A few years ago a few men began to think, to investigate, to reason. They began to doubt the legends of the church, the miracles of the past. They began to notice what happened. They found that eclipses came at certain intervals and that their coming could be foretold. They became satisfied that the conduct of men had nothing to do with eclipses--and that the stars moved in their orbits unconscious of the sons of men. Galileo, Copernicus, and Kepler destroyed the astronomy of the Bible, and demonstrated that the "inspired" story of creation could not be true, and that the church was as ignorant as the priests were dishonest.
They found that the myth-makers were mistaken, that the sun and stars did not revolve about the earth, that the firmament was not solid, that the earth was not flat, and that the so-called philosophy of the theologians was absurd and idiotic.
The stars became witnesses against the creeds of superstition.
With the telescope the heavens were explored. The New Jerusalem could not be found.
It had faded away.
The church persecuted the astronomers and denied the facts. In February, in the year of grace sixteen hundred, the Catholic Church, the "Triumphant Beast," having in her hands, her paws, the keys of heaven and hell, accused Giordano Bruno of having declared that there were other worlds than this. He was tried, convicted, imprisoned in a dungeon for seven years. He was offered his liberty if he would recant. Bruno, the atheist, the philosopher, refused to stain his soul by denying what he believed to be true. He was taken from his cell by the priests, by those who loved their enemies, led to the place of execution. He was clad in a robe on which representations of devils had been painted--the devils that were soon to claim his soul. He was chained to a stake and about his body the wood was piled. Then priests, followers of Christ, lighted the fagots and flames consumed the greatest, the most perfect martyr, that ever suffered death.
And yet the Italian agent of God, the infallible Leo XIII., only a few years ago, denounced Bruno, the "bravest of the brave," as a coward. The church murdered him, and the pope maligned his memory. Fagot and falsehood--two weapons of the church.
A little while ago a few men began to examine rocks and soils, mountains, islands, reefs and seas. They noticed the valleys and deltas that had been formed by rivers, the many strata of lava that had been changed to soil, the vast deposits of metals and coal, the immense reefs that the coral had formed, the work of glaciers in the far past, the production of soil by the disintegration of rock, by the growth and decay of vegetation and the countless evidences of the countless ages through which the Earth has passed. The geologists read the history of the world written by wave and flame, attested by fossils, by the formation of rocks, by mountain ranges, by volcanoes, by rivers, islands, continents and seas.
The geology of the Bible--of the "divinely inspired" church, of the "infallible" pope, was found to be utterly false and foolish.
The Earth became a witness against the creeds of superstition.
Then came Watt and Galvani with the miracles of steam and electricity, while countless inventors created the wonderful machines that do the work of the world. Investigation took the place of credulity. Men became dissatisfied with huts and rags, with crusts and creeds. They longed for the comforts, the luxuries of life. The intellectual horizon enlarged, new truths were discovered, old ideas were thrown aside, the brain was developed, the heart civilized and science was born. Humboldt, Laplace and hundreds of others explained the phenomena of nature, called attention to the ancient and venerable mistakes of sanctified ignorance and added to the sum of knowledge. Darwin and Haeckel gave their conclusions to the world. Men began to really think, the myths began to fade, the miracles to grow mean and small, and the great structure, known as theology, fell with a crash.
Science denies the truth of myth and miracle, denies that human testimony can substantiate the miraculous, denies the existence of the supernatural. Science asserts the absolute, the unvarying uniformity of nature. Science insists that the present is the child of all the past,--that no power can change the past, and that nature is forever the same.
The chemist has found that just so many atoms of one kind unite with just so many of another--no more, no less, always the same. No caprice in chemistry; no interference from without.
The astronomers know that the planets remain in their orbits--that their forces are constant. They know that light is forever the same, always obeying the angle of incidence, traveling with the same rapidity,--casting the same shadow, under the same circumstances in all worlds. They know that the eclipses will occur at the times foretold--neither hastening nor delaying. They know that the attraction of gravitation is always the same. always in perfect proportion to mass and distance, neither weaker nor stronger, unvarying forever. They know that the facts in nature cannot be changed or be destroyed, and that the qualities of all things are eternal.
