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############################################################ ############################################################ ______ / / / / / /__ __ / / ) (__ / / (__(__ __ |\ ( ) ) / / | \ | / / . _/_ . __ / . __ __ | \ | / / / / ) / ) / / ) __ ) / ) ) \| (__(__(___(__(__(___(__(__(__(__(__(__/ (__ =========================================================== *The*E-Zine*of*Atheistic*Secular*Humanism*and*Freethought** =========================================================== ############################################################ ###### Volume II, Number 6 ***A Collector's Item!***##### ################### ISSN 1201-0111 ####################### ####################### JUN 1995 ########################### ############################################################ nullifidian, n. & a. (Person) having no religious faith or belief. [f. med. L _nullifidius_ f. L _nullus_ none + _fides_ faith; see -IAN] Concise Oxford Dictionary The purpose of this magazine is to provide a source of articles dealing with many aspects of humanism. We are ATHEISTIC as we do not believe in the actual existence of any supernatural beings or any transcendental reality. We are SECULAR because the evidence of history and the daily horrors in the news show the pernicious and destructive consequences of allowing religions to be involved with politics or government. We are HUMANISTS and we focus on what is good for humanity, in the real world. We will not be put off with offers of pie in the sky, bye and bye. Re: navigation. Search for BEG to find the beginning of the next article. Search for the first few words of the title as given in the table of contents to find a specific article. I try to remember to copy the title from the text and then paste it into the ToC, so it should be exact. Search for "crass commercialism:" to see what's for sale. Subscription information, etc is at the end of the magazine, search for END OF TEXTS. ############################################################ ############################################################ ============================================================ /=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\ TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. The Necessity of Atheism, by Percy Bysshe Shelley Part I 2. ATHEIST HUMOR, from Ed Babinski 3. Let us worship the Divine Child! A Poem. 4. Chance 5. Euthanasia, personal encounter & cautionary tale =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== 15 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. The value of this 360K disk is $7.00. This disk, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. If you have digitized freethought texts, contact: Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 **** **** LITTLE BLUEBOOK NO. 935 Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius The Necessity of Atheism by Percy Bysshe Shelley [Part I this month, Part II in July] HALDEMAN-JULIUS COMPANY GIRARD, KANSAS FOREWORD BY HENRY S. SALT As a brief summary of Shelley's attitude toward the Christian religion, I may be allowed to quote from what I have written elsewhere. [Percy Bysshe shelley, Poet and Pioneer (Watts & Co., 1913] "I regard Shelley's early 'atheism' and later Pantheism, as simply the negative and the affirmative side of the same progressive but harmonious life-creed. In his earlier years his disposition was towards a vehement denial of a theology which he never ceased to detest; in his maturer years he made more frequent reference to the great World Spirit in whom he had from the first believed. He grew wiser in the exercise of his religious faith, but the faith was the same throughout; there, was progression, but no essential change." The sequence of his thought on the Subject may be clearly traced in several of his essays. In "The Necessity of Atheism," the tract which led to his expulsion from Oxford University, we see Shelley in his youthful mood of open denial and defiance. It has been suggested that the pamphlet was originally intended by its author to be a hoax; but such an explanation entirely misapprehends not only the facts of the case, but the character of Shelley himself. This was long ago pointed out by De guincey: "He affronted the armies of Christendom. Had it been possible for him to be jesting, it would not have been noble; but here, even in the most monstrous of his undertakings -- here, as always, he was perfectly sincere and single-minded." That this is true may be seen not only from the internal evidence of "The Necessity" itself, but from the fact that the conclusion which, Shelley meant to be drawn, from the dialogue "A Refutation of Deism," published in 1814, was that there is no middle course between accepting revealed religion and disbelieving in the existence of a deity -- another way of stating the necessity of atheism. Shelley resembled Blake in the contrast of feeling with which he regarded the Christian religion and its founder. For the human character of Christ he could feel the deepest veneration, as may be seen not only from the "Essay on Christianity," but from the "Letter to Lord Ellenborough" (1812), and also from the notes to "Hellas" and passages in that poem and in "Prometheus Unbound"; but he held that the spirit of established Christianity was wholly out of harmony with that of Christ, and that a similarity to Christ was one of the qualities most detested by the modern Christian. The dogmas of the Christian faith were always repudiated by him, and there is no warrant whatever in his writings for the strange pretension that, had he lived longer, his objections to Christianity might in some way have been overcome. In conclusion, it may be said that Shelley's prose, if, not great in itself, is the prose of a great poet, for which reason it possesses an interest that is not likely to fail. It is the key to the right understanding of his. intellect, as his poetry is the highest expression of his genius. THE NECESSITY OF ATHEISM [NOTE -- The Necessity of Atheism was published by Shelley in 1811. In 1813 he printed a revised and expanded version of it as one of the notes to his poem Queen Mab. The revised and expanded version is the one here reprinted.] THERE IS NO GOD This negation must be understood solely to affect a creative Deity. The hypothesis of a pervading Spirit co-eternal with the universe remains unshaken. A close examination of the validity of the proofs adduced to support any proposition is the only secure way of attaining truth, on the advantages of which it is unnecessary to descant: our knowledge of the existence, of a Deity is a subject of such importance that it cannot be too