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###### 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
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.
Search for BEG to find the beginning of the next article.
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into the ToC, so it should be exact. Search for "crass
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END OF TEXTS.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. The Necessity of Atheism, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
2. ATHEIST HUMOR, from Ed Babinski
3. Let us worship the Divine Child! A Poem.
5. Euthanasia, personal encounter & cautionary tale
|| BEGINNING OF ARTICLE ||
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LITTLE BLUEBOOK NO. 935
Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius
The Necessity of Atheism
Percy Bysshe Shelley
[Part I this month, Part II in July]
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
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
The degrees of excitement are three.
The senses are the sources of all knowledge to the
mind; consequently their evidence claims the strongest
The decision of the mind, founded upon our own
experience, derived from these sources, claims the next
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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 ||
Subject: I'M GOD?
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
|| 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,
real live children
with the enthusiastic approval
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,
for not being virgins.
(by the way)
real live women
with the enthusiastic approval
of the priests and worshippers
of the Virgin Mother.
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.
|| 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 ||
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
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
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
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
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
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 ||
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