For that Supreme One is not a God of pity or mercy--not as we recognize these qualities. Think of a God of mercy who would create the typhus germ, or the house-fly, or the centipede, or the rattlesnake, yet these are all His handiwork. They are a part of the Infinite plan. The minister is careful to explain that all these tribulations are sent for a good purpose; but he hires a doctor to destroy the fever germ, and he kills the rattlesnake when he doesn't run from it, and he sets paper with molasses on it for the house-fly.

"Two things are quite certain: one is that God, the limitless God, manufactured those things, for no man could have done it. The man has never lived who could create even the humblest of God's creatures. The other conclusion is that God has no special consideration for man's welfare or comfort, or He wouldn't have created those things to disturb and destroy him. The human conception of pity and morality must be entirely unknown to that Infinite God, as much unknown as the conceptions of a microbe to man, or at least as little regarded.

"If God ever contemplates those qualities in man He probably admires them, as we always admire the thing which we do not possess ourselves; probably a little grain of pity in a man or a little atom of mercy would look as big to Him as a constellation. He could create a constellation with a thought; but He has been all the measureless ages, and He has never acquired those qualities that we have named--pity and mercy and morality. He goes on destroying a whole island of people with an earthquake, or a whole cityful with a plague, when we punish a man in the electric chair for merely killing the poorest of our race. The human being needs to revise his ideas again about God. Most of the scientists have done it already; but most of them don't dare to say so."

He pointed out that the moral idea was undergoing constant change; that what was considered justifiable in an earlier day was regarded as highly immoral now. He pointed out that even the Decalogue made no reference to lying, except in the matter of bearing false witness against a neighbor. Also, that there was a commandment against covetousness, though covetousness to-day was the basis of all commerce: The general conclusion being that the morals of the Lord had been the morals of the beginning; the morals of the first-created man, the morals of the troglodyte, the morals of necessity; and that the morals of mankind had kept pace with necessity, whereas those of the Lord had remained unchanged. It is hardly necessary to say that no one ever undertook to contradict any statements of this sort from him. In the first place, there was no desire to do so; and in the second place, any one attempting it would have cut a puny figure with his less substantial arguments and his less vigorous phrase. It was the part of wisdom and immeasurably the part of happiness to be silent and listen.

On another evening he began:

"The mental evolution of the species proceeds apparently by regular progress side by side with the physical development until it comes to man, then there is a long, unexplained gulf. Somewhere man acquired an asset which sets him immeasurably apart from the other animals--his imagination. Out of it he created for himself a conscience, and clothes, and immodesty, and a hereafter, and a soul. I wonder where he got that asset. It almost makes one agree with Alfred Russel Wallace that the world and the universe were created just for his benefit, that he is the chief love and delight of God. Wallace says that the whole universe was made to take care of and to keep steady this little floating mote in the center of it, which we call the world. It looks like a good deal of trouble for such a small result; but it's dangerous to dispute with a learned astronomer like Wallace. Still, I don't think we ought to decide too soon about it--not until the returns are all in. There is the geological evidence, for instance. Even after the universe was created, it took a long time to prepare the world for man.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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