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ORACLE OF REASON

ULAR UN

Or, Philosophy Vindicated.

“FAITH'S EMPIRE IS THE WORLD; ITS MONARCH, GOD; ITS MINISTERS, THE PRIESTS;

ITS SLAVES, THE PEOPLE."

No. 24.)
EDITED FOR CHARLES SOUTHWELL, DURING HIS IMPRISONMENT,
BY G. JACOB HOLYOAKE.

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MR. CHARLES SOUTHWELL.

THE COWARDICE AND

DISHONESTY OF SCIENTIFIC MEN. The friends of Mr.Southwell are respectfully inforned that, agreeable as it is to him to The hackvied adage, of honesty being the hear from them, such is the strict surveil- best policy, is strikingly illustrated in the lance kept over him, that it will be better sbutilings and knaveries of scientific men. that they do not write to him at all : he must should lead them to the practice of virtue,

The possession of that knowledge which be considered, during 'bis imprisonment, as from the want of moral principle, degrades literally dead. As he is placed, the šindest them (if we estimate the effects of their conand most affectionately intended communi. duct), below the level of the most ignorant cation, may become to him a source of very members of society. Instead of lending a painful annoyance. All letters are opened helping hand to the samaritans of society,

they link themselves (it is hoped reluctantly) and examined by the governor, and some of to the disgusting car of vice, which they them laid before the magistrates, which is help to drag through the mire of human very stinging where near relatives are the ignorance, and over prostrate suffering virtue. correspondents; and any answers returned

The difference between religion and are treated in the same way. So that all science has, on more than one occasion been letters sent by accident after this notice, if former is systematized folly, or ignorance,

insisted upon in the Oracle, namely, that the permitted to reach Mr. Southwell, will be and the latter systematized facts or reason ; sent to Mr. Holyoake to be answered as he that religion begins where scievce ends. and best can. Even Mr. Southwell's visitors on that there can be no legitimate connexion visiting days, are liable to be searched, and hetween the two, we hope those persons who some of them have been, on entering the gaol

, may have seen this position clearly, will to prevent them taking any scráp of paper do not see it, may have their eyes opened,

excuse my again reverting to it; those who to him. A turnkey is always present at in- and my cherished object will be gained. terviews with his friends, and on one occa. For the general appreciation of this fact, sion has been ordered to sit between him and would be a death blow to religious faith: his friend during their conversation.

Unless we possess infinite intelligence, we

shall always have faith, or a belief in the Newspapers may still be sent, but the existences we have not ourselves seen, but Northern Star must not be among the num- then, it will be based upon the analogies of ber. The lists of these together with those things we have seen; and not like religious of books, are carefully inspected by the ma-faith, which demands the belief in existences gistrates. In other respects, Mr. S.'s treat- which have no type in nature, and cannot ment is not to be complained of. His friends without palpable contradiction and absurdity,

be contrasted with anything we know of are permitted to furnish his table. But the for sure care of his soul is entirely the business of the

Nothing but themselves can be their parallel. functionaries about him; and if its enjoyment in a future state is to accord with its present Man's happiness is proportioned to his burturing, he need not sigh for its immor- wisdom'; knowledge alone is barren. Wistality. His appearance is impaired, and his dom, or the application of our knowledge, is dealth too, from a nervous affection that has the prolific parent of all pleasurable senteized hiin; his spirits are good, and his sations. A man may know a great deal, dunions, it needs scarcely be added, are and yet he a practical fool; he only is wise unaltered; except that every hour of hix who acts upon what he knows. Every in prisoument has confirmed many of them. moment teenis with useful lessons for our

G, J. H. guidance to happiness; but how to i take 193

advantage of them, alas! the misery and crimes it does, from those who should ponr the balm which deluge society, plainly and painfully of hope upon the despairing and wounded bear witness. Channing has said that it is spirit; instead of which, more noble to instil one great thought into

