, to each of which is
chained a Moor preparatory to his being burnt. And if additional
evidence were needed of human folly, and stupid disposition, like dray
horses to go perpetually, on 'one's nose in t'others tail,' we have it
in the astounding fact, that when the Spanish Cortes proposed the
abolition of the Inquisition, the populace of Spain considered such
proposal, 'an infringement of their liberties.' [78:1] We have it on
respectable authority, that Torquemada in the space of fourteen years
that he wielded the chief inquisitorial powers, robbed, or otherwise
persecuted eighty thousand persons, of whom about six thousand were
committed to the flames.

Inquisitors made no secret of their hatred towards heretics; to destroy
them they considered a sacred duty. Far from ashamed of their cruelty
towards heretics, they gloried in it, as undeniable evidence of their
enthusiasm in the cause of Christ. Simoncas, one of their most esteemed
writers, said, 'the heretics deserve not merely one death, but many
deaths; because a single death is the punishment of an ordinary heretic;
but these (the heretics) are deserving of punishment without mercy, and
particularly the teachers of the Lutheran heresy, who must by no means
be spared.' Pegma, another of their writers, insists, that dogmatical
heretics should be punished with death, even though they gave the most
unequivocal proof of their repentance.

That eminently pious monarch, Phillip the Second of Spain, so loved to
hear heretics groan, that he rarely missed Auto da Fes; at one of which
several distinguished persons were to be burnt for heresy; among the
rest Don John de Cesa, who while passing by him, said,' Sire, how can
you permit so many unfortunate persons to suffer? How can you be witness
of so horrid a sight without shuddering?' Phillip coolly replied, 'If my
son, sir, were suspected of heresy, I should myself hand him over to the
Inquisition.' 'My detestation,' continued he, 'of you and your
companions is so great, that I would act myself as your executioner, if
no other could be found.'

Phillip the Fifth, as may be seen in Coxe's Memoirs of the Kings of
Spain, 'presented about the year 1172, three standards taken from
'infidels' to our lady of Atocha; and sent another to the Pope, as the
grateful homage of the Catholic King to the head of the Church. He also,
for the first time, attended the celebration of an Auto da Fe, at which
in the commencement of his reign he had refused with horror to appear,
and witnessed the barbarous ceremony of committing twelve Jews and
Mohammedans to the flames.' So great during times inclined to religion
was inquisitorial power, that monarchs and statesmen of liberal
tendencies were constrained to quail before it. It is related that a
Jewish girl, entered into her seventeenth year, extremely beautiful, who
in a public _act of faith_, at Madrid, June 30th, 1680, together with
twenty others of the same nation of both sexes, being condemned to the
stake, turned herself to the Queen of Spain, then present, and prayed,
that out of her goodness and clemency she might be delivered from the
dreadful punishment of the fire. 'Great Queen,' said she, 'is not your
presence able to bring me some comfort under my misery? Consider my
youth, and that I am condemned for a religion which I have sucked in
with my mother's milk.' The Queen turned away her eyes, declaring, she
pitied the miserable creature, but did not dare to intercede for her
with a single word.

Not only have Roman Catholic writers defended these inquisitorial
abominations, but, with what every Protestant must needs consider daring
and blasphemous impiety, laboured to prove that the first Inquisitor was
God himself. Luis de Paramo, for instance, in his book 'De Origine et
Progressu Officii Sanctoe Inquisitionis, ejusque dignitate et
utilitate,' proves God to be the first Inquisitor, and that in the
Garden of Eden was the first auto da fe.

Nor do these most pious casuists discover anything in Scripture which
forbids the burning of heretics, notwithstanding such texts as
'Whosoever sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed,' which
they contend inquisitors do never violate the true meaning or spirit of,
it being evident that to burn men is not to shed their blood--thus
eluding the maxim Ecclesia non novit sanguinem. And if their right to
burn heretics was questioned they triumphantly cited the text (as given
in the 'Beehive' of the Romish Church) 'Whosoever doth not abide in me,
shall be cast out of the vineyard as a branch and there wither; and men
gather those branches and cast them into the fire and burn them.'

On this text John Andreas, Panormitamis, Hostraensii, Bernardus
Leizenburgen, and others of the Roman Catholic casuists built up their
proof that heretics, like grape branches, should be cast into the fire
and burnt.

The execrable duplicity of these men is by Protestant priests made the
theme of unsparing invective, as if the burning of heretics and its
justification by Scripture were crimes peculiar to Roman Catholics, when
in point of fact both have been shamelessly committed by Christians
rejoicing in the name of Protestants. John Calvin burnt Servetus, and
Robert Hall, as we have seen, applauded the act. England, to say nothing
of other countries, has had its auto da fe, as well since as before the
Reformation. Heretics were first made bonfires of in England during the
reign of Henry the Fourth, who permitted the abomination in order to
please certain bishops he was under obligation to for assisting him to
depose Richard the Second and usurp his throne. But that the practice of
committing heretics to the flame prevailed in England long after Popery
ceased to be the dominant religion is notorious. If heretics were thus
sacrificed by Henry the Fourth to please Popish Bishops, they were also
sacrificed by Elizabeth with a view to the satisfaction of Protestant
Bishops. Cranmer literally compelled her brother, the amiable Edward, to
send a half crazed woman named Joan Boacher to the stake. Elizabeth
herself caused two Dutch Anabaptists to be burnt in Smithfield, though
it is but just to admit that, unlike her sullen sister, she preferred
rather to hang than to burn heretics. Lord Brougham has recently done
mankind another valuable piece of service by painting the portrait of
that Protestant princess in colours at once so lively and faithful that
none, save the lovers of vulgar fanaticism and murderous hypocrisy, will
gaze on it without horror. [81:1]