minutely investigated; in consequence of this conviction we proceed briefly and impartially to examine the proofs which have been adduced. It is necessary first to consider the nature of belief. When a proposition is offered to the mind, It perceives the agreement or disagreement of the ideas of which it is composed. A perception of their agreement is termed belief. Many obstacles frequently prevent this perception from being immediate; these the mind attempts to remove in order that the perception may be distinct. The mind is active in the investigation in order to perfect the state of perception of the relation which the component ideas of the proposition bear to each, which is passive; the investigation being confused with the perception has induced many falsely to imagine that the mind is active in belief. -- that belief is an act of volition, -- in consequence of which it may be regulated by the mind. Pursuing, continuing this mistake, they have attached a degree of criminality to disbelief; of which, in its nature, it is incapable: it is equally incapable of merit. Belief, then, is a passion, the strength of which, like every other passion, is in precise proportion to the degrees of excitement. The degrees of excitement are three. The senses are the sources of all knowledge to the mind; consequently their evidence claims the strongest assent. The decision of the mind, founded upon our own experience, derived from these sources, claims the next degree. The experience of others, which addresses itself to the former one, occupies the lowest degree. (A graduated scale, on which should be marked the capabilities of propositions to approach to the test of the senses, would be a just barometer of the belief which ought to be attached to them.) Consequently no testimony can be admitted which is contrary to reason; reason is founded on the evidence of our senses. Every proof may be referred to one of these three divisions: it is to be considered what arguments we receive from each of them, which should convince us of the existence of a Deity. 1st, The evidence of the senses. If the Deity should appear to us, if he should convince our senses of his existence, this revelation would necessarily command belief. Those to whom the Deity has thus appeared have the strongest possible conviction of his existence. But the God of Theologians is incapable of local visibility. 2d, Reason. It is urged that man knows that whatever is must either have had a beginning, or have existed from all eternity, he also knows that whatever is not eternal must have had a cause. When this reasoning is applied to the universe, it is necessary to prove that it was created: until that is clearly demonstrated we may reasonably suppose that it has endured from all eternity. We must prove design before we can infer a designer. The only idea which we can form of causation is derivable from the constant conjunction of objects, and the consequent inference of one from the other. In a base where two propositions are diametrically opposite, the mind believes that which is least incomprehensible; -- it is easier to suppose that the universe has existed from all eternity than to conceive a being beyond its limits capable of creating it: if the mind sinks beneath the weight of one, is it an alleviation to increase the intolerability of the burthen? The other argument, which is founded on a Man's knowledge of his own existence, stands thus. A man knows not only that he now is, but that once he was not; consequently there must have been a cause. But our idea of causation is alone derivable from the constant conjunction of objects and the consequent Inference of one from the other; and, reasoning experimentally, we can only infer from effects caused adequate to those effects. But there certainly is a generative power which is effected by certain instruments: we cannot prove that it is inherent in these instruments" nor is the contrary hypothesis capable of demonstration: we admit that the generative power is incomprehensible; but to suppose that the same effect is produced by an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent being leaves the cause in the same obscurity, but renders it more incomprehensible. 3d, Testimony. It is required that testimony should not be contrary to reason. The testimony that the Deity convinces the senses of men of his existence can only be admitted by us, if our mind considers it less probable, that these men should have been deceived than that the Deity should have appeared to them. Our reason can never admit the testimony of men, who not only declare that they were eye-witnesses of miracles, but that the Deity was irrational; for he commanded that he should be believed, he proposed the highest rewards for, faith, eternal punishments for disbelief. We can only command voluntary actions; belief is not an act of volition; the mind is ever passive, or involuntarily active; from this it is evident that we have no sufficient testimony, or rather that testimony is insufficient to prove the being of a God. It has been before shown that it cannot be deduced from reason. They alone, then, who have been convinced by the evidence of the senses can believe it. Hence it is evident that, having no proofs from either of the three sources of conviction, the mind cannot believe the existence of a creative God: it is also evident that, as belief is a passion of the mind, no degree of criminality is attachable to disbelief; and that they only are reprehensible who neglect to remove the false medium through which their mind views any subject of discussion. Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity. God is an hypothesis, and, as such, stands in need of proof: the onus probandi rests on the theist. Sir Isaac Newton says: Hypotheses non fingo, quicquid enim ex phaenomenis non deducitur hypothesis, vocanda est, et hypothesis vel metaphysicae, vel physicae, vel qualitatum occultarum, seu mechanicae, in philosophia locum non habent. To all proofs of the existence of a creative God apply this valuable rule. We see a variety of bodies possessing a variety of powers: we merely know their effects; we are in a estate of ignorance with respect to their essences and causes. These Newton calls the phenomena of things; but the pride of philosophy is unwilling to admit its ignorance of their causes. From the phenomena, which are the objects of our attempt to infer a cause, which we call God, and gratuitously endow it with all negative and contradictory qualities. From this hypothesis we invent this general name, to conceal our ignorance of causes and essences. The being called God by no means answers with the conditions prescribed