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قراءة كتاب The Necessity of Atheism

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The Necessity of Atheism

The Necessity of Atheism

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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mentally advanced humanity, they will flourish; if they fall on the barren ground of creed-bound minds, they take no root. Recognition of facts and honest deductions are not natural to the human mind. As far as religious matters are concerned, the vast majority of men have not reached a mental maturity; they are still in the infantile state where they have not as yet learned that the sequences of events are not to be interrupted by their desires. The easier path lies in the giving way to the unstable emotions. The primitive instincts are for emotion and for loose imaginings, and these are the provinces of supernaturalism.

Supernaturalism arouses the stupid interests and the brutish passions, and from these are born the bitter fruits of ignorance and hatred. The secularist is one in whom the intellect is passionate, and the passions cold. The supernaturalist on the other hand reverses the order, and in him the passions are active and the intellect inert. In each man there dwells a tyrant who creates for him a deity materialized out of these factors of ignorance and fear. It is science and reason which must destroy for him this monstrous apparition. But, as yet, there is no indication that our mental development in relation to social progress has made the great strides that our purely material progress has made. The twentieth century man utilizes and enjoys the material benefits of his century, but his mental progress lies bound and drugged by the viewpoints of 2000 years ago.

Sir Leslie Stephen has declared, "How much intellect and zeal runs to waste in the spasmodic efforts of good men to cling to the last fragment of decaying systems, to galvanize dead formulæ into some dim semblance of life! Society will not improve as it might when those who should be leaders of progress are staggering backward and forward with their eyes passionately reverted to the past. Nay, we shall never be duly sensitive to the miseries and cruelties which make the world a place of torture for so many, so long as men are encouraged in the name of religion to look for a remedy, not in fighting against surrounding evils, but in cultivating aimless contemplations of an imaginary ideal. Much of our popular religion seems to be expressly directed to deaden our sympathies with our fellow men by encouraging an indolent optimism; our thoughts of the other world are used in many forms as an opiate to drug our minds with indifference to the evils of this; and the last word of half of our preachers is, 'dream rather than work.'"

There is always a great deal of discrepancy between that which is best for the gods and that which is best for the individual and for society in general. One cannot serve man perfectly and the traditional gods as well. It is, therefore, the contention of freethinkers that if man had given to the service of man all that he had given to the gods in the past, our present stage of civilization would be much in advance of where it is today.

If there is anything in the discussion to follow that may seem irreverent to the reader, the author wishes to call attention that he has but presented well substantiated facts. It is not only his opinion that he is voicing, but it is the facts as he has found them recorded in the researches of numerous sincere men. Finally, it is the conviction of all freethinkers that, as Professor James H. Leuba has stated, "It is, furthermore, essential to intellectual and moral advances that the beliefs that come into existence should have free play. Antagonistic beliefs must have the chance of proving their worth in open contest. It is this way scientific theories are tested, and in this way also, religious and ethical conceptions should be tried. But a fair struggle cannot take place when people are dissuaded from seeking knowledge, or when knowledge is hidden."

The cultivation of the intellect is a duty that is imposed on all men. Even those who still cling to the dying beliefs must admit the force of what Winwood Reade said, "To cultivate the intellect is therefore a religious duty; and when this truth is fairly recognized by men, the religion which teaches that the intellect should be distrusted and that it should be subservient to faith, will inevitably fall."

When the principles of freethought shall have dispelled the intellectual cloud of the God-idea and the vanishing dream of a heaven which has too long drawn men's eyes away from this earth, then, and then only, will these words of Cicero have widespread meaning:

"Men were born for the sake of men, that each should assist the others."




THE NECESSITY OF ATHEISM



CHAPTER I

THE EVOLUTION OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

To early man, the gods were real in the same sense that the mountains, forests, or waterfalls which were thought to be their homes were real. For a long time the spirits that lived in drugs or wines and made them potent were believed to be of the same order of fact as the potency itself. But the human creature is curious and curiosity is bold. Hence, the discovery that a reported god may be a myth.

Max Carl Otto.

The geologists estimate that the age of the earth is somewhere between 80 and 800 millions of years; that the Neanderthal race existed for more than 200,000 years; that between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago, as the Fourth Glacial Period softened towards more temperate conditions, a different human type came upon the scene and exterminated Homo Neanderthalensis. These first "true men" descended from some more ape-like progenitors and are classed by ethnologists with the same species as ourselves, and with all human races subsequent to them under one common, specific term, Homo Sapiens.

The age of cultivation began with the neolithic phase of human affairs about 10,000 or 12,000 years ago; about 6000 or 7000 years ago men began to gather into the first towns and to develop something more than the loose-knit tribes which had hitherto been their highest political organization. Altogether, there must have elapsed about 500,000 years from the earliest ape-like human stage of life on this planet to the present time.

It necessarily follows that the age of our present civilization is by no means that which the Bible stipulates, but is merely an atom in the vast space-time of this earth. The reason for this disparity is that with the development of the mind of man throughout the ages there was conceived also his self-made religious systems, based on a subjective interpretation of the universe, and not on an objective one, devoid of emotional bias.

"Primitive man did not understand the natural cause of shadows, echoes, the birth and death of vegetable and animal organisms. Of this ignorance religion was born, and theology was evolved as its art of expression." (Draper.)

Our story takes us back some twelve thousand years to neolithic man. Squatting in his rude hovel or gloomy cave, he listens to the sounds of a storm without. The howling of the wind, the flashes of lightning, and crashing of thunder give rise to that elemental emotion—fear. Fear was always with him, as he thought of the huge stones that fell and crushed him, and the beasts which were so eager to devour him. All things about him seemed to conspire for his death: the wind, lightning, thunder, rain and storm, as well as the beasts and falling trees; for in his mind he did not differentiate animate from inanimate objects. Slowly, through his groping mind there evolved the thought, due to past experience, that he could not contend with these things by physical force, but must subdue them with magic; his magic consisted of the beating of crude drum-like instruments, dances, and the mumbling of words.

Upon falling asleep he dreams, and

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