Why I Am Agnostic (Part IX)
By: Robert Green Ingersoll
To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments.
I took another step. What is matter -- substance? Can it be destroyed -- annihilated? Is it possible to conceive of the destruction of the smallest atom of substance? It can be ground to powder -- changed from a solid to a liquid -- from a liquid to a gas -- but it all remains. Nothing is lost -- nothing destroyed.
Let an infinite God, if there be one, attack a grain of sand -- attack it with infinite power. It cannot be destroyed. It cannot surrender. It defies all force. Substance cannot be destroyed.
Then I took another step.
If matter cannot be destroyed, cannot be annihilated, it could not have been created.
The indestructible must be uncreateable.
And then I asked myself: What is force?
We cannot conceive of the creation of force, or of its destruction. Force may be changed from one form to another -- from motion to heat -- but it cannot be destroyed -- annihilated.
If force cannot be destroyed it could not have been created. It is eternal.
Another thing -- matter cannot exist apart from force. Force cannot exist apart from matter. Matter could not have existed before force. Force could not have existed before matter. Matter and force can only be conceived of together. This has been shown by several scientists, but most clearly, most forcibly by Buchner.
Thought is a form of force, consequently it could not have caused or created matter. Intelligence is a form of force and could not have existed without or apart from matter. Without substance there could have been no mind, no will, no force in any form, and there could have been no substance without force.
Matter and force were not created. They have existed from eternity. They cannot be destroyed.
There was, there is, no creator. Then came the question; Is there a God? Is there a being of infinite intelligence, power and goodness, who governs the world?
There can he goodness without much intelligence -- but it seems to me that perfect intelligence and perfect goodness must go together.
In nature I see, or seem to see, good and evil -- intelligence and ignorance -- goodness and cruelty -- care and carelessness -- economy and waste. I see means that do not accomplish the ends -- designs that seem to fail.
To me it seems infinitely cruel for life to feed on life -- to create animals that devour others.
The teeth and beaks, the claws and fangs, that tear and rend, fill me with horror. What can be more frightful than a world at war? Every leaf a battle-field -- every flower a Golgotha -- in every drop of water pursuit, capture and death. Under every piece of bark, life lying in wait for life. On every blade of grass, something that kills, -- something that suffers. Everywhere the strong living on the weak -- the superior on the inferior. Everywhere the weak, the insignificant, living on the strong -- the inferior on the superior -- the highest food for the lowest -- man sacrificed for the sake of microbes.
Murder universal. Everywhere pain, disease and death -- death that does not wait for bent forms and gray hairs, but clutches babes and happy youths. Death that takes the mother from her helpless, dimpled child -- death that fills the world with grief and tears.
How can the orthodox Christian explain these things?
I know that life is good. I remember the sunshine and rain. Then I think of the earthquake and flood. I do not forget health and harvest, home and love -- but what of pestilence and famine? I cannot harmonize all these contradictions -- these blessings and agonies -- with the existence of an infinitely good, wise and powerful God.
The theologian says that what we call evil is for our benefit -- that we are placed in this world of sin and sorrow to develop character. If this is true I ask why the infant dies? Millions and millions draw a few breaths and fade away in the arms of their mothers. They are not allowed to develop character.
The theologian says that serpents were given fangs to protect themselves from their enemies. Why did the God who made them, make enemies? Why is it that many species of serpents have no fangs?
The theologian says that God armored the hippopotamus, covered his body, except the under part, with scales and plates, that other animals could not pierce with tooth or tusk. But the same God made the rhinoceros and supplied him with a horn on his nose, with which he disembowels the hippopotamus.
The same God made the eagle, the vulture, the hawk, and their helpless prey.
On every hand there seems to be design to defeat design.
If God created man -- if he is the father of us all, why did he make the criminals, the insane, the deformed and idiotic?
Should the inferior man thank God? Should the mother, who clasps to her breast an idiot child, thank God? Should the slave thank God?
The theologian says that God governs the wind, the rain, the lightning. How then can we account for the cyclone, the flood, the drought, the glittering bolt that kills?
Suppose we had a man in this country who could control the wind, the rain and lightning, and suppose we elected him to govern these things, and suppose that he allowed whole States to dry and wither, and at the same time wasted the rain in the sea. Suppose that he allowed the winds to destroy cities and to crush to shapelessness thousands of men and women, and allowed the lightnings to strike the life out of mothers and babes. What would we say? What would we think of such a savage?
And yet, according to the theologians, this is exactly the course pursued by God.
What do we think of a man, who will not, when he has the power, protect his friends? Yet the Christian's God allowed his enemies to torture and burn his friends, his worshipers.
Who has ingenuity enough to explain this?
What good man, having the power to prevent it, would allow the innocent to be imprisoned, chained in dungeons, and sigh against the dripping walls their weary lives away?
If God governs the world, why is innocence not a perfect shield? Why does injustice triumph?
Who can answer these questions?
In answer, the intelligent, honest man must say: I do not know.