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ertions have been more successfully employed. Taking this into consideration, and knowing the natural repug. nance that men in general have to the opinions which you hold, I cannot but look upon you as being quite too sanguine in the calculation you appear to have made.13
Wishing you to take this into confideration, and again assuring you, that however erroneous I may regard your doctrine as being, I do not think it founded either in humanity or sound policy, to oppose you with any other weapon than reason and fair argument.
I am, Sir,
TO MR. WILLIAM FITTON, ROYTON,
Dorchester Gaol, August 22, 1824, SIR,
commencement of the Godless Era. To part with your doll, or idol, seems to be felt by you as a punishment. A god you must have as a play thing, because you see the multitude of full grown children amuse themselves with it. You would persuade us, that you have not yet mind enough to dispense with the toy, nor discernment enough to see that it affords but a sorry pastime. As a friend I will make another effort to divest your mind of this childish, this futile propensity, this bad habit; and you, at least, will have the satisfaction to reflect, that you have not been whipped out of it. The Protestant Christian children have been taught to throw away their crucifixes, and it now behoves tbe Materialists to make a clean
of the remaining rubbish; that human beings may freely grow to
13 I cannot be too sanguine, when I see that no man can advance a single argument to prove the existence of the being which is called God. As far as mankind see this, they are Atheists from necessity, from the absence of the existence of a God, in which to believe. The only difficulty on my side is, to elevate them so far above other animals as to excite thought in them upon this subject. This is going on rapidly, and this makes me in whatever degree it exists, if it were confined to myself, the superior of the Lord Chancellor until he also begins to think and to be of the same mind.
mental manhood, and learn the right meaning of rationality.
To explain many little points in my last and your present letter, of which you complain, I have to inform you, that between writing the first and second, it was stated to me in writing, that a suspicion existed in your neighbourbood of a disposition in you to take up the trade of preaching Christianity for profit, and that this disposition, and this alone, made you sore at what I was doing. I offer this as an apology for some of the hints in my last which gave offeuce, without offering an opinion on the truth or falsehood of the imputation. It might possibly have been conjecture, as idle as the conjecture of human animals about a God. As the main question, that will settle all others, between you and me, is, that of God or no God, I shall narrow the discussion to that point.
I stated in my last, that you did not search after truth upon this subject; but contented yourself with following the strongest current of opinion. You complain of this imputation, and, in the midst of your complaint, give me the fullest proof, that the assertion was correct. You again acknowledge, that you have no proof of a God, but in the universal opinion of mankind upon that bead: and urge this universal opinion as a reason why I should yield to it. What is this, but following the strongest curreut of opinion without examining the truth or falsehood of the thing for yourself? Why, Sir, I will go so far as to say, that, if every buman being, past and present, had been of your opinion about a God, upon the same grounds of forming that opinion as you have, I, upon those grounds which I bave for opposing that opinion, would maintain the atheistical side of the question against you all.
Do you allow the universal opinion of the Roman Catholic Cbristians to be a proof that tbeir sacramental bread and wine is the real body and blood of Jesus Christ? Does such an absurd uotion, though universal in that sect, satisfy you? Can universality of opinion be held up as a proof of any thing not demonstrable? If so, tbe earth would have been flat and motionless, in spite of its now known rotundity and rapid various motions. The same kind of ignorance, which led all mankind to talk about the earth being flat, motionless, and alike the centre and circumference of the universe, gave rise to the notion about a God. Better knowledge of the things about us compels us to scout both of those once universal notions. Whatever my will be, I cannot believe in the
existence of a God, such as you contend for: and wby? because I see nothing of the kind; and because, I see no need of any thing of the kind, to account for the existence about me.
On this latter head, if I am ignorant of the real source of production, of any of those identities about me, am I justified in fabling a cause; or if I fable a cause, ought you and all your feilows to take it as truth for want of better knowledge? Confess your ignorance about God, and be no longer so silly as to amuse yourself with such idle dreams. Speak the truth, that which every man must know to be trutb, say that you know nothing about God. If I cannot induce you, by mild reasoning, to throw away this mental play thing, I must ridicule, I must shame you out of it. I must shew you, ibat the men of this age do not play with such things.
I am not alone in this opinion of your God; I find myself supported and cheered on by some of the most enlightened men that this or any other country ever produced; and I furtber fird, that the majority of educated men are Atheists: only, unfortunately, sone of them are kept in silence by family connections, others from private interests, and others are dishonest enough to desire the preservation of superstition among the multitude as the best means of enslaving tbem. But if I stood alone, my arguments would be equally valid; and I never feel the desire to add weight to them by the use of a single name. My references are not to men, , but to things. The opinions of mankind settle nothing, cbange the properties of nothing. Whatever they say or think has less power with the things about us, than the most gentle gust of wind that moves in the atmosphere of our planet. In all ages, in all countries, mankind have been silly, mad beings, pursuing any thing but their own improvement and happiness. Their speech, their reason, their “immortal souls” constitute a mere vapour, visible for a moment, dispersed the next; a sound that dies in its very birth, that has one motion as an identity and passes.
