Science is clearing the way for a religion coming after all the religions that came before. There must be a combination of modern science with a loftier and deeper theology than anything that has ever been furnished in the past. Everything is progressing toward that end, as it should.
The best gift to our age so far, the crowning characteristic, the final glory, of our age, is what we have come to know as the scientific spirit. It is an age of inquiry that enters everything, sacred or profane, with no spot anywhere but someone wants to explore it. I don’t think there ever was an age that so daringly, so persistently, everywhere, insisted upon its right to investigate.
The candor of science is the glory of the modern,
It does not hide and repress; it confronts, turns on the light,
It is an appeal to nature, an appeal to final meanings, to facts.
It never asks us: “Do you want this thing to be true?” or, “Is it ugly, hateful?” but, “Is it true?”
And if it is true that settles it.
It is an absolute surrender to the truth—there is no salvation if not in that.
With the best engineers and scientists, there is no lingering with the old ideas. They quickly discover their falsity—dismiss them.
Nothing carries the day now but the clearly authenticated narrative,
The solid, touchable, seeable, demonstrable substance and its action,
The plain reasons and proofs how and why.
A hundred popes’ bulls would get less respect than an inch or an ounce of the cabin boy’s or the dung-pitcher’s word who testified that he saw.
Not geology, nor mathematics, nor chemistry, nor navigation, nor astronomy, nor anatomy, nor physiology, nor engineering, is more true to itself than Walt Whitman is true to them. I am pregnant with the deductions of the geologist, the astronomer, the chemist; they and the other sciences underlie my whole superstructure.
I stand in awe before the men of science,
They hold the key to the situation, they are the true discoverers—
They, with their utter abandon, honesty, admission equally of every view, making dogma of none;
The top-most glory of our science today is its spirit of tolerance—its broad human spirit of acceptance.
What can science have to do with such a spectre as the present church? All their methods are opposed—must be opposed—utterly opposed—for one means restriction, the other freedom; the church—ill-adjustment, science—harmony.
From time immemorial theology has built itself upon mythology. Now the time has come when that mythology can no longer be believed by anyone of any account. The highest service science is rendering today is in clearing the way, pioneering, opening roads—sweeping away, destroying, burning, the underbrush. With science, the old theology of the east, long in its dotage, begins evidently to die and disappear.
Science having extirpated the old stock-fables and widely prevailing, unspeakably tenacious superstitions, it is to be the greatest office of scientism (and of future poetry also) to free the spiritual, the religious, from fables, crudities, and enfeebling superstitions, and launch forth in renew’d faith and scope a hundred fold.
I demand of religion that it quit all that ridiculous terror at evil and evil-doers,
And exclude the devil from the theory of the universe;
I would have something that is not afraid of existing things,
And adjusts itself to the ranges of real life and all men and women.
On the background of the mighty past, the dead,
To limn with absolute faith the mighty living present—
That would be a religion of some account,
That would be indeed a religion which met the work to be done,
And did not daintily avoid it or helplessly stand afar off and scream.
Science—and maybe such will prove its principal service—prepares the way for this noblest of religions,
Showing that all of humanity, and of everything, is divine in its bases, its eligibilities.
Scientific facts, deductions, are divine too,
Precious counted parts of moral civilization, and indispensable to it, to prevent fanaticism—
Did you think the demonstrable less divine than the mythical?
Science alone has perfect faith,
Faith not in a part only, but all.
Science says to us—be ready to say yes,
Whatever happens, whatever don’t happen—yes, yes, yes.
That’s where science becomes religion,
Makes the last demonstration of faith,
Looks the universe full in the face—its bad in the face, its good—and says yes to it.
Here is what sings unrestricted faith, entire faith and acceptance, faith in whatever happens,
The large and the magnificent tolerance that includes all and allows for all, and finds a place for all.
The new spirit utters the highest truth,
Boldly accepting, promulging this faith,
Indescribably grander, sweet and unimpugnable alike to little child or great savan.
I am a man who has perfect faith—the undiminish’d faith, the faith that never balks,
I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races,
I reject none, accept all,
None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me,
Good and evil! O all dear to me—all so dear to me!
I have very little room for the man who disdains the universe. One of my first questions is always that—not always spoken—not methodically thought, even—but in a way taking its measure: Do you accept the universe and all that is in it?
I say he has studied, meditated to no profit, whatever may be his mere erudition, who has not absorb’d this simple consciousness and faith—an implicit belief in the wisdom, health, mystery, beauty of every process, every concrete object, every human or other existence, not only considered from the point of view of all, but of each.
Religious faith is also the devout realizing that man and the universe have a fitting, proportionate purpose,
Eternal trains of purpose in the development, by however slow degrees, of the physical, moral, and spiritual cosmos.
This is not because I merely guess,
It comes from the amplest knowledge,
(As, strange to say, it also comes from extremest simplicity;)
My faith seems to belong to the nature of things—is imposed, cannot be escaped,
Can better account for life and what goes with life than the opposite theory—
What is this world without a further divine purpose in it all?
This faith is the antiseptic of the soul,
Purifying all other ideas and things, it gives endless meaning and purpose and growth to a man or woman,
And in him or her condenses the drift of all things, the scheme of things,
The destinies which it necessitates.
The varieties, contradictions, and paradoxes of the world and of life—so baffling to the superficial observer, and so often leading to despair—become a series of infinite radiations and waves of the one sea-like universe of action and progress, hospitable to all contrasts of life.
Streams of death and life, object and subject, the real and ideal—
In I myself, in all the world, in you whoe’er you are, these currents flowing,
All, all toward the mystic ocean tending,
For the eternal ocean bound,
Sea-rills making for the subterranean sea,
(There is a sea below the sea; we are but on the surface.)
Give me, O God, give him or her I love, this quenchless faith in thy ensemble,
Perfect faith, with magnitude and limitlessness suitable to the human soul.
Give me to sing that thought—conviction in the triumph of the good,
Whatever else withheld, withhold not from us belief in plan of thee enclosed in time and space—
Health, peace, salvation universal, eternal life—happiness.
Is it a dream?
Nay but the lack of it the dream,
And failing it life’s lore and wealth a dream,
And all the world a dream.
Oh! I feel how empty everything would seem if I was not full of this faith—if this faith did not overthrow me,
How useless all things would be if they led on to nothing but what we see, to nothing but what we appear to wind up in here.
A religious sentiment is in all these heroic ideas, and underneath them,
A brave heroic thought or religious idea, faithfully pursued, justifies itself in time,
Not perhaps in its own way but often in grander ways.
No year, nor even century, will settle this,
There is in the intellect of man, in time, far in prospective recesses, a judgment, a last appellate court, which will settle it—
The divine efforts of heroes, and their ideas, faithfully lived up to, will finally prevail, and be accomplished, however long deferred.