They smile, and murder while they smile! the mind of a man, than to be the hero of a hundred fights: and so say I. Ardently do I The characteristics of the present age are desire, amongst other things, to direct the those of humbug and philosophy. The geoattention of my fellows to the advantage, eral competition of our unsocial arrangements nay, necessity, of gathering experience from compel scientific men to adhere to their contheir every day associations, and the acting victions in describing those natural pheupon it. It is of no use that they perceive nomena they have investigated. They have certain errors and anomolies, if they do not a choice of two unpleasant alternatives, either consistently, upon all occasions, show their to tell truth and strike away the crutches possesion of that knowledge by their conduct. from religion, or to conceal and distort facts, It is of little avail that they deprecate for the purpose of bolstering it up: By acting in private the follies and cruelties in con- upon the first, they lose cast, and are denounnection with royalty, if they form part of the ced by the blood-bounds of faith as Infidels ; crowds to run after the pagen tries and empty this is certain ruin to their worldly prospects, shows got up every now and then to amuse at least. By adopting the second, they are and gull a starving and benighted people. repudiated as dishonest or foolish, and can Unfortunately such is the fact; and I was never hope to take rank among the benefacmuch pleased some weeks since, to find the tors of mankind-and be immortal. To escape talented and caustic “Censorius,” in the from this dilemma, they generally make a Dispatch, treating upon the same subject, in wretched attempt to cover their infidelity reference to the opening of parliament. by asserting, that whatever may be thought

Since it is by observation, and action based of their facts or deductions, nothing was upon our experience of the past, that we can more foreign to their intentions than to dis alone hope to experience pleasure, surely prove the truths of religion, and that they scientific men are in a better position than are not aware that their langnage will bear the masses for enjoying happiness themselves such an interpretation. This I believe to be and contributing to the happiness of others. the substance of an apology by Dr. Buckland, How much, then, is it to be deplored that for his Bridgwater Treatise : a sop for the this class should wilfully assist to continue dragon. In my articles on the “ Theory of the social miseries in which we are steeped Regular Gradation," many passages will be to the lips. But such is the fact. Robert met with from the learned gent.'s treatise, Owen has asserted, that we are possessed of sufficient to alarm those who have vested a sufficient amount of knowledge, which, interests in ignorance and credulity. practically applied for the benefit of man- The ancients, said hell is paved with kind, would make every being happy and good intentions; those of the religious of all virtuous to extent never witnessed ; ages, if we are to believe them, must form and yet as a nation, we are suffering more considerable causeways, I should think, in than any similar number of individuals ever this their own peculiar freehold. suffered before at one time. And why is it ? In No. 16, I commented upon the remarks Partly because those in power consider it to of the Messrs. Chambers, in reference to the be to their interests to keep us in this posi- formation of worlds. Jo their number upou tion, and partly because those who are in geology, seeing the deductions to be drawn the secret have not the honesty to speak the from the facts they are giving, they endeavour truth without an attempt at mystery, and to to blind the heedless reader, by referring ceract themselves upon their knowledge. tain effects to “part of the Great General

Scientific men are in raptures upon the dis- Design.” Dr. Buckland states them to be covery of a new fossil, or a compound which "striking examples of seleetion of contrhad previously been considered a simple ; and vances." De la Beche speaks of the unity burn with impatience to be the first to an- of design so evident throughout the universe, nounce it to the world, their No. 10's (self- and of the condensation of our system, esteem) being as active as those of

“ doubtless from design." Remarks of this class; but they subsequently cool down kind, in scientific works, are not only irrele below zero, when they contemplate the vant, but bear upon them the stamp of deceit, consequences their acquisition leads to, or and a wish to mislead; for, if the appearance perceive the use made of it by others more do decidedly lead to such conclusions, whero honest, but less careful. And it is then is the necessity for stating them? And if they they do not scruple to fasten with an addi- do not, but the opposite, it is wilful lying tional rivet the chain with which villainy even hint the contrary. Scientific men have and folly have bound the mental, and con- only to give the world their facts, and lear sequently the physical, energies of man. it to their readers to draw their own concl. This is the unkindest cut of all; coming as sions; excepting where their knowledge

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other circumstances would enable them to pid bigot,” or, if you like, a stupid Atheist. furnish a probable natural explanation. At page 189, the reviewer says, “if there They are not justified, under any circum- is nu god, say so at once-never mind the

stances, in mixing up theological specula- consequences. Truth has never yet been - lions with scientific facts.

proved to be injurious.” Very good, G.J.H., What would be thought of a man unim- but before you call upon men to receive athepaired in vision, who seeing a blind brother ism as truth, I hope that you will condescend upou the edge of a precipice, is not content prove that it is so.