'Mary, honoured with the title of "bloody," appears to me a far more
estimable character than her ripping-up sister Elizabeth, who, when
Mary, on her death-bed, asked her for a real avowal of her religion,
"prayed God" that the earth might open and swallow her up if she was not
a true Roman Catholic.' She made the same declaration to the Duke of
Ferria, the Spanish Ambassador, who was so deceived that he wrote to
Philip, stating no change in religious matters would take place on her
accession, and soon afterwards began ripping up the bellies of
Catholics. That was quite the fashionable punishment in this and the
succeeding reign. I have the account, with names, dates, and reference
of no less than 101 more Catholics who were burnt, hung, ripped up, &c.,
by Elizabeth, and on to Charles the Second's end, than there were
Protestants in Mary's, and all the reigns which preceded her, letting
lying Fox count all he has got. Elizabeth, too, was by law a bastard,
and is to this day; and so soon did her intentions appear of changing
the religion, that all the bishops but one refused to crown her; and
when this was done, it was by the Catholic ritual. However the
Act-of-Parliament religion was set up again; the prayer book of Cranmer
was set up again, after sundry alterations: it was altered too, in
Edward's reign, yet when first made, it was duly declared to come from
the 'Holy Ghost;' so it was after its second polishing under Elizabeth.
To refuse the Queen's supremacy was death; it was death to continue in
that religion, which, at her coronation she had sworn to firmly believe
and defend. It was high treason to admit or harbour, or relieve a
priest, and hosts of these were ripped up, for, in the piety of their
hearts, risking all to afford the consolations of their religion to the
Catholics of England. Victim after victim came to the sacrifice, mostly
from the college of Douay. It is really horrible to read of these good
and faithful champions of their religion being hung, cut down
instantaneously, their bellies ripped up, their hearts cut out, their
bodies chopped in pieces with every insult and indignity added to
injury, all through this reign, and then to be talked to about 'bloody
Mary,' and the 'Good Queen-Bess.' Verily, countrymen, you are vilely
deceived. Taking into account the rippings, and burnings, and roastings,
and hanging; the racks, whips, fines, imprisonments, and other horrors
of the reign of this 'Good Bess,' there was a hundred times more human
misery inflicted in her reign than in that of' Bloody Mary.' [82:1]

The second Catherine of Russia, though remarkable for rigid and
scrupulous adherence to the ceremonial mummeries of her 'true church,'
was at the same time as remarkable for liberality of sentiment. It is
said, that upon a certain occasion, being strongly advised by her
ministers to deal out severe punishment on some heretics of Atheistical
tendencies, who had given offence by rather freely expressing their
opinions, she laughingly said, 'Oh, fie, gentlemen fie, if these
heretics are to be eternally miserable in the other world, we really
ought to let them be comfortable in this.'

Few religious persons are liberal as this empress, whose strong good
sense seems to have been fully a match for her bad education: that
education was Christian. She was taught to loathe the opinions, aye, and
the persons, of heretics, under which denomination may be included all
dissenters from religious truth as it was in her, or rather in the
church of which she was chief member. No other kind of teaching is
accounted orthodox in our 'land of Bibles' than that of state paid
priests of law established religion. Look at the true Church of
England's Thirty-Nine Articles. Do they not abound in anathema, and
literally teem with the venom of intolerance? Do they not shock the
better feelings even of those who believe them divine? The truth is, all
priests teach religion which no wit can reconcile with reason, and very
many of them make their followers believe, and perhaps believe
themselves, that to villify, abuse, and hunt down 'infidels,' are acts
acceptable in the sight of God. The idea of compensating poor
unbelievers in this world by an extra quantum of comfort for the
torments they are doomed to suffer in the next, never enters their head.
Indeed, not a few of them gloat with satisfaction over the prospect of
'infidels' gnashing their teeth in that fiery gulph prepared for the
devil and his angels. By this odious class of fanatics neither the worm
that dieth not, nor the flame never to be extinguished, is deemed
sufficient punishment for the wretch whose thoughts concerning religion
are not as their thoughts. By them the imagined 'Creator of the Heavens
and the earth' is dressed, up in attributes the most frightful. Witness
the character of Him implied in the conceit of that popular preacher who
declared 'there are children in hell not a span long'--a declaration
which could only be made by one whose humanity was extinguished by
divinity.

Our pulpits can furnish many such preachers of 'a religion of charity,'
while a whole army of Christian warriors might be gathered from
metropolitan pulpits alone, who deeming it impious to say their God of
mercy would permit the burning of infants not a span long, do
nevertheless, firmly believe that 'children of a larger growth' may
justly be tormented by the great king of kings; and as _ignorantia legis
non excusat_ is a maxim of _human law_, so, according to them, ignorance
of _divine_ law is no excuse whatever, either for breaking or
disregarding it.