by Newton; it bears every mark of a veil woven by philosophical conceit, to hide the ignorance of philosophers even from themselves. They borrow the threads of its texture from the anthropomorphism of the vulgar. Words have been used by sophists for the same purposes, from the occult qualities of the peripatetics to the effuvium of Boyle and the crinities or nebulae of Herschel. God is represented as infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; he is contained under every predicate in non that the logic of ignorance could fabricate. Even his worshippers allow that it is impossible to form any idea of him: they exclaim with the French poet, Pour dire ce qu'il est, il faut etre lui-meme. Lord Bacon says that atheism leaves to man reason, philosophy, natural piety, laws, reputation, and everything that can serve to conduct him to virtue; but superstition destroys all these, and erects itself into a tyranny over the understandings of men: hence atheism never disturbs the government, but renders man more clear- sighted, since he sees nothing beyond the boundaries of the present life. -- Bacon's Moral Essays. The [Beginning here, and to the paragraph ending with "Systeme de la Nature," Shelley wrote in French. A free translation has been substituted.] first theology of man made him first fear and adore the elements themselves, the gross and material objects of nature; he next paid homage to the agents controlling the elements, lower genies, heroes or men gifted with great qualities. By force of reflection he sought to simplify things by submitting all nature to a single agent, spirit, or universal soul, which, gave movement to nature and all its branches. Mounting from cause to cause, mortal man has ended by seeing nothing; and it is in this obscurity that he has placed his God; it is in this darksome abyss that his uneasy imagination has always labored to fabricate chimeras, which will continue to afflict him until his knowledge of nature chases these phantoms which he has always so adored. If we wish to explain our ideas of the Divinity we shall be obliged to admit that, by the word God, man has never been able to designate but the most hidden, the most distant and the most unknown cause of the effects which he saw; he has made use of his word only when the play of natural and known causes ceased to be visible to him; as soon as he lost the thread of these causes, or when his mind could no longer follow the chain, he cut the difficulty and ended his researches by calling God the last of the causes, that is to say, that which is beyond all causes that he knew; thus he but assigned a vague denomination to an unknown cause, at which his laziness or the limits of his knowledge forced him to stop. Every time we say that God is the author of some phenomenon, that signifies that we are ignorant of how such a phenomenon was able to operate by the aid of forces or causes that we know in nature. It is thus that the generality of mankind, whose lot is ignorance, attributes to the Divinity, not only the unusual effects which strike them, but moreover the most simple events, of which the causes are the most simple to understand by whomever is able to study them. In a word, man has always respected unknown causes, surprising effects that his ignorance kept him from unraveling. It was on this debris of nature that man raised the imaginary colossus of the Divinity. If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature is made for their destruction. In proportion as man taught himself, his strength and his resources augmented with his knowledge; science, the arts, industry, furnished him assistance; experience reassured him or procured for him means of resistance to the efforts of many causes which ceased to alarm as soon as they became understood. In a word, his terrors dissipated in the same proportion as his mind became enlightened. The educated man ceases to be superstitious. It is only by hearsay (by word of mouth passed down from generation to generation) that whole peoples adore the God of their fathers and of their priests: authority, confidence, submission and custom with them take the place of conviction or of proofs: they prostrate themselves and pray, because their fathers taught them to prostrate themselves and pray: but why did their fathers fall on their knees? That is because, in primitive times, their legislators and their guides made it their duty. "Adore and believe," they said, "the gods whom you cannot understand; have confidence in our profound wisdom; we know more than you about Divinity." But why should I come to you? It is because God willed it thus; it is because God will punish you if you dare resist. But this God, is not he, then, the thing in question? However, man has always traveled in this vicious circle; his slothful mind has always made him find it easier to accept the judgment of others. All religious nations are founded solely on authority; all the religions of the world forbid examination and do not want one to reason; authority wants one to believe in God; this God is himself founded only on the authority of a few men who pretend to know him, and to come in his name and announce him on earth. A God made by man undoubtedly has need of man to make himself known to man. Should it not, then, be for the priests, the inspired, the metaphysicians that should be reserved the conviction of the existence of a God, which they, nevertheless, say is so necessary for all mankind? But Can you find any harmony in the theological opinions of the different inspired ones or thinkers scattered over the earth? They themselves, who make a profession of adoring the same God, are they in Agreement? Are they content with the proofs that their colleagues bring of his existence? Do they subscribe unanimously to the ideas they present on nature, on his conduct, on the manner of understanding his pretended oracles? Is there a country on earth where the science of God is really perfect? Has this science anywhere taken the consistency and uniformity that we the see the science of man assume, even in the most futile crafts, the most despised trades. These words mind immateriality, creation, predestination and grace; this mass of subtle distinctions with which theology to everywhere filled; these so ingenious inventions, imagined by thinkers who have succeeded one another for so many centuries, have only, alas! confused things all the more, and never has man's most necessary science, up to this time acquired the slightest fixity. For thousands of years the lazy dreamers have perpetually relieved one another to meditate on the Divinity, to divine his secret will, to invent the proper