Chapter 4 (Extract)


The Deadlock and What Follows.

I have told how the realization of the actuality of evil had in my case the effect of reopening the questions with which religion is concerned. It would not be true to say that it turned me to God, for the very existence of God must at this stage of the enquiry be held to be doubtful, but it set me anxiously in quest of Him. I have dwelt upon the paradox that the very fact which sharpens the need of God and provokes the search for Him apparently negates the possibility of His benevolence and omnipotence; for the conclusions of the intellect, I have urged, deny that the orthodox God of the religious hypothesis, omnipotent, benevolent, and omniscient, could have been the creator of the world, and deny it precisely because of the fact of evil. I insist that this is so, and until a satisfactory answer is forthcoming to the difficulties adduced in the last two chapters, shall continue in my insistence.

But if the intellect denies what the heart demands-what then? The heart, it is often said, has its reasons of which the head knows nothing. No doubt, but are they reasons which may be trusted? And who, or what is to judge save the head, whether they are to be trusted or not? In effect, then, a deadlock is reached. What is the moral? That the intellect is not to be trusted? We cannot do other than trust it, since the reasons for distrusting it would be themselves of its providing. Nor, as I have already pointed out,' have those who have supported the religious hypothesis disdained the intellect's aid.

Perhaps the deadlock is a sign of, perhaps it is even a punishment for, intellectual arrogance. We are often warned in religious writings against the pride of the intellect....

I note in this connection as a fact which may not be wholly unconnected with this warning that the considerations that have set my mind working again on the problems of religion are not so much of an intellectual, as of an emotional order. What is more- and the fact may again not be without significance-the emotions are those connected with inadequacy. The life that lacks religion lacks, so I have come to feel, fullness and roundness, and the desire to find that true which I have always believed to be false, to know something of that which I have thought to be unknowable, grows as the years pass. One is dismayed by the evil at large in the world and in oneself, depressed and humiliated by the inadequacy of one's efforts to cope with it, humiliated, then, by the inadequacy of one's own self. It is from precisely such a feeling of humiliation that, religious writers have often urged, the search for and need of God, take their rise. What is more, the seeker who is inspired by such a mood may be not wholly without hope of succeeding in his quest. For alienated by intellectual pride God, they have assured us, draws nearer to those who approach Him in humbleness of spirit.

'Humiliation', says Donne, `is the beginning of sanctification; and as without this, without holinesse, no man shall see God, though he pore whole nights upon the Bible; so without that, without humility, no man shall heare God speake to his soule, though Hee heare three two-houres Sermons every day.'

Hence if the direct assault of the intellect upon the difficulties I have marshalled fails - and, for me, it does fail, there is nothing for it but to try another route and see if it is not possible to outflank a position which it seems impossible to storm.

This is the method which I have tried in the ensuing chapters to adopt. I have not, that is to say, striven to find an answer to difficulties which I have come to believe unanswerable; I have sought in other considerations of a more positive nature such evidence as might lead an unbiased mind to see in the so-called truths of religion a hypothesis which is at worst tenable and at best the most plausible explanation which offers itself of the facts of existence, as we know them. ....................................