The Author of this Apology was recently in Scotland, where a vast number
of religious tracts were put into his hand, one of which contains the
following among other striking paragraphs:--

'Man could, not _create_ himself, and far less can he save himself. When
God made him, he brought him out of nothing; when God. saves him, he
brings him out of a state far lower and worse than nothing. If in the
one case, then, everything depended, upon God's will and decree, much
more in the other. There can be no injustice here. Had God pleased, He
might have saved the whole world. But he did not; and thousands are now
in hell, and shall be to all eternity.'

'Hell is peopled already with millions of immortal souls doomed to fiery
wrath; while Heaven is filled with ransomed sinners as vile, yea perhaps
viler than they.' [83:1]

If the writer of this horrid nonsense do not blaspheme, there surely can
be no possibility of blaspheming. If he do not impute to his God of
mercy cruelty and injustice the most monstrous that can enter into human
conception, all language is void of meaning, and men had far better
cease 'civilising,' and betake themselves to woods and wilds and
fastnesses, to enjoy the state of mere brutishness so infinitely
preferable to that _reasonable_ state in which they are shaken and
maddened by terrible dreams of a vengeful cruel God.

                           Better be with the dead
          Than on the tortures of the mind to lie
          In restless ecstacy.

Better, far better, roam the desert or the forest like any other brutes,
than educate ourselves and others into the monstrous belief in a God who
might have saved the world and would not; who predestinates to endless
and unutterable agonies; who has with the one hand peopled Hell with
millions of immortal creatures, while with the other has filled Heaven
with millions of ransomed sinners, as vile, yea perhaps viler than they.

In justice however to the large class of Christians under the despotic
and truly lamentable influence of this belief, the Author is bound to
admit that they are far more consistent and logical in their notions of
Deity than perhaps any other section of Theists, for it cannot properly
be denied that the doctrine of an Omnipotent and Prescient God destroys
all distinction of virtue and vice, justice and injustice, right and
wrong, among men. Let the omnipotency and prescience of a First Cause be
granted, the corollary of 'whatever is, is right,' is one of the most
obvious that can flow from any proposition: the distance of any link in
the eternal sequence cannot lessen the connection with a First Cause,
admitting its Omnipotency and Prescience.

The author of these detestable paragraphs admits both. He is a rigid
Predestinarian, which no one can be who doubts the all powerfulness or
foreknowledge of that God whom Christians worship. Taking Scripture as
his guide, the Predestinarian must needs believe some are foredoomed to
Hell, and some to Hell, irrespective of all merit; it being manifestly
absurd to suppose one man can deserve more or less than another, in a
world, where all are compelled to believe, feel, and act, as they do
believe, feel, and act. The disgrace attached to the memory of Judas,
supposing him really to have betrayed his Divine Master, has no
foundation in human justice, for 'surely as the Lord liveth,' he was
foredoomed, and therefore compelled to betray him. Luther saw that
truth, and had the good sense to avow it. No more rational or just are
the denunciations of Judas than those so unsparingly heaped upon the
Jews for crucifying the Redeemer of the world, when every body must, or
at least, should know, that admitting the world's redemption depended
upon the Crucifixion of Christ, if the Jews had _not_ crucified him the
world could not have been redeemed. So far then from blackguarding Judas
and the Jews for doing, what in the Gospel they are represented to have
done, we should consider them rather as martyrs in the cause of Divine
Providence than as villains worthy only of abhorrence and execration. To
the Author of this Apology it seems certain that if there is a God, such
as the Christian delighteth to honour, nothing happens, nothing has
happened, nothing can happen contrary to His will. And is it not absurd
to say that what He pre-ordains mere mortals can hinder coming to pass?
Even the Devil, believed in by Christians, is a creature--how then could
he be anything else than the Creator thought fit to make him? Grant he
is the Father of Lies, and then he will appear worthy of compassion, if
you reflect that he was made so by the Father of Truth. In the Tract to
which such special reference has been made, it is contended that Adam
was made not because he chose to be made, but because God chose to make
him, and surely the same may be contended on the part of Judas, the
Jews, and last, though, assuredly, not least, the Devil himself. He who
is without God cannot run into absurdities and blasphemies like these,
whereas he who is with one cannot keep clear of them. If consistent he
must clothe Him with Calvinistic attributes. To present Him stripped of
foreknowledge, or omnipotency would outrage all just conception of that
'Immense Being' who brought his worshippers out of nothing. And yet if
we allow him these attributes there is no help for us, headlong we go
into the dark and fathomless doctrine of predestination, than which no
religious doctrine is so consistent or so revolting. Receive it, and at
once you find yourself bound heart and brain to belief in a supernatural
MONSTER--'a vengeful, pitiless, and Almighty Fiend, whose mercies are a
nickname for the rage of hungry tigers.'

The believers in this terrible offspring of heated imagination,
naturally aim at imitating, and thus rendering themselves acceptable, to
Him. Here is the source, whence for ages have flowed the bitter waters
of religious intolerance. If Calvin had not worshipped a cruel God, he
never could have hoped to please Him by the murder of Servetius. If
Cranmer had wanted lively faith in a God who people's Hell 'with
millions of immortal souls,' he never would have brought Joan Bocher to
the stake. Full of that Christian zeal, so 'apt to tarn sour,' these men
lived like the hermit Honorius, 'in hopes of gaining heaven by making
earth a hell.'