At page 186, I find to leave him

there to take his chance of escap- these words, “ I do not pretend to know that itig by turning back, but deliberately pushes there is no god;" then, by what rule does him over ? Would it not be blazoned in the this same man, who does “ not pretend to broadsheets as a “Most horrible outrage !— know that there is no god,” pretend to know Disgusting depravity,” &c., and hopes ex- that atheism is truth, and truth is atheism ? pressed that the villain would be brought to It is quite true that I have regarded, and justice ? Certainly! But learned, scien- do still regard, the question of the being and tific, and far-seeing men, may deliberately attributes of god as a question of moral influthrust their blind brethren over the precipice ence, rather than as a question of mere fact; of error, into the yawning gulf of misery and still, if G. J. H., or any one else, will detervice, and nothing is thought of it. Oh, no! mine the case, by proving that there is no god, Such conduct conserves to the selfish interests I will give up the question at once, and will of the powerful few, and the press of course, "never mind the consequences.”

But until is damb.

this be “proved," I hope I shall be excused That which leads to a particular vice is if I continue to consider every man a “higoted not, in the opinion of the world, near so bad atheist,” or a “stupid Atheist,” just as I is the vice itself, although the first is the would consider any other man, Papist, Procause or root, and the latter only the effect testant, Methodist, or Ranter, Hindon, Budor fruit. The conduct of society in relation ist, or Mohamedan, a bigot, who dogmatito the causes of immorality, may be likened cally asserted that which he was unable to to a man who has in his garden a tree, the prove. fruit of which is poisonous, and is hourly I should be well pleased to discuss the plucked by every passer ; but who, never question in the Oracle, because to my mind theless, contents himself with vain attempts it appears a question of deep interest, not as at counteracting its baneful effects upon a mere speculative matter, but as lying at the those who eat of it, instead of vigourously root of all practical morals. This however, and at once digging up the roots and burning it would appear, cannot be done. For if the the whole.

W. C. moral code of atheism can allow its high

priest to speak of an opponent as a cold.

hearted and inhuman” reasoner, it were well, To the Editor of the Oracle of Reason. for the sake of peace to shut up the book and

close the argument._I remain yours, BIR,_My attention has been directed to two

T. S. MACKINTOSH. - long, abusive articles in Nos. 22 and 23 of

the Oracle of Reason written in a very rambling and flippant style, headed “Mr. Mack- A "VULGAR ATHEIST'S" intosh's New God," which articles, I suppose, were intended for a review of a small work MR. MACKINTOSH's “PURE” HUMBUG. of mine, recently published, entitled " A Dissertation upon the Being and Attributes of

“Shame! where is thy blush ?" God." If the spirit exhibited in these two A GROSSER mixture of impudence and folly articles is to be received as a specimen of the than is contained in this book could not, I spirit of atheism, you will excuse me when I think, have been produced, even by a "vulgar say, that I do not think it is the kind of spirit superstitionist;" and must equally disgust the by which men are to be made either wiser or saint with the philosopher. Although two rebetter. But that of which I chiety complain, views of this eight-pennyworth of nonsense is the bold assumption, and I might say cool have already appeared in the Oracle, its ab: impudence, which runs through the whole, by surdities, thick as blackberries in autumn, which it is taken for granted that atheism is readily supply food for further comment. truth and truth is atheism. This is the bigotry The work itself is really not worth so much of atheism. I have seen a ranter thump the notice, and could only have been written

Jew Book," and call it " the truth, the upon the assymption of extensive ignorance divine truth,' and

have concluded that pervading the class for whom it was intend the man was a bigot, “ a stupid bigot;" and ed, which is generally believed to be the when I find another man assuming that athe- party in whose service the writer is at present ism is truth, without proving his position, I employed, numbers of whom will doubtless um equally inclined to consider him a

stu. swallow it as the gospel, according to Saint 195

16

OPINION OF

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Thomas.” This must be my excuse for again | goodness, naturally begets in the hearts and minde obtrudiug this“ printed disgrace,” as a love of men a desire to be like him ; for mau in an imitaspirit once designated this paper, upon

tive creature, as may be most visibly perceived in my readers. Between the Atheist and Re- the development of the character of a child. The publican and the Oracle, the R. R.'s were in belief in a wise and good being, called god, naturally a bit of a “fix,” not knowing what god to begets a love of god; and, of necessity, a love us tack their religion and worship to, for the butes; and all men, even the most ignorant anul vicious,

wisdom and goodness, for these are his moral attri. one cannot exist without the other. In this

love wisdom and goodness in the abstract; for wis. dilemma, Mr. M. kindly lent them his as

dom and goodness are the progenitors of happiness, sistance; and he is now employed on “ lord's

as folly and wickedness are of misery: therefore, as day " in leading the uninitiated to a know. all men love happiness and hate misery, of necessity, ledge of the divine nature; the holiness of as soon as they have a notion of the connection of the occasion being duly preserved by the abo- cause and effect, they hate folly and wickedness, lition of the priest-destroying principle of because they are the parents of misery, and they discussion, which was found inconvenient, love wisdom and goodness, because they are the I presume.

