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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact


by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: Taber asks: "Is there any God" and finishes with a statement of agnosticism.

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A FEW centuries ago, to say that there was no God, was to invite the stake. A few generations ago, to deny the Christian’s God, was succeeded by imprisonment. A few decades ago, to question the existence of a personal God, was to incur the odium of public opinion.

Thanks to the advance of liberal thought, a Christian clergyman (Rev. Minot J. Savage) is enabled to say, as he did recently, “The question as to whether God exists or not, is, like any other question, open for discussion.” Another Christian clergyman, Rev. W. H. Thomas of Chicago, says, “I question whether or not it is possible for the human intellect ever to stand without the possibility of doubt with reference to God.”

Thomas Jefferson said, “Question with boldness even the existence of God.”

“Who, what, and where is God?” has been asked millions of times; but no intelligent, satisfactory answer has ever been given. Even Rev. T. Dewitt Talmage of Brooklyn has said, “If you ask me how a man can know about God, I cannot tell you.”

What is meant by the question, “Do you believe in God?” Has the questioner any conception whatever of the import of the question? Not the slightest. Rev. John W. Chadwick says, “The belief in God is as elusive to our logic as a drop of mercury is to our touch.” Joubert has said, “It is easy to believe in God if you are not asked to define him.” But why say “him?” Is God a person, and of the masculine gender? Emerson says, ‘, When I speak of God, I prefer to say it. ”And what does personality imply? It implies individuality, isolation, identity, outline, limitation, form, distinct and separate existence. Are these consistent with the divine attribute of Ubiquity?

Rev. J. M. Capes (of the Church of England) says, “The word ‘personality’ is a plain assertion that God is limited in his substance, and is therefore a denial of his infinity.” The orthodox creed says that “God is without body or parts.” Surely this is not descriptive of personality.

It says in the Bible that “man is made in the image of God;” and Matthew Arnold says that “man has returned the compliment, and says that God is made in the image of man.” Rev. J. W. Chadwick says: “That man is made in the image of God is not a more acceptable saying than that God is made in the image of man.”

This is illustrated by paintings in the picture galleries of Europe, where God is represented as a fine-looking old gentleman with a flowing white beard. And why not, if personality is insisted upon? for man is the highest personality known to man. Says Dr. Hedge: “Man fashions his God in his own image and endows him with the attributes he has learned to respect in the wisest and best of men.” Says Rev. J. W. Chadwick: “Mr. Ingersoll’s saying, ‘An honest God’s the noblest work of man,’ is not a mere witticism — it is profoundly true.”

But how very short of a perfect being is the God of the Bible. In that book he is represented as “petulant, jealous, cruel, vindictive, revengeful, unjust, untruthful, tricky, immoral.” (H. 0. Pentecost.) In that book the attributes of Infinity are taken from him. The Bible says he has a “local habitation,” and that he “comes and goes.” This is inconsistent with Omnipresence. The Bible says he “repented that he had made man.” This is inconsistent with Omniscience. The Bible says he “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley.” This is inconsistent with Omnipotence.

The Bible also represents him as delighting in sacrificial blood; as sending “a lying spirit” to mislead his own prophets; as ordering the inhuman butchery of thousands of men, married women and children, and the capture, for the soldiery, of the maidens!

As Judge Westbrook has said, “The low conception and gross representations of the character of God should put the blush upon the cheek of cannibalism itself.”

The late Phineas T. Barnum (a thoroughly religious man) said, “The orthodox faith painted God as so revengeful a being that you could hardly distinguish the difference between God and the Devil.”

Is it the “God of love” that we read of in Deut. xxviii, from the 15th verse — which sounds like the anathemas of the Pope of Rome?

“The God men make for men —
A God impossible to common sense.”

It is a singular fact that those whom Christians have termed Infidels are the very persons who (so far as they believed in a God) had the most exalted idea of Deity.

Thomas Paine’s conception of God far transcends that of the orthodox Christian.

Lord Bacon says, “An ill opinion of God is worse than Atheism.”

“Orthodoxy made God a capricious tyrant, and Infidelity sought relief by abolishing him.” (N.Y. Herald.)

Col. Ingersoll said, “From the aspersions of the pulpit I would rescue the reputation of the Deity.”

Whether there is a God or not, it is safe to say that the orthodox God does not exist.

The question recurs: Is there any God?

La Place says: “The telescope sweeps the skies without finding God.” Lalande has said, “I have searched through the heavens, and nowhere have I found a trace of God.”

Mr. T. B. Wakeman says: “There is no possible room anywhere for an extra-mundane God. The true God is the totality of the correlated Universe.” This he denominates “monism,” in which term he finds the philosophy of Bruno, Spinoza, Comte, and Haeckel.

I think that but comparatively few thoughtful, intelligent beings believe in a personality called God. There are those who believe in God as “that vast power which rules in the Universe in all things by law.” (Hon. Andrew D. White.) Matthew Arnold says, “All things seem to us to have what we call a law of their being; whether we call this God or not, is a matter of choice.” Rev. M. J. Savage says, “There are no laws of God except the natural laws of the universe.” Tennyson says: “God is law.” John Fiske says, “God is not will, but law:” and Rev. William Wilberforce Newton says, “If law is God, then there is no personality, and if there is no personality then there is no will.”

There is no consensus of opinion as to what is the definition of the term God. It is the most unmeaning of words. Besides the God of personality there is the God of immanence and the God of transcendence.

Among believers in the last of these may be included Francis Ellingwood Abbott, PH.D.; Dr. Robert G. Eccles; Prof. Lewis G. Jayne; Sir Wm. Hamilton (who says, “As a transcendental is an unconditioned being, God cannot be scientifically known;“) and Herbert Spencer (who says, “ There is a power behind humanity and behind all things… the Unknowable.”)

Believers in a God of immanence may include Rev. S. R. Calthorp, who says, “ Nature and God are the same; ” Rev. J. W. Chadwick: “There are not God and nature — God is nature;” Goethe: “He who rises not high enough to see God and nature as one, knows neither;” Rev. Lyman Abbott, D.D.: “God and nature are not dual. We have abandoned the carpenter conception of creation, and are substituting for it the far grander conception of a God immanent in nature;” Rev. Dr. Greer (of St. Bartholomew’s Church): “God is immanent in all human life;” Alexander Pope:

“All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.”

Are not these Pantheistic or Monistic, rather than Deistic or Theistic conceptions?

Every age, every nation, has had its God; differing only as human conceptions of Deity differ, but known under different names: to the Norseman as Odin, to the Egyptian as Osiris, to the Phoenician as Baal, to the Babylonian as Belus, to the Persian as Ormuzd, to the Hindoo as Brahma, to the Greek as Zeus, to the Roman as Jupiter, to the Mohammedan as Allah, to the Jew as Jehovah, to the American Indian as the Great Spirit, to the African Pygmies as Yer, and to the Christian as God; all the same or similar creations of the imagination — for, of course, it is impossible for the finite to know the Infinite. Henry Frank (late of the Congregational Church at Jamestown, N. Y.) has said: “You ask me what God is. If I knew, I would be God.”

Agnosticism can neither affirm nor deny the existence of God. It certainly cannot affirm the existence of that which it is impossible to demonstrate: and Rev. R. Heber Newton has said, “You cannot demonstrate God.”

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