The savage bigotry of an Elizabeth or a Mary, naturally resulted from
the notion that monarchs unquestionably ruling by Divine right, were
called upon by every earthly, as well as heavenly consideration, to
prove their zeal in the cause of God, by destroying His adversaries.
Heretics have been consigned to dungeon and to name, for His glory, and
His satisfaction. All inquisitors from St. Dominic downward, have
indignantly repelled the charge that they have punished heretics just to
glut their own appetite for cruelty. Worshippers of a God who saith,
'vengeance is mine,' they have felt themselves mere instruments in His
hands; of themselves, and for themselves, they did nothing; all was for
God. To please Him, the Jew and the Heretic shrieked amid the flames.
They are not ashamed, why should they? to perform His behests. When the
late Duke of York was about to leave Lisbon, its Inquisitor-General
waited upon him, with a humble request that he would delay his departure
for a few days, in order to make one at an Auto da Fe, where it was
kindly promised, some Jews should be burnt for his diversion: so cruel
and so blind are the superstitious.

Queen Mary has long been the mark at which our most eloquent Protestant
Divines have aimed their shafts, while of her no less 'bloody' sister's
reputation, they have been most watchful and tender. With respect to
_her_ persecution of heretics, they preserve a death-like silence. Fear
of damaging Protestantism deters them from exposing the enormous
abomination of Protestant monarchs. Against the bigotry of Catholics
they hurl the fiercest denunciations; but if called upon to denounce as
fiercely the bigotry of Protestants, they make us understand 'the case
being altered, that alters the case.' A Popish Inquisition they abhor,
but see no evil in Inquisitions of their own. Smithfield Auto da Fe's,
according to these consistent Christians, were wrong during the reign of
Mary, and right during the reign of her pious sister, 'Good Queen Bess.'
Such is the justice of superstition. Its votaries knowing themselves the
favoured of heaven, feel privileged to outrage and trample under foot
the great principles of sense, propriety, and honour. Between Catholics
and Protestants as regards these principles there is little to
distinguish; for in the race of abomination, they have kept pretty
nearly neck and neck. The author of this Apology has no sympathy with
either, but of the two much prefers Popery. There is about it a breadth
of purpose, a grandeur, and a potency which excites some respect, even
in the breast of an enemy. Unreasonable it assuredly is, but Christians
who object to it on that ground, may be told--religion was never meant
to be reasonable; and that an appeal to rational principles will as
little avail one religion as another, as little avail Protestant as
Roman Catholic faith. All religion is unreasonable, and, moreover, to
rationalize would be to destroy it. Hobbes could discover nothing in
superstition essentially different from religion, nor can we. He deemed
true religion as the religion which is fashionable, and superstition as
the religion which is not fashionable.

So do we, so do all absolute Atheists. The notion that false religion
implies the true, just as base coin implies the pure, will have weight
with those, and only those, who cannot detect the sophistry of an
argument _a rubii toto caelo differentibus_; or in plain English, from
things entirely different presumed to be similar. Between coin and
religion there is no precise analogy. False coin implies true coin,
because none are sceptical as to the reality of true coin, but false
religion does not necessarily imply true religion, because the reality
of true religion is not only questionable, but questioned. It is not
usual for money-dealers to be at issue as to the quality of their cash.
The genuine article will stand the test, and always passes muster. A
practised ear can easily decide between the rival claims of two
half-crowns, one genuine, the other spurious, thrown upon a tradesman's
counter. But where are the scales in which we can weigh to a nicety true
and false religions? Where is the ear so well practised and so
delicately sensitive as to distinguish the true from the 'number without
number' of false voices raised in their behalf? Where the eye so
perfectly theologic, so sharp, piercing, and free of that film called
prejudice, as to see which of our religions is the genuine article? All
are agreed as to the genuineness of current money. All are at 'daggers
drawn' as to the genuineness of any one religion. That Christianity is
true no Christian denies, but which is the true Christianity _has not_
and we think _cannot_ be determined.

The knot of old fashioned politicians who call themselves Young England,
are enamoured of 'graceful superstition.' Alarmed at the march of
reason, and admirers of 'blind faith in mystery,' they sigh for a
renewal of those times when no one doubted the propriety of drowning
witches, or being touched for the king's evil. _Cui bono_ is the
question repeatedly put to the proselytising Atheist by this modern
antique class of persons, who cannot see the utility of destroying the
vital principle of all religions. But if that principle is false, no
sane man can doubt the expediency of proving it so. Falsehood may be
useful to individuals, but cannot tend to the moral and political
advancement of nations. Apologists of error find the presumed unfitness
of their fellow creatures to appreciate truth a sufficient reason for
not teaching it. To raise up the populace to their own intellectual
level they deem impracticable, and therefore speak down to their lowest
passions and prejudices: like Varro they contend there are some truths
the vulgar had better think falsehoods, and many falsehoods they had
better think truths. The consequences of such 'moral swindling' are
everywhere visible: on all sides superstition, wild, unreasoning,
senseless superstition rears its hateful front, and vomits forth
anathema on the friend of progress, humanity, and social justice. Look
at Ireland: see to what a Pandaemonium superstition has converted 'the
first flower of the land and first gem of the sea.' In that unhappy
country may be seen seven or eight millions of people cheated, willingly
defrauded of their substance, by a handful of designing priests, who,
dead to shame, erect the most stupid credulity into exalted virtue
--battle in support of ignorance because knowledge is incompatible with
their 'blood-cemented pyramid of greatness,' and to aggrandise
themselves, perpetuate the vilest as well as most palpable delusions
that ever assumed the mask of divine truth. Daniel O'Connell may object
to have them called 'surpliced ruffians,' not so the philosopher, who
sees in pious fraud on a gigantic scale, the worst species of ruffianism
that ever disgraced the earth.

