Page:Charles Bradlaugh Humanity's Gain from Unbelief.djvu/15

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HUMANITY'S GAIN FROM UNBELIEF.

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Before they could dare to investigate the causes of these mysterious phænomena, it is necessary that they should believe, or at all events that they should suspect, that the phænomena themselves were capable of being explained by the human mind."

As in astronomy so in geology, the gain of knowledge to humanity has been almost solely in measure of the rejection of the Christian theory. A century since it was almost universally held that the world was created 6,000 years ago, or at any rate, that by the sin of the first man, Adam, death commenced about that period. Ethnology and Anthropology have only been possible in so far as, adopting the regretful words of Sir W. Jones, "intelligent and virtuous persons are inclined to doubt the authenticity of the accounts delivered by Moses concerning the primitive world".

Surely it is clear gain to humanity that unbelief has sprung up against the divine right of kings, that men no longer believe that the monarch is "God's anointed" or that "the powers that be are ordained of God". In the struggles for political freedom the weight of the Church was mostly thrown on the side of the tyrant. The homilies of the Church of England declare that "even the wicked rulers have their power and authority from God", and that "such subjects as are disobedient or rebellious against their princes disobey God and procure their own damnation". It can scarcely be necessary to argue to the citizens of the United States of America that the origin of their liberties was in the rejection of faith in the divine right of George III.

Will any one, save the most bigoted, contend that it is not certain gain to humanity to spread unbelief in the terrible doctrine that eternal torment is the probable fate of the great majority of the human family? Is it not gain to have diminished the faith that it was the duty of the wretched and the miserable to be content with the lot in life which providence had awarded them?

If it stood alone it would be almost sufficient to plead as justification for heresy the approach towards equality and liberty for the utterance of all opinions achieved because of growing unbelief. At one period in Christendom each Government acted as though only one religious faith could be true, and as though the holding, or at any rate the