hypothesis to develop this important enigma. Their slight success has not discouraged the theological vanity: one always speaks of God: one has his throat cut for God: and this sublime being still remains the most unknown and the most discussed. Man would have been too happy, if, limiting himself to the visible objects which interested him, he had employed, to perfect his real sciences, his laws, his morals, his education, one-half the efforts he has put into his researches on the Divinity. He would have been still wiser and still more fortunate if he had been satisfied to let his jobless guides quarrel among themselves, sounding depths capable of rendering them dizzy, without himself mixing in their senseless disputes. But it is the essence of ignorance to attach importance to that which it does not understand. Human vanity is so constituted that it stiffens before difficulties. The more an object conceals itself from our eyes, the greater the effort we make to seize it, because it pricks our pride, it excites our curiosity and it appears interesting. In fighting for his God everyone, in fact, fights only for the interests of his own vanity, which, of all the passions produced by the mal-organization of society, is the quickest to take offense, and the most capable of committing the greatest follies. If, leaving for a moment the annoying idea that theology gives of a capricious God, whose partial and despotic decrees decide the fate of mankind, we wish to fix our eyes only on the pretended goodness, which all men, even trembling before this God, agree is ascribing to him, if we allow him the purpose that is lent him of having worked only for his own glory, of exacting the homage of intelligent beings; of seeking only in his works the well-being of mankind; how reconcile these views and these dispositions with the ignorance truly invincible in which this God, so glorious and so good, leaves the majority of mankind in regard to God himself? If God wishes to be known, cherished, thanked, why does he not show himself under his favorable features to all these intelligent beings by whom he wishes to be loved and adored? Why not manifest himself to the whole earth in an unequivocal manner, much more capable of convincing us than these private revelations which seem to accuse the Divinity of an annoying partiality for some of his creatures? The all-powerful, should he not heave more convincing means by which to show man than these ridiculous metamorphoses, these pretended incarnations, which are attested by writers so little in agreement among themselves? In place of so many miracles, invented to prove the divine mission of so many legislators revered by the different people of the world, the Sovereign of these spirits, could he not convince the human mind in an instant of the things he wished to make known to it? Instead of hanging the sun in the vault of the firmament, instead of scattering stars without order, and the constellations which fill space, would it not have been more in conformity with the views of a God so jealous of his glory and so well-intentioned for mankind, to write, in a manner not subject to dispute, his name, his attributes, his permanent wishes in ineffaceable characters, equally understandable to all the inhabitants of the earth? No one would then be able to doubt the existence of God, of his clear will, of his visible intentions. Under the eyes of this so terrible God no one would have the audacity to violate his commands, no mortal would dare risk attracting his anger: finally, no man would have the effrontery to impose on his name or to interpret his will according to his own fancy. In fact, even while admitting the existence of the theological God, and the reality of his so discordant attributes which they impute to him, one can conclude nothing to authorize the conduct or the cult which one is prescribed to render him. Theology is truly the sieve of the Danaides. By dint of contradictory qualities and hazarded assertions it has, that is to say, so handicapped its God that it has made it impossible for him to act. If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has, filled with weaknesses? If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them? If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him? If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable? If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? IF HE HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS THE UNIVERSE NOT CONVINCED? If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest. -- Systeme de la Nature. London, 1781. The enlightened and benevolent Pliny thus Publicly professes himself an atheist, -- Quapropter effigiem Del formamque quaerere imbecillitatis humanae reor. Quisquis est Deus (si modo est alius) et quacunque in parte, totus est gensus, totus est visus, totus auditus, totus animae, totus animi, totus sul. ... Imperfectae vero in homine naturae praecipua solatia, ne deum quidem omnia. Namque nec sibi protest mortem consciscere, si velit, quod homini dedit optimum in tantis vitae poenis; nee mortales aeternitate donare, aut revocare defunctos; nec facere ut qui vixit non vixerit, qui honores gessit non gesserit, nullumque habere In praeteritum ius praeterquam oblivionts, atque (ut. facetis quoque argumentis societas haec cum, deo compuletur) ut bis dena viginti non sint, et multa similiter efficere non posse. -- Per quaedeclaratur haud dubie naturae potentiam id quoque ease quod Deum vocamus. -- Plin. Nat. Hist. cap. de Deo. The consistent Newtonian is necessarily an atheist. See Sir W. Drummond's Academical Questions, chap. iii. -- Sir W. seems to consider the atheism to which it leads as a sufficient presumption of the falsehood of the system of gravitation; but surely it is more consistent with the good faith of philosophy to admit a deduction from facts than an hypothesis incapable of proof, although it might militate, with the obstinate preconceptions of the mob. Had this author, instead of inveighing against the guilt and absurdity of atheism, demonstrated its falsehood, his conduct would have, been more suited to the modesty of the skeptic and the toleration of the philosopher. Omnia enim per Dei potentiam facta aunt: imo quia naturae potentia nulla est nisi ipsa Dei potentia. Certum est nos eatenus Dei potentiam non intelligere, quatenus causas naturales ignoramus; adeoque stulte ad eandem Dei potentism recurritur, quando rei alicuius causam naturalem, sive est, ipsam Dei potentiam ignoramusd -- Spinoza, Tract. Theologico-Pol. chap 1. P. 14. ON LIFE Life and the world, or whatever we call that which we are and feel, is an astonishing thing. The mist of familiarity