WHY I AM AN AGNOSTIC.
For the most part we inherit our opinions. We are the heirs of
habits and mental customs. Our beliefs, like the fashion of our
garments, depend on where we were born. We are molded and fashioned
by our surroundings.
Environment is a sculptor -- a painter.
If we had been born in Constantinople, the most of us would
have said: "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his
prophet." If our parents had lived on the banks of the Ganges, we
would have been worshipers of Siva, longing for the heaven of
As a rule, children love their parents, believe what they
teach, and take great pride in saying that the religion of mother
is good enough for them.
Most people love peace. They do not like to differ with their
neighbors. They like company. They are social. They enjoy traveling
on the highway with the multitude. They hate to walk alone.
The Scotch are Calvinists because their fathers were. The
Irish are Catholics because their fathers were. The English are
Episcopalians because their fathers were, and the Americans are
divided in a hundred sects because their fathers were. This is the
general rule, to which there are many exceptions. Children
sometimes are superior to their parents, modify their ideas, change
their customs, and arrive at different conclusions. But this is
generally so gradual that the departure is scarcely noticed, and
those who change usually insist that they are still following the
It is claimed by Christian historians that the religion of a
nation was sometimes suddenly changed, and that millions of Pagans
were made into Christians by the command of a king. Philosophers do
not agree with these historians. Names have been changed, altars
have been overthrown, but opinions, customs and beliefs remained
the same. A Pagan, beneath the drawn sword of a Christian, would
probably change his religious views, and a Christian, with a
scimitar above his head, might suddenly become a Mohammedan, but as
a matter of fact both would remain exactly as they were before --
except in speech.
Belief is not subject to the will. Men think as they must.
Children do not, and cannot, believe exactly as they were taught.
They are not exactly like their parents. They differ in
temperament, in experience, in capacity, in surroundings. And so
there is a continual, though almost imperceptible change. There is
development, conscious and unconscious growth, and by comparing
long periods of time we find that the old has been almost
abandoned, almost lost in the new. Men cannot remain stationary.
The mind cannot be securely anchored. If we do not advance, we go
backward. If we do not grow, we decay. If we do not develop, we
shrink and shrivel.
Like the most of you, I was raised among people who knew --
who were certain. They did not reason or investigate. They had no
doubts. They knew that they had the truth. In their creed there was
no guess -- no perhaps. They had a revelation from God. They knew
the beginning of things. They knew that God commenced to create one
Monday morning, four thousand and four years before Christ. They
knew that in the eternity -- back of that morning, he had done
nothing. They knew that it took him six days to make the earth --
all plants, all animals, all life, and all the globes that wheel in
space. They knew exactly what he did each day and when he rested.
They knew the origin, the cause of evil, of all crime, of all
disease and death.
The text above is just the intro.