The men of science know that the atomic integrity of the metals is always the same, that each metal is true to its nature and that the particles cling to each other with the same tenacity,--the same force. They have demonstrated the persistence of force, that it is forever active, forever the same, and that it cannot be destroyed.
These great truths have revolutionized the thought of the world.
Every art, every employment, all study, all experiment, the value of experience, of judgment, of hope, all rest on a belief in the uniformity of nature, on the eternal persistence and indestructibility of force.
Break one link in the infinite chain of cause and effect, and the Master of Nature appears. The broken link would become the throne of a god.
The uniformity of Nature denies the supernatural and demonstrates that there is no interference from without. There is no place, no office left for gods. Ghosts fade from the brain and the shrivelled deities fall palsied from their thrones.
The uniformity of Nature renders a belief in "special providence" impossible. Prayer becomes a useless agitation of the air, and religious ceremonies are but motions, pantomimes, mindless and meaningless.
The naked savage, worshiping a wooden god, is the religious equal of the robed pope kneeling before an image of the Virgin. The poor African who carries roots and bark to protect himself from evil spirits is on the same intellectual plane of one who sprinkles his body with "holy water."
All the creeds of Christendom, all the religions of the heathen world are equally absurd. The cathedral, the mosque and the joss house have the same foundation. Their builders do not believe in the uniformity of Nature, and the business of all priests is to induce a so-called infinite being to change the order of events, to make causes barren of effects and to produce effects without, and in spite of, natural causes. They all believe in the unthinkable and pray for the impossible.
Science teaches us that there was no creation and that there can be no destruction. The infinite denies creation and defies destruction. An infinite person, an "infinite being" is an infinite impossibility. To conceive of such a being is beyond the power of the mind. Yet all religions rest upon the supposed existence of the unthinkable, the inconceivable. And the priests of these religions pretend to be perfectly familiar with the designs, will, and wishes of this unthinkable, this inconceivable.
Science teaches that that which really is has always been, that behind every effect is the efficient and necessary cause, that there is in the universe neither chance nor interference, and that energy is eternal. Day by day the authority of the theologian grows weaker and weaker. As the people become intelligent they care less for preachers and more for teachers. Their confidence in knowledge, in thought and investigation increases. They are eager to know the discoveries, the useful truths, the important facts made, ascertained and demonstrated by the explorers in the domain of the natural. They are no longer satisfied with the platitudes of the pulpit, and the assertions of theologians. They are losing confidence in the "sacred Scriptures" and in the protecting power and goodness of the supernatural. They are satisfied that credulity is not a virtue and that investigation is not a crime.
Science is the providence of man, the worker of true miracles, of real wonders. Science has "read a little in Nature's infinite book of secrecy." Science knows the circuits of the winds, the courses of the stars. Fire is his servant, and lightning his messenger. Science freed the slaves and gave liberty to their masters. Science taught man to enchain, not his fellows, but the forces of nature, forces that have no backs to be scarred, no limbs for chains to chill and eat, forces that have no hearts to break, forces that never know fatigue, forces that shed no tears. Science is the great physician. His touch has given sight. He has made the lame to leap, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, and in the pallid face his hand has set the rose of health. Science has given his beloved sleep and wrapped in happy dreams the throbbing nerves of pain. Science is the destroyer of disease, builder of happy homes, the preserver of life and love. Science is the teacher of every virtue, the enemy of every vice. Science has given the true basis of morals, the origin and office of conscience, revealed the nature of obligation, of duty, of virtue in its highest, noblest forms, and has demonstrated that true happiness is the only possible good. Science has slain the monsters of superstition, and destroyed the authority of inspired books. Science has read the records of the rocks, records that priestcraft cannot change. and on his wondrous scales has weighed the atom and the star.
Science has founded the only true religion. Science is the only Savior of this world.