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Old 15-10-15, 07:43 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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It was to a book found in the library of St. Thomas' College that I attribute the first faint suspicion that what clergymen say, and the church teaches, is open to question. It was by reading this book that my faith in the creation and in a Creator received its first shock. The very foundation of the creed built on Faith was almost shattered by the sledgehammer arguments contained in the materialistic work I refer to - Dr. Buchner's "Matter and Force".

The book was ransacked from the mouldy and dusty shelves of the College library - and given to me by senior fellow student, Mr. J. R. Molligoda, now a distinguished and keen minded lawyer of Kegalle. We argued long and for several days upon the atheistic and deistic views of the universe.

I was a hot champion of Deism then, but my opponent was ever ready with calm retorts and replies. I was about 19 years old then, and from that time I was naturally opposed to authority and disposed to rebel against what people accept as gospel truth upon mere blind belief.

If I was at that time to analysed the state of my mind at the period under review - when I was between 19 and 21 years of age - I should say I still was a Christian, but gradually drifting away - or shall I call it, advancing from Christianity to Materialism.

In 1884 I won the University Scholarship of 150 a year tenable for 4 years open to the whole island and thus obtained a triumph for Warden Miller and St. Thomas' College.

I left for England and entered St. John's College, Cambridge University. While here, I met men of all shades of opinion, devout and staunch churchmen, Embryo clergymen sowing their wild oats while preparing for the Theological tripos to become full fledged Ministers of the Word of God, divinity students who were then being thought that the Bible was not an inspired book literally, but a historical account of the Israelites.

This was the advanced school of the Church, which changed its front to meet the onslaughts of Agnostics and Freethinkers. I met also a select number of Englishmen, who were avowed agnostics, and admirers of Huxley and Bradlaugh. The controversy of the former with Gladstone was then being waged in the columns of the exercised over the account of the creation in the Bible.

I had previously read up Physical Geography and Geology and obtained the mark of distinction in the former at the Senior Level. My mind was therefore prepared to accept the Nebular Theory of the formation of the world, and to give up forever the Christian theory of a 6 days' creation. Of course, Christian commentators and apologists of the biblical narrative interpret "day" as a period of time, but this was merely forced upon them in these latter days, after geological scientists proved beyond doubt that the world assumed its present condition after millions of years of natural phenomena.

A study of the strata of the earth, its fossils, the action of the seas, and volcanoes and rivers in moulding and shaping the earth helps greatly in modifying, if not completely altering, a belief in the Genesis of the Bible. Having once become convinced that God did not, as related in the Bible, create the world, I gave up one by one the fond and cherished beliefs of my childhood. It was a serious question to me only those who have experience in their hearts the throes of agony, which must be endured, alone and in silence, when they are compelled upon sincere conviction to give up beliefs, which they have hugged to their bosoms, know the pain when it becomes necessary to wrench those beliefs away from heart and mind. One by one every cherished faith was destroyed. I began to argue to myself: if the world was created by a merciful and infinite Being of tender compassion, why did he create a hell and a Devil. God creates everything. Why did a good God create Evil? Why did he create Pain and Misery?

The hospitals are filled, throughout the world, with disease, with sickening forms of leprosy. Christians say it is a punishment to them. Nonsense! Why should infants be born, some blind, some deaf, others with one leg, or one arm, and others idiotic? Why are thousands slain by a just God by volcanoes, by bubonic plague, by famine? If God were all-powerful and all merciful, he could easily have made the world without a devil, a hell and pain. But I suppose an ignorant man might say that the devil was made for the special purpose of tempting Mohammedans, Hindus, Agnostics and Buddhists and hell was made to put them in.

I regret to say that there are some Christians so bigoted as to think so. They rely upon the passage in the New Testament, which condemns all disbelievers and heretics for eternal damnation in hell!

While on subject of the creator, I may say that I received yesterday a letter evidently written by a Christian, requesting me to refute certain arguments against Buddhism contained in 8 pamphlets written some in English and rest in Sinhala, which he sent me. I replied that I would not have time today to reply to anti-Buddhist tracts which I had not yet read but that I hope at a future opportunity to give a lecture on "A reply to attack on Buddhism by Christian pamphleteers.

Today I shall touch upon one point mentioned in one pamphlet issued by the Christian Literature Society. The anonymous pamphleteer of "Buddha and his Religion" says at page 23: The existence of a Creator may be shown in the following way: Whenever we see order and means intended to accomplish some end, we are certain that they must have originated by the action of an intelligent being, and construction that we infer that it must have had a maker, who knew what it was for and designed its use. The different parts could not have formed themselves and come together. If the watch could have been so wonderfully constructed that it would produce other watches, this would duly increase our idea of the wisdom of its maker. The world we live is far more wonderfully formed than any watch - Therefore it had a Creator!

I am familiar with this argument. It is known among Freethinkers as Paley's Watch Argument of Design in nature. If a watchmaker makes bad watches, we call him a bad watchmaker. There is in this world on every side monstrosities, evil things, wild beasts, in the animal world, thorns and brambles in the vegetable world and poison, disease and insanity, misery and pain - A bad watch has a bad watchmaker, for no good person will create evil things.

Moreover the watchmaker makes his watch of wheels, hairspring, dial, hands and case; he puts together previously existing materials. He dose not act in the manner of a prestidigitator making the world out of nothing, for as the phrase goes ex nihilo nihil fit, out of nothing, nothing is made. Even supposing the possibility of a creation of the universe out of nothing, simply by an act of volition by an Omnipotent Being, it is a reasonable query to put: what was the creator doing before he made the sun and the moon and stars, birds if the air, and the fishes of the sea? He must have been existing in chaos doing nothing.

To proceed from this digression. Having given up my belief in a Personal Creator - an anthropomorphic God - I gave up prayer and belief in the Immaculate Conception of Christ - whom I regard as a divine and holy man. I refused to believe in the doctrine of vicarious sacrifice, which teaches that through the death of Christ we must receive pardon.

I also gave up belief in the doctrine of forgiveness of sins; for if there be no God, who will forgive sins? I would no longer believe in the abominable doctrine of eternal damnation in hell where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Having thus given up intellectual assent to the teachings of Christianity, I considered whether I was to remain as many do, a nominal and outward Christian, or whether it was not more honourable not to act a lie? Was I to say that I was no longer a Christian, or was I to remain silent? I preferred to speak out. I was not alone in my agnostic views - several university men, Englishmen, especially those who were studying for the Moral Science and Natural Science Triposes, and some who were going in for the Law thought as I did.

Last edited by sriyanj; 15-10-15 at 08:04 PM.
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