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Meditation 702

by: Robert G. Ingersoll

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Since Paley found his watch, the argument of “ design ” has been relied upon as unanswerable. ‘The church teaches that this world, and all , that it contains, were created substantially as we now see them ; that the grasses, the flowers, the trees, and all the animals, including man were special creations, and that they sustain no necessary relation to each other. The most orthodox will admit that some earth has been washed into the sea ; that the sea has encroached a little upon the land, and that some mountains may be a trifle lower than in the morning of creation.

The theory of gradual development was unknown to our fathers; the idea of evolution did not occur to them. Our fathers looked upon the then arrangement of things as the primal arrangement. The earth appeared to them fresh from the hands of a deity. They knew nothing of the slow evolutions of countless years, but supposed that the almost infinite variety of vegetable and animal forms had existed from the first.

Suppose that upon some island we should find a man a million years of age, and suppose that we should find him in the possession of a most beautiful carriage, constructed upon the most perfect model. And suppose, further, that he should tell us that it was the result of several hundred thousand years of labor and of thought; that for fifty thousand years he used as flat a log as he could find, before it occurred to him, that by splitting the log, he could have the same surface with only half the weight ; that it took him many thousand years to invent wheels for this log; that the wheels he first used were solid, and that fifty thousand years of thought suggested the use of spokes and tire ; that for many centuries he used the wheels without linch-pins ; that it took a hundred thousand years more to think of using four wheels, instead of two; that for ages he walked behind the carriage, when going down hill, in order to hold it back, and that only by a lucky chance he invented the tongue ; would we conclude that this man, from the very first, had been an infinitely ingenious and perfect mechanic ? Suppose we found him living in an elegant mansion, and he should in form us that he lived in that house for five hundred thousand years before he thought of putting on a roof, and that he had but recently invented windows and doors ; would we say that from the beginning he had been an infinitely accomplished and scientific architect ?

Does not an improvement in the things created, show a corresponding improvement in the creator ?

Would an infinitely wise, good and powerful God, intending to produce man, commence with the lowest possible forms of life; with the simplest organism that can be imagined, and during immeasurable periods of time, slowly and almost imperceptibly improve upon the rude beginning, until man was evolved? Would countless ages thus be wasted in the production of awkward forms, afterwards abandoned? Can the intelligence of man discover the least wisdom in covering the earth with crawling, creeping horrors, that live only upon the agonies and pangs of others ? Can we see the propriety of so constructing the earth, that only an insignificant portion of its surface is capable of producing an intelligent man ? Who can appreciate the mercy of so making the world that all animals devour animals ; so that every mouth is a slaughterhouse, and every stomach a tomb? Is it possible to discover infinite intelligence and love in universal and eternal carnage?

What would we think of a father, who should give a farm to his children, and before giving them possession should plant upon it thousands of deadly shrubs and vines ; should stock it with ferocious beasts, and poisonous reptiles ; should take pains to put a few swamps in the neighborhood to breed malaria ; should so arrange matters, that the ground would occasionally open and swallow a few of his darlings, and besides all this, should establish a few volcanoes in the immediate vicinity, that might at any moment overwhelm his children with rivers of fire? Suppose that this father neglected to tell his children which of the plants were deadly; that the reptiles were poisonous ; failed to say anything about the earthquakes, and kept the volcano business a profound secret ; would we pronounce him angel or fiend?

And yet this is exactly what the orthodox God has done.

According to the theologians, God prepared this globe expressly for the habitation of his loved children, and yet he filled the forests with ferocious beasts; placed serpents in every path; stuffed the world with earthquakes, and adorned its surface with mountains of flame.

Notwithstanding all this, we are told that the world is perfect; that it was created by a perfect being, and is therefore necessarily perfect. The next moment, these same persons will tell us that the world was cursed; covered with brambles, thistles and thorns, and that man was doomed to disease and death, simply because our poor, dear mother ate an apple contrary to the command of an arbitrary God.

A very pious friend of mine, having heard that I had said the world was full of imperfections, asked me if the report was true. Upon being informed that it was, he expressed great surprise that any one could be guilty of such presumption. He said that, in his judgment, it was impossible to point out an imperfection. “ Be kind enough,” said he, “ to name even one improvement that you could make, if you had the power.” “ Well,” said I, “ I would make good health catching, instead of disease.” The truth is, it is impossible to harmonize all the ills, and pains, and agonies of this world with the idea that we were created by, and are watched over and protected by an infinitely wise, powerful and beneficent God, who is superior to and independent of nature.

The clergy, however, balance all the real ills of this life with the expected joys of the next. We are assured that all is perfection in heaven -there the skies are cloudless - there all is serenity and peace. Here empires may be overthrown ; dynasties may be extinguished in blood ; millions of slaves may toil ‘neath the fierce rays of the sun, and the cruel strokes of the lash ; yet all is happiness in heaven. Pestilences may strew the earth with corpses of the loved ; the survivors may bend above them in agony-yet the placid bosom of heaven is unruffled. Children may expire vainly asking for bread; babes may be devoured by serpents, while the gods sit smiling in the clouds. The innocent may languish unto death in the obscurity of dungeons; brave men and heroic women may be changed to ashes at the bigot’s stake, while heaven is filled with song and joy. Out on the wide sea, in darkness and in storm, the shipwrecked struggle with the cruel waves while the angels play upon their golden harps. The streets of the world are filled with the diseased, the deformed and the helpless; the chambers of pain are crowded with the pale forms of the suffering, while the angels float and fly in the happy realms of day. In heaven they are too happy to have sympathy; too busy singing to aid the imploring and distressed. Their eyes are blinded ; their ears are stopped and their hearts are turned to stone by the infinite selfishness of joy. The saved mariner is too happy when he touches the shore to give a moment’s thought to his drowning brothers. With the indifference of happiness, with the contempt of bliss, heaven barely glances at the miseries of earth. Cities are devoured by the rushing lava ; the earth opens and thousands perish ; women raise their clasped hands towards heaven, but the gods are too happy to aid their children. The smiles of the deities are unacquainted with the tears of men. The shouts of heaven drown the sobs of earth.