Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Seven - The Church of the Social Revolution

The Knowable

The new religion will base itself upon the facts of life, as demonstrated by experience and reason; for to the modern thinker the basis of all interest is truth, and the wonders of the microscope and the telescope, of the new psychology and the new sociology are more wonderful than all the magic recorded in ancient Mythologies. And even if this were not so, the business of the thinker is to follow the facts. The history of all philosophy might be summed up in this simile: The infant opens and cries for it; but those in charge do not give it to him, and so after a while the infant tires of crying, and turns to his mother's breast and takes a drink of milk.

Man demands to know the origin of life; it is intolerable for him to be here, and not know how, or whence, or why. He demands the knowledge immediately and finally, and invents innumerable systems and creeds. He makes himself believe them, with fire and torture makes other men believe them; until finally, in the confusion of a million theories, it occurs to him to investigate his instruments, and he makes the discovery that his tools are inadequate, and all their products worthless. His mind is finite, while the thing he seeks is infinite; his knowledge is relative, while the First Cause is absolute.

This realization we owe to Immanuel Kant, the father of modern philosophy. In his famous "antinomies," he proved four propositions: first, that the universe is limitless in time and space; second, that matter is composed of simple, indivisible elements; third, that free will is impossible; and fourth, that there must be an absolute or first cause. And having proven these things, he turned round and proved their opposites, with arguments exactly as unanswerable. Any one who follows these demonstrations and understands them, takes all his metaphysical learning and lays it on the shelf with his astrology and magic.

It is a fact, which every one who wishes to think must be clear, that when you are dealing with absolutes and ultimates, you can prove whatever you want to prove. Metaphysics is like the fourth dimension; you fly into it and come back upside down, hindside foremost, inside out; and when you get tired of this condition, you take another flight, and come back the way you were before. So metaphysical thinking serves the purpose of Catholic cheats like Cardinal Newman and Professor Chatterton- Hill; it serves hysterical women like "Mother" Eddy; it serves the Newthoughters, who wish to fill their bellies with wind; it serves the charlatans and mytagogs who wish to befuddle the wits of the populace. Real thinkers avoid it as they would a bottomless swamp; they avoid, not merely the idealism of Platonists and Hegelians, but the mention of Haeckel, and the materialism of Buechner and Jacques Loeb. The simple fact is that it is as impossible to prove the priority of origin and the ultimate nature of matter as it is of mind; so that the scientist who lays down a materialist dogma is exactly as credulous as a Christian.

How then are we to proceed? Shall we erect the mystery into an Unknowable, like Spencer, and call ourselves Agnostics with a capital letter like Huxley? Shall we follow Frederic Harrison, making an inadequate divinity out of our impotence? I have read the books of the "Positivests," and attended their imitation church in London, but I did not get any satisfaction from them. In the midst of their dogmatic pronouncements I found myself remembering how the egg falls apart and reveals the chicken, how the worm suddenly discovers itself a butterfly. The spirit of man is a breaker of barriers, and its seems a futile occupation to set limits upon the future. our business is not to say what men will know 10,000 years from now, but to content ourselves with the simple statement of what men know now. What we know is a procession of phenomena called an environment; our life being an act of adjustment to its changes, and our faith being the conviction that this adjustment is possible and worth while

In the beginning the guide is instinct, and the act of trust is automatic. But with the dawn of reason the thinker has to justify his faith; to convince himself that life is sincere, that there is worth-whileness in being, or in seeking to be; that there is order in creation. laws which can be discovered, processes which can be applied. Just as the babe trusts life when it gropes for its mother's breast, so the most skeptical of scientists trusts it when he declares that water is made of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, and sets it down for a certainty that this will always be so - that he is not being played with by some sportive demon, who will today cause H2O to behave like water, and tomorrow like benzine.

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