These are no new tangled or undigested notions. From age to age the
wisest among men have abhorred and denounced superstition. It is true
that only a small section of them treated religion as if _necessarily_
superstition, or went quite so far as John Adams, who said, _this would
be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it_. But
an attentive reading of ancient and modern philosophical books has
satisfied the Author of this Apology that through all recorded time,
religion has been _tolerated_ rather than _loved_ by great thinkers, who
had _will_, but not _power_ to wage successful war upon it. Gibbon
speaks of Pagan priests who, 'under sacerdotal robes, concealed the
heart of an Atheist.' Now, these priests were also the philosophers of
Rome, and it is not impossible that some modern philosophical priests,
like their Pagan prototypes, secretly despise the religion they openly
profess. Avarice, and lust of power, are potent underminers of human
virtue. The mighty genius of Bacon was not proof against them, and he
who deserves to occupy a place among 'the wisest and greatest' has been
'damned to eternal fame' as the, 'meanest of mankind.'

Nor are avarice and lust of power the only base passions under the
influence of which men, great in intellect, have given the lie to their
own convictions, by calling that religion which they knew to be rank
superstition. Fear of punishment for writing truth is the grand cause
why their books contain so little of it. If Bacon had openly treated
Christianity as mere superstition, will any one say that his life would
have been worth twenty-four hours purchase. He lived at a time when
heresy, to say nothing of Atheism, was _rewarded_ with death. Bacon was
not the man to be ambitious of such a reward. Few great geniuses are.
Philosophers seldom covet martyrdom, and hence it came to pass that few
of them would run the terrible risk of provoking bigotted authority by
the 'truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' concerning
religion. In our own day the smell of a faggot would be too much for the
nostrils of, that still unamiable but somewhat improved animal, called
the public. One delightful as well as natural consequence is, that
philosophical writers do ever and anon deal much more freely with
religion than its professors are _disposed_, though _compelled_, to
tolerate. But, even now, with all our boasted liberty of conscience, not
one in one thousand of those who _think_ truth about religion dare
express it. Philosophy still exhibits, in deference to popular prejudice
and fanaticism, what the great French maximist defined as 'the
homage that vice pays to virtue.' Such is the rule to which, most
fortunately for the pause of truth, there are many, and some splendid,
exceptions. One of these is worth citing not only because of its
intrinsic merit, but because the thing to be cited includes an opinion
of religion, and a marked distinction between what is _pious_ and what
is honest, that calls for especial notice. The exception referred to is
a paragraph from a paper on Saint Simonianism, written by Colonel
Thompson, and originally published in the Westminster Review, of April
1, 1832, containing these remarkable words:--'The world wants _honest_
law-givers, not pious ones. If piety will make men honest, let them
favour us with the honesty and keep the piety for God and their own
consciences. There never was a man that brought piety upon the board
when honesty would do, without its being possible to trace a transfusion
in the shape of money or money's worth, from his neighbour's pocket into
his. The object of puzzling the question with religion is clear. You
cannot quarrel for sixpences with the man who is helping you the way to
heaven. The man who wants your sixpences, therefore, assumes a religious
phraseology, which is cant, and cant is fraud, and fraud is dishonesty,
and the dishonest should have a mark set on them.'

There is an old story about a certain lady who said to her physician,
'Doctor, what is your religion?' 'My religion, madam,' replied the
Doctor, 'is the religion of all sensible men.' 'What kind of religion is
that?' said the lady. 'The religion, madam,' quoth the Doctor, 'that no
sensible man will tell.'

This doctor may be taken as a type of the class of shrewd people who
despise religion, but will say nothing about it, lest by so doing they
give a shock to prejudice, and thus put in peril certain professional or
other emoluments. Too sensible to be pious, and too cautious to be
honest, they must be extremely well paid ere they will incur the risk
attendant upon a confession of irreligious faith. Like Colonel Thompson,
they know the world needs _honest_ lawgivers not pious ones, but unlike
him, they won't say so. Animated by a vile spirit of accommodation,
their whole sum of practical wisdom can be told in four words--BE SILENT
AND SAFE. They are amazed at the 'folly' of those who make sacrifices at
the shrine of sincerity; and while sagacious enough to perceive that
religion is a clumsy political contrivance, are not wanting in the
prudence which dictates at least a warning conformity to prevailing
prejudices.

None have done more to perpetuate error than these time serving 'men of
the world,' for instead of boldly attacking it, they preserve a prudent
silence which bigots do not fail to interpret as consent. Mosheim says,
[90:1] 'The simplicity and ignorance of the generality in those times
(fifth century) furnished the most favourable occasion for the exercise
of fraud; and the impudence of imposters, in contriving false miracles,
was artfully proportioned to the credulity of the vulgar; while the
sagacious and the wise, who perceived these cheats, were overawed into
silence by the dangers that threatened their lives and fortunes, if they
should expose the artifice. Thus,' continues this author, 'does it
generally happen, when danger attends the discovery and the profession
of the truth, the prudent are _silent_, the multitude _believe_, and
impostors _triumph_.'