obscures from us the wonder of our being. We are struck with admiration at some of its transient modifications, but it is itself the great miracle. What are changes of empires, the wreck of dynasties, with the opinions which support them; what is the birth and the extinction of religious and of political systems, to life? What are the revolutions of the globe which we inhabit, and the operations of the elements of which it is composed, compared with life? What is the universe of stars, and suns, of which this inhabited earth is one, and their motions, and their destiny, compared with life? Life, the great miracle, we admire not because it is so miraculous. It is well that we are thus shielded by the familiarity of what is at once so certain and so unfathomable, from an astonishment which would otherwise absorb and overawe the functions of that which is its object. If any artist, I do not say had executed, but had merely conceived in his mind the system of the sun, and the stars, and planets, they not existing, and had painted to us in words, or upon canvas, the spectacle now afforded by the nightly cope of heaven, and illustrated it by the wisdom of astronomy, great would be our admiration. Or had he imagined the scenery of this earth, the mountains, the seas, and the rivers; the grass, and the flowers, and the variety of the forms and masses of the leaves of the woods, and the colors which attend the setting and the rising sun, and the hues of the atmosphere, turbid or serene, these things not before existing, truly we should have been astonished, and it would not have been a vain boast to have said of such a man, "Non merita nome di creatore, se non Iddio ed il Poeta." But how these things are looked on with little wonder, and to be conscious of them with intense delight is esteemed to be the distinguishing mark of a refined and extraordinary person. The multitude of men care not for them. It is thus with Life -- that which includes all. What is life? Thoughts and feelings arise, with or without, our will, and we employ words to express them. We are born, and our birth is unremembered, and our infancy remembered but in fragments; we live on, and in living we lose the apprehension of life. How vain is it to think that words can penetrate the mystery of our being! Rightly used they may make evident our ignorance to ourselves; and this is much. For what are we? Whence do we come? and whither do we go? Is birth the commencement, is death the conclusion of our being? What is birth and death? The most refined abstractions of logic conduct to a view of life, which, though startling to the apprehension, is, in fact, that which the habitual sense of its repeated combinations has extinguished in us. It strips, as it were, the painted curtain from this scene of things. I confess that I am one of those who am unable to refuse my assent to the conclusion of those philosophers who assert that nothing exists but as it is perceived. It is a decision against which all our persuasions struggle, and we must be long convicted before we can be convinced that the solid universe of external things is "such stuff as dreams are made of." The shocking absurdities of the popular philosophy of mind and matter, its fatal consequences in morals, and their violent dogmatism concerning the source of all things, had early conducted me to materialism. This materialism is a seducing system to young and superficial minds. It allows its disciples to talk, and dispenses them from thinking. But I was discontented with such a view of things as it afforded; man is a being of high aspirations, "looking both before and after," whose "thoughts wander through eternity," disclaiming alliance with transience and decay: incapable of imagining to himself annihilation; existing but in the future and the past; being, not what he is, but what he has been and all be. Whatever may be his true and final destination, there is a spirit within him at enmity with nothingness and dissolution. This is the character of all life and being. Each is at once the center and the circumference; the point to which all things are referred, and the line in which all things are contained. Such contemplations as these, materialism and the popular philosophy of mind and matter alike they are only consistent with the intellectual system. It is absurd to enter into a long recapitulation of arguments sufficiently familiar to those inquiring minds, whom alone a writer on abstruse subjects can be conceived to address. Perhaps the most clear and vigorous statement of the intellectual system is to be found in Sir William Drummond's Academical Questions. After such an exposition, it would be idle to translate into other words what could only lose its energy and fitness by the change. Examined point by point, and word by word, the most discriminating intellects have been able to discern no train of thoughts in the process of reasoning, which does not conduct inevitably to the conclusion which has been stated. What follows from the admission? It establishes no new truth, it gives us no additional insight into our hidden nature, neither its action nor itself: Philosophy, impatient as it may be to build, has much work yet remaining as pioneer for the overgrowth of ages. it makes one step towards this object; it destroys error, and the roots of error. It leaves, what it is too often the duty of the reformer in political and ethical questions to leave, a vacancy. it reduces the mind to that freedom in which it would have acted, but for the misuse of words and signs, the instruments of its own creation. By signs, I would be understood in a wide sense, including what is properly meant by that term, and what I peculiarly mean. In this latter sense, almost all familiar objects are signs, standing, not for themselves, but for others, in their capacity of suggesting one thought which shall lead to a train of thoughts. Our whole life is thus an education of error. Let us recollect our sensations as children. What a distinct and intense apprehension had we of the world and of ourselves! Many of the Circumstances of social life were then important to us which are now no longer so. But that is not the point of comparison on which I mean to insist. We less habitually distinguished all that we saw and felt, from ourselves. They seemed, as it were, to constitute one mass. There are some persons who, in this respect, are always children. Those who are subject to the state called reverie, feel as if their nature were dissolved into the surrounding universe, or as if the surrounding universe were absorbed into their being. They are conscious of no distinction. And these are states which precede, or