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WHEN CONTEMPLATING THE UNKNOWN INTO WHICH DEATH HURLS US,
LET US FIRST PUT RELIGIOUS FEARS FROM OUR MINDS

THERE is, therefore, but one terror particular to death: that of the unknown into which it hurls us. In facing it, let us not delay in putting from our minds all that the positive religions have left there. Let us remember only that it is not for us to prove that they are not proved, but for them to establish that they are true. Now not one of them brings us a proof before which a candid intelligence can bow. Nor would it suffice if that intelligence were able to bow; for man lawfully to believe and thus to limit his endless seeking, tile proof would need to be irresistible. The God offered to us by the best and strongest proof has given us our reason to employ loyally and fully, that is to say, to try to attain, before all and in all things, that which appears to be the truth. Can He exact that we should accept, in spite of it, a belief of which the wisest and the most ardent do not, from the human point of view, deny the uncertainty? He proposes for our consideration a very doubtful story which, even if scientifically established, would prove nothing and which is buttressed by prophecies and miracles no less uncertain. If not by our reason, by what then would He have us decide? By usage? By the accidents of race or birth, by some eesthetic or sentimental hazard? Or has He set within us another higher and surer faculty before which the understanding must yield? If so, where is it? What is its name? If that God punishes us for not having blindly followed a faith that does not force itself irresistibly upon the intelligence which He gave us; if He chastises us for not having made, in tile presence of the great enigma with which He confronts us, a choice which condemns the best and most divine part of that which He has placed in us, we have nothing left to reply: we are the dupes of a cruel and incomprehensible sport, we are the victims of a terrible snare and an immense injustice; and, whatever the torments wherewith the latter loads us, they will be less intolerable than the eternal presence of its Author.


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