Beausobre, too, in his learned, account of Manicheism reads a severe
lesson to the 'sensible _dummies_, who, under the influence of such
passions as _fear_ and _avarice_, will do nothing to check the march of
superstition, or relieve their less 'sensible,' but more honest,
fellow-creatures from the weight of its fetters. After alluding to an
epistle written by that 'demi-philosopher,' Synesius, when offered by
the Patriarch the Bishopric of Ptolemais, [91:1] Beausobre says, 'We see
in the history that I have related a kind of hypocrisy, which, perhaps,
has been far too common in all times. It is that of ecclesiastics, who
not only do not say what they think, but the reverse of what they think.
Philosophers in their closet, when out of them they are content with
fables, though they know well they are fables. They do more; they
deliver to the executioner the excellent men who have said it. How many
Atheists and profane persons have brought holy men to the stake under
the pretext of heresy? Every day, hypocrites consecrate the host and
cause it to be adored, although firmly convinced as I am that it is
nothing more than a piece of bread.'

Whatever may be urged in defence of such execrable duplicity, there can
be no question as to its anti-progressive tendency. The majority of men
are fools, and if such 'sensible' politicians as our Doctor and the
double doctrinising persecuting ecclesiastics, for whose portraits we
are indebted to Mosheim and Beausobre, shall have the teaching of them,
fools they are sure to remain. Men who dare not be 'mentally faithful'
to themselves may obstruct, but cannot advance the interests of truth.
Colonel Thompson is right. In legislation, in law, in all the relations
of life, we want _honesty_, not piety. There is plenty of piety, and to
spare, but of honesty--sterling, bold, uncompromising honesty--even the
best regulated societies can boast a very small stock. The men best
qualified to raise the veil under which truth lies concealed from vulgar
gaze, are precisely the men who fear to do it. Oh, shame upon ye
self-styled philosophers, who in your closets laugh at 'our holy
religion,' and in your churches do them reverence. Were your bosoms
warmed by one spark of generous wisdom, _silence_ on the question of
religion would be broken, the multitude cease to _believe_, and
imposters to _triumph_. But the desire to enlighten others is lost in
regard for yourselves, and what Mrs. Grundy may say, is sufficient to
frighten ye from the enunciation truth.

Is superstition no evil? Is there nothing hateful, nothing against which
unceasing war should be waged, in the degradation of those unhappy
persons who worship idols of their own imagination? Can error be fraught
with good and truth with evil, that we should shrink from doing justice
to both? Everywhere are learnedly ignorant or basely cunning men, who
would scare us from dealing with religious error, as all error deserves
to be dealt with, by high-sounding jargon about the danger of freeing
vulgar minds from the wholesome restraints of certain antiquated
beliefs. Themselves essentially vulgar by habit and in feeling, their
estimate of human tendencies is of the meanest, the most grovelling
description. Measuring the _chaff_ of other men by their own bushel,
they arrive at the pious but false conclusion that without fear of God
there can be no genuine love of man, and that without faith in some one
of our five hundred and odd true religions, all the thoughts of our
hearts would be evil continually. They insist upon it that the 'absolute
Atheist,' if virtuous, is so by accident not design; that he can neither
love truth, justice, nor his neighbour, except by sheer luck, and that,
if bad as his principles, would cut the throat of every man, woman, and
child who might have the misfortune to fall in his way. They argue as if
none can think good thoughts or purposely perform good acts unless so
far eaten up by superstition as always to keep in view the probable
_rewards_, or equally probable _vengeance_ of some supernatural Being.
Faith in human goodness, irrespective of reward and punishment, either
here or hereafter, sophists of this bigotted class have literally none.
Influenced by fanaticism and stimulated by cupidity they let slip no
opportunity of dealing out upon such as oppose their hideous doctrines
the choicest sort of vituperative blackguardism. The reader knows this
is no idle or ill-considered charge. He has seen at the commencement of
this Apology verbatim extracts, affecting the moral character of
Atheists, from books written by pious Christians, so utterly disgusting
that only those in whom every sense of delicacy, truth, and justice has
been obliterated, by a worse than savage creed, can peruse them without
horror.