accompany, or follow an unusually intense and vivid apprehension of life. As men grow up this power commonly decays, and they become mechanical and habitual agents. Thus feelings and then reasoning are the combined result of a multitude of entangled thoughts, and of a series of what are called impressions, planted by reiteration. The view of life presented by the most refined deductions of the intellectual philosophy, to that of unity. Nothing exists but as it is perceived. The difference is merely nominal between those two classes of thought which are distinguished by the names of ideas and of external objects. Pursuing the same thread of reasoning, the existence of distinct individual minds, similar to that which is employed in now questioning its own nature, is likewise found to be a delusion. The words, I, you, they, are not signs of any actual difference subsisting between the assemblage of thoughts thus indicated, but are merely marks employed to denote the different modifications of the one mind. Let it not be supposed that this doctrine conducts the monstrous presumption that I, the person who now write and think, am that one mind. I am but a portion of it. The words I, and you, and they are grammatical devices invented simply for arrangement, and totally devoid of the intense and exclusive sense usually attached to them. It is difficult to find terms adequate to express so subtle a conception as that to which the Intellectual Philosophy has conducted us. We are on that verge where words abandon us, and what wonder if we grow dizzy to look down the dark abyss of how little we know! The relations of things remain unchanged, by whatever system. By the word things is to be understood any object of thought, that is, any thought upon which any other thought is employed, with an apprehension of distinction. The relations of these remain unchanged; and such is the material of our knowledge. What is the cause of life? That is, how was it produced, or what agencies distinct from life have acted or act upon life? All recorded generations of mankind have wearily busied themselves in inventing answers to this question; and the result has been -- Religion. Yet that the basis of all things cannot be, as the popular philosophy alleges, mind, is sufficiently evident. Mind, as far as we have any experience of its properties -- and beyond that experience how vain is argument! -- cannot create, it can only perceive. It is said also to be the cause. But cause is only a word expressing a certain state of the human mind with regard to the manner in which two thoughts are apprehended to be related to each other. If anyone desires to know how unsatisfactorily the popular philosophy employs itself upon this great question, they need only impartially reflect upon the manner in which thoughts develop themselves in their minds. It is infinitely improbable that the cause of mind, that is, of existence, is similar to mind. [Part II Next Month] ========================================================= || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================= "Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable." [H. L. Mencken] =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== >From Babinski_Ed/furman@furman.edu Subject: I'M GOD? ATHEIST HUMOR J. Michael Straczynski is the producer of Babylon 5. When a fan of Babylon 5 told Straczynski that he was God, Straczynski replied, "Thank you, but I'm afraid I can't accept your compliment. You see, I'm an atheist, so if I'm also God, that would mean that I don't believe in myself, and at this point in my life, I don't need the added insecurity." :-) ========================================================= || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================= The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do. --Eric Hoffer =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== Let us worship the Divine Child! That way, we can beat, starve, neglect, and rape real live children with the enthusiastic approval and participation of the priests and worshippers of the Divine Child. Let us worship the Virgin Mother! That way, we can blame virgins for not being mothers, and mothers for not being virgins. And, (by the way) beat, starve, neglect, and rape real live women with the enthusiastic approval and participation of the priests and worshippers of the Virgin Mother. Alleleuia! Love God and hate those that don't. Aim at heaven and destroy the unworthy earth. Save our souls and torture our imperfect bodies. Venerating the invisible and non-existent is so much easier than succouring the messy real world: And ghosts are less frightening than bodies. It's all so neat inside my head. "Praise the Living God and pass the ammunition, There's millions of real people that God thinks deserve to die." HE told ME so. Alleleuia! Amen! ========================================================= || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================= "In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in allegiance to the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own." [Thomas Jefferson] =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== Chance This story starts 12 years ago. Well, actually, 13. A golden retriever puppy was born. I don't know where, or in what circumstances. Eventually, he was given to an elderly man by some well-meaning grandchildren. However, he wasn't able to take the dog out, or play with him, and he decided he couldn't really afford to feed him. So he brought him into the SPCA. My wife was working there as a volunteer. She saw this beautiful dog in the "boys' cage" and asked, "What's she doing in there?" Goldens are so pretty, she assumed that he was a she. We didn't want a golden, we were looking for a German Shepherd. We also wanted a female. We ended up with Chance. When he first arrived, we decided to give him a chance, or we would take a chance on him. That's how he got his name. He didn't know anything. He spent the first few days tied to the kitchen stove. He stayed right in place until we determined that he knew enough to pee outside. (He did.) One day while he was tied, he got excited about something and went over to see it. He pulled the stove with him, which he could have done at any point while he had been tied. We decided he had been held in place more by love and loyalty than by the leash, and he wasn't tied any more. He grew up with our children, and played with them and slept on their beds when he could, or in his place, which wasn't fixed, but which he always found. Soon, the children had matured, two out of three had left home, but Chance was still there. But, unlike