Universal opinion, of itself, proves nothing: the question in all such matters is--wbat do we know? Now, do you know any thing about what you call God?-1 do not. I put this question to a clergyman the other day, wbose answer was: “ though I do not know, still I may believe.”—No, you can only believe that which you do know upon such a matter. A traveller may narrate wbat he has seen, and you have not seen, and you may give him credence to a certain degree, or altogether, upon the relative probability of his
tale to your knowledge of wbat you see about you; or from your finding different travellers narrating the same thing; but if one or twenty travellers came and told you, that they had heard an ass converse in human language with a man, would you believe it? No; because, from your knowledge of asses, you would have no probability wbereon to rest. Besides, all the men who have preached God or Gods have been utterly ignorant of those things which we now know as to the properties of matter and motion, and as to the planetary system of the universe. They were not travellers to come and tell us what they had seen, they invented, they fabled things, which no man had ever confessed to have seen, other than as a vision, or dream. And these inventions, these fables, we very naturally every where find to be full of contradictions and the most gross absurdities. I have just been reading a book called " An abridgment of the Vedant, or the resolution of all the Veds, translated from the Sanscrit, by Rammohun Roy, and printed at Calcutta:" this professes to define God, or to give the opinions of the most. remote inbabitants of Hindostan upon the subject; but I find it full of those contradictions and absurdities which every other piece of writing about a God of necessity contains. This Rammobun Roy is respesented to be a learned Brahmin converted to Unitariau Christianity. He might as well have remained a Brabmin, for what good he has done to himself or to any other person. It is not to books that we ought to look, to find a God: the place to look is, in wbat has been called the “ book of nature;" into the existences we see about us. You Deists, Christians, or whatever you may be, have but substituted paper and ink idols for those of wood, stone, and metal. Does your God dwell
the earth? No, you will say.
Does he dwell in the moon ? You will say, that you suppose not.
Does he dwell in the Sun, or any other fixed star or stars? You will say, that you bave no conception of his dwelling any wbere in particular; but that you suppose bim to pervade all space alike. If so, then your God is mere sepseless, sensationless, matter and motion. You know nothing of sensation, sense, or intelligence, but in relation with some animated, identical being Such a being can neither fabricate a fly, nor obstruct the motion of a wave of the sea: can neither lengthen day or night, por change a season, such a being is a mere helpless form, that must yield to other forms and notions, and be extinguished with as little ceremony and consequence as an exhausted farthing candle; or crushed out of life, as we
crush insects by almost every footstep. Such a God is the puppet of the mind of man. What has been called buman reason bitherto, has been almost every where phantasmal. We have degraded our natures, and have left right reason to be held and enjoyed by those animals which we call brutes and affect to despise. They have more just grounds to despise us, if they or any other being could take an impartial view of our mutual conduct and character.
Argument upon this question of a God there can be none. On my side, there is nothing to be done but to expose the absurdities you advance upon the matter, by comparing them with the things known to exist.
The bad passions of mankind are only to be restrained by moral and civil culture-and the very existence of those passions is negative proof against the existence of that God which you fancy to be necessary to restrain them. Did you ever ask yourself-why your God created those passsions to be restrained ? why goodness should create evil? why omnipotence should be a mere cobler always patching its own work? Ask yourself and reason upon those questions seriously, and you will soon find
God to be a mental phantasm. Without such a God, upon the known proporties of matter and principles of motion, every thing is to be rationally accounted for; whether to us it be relatively good
If you have any thing further to say in defence of your idol by another year, I shall be glad to see, to print, and to answer it; but I bope you will grow wiser. I respect you as a useful man in your neighbourhood; and though I have not a doubt, but you have felt chagrined to see some of your neighbours espouse my side of the question—NO GOD—NO PRIESTS-NO RELIGION, I cannot doubt but that you will follow them, if you fairly enquire, find it convenient, and feel such a love of truth as to follow it in any place and upon every condition,
Did such a being exist as you call God, it would not remain a matter of doubt to any man. It must of necessity be visible to all. The mind of man can now trace the regious of space and examine the properties of matter, and he is compelled, when honest, to say, that he can neither find a God nor a spirit intelligent like himself.
With every compliment yours,