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to abide in? If such be the natural condition of the human mind, must not the constitution both of the mind and of the universe in relation to the mind be about the worst conceivable? But is it not much more likely that atheists have deceived themselves, than that either the mind or the universe has been so badly made as atheism implies? Is it not much more likely that atheism is false, than that the human mind has been made not for truth, but for doubt?
To deny that God can be known is scarcely less presumptuous than to deny that God is. For, it will be observed, it assumes that we are capable of describing the limits both of human attainment and of Divine power. It assumes that we are not only able to say here is a proposition which the human mind can never ascertain to be true, but also here is a proposition which cannot be revealed to be true even by an infinite mind, supposing such a mind to exist. It assumes, that is to say, in the first place, a kind of knowledge of the human mind such as no man has got. We can discover the conditions and laws to which reasoning and research must be conformed if the human mind would attain truth; but we cannot ascertain the external limits of intellectual progress. To lay down that this or that proposition, which involves in itself no contradiction, can never be known, never be proved, is sheer dogmatism. The mind has no right to assign fixed limits to its own advancement in knowledge; it has no warrant even for doubting that it may advance for ever, its horizon constantly receding, its range of vision growing always wider and more distinct. When the atheist declares, therefore, that God cannot be known, he dogmatises presumptuously as to the limits of human power; he arrogates to himself a superhuman knowledge of the possible attainments of the human mind. But worse than this, while denying that an infinite mind can ever be known, he assumes that he himself knows what an infinite mind would be capable of. He tells us in one breath that we can never know even the existence of an almighty Being, and in the next that he himself knows what such a Being could not do; that he knows that God could not make His existence known to us. Under the apparent humility of the declaration God cannot be known, there lurks the affirmation that a finite mind can trace the limits of infinite power. Therefore, I say, to deny that God can be known is scarcely less presumptuous than to deny that God is. It implies in him who makes the denial the possession of a Divine attribute—the possession of infinite knowledge.
The atheist, then, who would not virtually declare himself to be a god, must not venture to deny either that God is or that God can be known, but must be content merely to deny the sufficiency of the evidence for God's existence. He must be content to be a mere critic; he is bound to confess that atheism is really no theory or explanation of the universe; that no positive or independent or scientific proof of it need be looked for; and that facts sufficient to overthrow it may be brought to light any instant. Atheists are, however, seldom thus diffident, and we cannot wonder that they are not. There are very few minds which could acquiesce in a hopeless and inexplicable hesitancy and suspense. Atheism would make no converts unless it showed more confidence than it is rationally entitled to do.
Not unfrequently it displays great confidence. Thus Von Holbach, in the 'System of Nature,' tells his readers that the existence of God is "not a problem, but simply an impossibility." But for this strong statement he had only the weak reason that "we cannot know God truly unless we are God." We have just seen that to know there is no God, or that God cannot be known, implies such knowledge as only a God can have, but that only a very little knowledge may suffice reasonably to convince us that there is a God. Feuerbach, as I have already mentioned, declares it "clear as the sun and as evident as the day, not only that there is no God, but that there can be none." We seek in vain, however, for the demonstration of this startling assertion. In its place there is presented to us an unreasoned and superficial hypothesis as to the origin, nature, and history of religion. Religion, in Feuerbach's opinion, is selfdelusion in the form of self-deification. It is his own nature which man projects out of himself, personifies, and worships. He idealises himself, believes the ideal real, and adores the imaginary being whom he has created. Religion is thus a phase of insanity under which the whole human race laboured for thousands of years, until the one wise man appeared who discovered that his fellow-men had been idiotically bowing and cringing before their own shadow. It is this discovery which makes it "clear as the sun and evident as the day, not only that there is no God, but that there can be none." Mainlander claims, in a very recently published work, to have for the first time founded atheism on a scientific basis. But to accomplish his task he finds it necessary to represent Christianity as, like Budhism, a system of atheism. Maintaining the atheism of these two religions, he infers that atheism is the natural goal of human development. The mass of assertions which he accumulates around this ludicrous argument he assures us is a scientific demonstration. Czolbe, Duhring, and some other German atheists, might be referred to as equally audacious in profession and feeble in performance. A zealous English
advocate of atheism, Mr Bradlaugh, has frequently said, "If God is defined to mean an existence other than the existence of which I am a mode, then I deny God, and affirm that it is impossible God can be. That is, I affirm one existence, and deny that there can be more than one." But the terms "existence" and "mode" are here employed in so peculiar and equivocal a manner that the declaration may have either a theistic, pantheistic, or atheistic meaning. It has no proper or definite meaning.
Atheism is essentially irrational when not merely critical. And even when merely critical it is not very rational. This statement is based on the entire argumentation in the previous course of lectures. The chief aim of that course was to exhibit the evidence for the existence of God, and the proof of theism is necessarily the refutation of atheism. Further, a secondary aim, kept in view throughout, was directly to repel the objections which atheism has brought against the validity and sufficiency of the fundamental theistic proofs; to show that their weight is scarcely appreciable when fairly poised against the reasons in the opposite scale, and that, almost without exception, the subtlest and most plausible of them indicate only defects or difficulties in the metaphysics of religious speculation, and should have no influence whatever on the practical decision, at which the