dragons, dogs do not live forever. And unlike little boys, they do not transform into men, but get cancers, arthritis and lose their sight. We would say, 'He can't hear, doesn't see too good, and he smells pretty bad, too.' He always grinned at our jokes, even those at his expense. In October of 1994, the arthritis in his back left leg got so bad, he couldn't walk. This came on quite suddenly. He had been getting old. Like, we knew he would sometimes refuse to climb stairs; and he no longer was the one initiating long walks; and when we took him outside, he asked to go in and sleep before we wanted to, not the other way around. But then, he could barely move, and he obviously hurt. A lot. Fortunately, we have a good vet, who has known Chance as long as we have. He suggested aspirin up to four times a day. That simple prescription extended his life for six months. He had always loved the winter. Every time he went out, he would eat snow. He was even willing to walk a bit longer. But really, not that much, and only occasionally, not even that often. It was -30, I didn't have a fur coat, and sometimes the wind chill was -50. I wasn't willing to stay out all that long. Really, he was still old. He spent most of the last six months sleeping. In the house we moved into in July, he never went up the stairs to the bedrooms or downstairs to the basement. He wasn't imprisoned by walls, but by his own body. Sometimes, outside, he would lose track of me. He would then walk randomly until I came over and he could tell where to follow. He pieced together a map of the walk from bits of sight, sound and smell, not one of which was coming through to his brain very well any more. Retrievers are not exactly bloodhounds. When he was young we would play hide 'n' seek with him, and he never would sniff us out, even if we were holding chocolates. He didn't want to go upstairs or downstairs, he wanted to sleep. One day in April, we came home from work. His leg was swollen up to twice its normal size. We took him to veterinary emergency just in case it was caused by something like an injury or a piece of glass. The vet said it was a tumor which had grown to the point that it was cutting off circulation, causing the leg to swell with edema: the blood could go in, but it couldn't get out. Chance was 13. The time had come. We made an appointment for Friday at 10:30. We both took the day off. I thought I could go to a meeting that night, which turned out to be incorrect. That morning we gave him his favorite foods: chocolates, hot dogs, cookies, all kinds of treats and pats and hugs. My wife brushed him and cleaned his rheumy eyes and made him look his best. He always enjoyed car rides, and his last one was no exception. When he was getting out of the back seat, he slipped and fell into the floor space between the back and the front seats. If we weren't there, he would have starved in that position. He couldn't move. I had to pick him up and carry him out. (While this was going on, we were all three laughing.) Over the last year he fell often. His legs would just give out, he would miss a step, slip on the ice, fall going up a hill. When it happened, he would just lie there, waiting for help. Our vet explained what was happening. He had established an IV and was going to inject ten times the lethal dose of phenobarbital. The first action of the barbiturate is anesthetic, so there is virtually no pain; the next action is unconsciousness, then the heart stops, the lungs cease to function. There is no question of a mistake, and no maybes. In this situation, though, this is something you need to know, to be absolutely certain about. It was all over very quickly, and we drove home. Since then, I have become aware of how much a part of our lives he was: every time we open the door, he is not there; when I wake up in the morning, I check the weather to see how to dress for the walk I don't have to take; when I come down the stairs, he is not there to look up; when the doorbell rings, he doesn't bark; when there's food leftover, he's not there to eat it. I anticipate all of these and am disappointed and surprised when they do not happen. Coincidentally, the week he died was the week of the Oklahoma City bombing, the week Farley, of the comic "For Better or For Worse" died, and on Friday morning, in "Peanuts," Snoopy wrote this story: She had always been kind. Sometimes, however, she wondered if she was appreciated. "Even so," she thought," "I shall always smile and be kind." Once a Golden Retriever, always a Golden Retriever. that is how a Golden Retriever is. And I notice that Charles Schulz made the same mistake about gender that we made so long ago. During The Last Week, we were both hoping that he would die on his own, and that coincidence would lift the burden of decision from us. We did not want to make this decision, we did not make it lightly. I would change my mind every minute, and constantly hoped for relief. I have learned that no decision is 100% right, and none 100% wrong. That is, every good thing we do, has some bad consequences, however minor, and unintended, and maybe outweighed by the good; and vice versa. We were going on a trip later in May. How much did this contribute to our decision? How much from wanting the trip? How much genuine concern for Chance's distress at being left behind? How much concern over Chance's pain, and how much inability to bear our own? If it hadn't ended on the 21st of April , what would the next weeks and days have been like? More of the same? Sleep, eat and walk in pain? Worse and intolerable agony? We will never know. I hope that I never know what's coming, that I live till I'm 120, can still taste and enjoy food, and that other important pieces of equipment are likewise still functioning well. But this is unlikely. There is no good in brute suffering, not for a dog, and not for a person. It is useless and cruel to insist upon it. And those who attempt to live with religions that demand this end up cruel and meanspirited. For myself, I will make sure that the equivalent of the shot of phenobarbital is available, and I hope that it will be used if necessary. I hope that I am surrounded by compassionate family and friends, and that they have the courage to exercise their compassion and carry out my wishes, when I so indicate. They say you eventually get over this. Tears were only falling while I wrote about half of this. Then, again, during most of the editing. So, I guess they're right. It is almost comical that our deepest emotions must be expressed in such gross, physical ways: by the emission of mucous from the nose and having the eye tissue swell and redden with edema while the tear