Not inaptly, we conceive, has religion been likened to a madman's robe,
for the least puff of reason parts it and shows the wearer's nakedness.
This view of religion explains the otherwise inexplicable fact that
eminent piety is usually associated with eminent imbecility. Such men as
Newton, Locke, and Bacon are not remembered and reverenced on account of
their faith. By all but peddling narrow-thoughted bigots they are held
in honour for their science, their matter-of-fact philosophy; not their
puerile conceits about 'airy nothings,' to which half crazed
supernaturalists have assigned 'a local habitation and a name.' Lord
Bacon laid down principles so remote from pious, that no man can
understand and philosophise in strict accordance with them, if he fears
to embrace Atheism. From his _Novum Organum Scientiarum_ may be
extracted an antidote to the poison of superstition, for it is there we
are told that _aiming at divine things through the human, breeds only an
odd mixture of imaginations_. There we are told that _Man, the servant
and interpreter of Nature, can only understand and act in proportion as
he observes or contemplates the order of nature--more he cannot do._
There too is set down the wise lesson that truth is justly to be called
the daughter, not of Authority, but Time. Bacon abhorred superstition.
He denounced it as the 'confusion of many states,' and for a 'religious
philosopher' wrote most liberally of Atheism. No one who has read his
Essay on Superstition can doubt that he thought it a far greater evil
than Atheism. Any man who should now write as favourably of Godlessness
would be suspected of a latitudinarianism quite inimical to the genius
and spirit of 'true religion.' The orthodox much prefer false piety to
no piety at all. Mere honesty does not satisfy them. They insist on
faith in their chimerical doctrines and systems, as 'the basis of all
excellence.' To please them we must sacrifice truth as it is in Nature,
at the shrine of truth as it is in Jesus, and believe what derives no
sanction from experience. Bacon taught us to 'interpret nature,' and
that 'aiming at the divine through the human breeds only an odd mixture
of imaginations;' but these hair-brained fanatics who would have us
believe him _one of them_, care little for natural knowledge, and affect
contempt for all that concerns most intimately our 'earthly
tabernacles.' Bacon taught us to _consider as suspicious every relation,
which depends in any degree upon religion_, [93:1] but wiser than that
'wisest of mankind,' our _real_ Christians execrate such teaching, and
will have nothing _good_ to do with those who walk in the light and
honestly act in the spirit of it. How dare they then pretend to
sympathise with the opinions of Bacon? It is true he announced himself
willing to swallow all the fables of the Talmud or the Koran, rather
than believe this Almighty frame without a Mind; but who is now prepared
to determine the precise sense in which our illustrious philosopher used
the words 'without a mind.' We believe his own interpretation altogether
unchristian. 'To palter in a double sense' has ever been the practice of
philosophers who, like Bacon, knew more than they found it discreet to
utter. But with all their discretion, Locke, Milton, and even Newton did
not succeed in establishing an orthodox reputation. The passages from
Locke given in this Apology do at least warrant our opinion that it may
fairly be doubted whether he was either a Christian or a Theist. Had he
been disposed to avow Atheistical sentiments, he could not have done so,
except at the imminent hazard of his life. Speculative philosophers do
not usually covet the crown of martyrdom, and are seldom unwilling to
fling down a few religious sops to the Cerberus of popular bigotry. It
was the boast of Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais, that when communing with
himself, he was always a philosopher, but when dealing with the mass of
mankind, he was always a priest. Who knows how far John Locke followed
the _safe_ example. That he was a materialist his writings prove; and
every far sighted Theist will admit that Atheism is the natural
termination of Materialism. John Locke may have been a devout believer
in 'thingless names,' to which no merely human creature can attach clear
and distinct ideas: he may have thought the Bible had one of the said
'thingless names' for its author, salvation for its end, and truth
without mixture of error for its matter; though very probable he
affected such belief, to shield himself from persecution; but it is
quite certain, and may be affirmed without injustice, that he should to
have professed Atheism; for his own rule of philosophising is
inconsistent with belief in any thing supernatural. While living he was
often charged with Atheism, by opponents who understood the tendencies
of his philosophy better than he appeared to do himself. But the Author
of this Apology has no such mean opinion of John Locke, as to suppose
him ignorant that Materialism, as he taught it, is totally
irreconcileable with that God, and that Religion in which he professed
to believe. Belief in inconceivable entities cannot be reconciled with
disbelief of all entities, save those of which we can frame clear and
distinct ideas. Nor is it easy to persuade oneself that Locke could so
far have done violence to his own principles as to feel 'lively faith'
in a 'science' with no other aim, end, or ground-work, than 'the
knowledge and attributes of the unknown.'

By a late writer in the Edinburgh Review, we are told that 'some of the
opinions avowed by Milton,' were so 'heterodox,' as to have 'excited
considerable amazement.' We can scarcely conceive, says this writer,
that any one could have read his Paradise Lost without suspecting him of
heterodoxy; nor do we think that any reader acquainted with the history
of his life, ought to be much startled by his opinions on marriage. The
opinions which he expressed regarding the nature of the Deity, the
eternity of matter, and the observation of the Sabbath, might, we think,
have caused more just surprise. [95:1] Add to this good reader,
Dr. Johnson's statement, ('Lives of the Poets,' p. 134, Art. Milton,)
that in the distribution of his (Milton's) hours _there was no hour of
prayer, either solitary or with his household_; and then come, if you
can, to the conclusion that he was a Christian.

The piety of Newton we are not prepared to dispute. It is certain he
manufactured for himself a God, inasmuch as to space he ascribed the
honor of being His sensorium. It is equally clear that he believed
Christianity a divine system, inasmuch as he wrote, and rushed into
print with, a lot of exquisite nonsense about the exquisitely
nonsensical Apocalypse. But we defy pietists to ferret out of his
religious writings, any argument in defence of religion, not absolutely
beneath contempt; the best of them are execrably bad--mere ravings of a
disordered and o'erwrought intellect. 'The sublime Newton,' said
D'Holbach, 'is but a child when he quits physical science, to lose
himself in the imaginary regions of theology.' He failed, nevertheless,
to achieve the favour, or escape the wrath, of thorough-going
theologians who were in ecstacies at his childishness, but bitterly
detested him, as they detested every man who had the audacity to open up
new, and widen old fields, of investigation; to reject chimera and hold
fast by fact in the pursuit of knowledge, and to teach a series of
scientific truths, no ability can reconcile with the philosophy (?) of
Jesus and Moses, who, according to wise Dr. Epps, never intended to
teach man NATURAL SCIENCE, which he defines to be 'God in Creation;' but
'came to teach, in referring to natural events, SCIENTIFIC UNTRUTHS.
[95:2]

