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Holy Sh!t: The Insanity Of Blind Faith Free Ebo...

You probably feel that when religious faith expresses itself thus, inthe language of the gaming-table, it is put to its last trumps. SurelyPascal's own personal belief in masses and holy water had far othersprings; and this celebrated page of his is but an argument for others,a last desperate snatch at a weapon against the hardness of theunbelieving heart. We feel that a faith in masses and holy wateradopted wilfully after such a mechanical calculation would lack theinner soul of faith's reality; and if we were ourselves in the place ofthe Deity, we should probably take particular pleasure in cutting offbelievers of this pattern from their infinite reward. It is evidentthat unless there be some pre-existing tendency to believe in massesand holy water, the option offered to the will by Pascal is not aliving option. Certainly no Turk ever took to masses and holy water onits account; and even to us Protestants these means of salvation seemsuch foregone impossibilities that Pascal's logic, invoked for themspecifically, leaves us unmoved. As well might the Mahdi write to us,saying, "I am the Expected One whom God has created in his effulgence.You shall be infinitely happy if you confess me; otherwise you shall becut off from the light of the sun. Weigh, then, your infinite gain ifI am genuine against your finite sacrifice if I am not!" His logicwould be that of Pascal; but he would vainly use it on us, for thehypothesis he offers us is dead. No tendency to act on it exists in usto any degree.

Holy Sh!t: The Insanity of Blind Faith free ebo...


Evidently, then, our non-intellectual nature does influence ourconvictions. There are passional tendencies and volitions which runbefore and others which come after belief, and it is only the latterthat are too late for the fair; and they are not too late when theprevious passional work has been already in their own direction.Pascal's argument, instead of being powerless, then seems a regularclincher, and is the last stroke needed to make our faith in masses andholy water complete. The state of things is evidently far from simple;and pure insight and logic, whatever they might do ideally, are not theonly things that really do produce our creeds.

To come immediately to the heart of my theme, then, what I propose isto imagine ourselves reasoning with a fellow-mortal who is on suchterms with life that the only comfort left him is to brood on theassurance, "You may end it when you will." What reasons can we pleadthat may render such a brother (or sister) willing to take up theburden again? Ordinary Christians, reasoning with would-be suicides,have little to offer them beyond the usual negative, "Thou shalt not."God alone is master of life and death, they say, and it is ablasphemous act to anticipate his absolving hand. But can we findnothing richer or more positive than this, no reflections to urgewhereby the suicide may actually see, and in all sad seriousness feel,that in spite of adverse appearances even for him life is still worthliving? There are suicides and suicides (in the United States aboutthree thousand of them every year), and I must frankly confess thatwith perhaps the majority of these my suggestions are impotent to deal.Where suicide is the result of insanity or sudden frenzied impulse,reflection is impotent to arrest its headway; and cases like thesebelong to the ultimate mystery of evil, concerning which I can onlyoffer considerations tending toward religious patience at the end ofthis hour. My task, let me say now, is practically narrow, and mywords are to deal only with that metaphysical tedium vitae which ispeculiar to39reflecting men. Most of you are devoted, for good orill, to the reflective life. Many of you are students of philosophy,and have already felt in your own persons the scepticism and unrealitythat too much grubbing in the abstract roots of things will breed.This is, indeed, one of the regular fruits of the over-studious career.Too much questioning and too little active responsibility lead, almostas often as too much sensualism does, to the edge of the slope, at thebottom of which lie pessimism and the nightmare or suicidal view oflife. But to the diseases which reflection breeds, still furtherreflection can oppose effective remedies; and it is of the melancholyand Weltschmerz bred of reflection that I now proceed to speak.

Now, in such questions as God, immortality, absolute morality, andfree-will, no non-papal believer at the present day pretends his faithto be of an essentially different complexion; he can always doubt hiscreed. But his intimate persuasion is that the odds in its favor arestrong enough to warrant him in acting all along on the assumption ofits truth. His corroboration or repudiation by the nature of thingsmay be deferred until the day of judgment. The96uttermost he nowmeans is something like this: "I expect then to triumph with tenfoldglory; but if it should turn out, as indeed it may, that I have spentmy days in a fool's paradise, why, better have been the dupe of sucha dreamland than the cunning reader of a world like that which thenbeyond all doubt unmasks itself to view." In short, we go in againstmaterialism very much as we should go in, had we a chance, againstthe second French empire or the Church of Rome, or any other system ofthings toward which our repugnance is vast enough to determineenergetic action, but too vague to issue in distinct argumentation.Our reasons are ludicrously incommensurate with the volume of ourfeeling, yet on the latter we unhesitatingly act.

Now, we are of course free to fall back, if we please. For my ownpart, though, whatever difficulties may beset the philosophy ofobjective right and wrong, and the indeterminism it seems to imply,determinism, with its alternative of pessimism or romanticism, containsdifficulties that are greater still. But you will remember that Iexpressly repudiated awhile ago the pretension to offer any argumentswhich could be coercive in a so-called scientific fashion in thismatter. And I consequently find myself, at the end of this long talk,obliged to state my conclusions in an altogether personal way. Thispersonal method of appeal seems to be among the very conditions of theproblem; and the most any one can do is to confess as candidly as hecan the grounds for the faith that is in him, and leave his example towork on others as it may.

The capacity of the strenuous mood lies so deep down among our naturalhuman possibilities that even if there were no metaphysical ortraditional grounds for believing in a God, men would postulate onesimply as a pretext for living hard, and getting out of the game ofexistence its keenest possibilities of zest. Our attitude towardsconcrete evils is entirely different in a world where we believe thereare none but finite demanders, from what it is in one where we joyouslyface tragedy for an infinite demander's sake. Every sort of energy andendurance, of courage and capacity for handling life's evils, is setfree in those who have religious faith. For this reason the strenuoustype of character will on the battle-field of human history alwaysoutwear the easy-going type, and religion will drive irreligion to thewall.

We are just now witnessing a singular phenomenon in British andAmerican philosophy. Hegelism, so defunct on its native soil that Ibelieve but a single youthful disciple of the school is to be countedamong the privat-docenten and younger professors of Germany, and whoseolder champions are all passing off the stage, has found among us sozealous and able a set of propagandists that to-day it may really bereckoned one of the most powerful influences of the time in the higherwalks of thought. And there is no doubt that, as a movement ofreaction against the traditional British empiricism, the hegelianinfluence represents expansion and freedom, and is doing service of acertain kind. Such service, however, ought not to make us blindlyindulgent. Hegel's philosophy mingles mountain-loads of corruptionwith its scanty merits, and must, now that it has becomequasi-official, make ready to defend itself as well as to attackothers. It is with no hope of converting independent thinkers, butrather with the sole aspiration of showing some chance youthfuldisciple that there is another point of view in philosophy that Ifire this skirmisher's shot, which may, I hope, soon be followed bysomebody else's heavier musketry. 041b061a72


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