ducts overflow. Strong evidence against an intelligent creation, in my opinion. I no longer expect to be 100% correct about anything, nor can I claim that someone else is 100% wrong, or 100% evil in their effects. The best we can hope for is to hold our best values in our sights and head in that direction. We will be inevitably side-tracked by ephemera, and sometimes forced to go around insurmountable obstacles; at times, we may have to backtrack, and start over after pursuing a wrong path for a long time. So, it is important to choose carefully the goals and the values that guide us. It is important to check often that the path we are pursuing is bringing us closer to where we think we are going. It is important to know that where you are going really exists, and is possible to get to. ========================================================= || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================= "While we are under the tyranny of Priests [...] it will ever be in their interest, to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in order to establish systems incompatible therewith." [Ethan Allen, _Reason the Only Oracle of Man_] =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== Euthanasia, personal encounter & cautionary tale My mother-in-law, who is 71, apparently had a severe stroke, "massive" was the word used by the admitting hospital on Friday 26 May. All indications, we were told, showed that her brain was severely damaged. Her chances of survival were given as 1000 to 1, and, we were told, that if she survived, the woman we knew was gone and the body would have only a vegetative existence. There is no official euthanasia in Canada, but a mild form of unofficial euthanasia was offered: morphine "if she looked uncomfortable"; and there seemed to be a lack of enthusiasm in keeping up the antibiotic drips, after all, why bother fighting infection; pneunomia, the "old man's friend" a quick and painless death. If there had been euthanasia available, I, and some of her five children, would probably have opted for it. It just goes to show. On Sunday afternoon, her eyes opened, and over the next five hours, she gradually came into focus. After talking the whole evening with her, and watching her talk with everybody, as near as I can tell (no official assessment of brain damage has yet been done, [I would advise anybody planning on a major illness or accident, not to do so on a weekend, as physicians and equipment are unavailable]) she is functioning as well as before. Any legal framework for 'other person' euthanasia, i.e., when it concerns an unconscious or uncommunciative family member, must include some mechanism for genuine assessment. If she had actually been brain dead, if the stroke had indeed damaged the brain stem and destroyed her personality, there would have been no suffering involved (for her) in waiting a few days. The only way to get a fair decision is to have it based on consultation with the patient (where possible), the family, expert advice (they are advisors, not decision-makers). Just don't trust what the doctors say more than what you see and know with your own senses. When we saw her trying to communicate, the doctors and nurses all said that these were merely reflexes and twitches. Only a family member, or spouse, or someone with similar long acquaintance, can assess this kind of thing accurately. when my wife said, she is responding to our questions, the doctor said, (and I quote) "Ain't gonna happen." This is the second time I have had personal acquaintance with medical bumbling due to dealing with unlikely or rare circumstances. Doctors and nurses are human beings and are just as likely to succumb to preconceived ideas as anybody else. Part of the humanist seeking for balance is the ability to toss away preconceived ideas and accept the evidence of our senses when it conflicts with our previous worldviews, whatever they may have been. It also consists in knowing what constitutes evidence. Whoever said this would be easy? We don't know whether this is a respite of a few days, or whether the physical problems this has caused (pneumonia, pulmonary edema, and congestive heart failure) or perhaps another stroke, will come along and end it any minute. However, it is better that she came back, even if it turns out to be brief, than if she had been "eased over." I believe euthanasia should be a choice, but I will inspect the safeguards built in to any proposed legislation quite carefully. In regard to the unofficial euthanasia existing in our society right now, your best, and maybe only, protection against it, is to have your family, or others who care deeply about you there as much as possible. Make your wishes known to them, now. And keep in mind that this probably is actually an extremely rare occurrence, but also that extremely rare doesn't mean never; and that in matters of life and death, "extremely rare" is worth waiting for. ========================================================= || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================= '...the Bible as we have it contains elements that are scientifically incorrect or even morally repugnant. No amount of "explaining away" can convince us that such passages are the product of Divine Wisdom.' -- Bernard J. Bamberger, _The Story of Judaism_ =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== ========================================================== || END OF TEXTS || ========================================================== Nine out of ten priests who have tried Camels, prefer young boys. =><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><== || Begging portion of the Zine || ==><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><== There is no charge for receiving this, and there is no charge for distributing copies to any electronic medium. Nor is there a restriction on printing a copy for use in discussion. You may not charge to do so, and you may not do so without attributing it to the proper author and source. 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Once again: ISSN: 1201-0111 The Nullifidian Volume Two, Number 6: JUNE 1995. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- The problem with religions that have all the answers is that they don't let you ask the questions. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- (*) There is no footnote, and certainly not an endnote. -- -- Greg Erwin, vice president, Humanist Association of Canada. 'I saw a person wearing a T-shirt that said "Question Authority", so I said to him, "Who are *you* to tell *me* what to do?"' --Marshall Deutsch

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