Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Nightmare of Theology by Arthur B Moss 1890


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Theologians are continually proclaiming their belief in an infinite spirit; and in addition to this infinite spirit pervading the whole of the universe, they profess to believe in an infinite number of infinite spirits, which take possession of human bodies and act upon them in a similar manner to a musician who performs upon an instrument.

But is it not a contradiction in terms to talk of an infinite spirit, and in the same breath to speak of a number of finite spirits—separate and apart from the one infinite spirit? A God who is everywhere, is a God who is everything, and nothing can be conceived as existing apart from him. Yet this infinite spirit existing everywhere throughout all time is alleged to be the creator and governor of the universe. But if God created the universe, where was he when he did it? Either he must have been in the universe or out of it. If he was in the universe, the universe must have been already in existence—and therefore did not need to be created; on the other hand, if he was not in the universe, but was somewhere outside of it—where is that?

Nature seems boundless. Man can set no limits to it. In whatever direction he turns man finds something, and he is driven irresistibly to the conclusion that something is everywhere; that the universe is infinite, limitless. Now if the universe is everywhere, what room is there for an infinite spirit? Is it possible to have two things in the same place at the same time?

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Although theologians tell us that it is absolutely necessary that we should believe in Deity, when we seek to understand what is meant by the term, they gravely inform us that we cannot by searching find out God; that he is incomprehensible, and yet that the evidence of his existence is so plain that every sensible man must be at once convinced. Obviously this is an attempt to beg the question by sheer audacity. If every sensible man is satisfied with the evidence of the existence of Deity, it must be because the evidence appeals to his senses—in other words, the theologian is wrong in saying that God is incomprehensible—because all sensible men are convinced the moment they bring their minds to bear upon the subject. But is this true? Are there not thousands of intelligent unbelievers? Man takes cognisance of the phenomena of nature, these act upon his senses; but the God of the theologians acts upon none of his senses. God is said to be everywhere. Point to a particular object—say, to a table, a building, or a book—and ask your learned divine, are any of these things God? Go on pointing out objects until you have exhausted everything on the earth of which you have any knowledge. Point to the sun, to the moon, and the myriads of stars in the heavens, and press for an answer—are these things God? and the theologian will be bound to say "No."

Where, then, is the evidence of God's existence? "Oh," reply the theologians, "the evidence of God's existence is to be found in the order prevailing in the universe." What order? Is an earthquake evidence of order? Are volcanoes, famines, diseases, droughts, evidence of order?

The truth is, per se, there is neither order nor disorder in the universe. Nature goes right to her end, ruthlessly mowing down whatever happens to be in the way. A thunderbolt falls. In its descent it is just as likely to kill a priest as a publican, a bishop as a sportsman, if they happen to be in the road. A shipload of soldiers are as safe in a storm as a similar number of parsons. Nature has no respect for persons; she is perfectly impartial in all her actions; she treats the Freethinker as kindly as the Christian, and at times she treats them both with equal cruelty. Nature kills us all once, and sometimes by the most cruel and insidious methods it is possible to conceive. Nature starves millions of creatures that are born into the world; others she freezes, burns or drowns; indeed Nature's methods are so cruel that there is scarcely an animal whose existence is not dependent upon the destruction of others. If God is behind Nature, directing her, he is the cause of these horrors. What order, we may ask, can be seen in this?

The fact is, man calls that order which affects him pleasantly, and that disorder which affects him painfully. Much of what we call order is the result of man's intelligence. The gods have given us no assistance. Man has learned by a hard and painful experience how to control the forces of Nature, how to use one force to counteract the effects of another —and thus man creates the very results which the theologian points to triumphantly as evidence of harmony.

Now although the theologian talks of harmony in the universe, he is forced to recognise that there is something in the world, the very antithesis of this very evil; and as he regards his God as the embodiment of all that is good, he cannot ascribe the existence of evil to his Deity; he therefore manufactures another being, more powerful than God who is able to frustrate his purposes at every turn.

But who made the Devil? Either he is co-eternal with God, or must have been created. But as God is the only eternal and uncreated being, the Devil must have been created by God. An eccentric gentleman named McGrigor Allan has been writing to the Echo to say that the Devil is a fallen angel. Poor Devil!!! But if the Devil was ever an angel, how came he to fall? Either he must have fallen by the will of Deity or the fall was opposed to God's will. But how can the Devil or anybody else resist the will of an omnipotent being? If the Devil fell by the desire of God then God is the cause of his fall.

Again, if the Devil has fallen, why are not steps taken for his conversion? A story is related of a simple-minded Italian monk, who one day gravely announced to his congregation that by dint of mediation he had discovered a sure way of rendering all men happy. "The Devil," said he, "is the cause of all sin. He it is who tempts men only to have in hell companions of his misery. Let us therefore apply to the Pope, who has the keys of heaven and hell; let us prevail upon him to pray to God, as the head of the whole Church, to consent to a reconciliation with the Devil, to restore him to favor, to reinstate him in his former rank, which cannot fail to put an end to his malicious projects against mankind." Poor, simple-minded monk; he had evidently been bamboozled by his professional brethren, and did not know the value of the Devil to the priesthood. Evidently he was not aware that the Devil was a theological scarecrow, manufactured in an age of ignorance to frighten poor credulous Christians into supporting an incredible creed.

It is nonsense for Christians to talk of man's free will. If God is infinite in power how can man resist his desires? And if an omnipotent God cannot conquer the Devil how can man be expected to triumph over him? The fact is, theology is a nightmare. It is worse than a dream; the effect of a dream wears away with time, especially if the dreamer walks about with his eyes open in the world of fact; but the nightmare of theology clings to one—its effects are felt through generations—and only by a vigorous course of reasoning, and a firm adherence to facts can we gradually eradicate the evil effects of a subtle and poisonous theology from the brain and blood of mankind.

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