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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 1879)
Qnt non Froflcit, Deficit.
INFLUENCE OF SCEPTICISM.
Fortunately the time has now come,
when scepticism no longer implies social
ostracism, even in America. True there
are a few by whom,
"The man is thought a knave or fool,
or bigot plotting crime,
"Who, for the advancement of his race,
' is wiser than his time."
But there is a large and increasing class
who arc boldly laying open the great
questions that lie at the foundation of all
true progress. Never before in the his
tory of man have so ir.anj' been ready to
weigh facts dispassionately, and to abide
bj' the results.
Every one, who is conversant with the
history of mankind for the last three cen
turies, must be aware that every genera
tion has demonstrated some phenomena
to be natural, and governed by law,
which the proceeding generation fiducial
ly accepted as supernatural and governed
by the athitrarv will of an inscrutable
deity. Thus every year increases our con
fidence in the natural and decreases our
faith in the supernatural we recoil from
Uie uncertainty of an arbitral Providence
and cling with childlike confidence to
the universal reign of law. I know of no
octtcr definition of progress than this
gradual transfer of our allegiance from
the supernatural to the natural.
To whom then do we owe this progress!
We owe it, if I mistake not, to those who
have dared to question the correctness of
the current opinions of their times, or in
other words to those, who in their own
times, were known as sceptics. Where
in the progresss of thought would the
world be to-day had not these noble spir.
its braved the anathemas of the Church?
Let me answer this question by asking
another. Where would we be in the
progress of the mechanical arts if, by
common consent, the sickle and the prim
itive press had been declared the only
authorized instruments for reaping and
printing! Where would have been our
rapid transit, our telegraphic communica
tion, our phonographical wonders, if in
vention had been interdicted because
Christ's messengers went on foot and he
himself rode into Jerusalem upon an ass?
Nay, do not charge me with ridicule, for
aic we not expected to conform to a creed
founded in many cases upon grounds
equally trivial ?
But the creed has changed and is still
changing. As in the progress of civil law,
legal fiction always precedes legislation,
so in religion, religious fiction always
precedes open scepticism gradual
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