The Author hopes that the opinions here advanced in reference to what
may be named the Argument from 'Authority,' as contradistinguished from
'Time,' will make obvious to Christians themselves, that it is an unsafe
argument, an argument which, like the broken reed, not only fails, but
cruelly wounds the hand that rests upon it. Much evidence _has been_,
and much more _can be_ adduced to show that no prudent, well-informed
Christian will say anything about the sanction lent to Christianity, or
religion of any sort, by the writings of Newton, Milton, Bacon, and
Locke. By admirers of such sanction, (?) this, our Apology for Atheism
will, no doubt, be rejected with indignant contempt, but we venture to
predict for it better treatment at the hands of those who are convinced
that _untruth_ can no more be _scientific_, than truth can be
_unscientific_, and that belief, whether in the God of Nature, the God
of Scripture, or the Scripture itself, opposed to Philosophy, must needs
be opposed to Reason and Experience.






[ENDNOTES]


[4:1] 25th of November, 1845.

[5:1] Vide 'Time's' Commissioner's Letter on the Condition of Ireland,'
November 28, 1843.

[10:1] Essay 'of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy.'

[11:1] See the Creeds of R. Owen and R. Carlile in No. 14 of the
Promptor.

[11:2] 'Essay of the Idea of Necessary Connexion.'

[11:3] 'Essay of a Providence and a Future State.'

[12:1] Critical remarks on Lord Brougham's 'Lives of Men of Letters and
Science, who flourished in the time of George III.'--The Times,
Wednesday, October I, 1845.

[13:1] History of American Savages.

[13:2] Appendix the Second to 'Plutarchus and Theophrastus on
Superstition.'

[13:3] Philosophy of History.

[15:1] See a Notice of Lord Brougham's Political Philosophy, in the
number for April, 1845.

[20:1] 'Apology for the Bible,' page 133.

[20:2] Unusquisque vestrum non cogitate prius se debere Deos nosse quam
colere.

[27:1] See a curious 'Essay on Nature.' Printed for Badcock and Co., 2,
Queen's Head Passage, Paternoster Row. 1807.

[31:1] Elements of Materialism, chapter I.

[32:1] Discussion on the Existence of God, between Origen Bachelor and
Robert Dale Owen.

[37:1] Answer to Dr. Priestly on the existence of God, by a
Philosophical Unbeliever.

[40:1] Treatise on Human Nature.

[44:1] The Rev. J.E. Smith.

[47:1] 'An Address on Cerebral Physiology and Materialism,' delivered to
the Phrenological Association in London, June 20, 1842.

[50:1] 'The Shepherd,' Vol. i., page 40.

[52:1] Extracts from an able letter to the Editor of 'The Shepherd,' in
No. 23 of that periodical.

[54:1] Novum Organon.

[56:1] Principia Mathmatica, p. 528. Lond. edit., l726.

[63:1] See a pamphlet, price Sixpence, entitled 'Paley refuted in his
own words,' by G.J. Holyoake.'

[63:2] Lessing.

[64:1] See "Extract from an unpublished work, entitled the 'Refutation
of Deism,'" by the late P.B. Shelley--given in the Model Republic of May
1st, 1813.

[68:1] 'Westminster Review' for May, 1843.

[69:1] Lecture by the Rev. Hugh M'Neil, Minister of St. Jude's Church,
Liverpool, delivered about seven years since, in presence of some 400 of
the Irish Protestant Clergy.

[69:2] The necessary existence of Deity, by William Gillespie.

[69:3] Page 105 of a Discussion on the Existence of God, between Origen
Batchelor and R.D. Owen.

[70:1] Quoted by Dr. Samuel Clarke, in his introduction to the Scripture
doctrine of the Trinity.

[72:1] History of England, p. 51.

[75:1] 'Dictionary of Conversions,' page 4.

[77:1] See article 'Auto da Fe,' vol. i. of 'Recreative Review,'
published in 1821.

[77:2] Act of Faith.

[78:1] St. Foix observes, with respect to this tomb, that if the Jack
Ketch of any country should be rich enough to have a splendid tomb, this
might serve as an excellent model.

[81:1] 'Lives of Men of Letters,' by Henry Lord Brougham.

[82:1] Vol iii., page 593, 594, of 'A few hundred Bible Contradictions,
a Hunt after the Devil, and other odd matters.' By John P.Y., M.D.

[83:1] No. 8 of J. Rutherford's Series of Tracts, and entitled 'Electing
Love.'

[90:1] Ecclesiastical History, vol. ii. page 11.

[91:1] 'Manicheisme,' tome ii, p. 568, 569.

[93:1] Nov. Org., lib; ii. aph. 29.

[95:1] See 'Edinburgh Review' containing a notice of Milton's 'De
Doctrina Christiana.'

[95:2] Page 55 of a Pamphlet entitled, 'The Devil.'








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