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The Radicalism of Shelley and Its Sources
written by "MacDonald, Daniel J."
...s belief in God is manifest. It is only when he argues that he would seem to be an atheist. This discrepancy looks like deceit, but it is not. It is honesty rather than duplicity. He advanced only those statements which he thought he could prove, which he could demonstrate by the aid of reason. “It does not,” he writes, “prove the nonexistence of a thing that it is not discoverable by reason; feeling here affords us sufficient proof.... Those who really feel the being of a God, have the best right to believe it.”[124] (True he goes on to say that he does not feel the being of God, and must be content with reason; but by this he may mean that he does not feel the existence of the God of the Christians.) After all, this position with regard to the proof of God’s existence is not so very different from that of Newman. “Logic,” says Newman, “does not really prove.” It enables us to join issues with others ... it verifies negatively.[125] Newman, contrary to Locke, would inject an element of volition into logic. “He does not, indeed, deny the possibility of demonstration; he often asserts it; but he holds that the demonstration will not in fact convince.”[126] We have really to desert a logical ground and to take our stand upon instinct. According to Shelley anything that could not be demonstrated should not be given to others as gospel truth.[127] Now, feelings cannot be demonstrated, and hence it is that one may feel one thing and at the same time see that the senses and[Pg 93] even unaided reason show that the contrary is true. “Feelings do not look so well as reasonings on black and white.” Later on he said that materialism “allows its disciples to talk and dispenses them from thinking.”[128] The opposition which Shelley experienced forced him to argue. When Shelley wrote The Necessity of Atheism he was at most only an agnostic. This word was fi...

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