ology has become involved in endless contradictions. The Christian idea of the Deity would seem to have been developed in the light of the sympathies which have arisen in the domestic and social life of man. These sympathies with their allied sentiments have been unwarrantably projected out beyond their proper sphere, that of human affairs, into an idea of the Divine—it being forgotten in the process that Nature in the broad view is the fullest manifestation of divine power we know, and that from Nature herself in her manifold operations should we try to integrate a conception of its informing Spirit. Hence the discrepancy between the conception of the theological Deity and the facts of the universe. Do the processes of Nature exhibit sympathy, mercy, or love? Or do we not rather observe in them the uniformity of a power manifested through an infinite mechanism which neither excuses ignorance nor spares weakness? Yet so widely and in our view so unjustifiably have the ideas of God and Nature diverged, that we find Tennyson asking, as he depicts the agony of the struggle for existence and the profuse waste of organic life, "Are God and Nature then, at strife?" Any theory of the universe which endeavors to be comprehensive must subdue the impulses of sentiment and emotion and face all the facts of experience. The natural order shows us redundant life as necessary for the competition whereby the fittest individuals and species may survive and advance. The fittest may not from the human stand-point always be the best or the highest, for the parasite, protected from contest in the stomach of a man or horse, may degenerate and assume a type lower than that in which its existence began. The system of prey, the thousands of species of parasites which make the days of so many nobler types of life miserable and short—all this does the natural order include, no less than the culminations of human consciousness, genius, and conscience which thrill us with their power as if we stood in the very presence of the Divine. Nature presents to our view and study a mechanism of infinite complexity. Its rules of action we may know in part, and, when we obey that knowledge, happiness can be ours; but, however diligent we may be in study or willing in our obedience, all its laws we can never discern, and its wheels may seize us and painfully mar or quench our lives at any moment—the lurking germs of disease by inheritance within us, or floating in the air around us, the incalculable forces of earthquake or tornado; the liabilities incidental to modern locomotion, and many of the processes of modern industry. These, together with the willful exertion of human malignity, all beset us as subtractions from joy in life. Our sympathies, baffled in their endeavor to find scope beyond the limits of human relations, return thither to their source, as perhaps to the sole legitimate sphere for their exercise. Humanity remains, though the supreme cause continue undefined. In the spirit of much of what the theologians say, we find ourselves acknowledging our inability to rise from phenomena to ultimate cause or essence.
Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/67
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RELIGION WITHOUT DOGMA.