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Chapter IX
Conclusions Reached in Part I

If we now try to condense in one brief statement the outcome of the first eight chapters of this book, what are our conclusions?
        We have seen how a religion arises, and acknowledged how necessary it may be even to the thoughtful well-informed man. We have, however, found that Christianity offers no answers to the questions incessantly prompted by the mystery of Life and the Universe, which are felt as satisfying by such a man. Without reviewing the reasons usually advanced by the Rationalists — reasons, however, which no reader of this book ought to ignore — we have independently found so much in the tenets, doctrines and authoritative literature of the faith, that invalidates its alleged supernatural provenance; and even in the ipsissima verba of its founder himself, we have discovered so much that is incompatible with godlike wisdom and knowledge, let alone ordinary logic, that, when we hear a churchman like Canon Henry Balmforth assert that Christianity "rests upon a divine revelation recorded in the Bible" (Steps to Christian Understanding, 1958, Part I), our intellect recoils in bewilderment at such a claim. Nor shall we feel more ready to accept it in the sequel, when, in outlining the essential features of the thoughtful man's faith, further aspects of Christianity will be considered, which abundantly confirm any reasonable man's doubts concerning its alleged divine origin.
        When, in addition, we reflect that its morality, for which ample authority may be found in "Holy Writ", has proved deleterious to our race, we have no alternative but to adopt a course usually eschewed by unbelievers, which is to scorn the noncommittal fence of Agnosticism and to declare themselves — at least vis-à-vis of the Christian God — frankly Atheists. This is the position assumed by Bernard Shaw and I think it is wholly justified.
        There is truth in David's remark (Psalms liii. 1), "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God"; for, as suggested in

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Chapter I supra, it is a common infirmity of weak intellects to be unaware of any mystery or marvel in existence; and, as awe, wonder, curiosity and perplexity in the presence of what is obscure in Life and the Universe, constitute the source of religious feeling, it is probable, as I have already indicated, that a substantial amount of present-day unbelief may be due to the declining intelligence of Western populations.
        The mistake usually made by the superficial and popular Christian apologist, and invariably by the ordinary Christian, is to assume that David's stricture applies as perfectly to the negators of godliness in general who deny the existence of all possible gods, as to those who, like Bernard Shaw, are Atheists only vis-à-vis of the Christian God as described by Holy Writ and understood by the various churches. Yet, there is all the difference in the world between the two positions. It would, for instance, be most hazardous in the present state of our knowledge to deny the possibility of a personal deity of any sort whatsoever as the supernatural incumbent of the throne whence unseen power rules over world phenomena; for we have no means of finally deciding the question one way or another.
        But, about the God of the Christians, we have the fullest information. We know his character, temper, behaviour in various circumstances, his demands upon his worshippers, his attitude to a large number of problems and situations, his taste in regard to human type, his son, and even his locum tenens, the Holy Ghost. Indeed, to judge from the average B.B.C. parson who gives listeners their religious uplift every morning at 6.55 and 7.55 a.m., there is precious little that is not known about the Christian God, his thoughts, his likes and dislikes and his reasoning methods, and I am often filled with wonder at the extraordinary familiarity these ecclesiastical broadcasters seem to enjoy with the peculiarities and vagaries of the divine mind.
        Confronted with this extensive and detailed knowledge of the Christian God and, above all, with the nature of his alleged Creation and his supposed relationship to it as a God of Love, we are not in the presence of a hypothetical deity at all, about whose existence and character we should be unable to affirm anything whatsoever; but in the presence of a well-, if not fully-, defined objective figure. Indeed, we possess about his character much more information than the most erudite historian could give us about Harold II of England. We are, therefore, in a

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position to affirm an unconscionable amount about him, and it is on the score of what we are thus able to affirm that we say emphatically that we do not believe in him. In this sense only are we frankly Atheists.
        Most people, however, are incapable of drawing the distinction between the two kinds of denial I have described, and since any man would be a fool to claim that there can be no God of any sort, Christian divines, who should know better, and the smaller Christian fry, taking advantage of the ambiguity of David's remark, readily assert that he who says there is no such being as the Christian God, must be a fool. Hence the success of Beverley Nichols' book. The Fool Hath Said (1936), which left all believers and a good many marginal and merely moral Christians with the comfortable feeling that at least they were intellectually a cut above poor Atheists.
        We have now cleared the ground, let alone the air, sufficiently to be able to turn to our main theme — the Religion of the Thoughtful Man; and to the task of describing this religion we shall at once apply ourselves in Part II below.

My Testament*

Post no priest beside my litter;
Carve no cross upon my bier!
As a Christophobist bitter
Let me pass unchurched from here!

Sing no hymns when I am buried;
Put no pennies in my palm!
I shan't clamour to be ferried
To the land of peace and balm.

Thither should I drift, however,
And behold with some surprise
Things I thought existed never,
I shall not cast down my eyes.

Theirs the blame whose Word deceived me,
Baffling reason, thought and sense,
And whose diffidence bereaved me
Of the crucial evidence.

        * First published in The New English Weekly, 19.7.34.

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Even if I be instructed
To appear before the throne,
Whence a godhead has conducted
World affairs since time unknown;

If moreover he engages
His recording angel there,
To recite a few score pages
Of my sins, let him beware!

I will range his whole creation,
From the tapeworm to the fly,
And await his explanation
As to why, and why, and why?

So invoke no Heaven's daughter
When I'm laid beneath the sward,
And don't waste your holy water
On my oak-stained coffin-board!



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