parents of happiness. If the actions of all mer, or No sooner does Mr. Owen announce the even of the majority of men, were the result of reasontrue religion, than Mr. Mackintosh publishes ing from abstract moral principles, the belief in a wise the true god, to whom the said religion be. and good god would not be so important as it is trick Jongs, of course. Now, inasmuch as the lat. things as they are at present. But even from that ter came after the former, I think we shall point of view much could be advanced in support of not be far from the true notion, by premising the beneficial tendency of such a belief, as giving a that the god was specially created for the re

fixed moral standard from which these reasonings ligion, or more properly, for the believers in should commence—a kind of moral axiom, to which, it, yclept “ Rational Religionists,” and per- by which the judgment is modified, our conclusions

under the various and ever changing circumstances haps designed to lead to a perpetual curacy should be referred to as a test of their truth. But the in the “ pew moral" church.

amount of human conduct resulting from reasoning The preface is so rich in its way, and more

from abstract moral principles is a very small fraction over being an index to the work, which was

indeed. Example from established customs; habits intended to crush whom we are gravely told induced upon the individual chiefly by these củsdoes not, nor ever can exist- Atheists; and toms, regulate more than nine tenths of all huinaa to remove from the land that which, for the conduct in every part of the world. If the customs last reason, never could have had a beingbe good, they will, by example, indące good habits, atheism, I have extracted it entire, that iny and individual character will, in a comparative de comments may be the better understood by gree, be morally good ; 80 also on the contrary, if those readers who have not read the work. the established customs be bad, they will, generally, It is as follows:

induce the opposite effect. Hence the great culne of

a belief in a wise and good god as a fired moral The motives which have urged me to write and standard of moral wisdom and goodness, which publįsh this Dissertation are these: I am a believer being of necessity loved by the believer, will become in the being of one god, powerful, wise, and good ; I a steady example to which his imitative faculty will am convinced that a belief in god, a confiding belief be directed, and will thus counteract the efici in his power, wisdom, and goodness, is beneficial to arising froin the example of the evil customs of the inan as an individual; that it is a confort, stay, and world. So far as the belief in a wise and good god support against despair in adversity, and a corrective tends by example to make men wise and good, so and reproof against pride and insolence in prosperity. far is this belief beneficial to men as social beings, The lost wanderer in the wiļderness, like Mungo because whatever promotes individnal virtue pro: Park; or the shipwrecked mariner who is cast away motes universal happiness. pupon the ocean, whilst he struggles with adverse I have one more reason for publishing my views circumstances, struggles with a firmer and better upon this subject, which, however, being of a njerely heart, becuarise through this belief he feels that there personal nature, is not of so much consequence :: is a stronger, wiser, and better being than himself the preceding. I have been denounced as an atheis controlling his destiny.. Take this faith, this con- in open parliament by the Bishop of Exeter, and on confidence away, and in nine cases out of ten, the many public occasions by other parties of lear note. individual will faint and sink under the weight of In answer to this, I have only to say, that all those the circumstances which surround him. So also, on who know me (and I am known to inany thousands the other hand, the conscious belief in the eristence in this country), know that I have always been a of a being of greater power, wisdom, and goodness than steady, and, I believe. a consistent opposer of himselt, or any man, or all men, moderates his atheism, as well as the vulgar notions of the deity pride or confidence in his own power, wisdom, and taught by the eominon superstition of the country. goodness. So far, and perhaps farther, I am of I know that it is the custom of intolerant bigotry to opinion that the belief in a god, powerful, wise, and deuonnce every man as a Atheist whose notions of gourd, is beneficial to man as an individual.

the deity do not, in every point, square exactly with This belief is also, in my opinion, beneficial to its own.

may therefore

expect that by some par. man as a social being. The belief in a being of ties I shall still be denounced as an Atheist; and, if higher intelligence or wisdom, and of perfect moral so, I have only to aseure such parties, that I shall

198

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feel that they do me a high honour : for however are ever organised precisely alike, and con. falso the accusation may be I had much rather be sequently that their minds will not be alike; stalled an Atheist than that it should be supposed for that it is impossible for any two individuals one moment that I entertain the grovelling, degrading, to think exactly like each other upon any and debasing notions of the deity taught by vulgar su

given case. A belief, which must vary with perstition.

erery ivdividual, is to serve as a “ fixed moral The reader, I hope, will not fail to notice standard !” Perhaps he meant for every the great stress laid by the writer upon the man to be his own standard;" or perhaps he belief in a "god, powerful, wise, and good ;”? did not know what he meant, and left it for which is said to be “a comfort, stay, and critics to discover: thus making the enemy support against despair in adversity, and a pay the expense of the campaign. corrective and reproof against pride and in- Again, this writer

more than solence in prosperity;" also, that it necessa- nine-tenths of all human conduct” depends rily begets “ a love of wisdom and goodness.”

upon the customs of the country in which Now it is notorious that “pine-tenths” of individuals are located ; so that we may prethe world are vicious and depraved, and Mr. sume, if the belief in a god is only to benefit M. tells us that even the most ignorant and or improve less than a tenth of human con. vicious love wisdom and goodness in the ab- duct, and that only such belief is necessary stract," which, in iny opinion, destroys his to make men really moral, that the world is own position. The catalogue of benefits to now nearly arrived at moral perfection, or be obtained from a belief in a god is pretty is only a fraction short of it. This writer considerable, and worthy of acceptance let calls the world the “old immoral ope, upon them come from whence they may. And be. what principle I should like to know, when ing told by the writer at the commencement his proposed“ pew moral” one can only be that he is a believer in a god because these superior by less than one-tenth? advantages are to be obtained from such

Men can only believe in this god by a belief, 1 naturally expected that the book process of abstract reasoning, which reasonwas intended to prove to men the truth and ing the writer states would lead men to virtue value of this belief to morality and virtue: without a god; where then is the utility of to convince sceptics and to strengthen those the addition? already in the faith. How great then was This teacher of “truth, without mystery, my surprise when, some few lives beyond, mixture of error," &c. has made the imporI find it stated, that the "amount of human tant discovery, after teaching the contrary for conduct resulting from reasoning from ab- many years, that believing is feeling, for he stract moral principles is a very small fraction says, “because through his belief he feels." indeed!Which "very small fraction in. To give it more emphasis and attract attendeed,” this superlatively triding and insigni- tion to it, he has put the word in italics. ficant benefit, is all that men get by believing for some years I have entertained the nction in a god! What wretched remuneration for that our feelings or sensations were the re. philosophical folly; it would n't find salt for sult of contact with outward objects and one's porridge. The customs of the country, things, that they were classed with the known says this necessitarian, in the next page, and knowable, and not with beliefs and imamakes men good or bad, “hence (he adds) ginings. For instance: a person may see the great value [i.e. of the very small fraction] one at a distance whom he thinks he knows; of a belief in a wise and good god, as a fixed the distance prevents his being certain that moral standard," &c. A fixed moral stand- it is his friend, but he knows he sees some ard, like a fixed physical one, should be de. one; he feels conscinus that a human being is moustrable: but this gent. has devoted several before him, but he only believes it to be his pages of his work to the demonstration of acquaintance. We are told that “ seeing is the impracticability of demonstrating the ex- believing, and feeling is the naked truth," istence of a god. And yet, a belief in an but I never heard that believivg was feeling, iudeterminable, imaginary being (?) is vaun- however true the contrary may be scmetimes. tingly put forward as a standard or guide to So wretchedly incompetent is the writer morality, in preference to reason and experi. consistently to support his hypothesis, that ence, and that too by a teacher of the all- he discloses the real object he had in view sufficiency of reason and experience for the (the usual screen of cowards and "designers”) production and preservation of happiness ! viz. expediency, before he gets out of the Which is to be admired most, the impudence first page. He says, “ If the actions of all or the ignorance of such conduct i Perhaps inen, or even of the majority of men, were I may be told, that the standard must be a the result of reasoning from abstract moral mental one, existing only in the minds of the principles, the belief in a wise and good god believers, and not to be made apparent to would not be so important as it is with things the senses. Well, what they? This writer as they are at present." An admissson, that states in the pulpit, that no two individuals | some men require no belief in a god to make

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