Copied from The Story of My Life, 1932,
by Clarence Seward Darrow (1857-1938):
Life cannot be reconciled with the idea that back of the universe is a
Supreme Being, all merciful and kind, and that he takes any account of
the human beings and other forms of life that exist upon the earth.
Whichever way man may look upon the earth, he is oppressed with the
suffering incident to life. It would almost seem as though the earth
had been created with malignity and hatred. If we look at what we are
pleased to call the lower animals, we behold a universal carnage. We
speak of the seemingly peaceful woods, but we need only look beneath
the surface to be horrified by the misery of that underworld.
Hidden in the grass and watching for its prey is the crawling snake
which swiftly darts upon the toad or mouse and gradually swallows it
alive; the hapless animal is crushed by the jaws and covered with
slime, to be slowly digested in furnishing a meal. The snake knows
nothing about sin or pain inflicted upon another; he automatically
grabs insects and mice and frogs to preserve his life. The spider
carefully weaves his web to catch the unwary fly, winds him into the
fatal net until paralyzed and helpless, then drinks his blood and
leaves him an empty shell. The hawk swoops down and snatches a
chicken and carries it to its nest to feed its young. The wolf
pounces on the lamb and tears it to shreds. The cat watches at the
hole of the mouse until the mouse cautiously comes out, then with
seeming fiendish glee he plays with it until tired of the game, then
crushes it to death in his jaws. The beasts of the jungle roam by
day and night to find their prey; the lion is endowed with strength
of limb and fang to destroy and devour almost any animal that it can
surprise or overtake. There is no place in the woods or air or sea
where all life is not a carnage of death in terror and agony. Each
animal is a hunter, and in turn is hunted, by day and night. No
landscape is beautiful or day so balmy but the cry of suffering and
sacrifice rends the air. When night settles down over the earth the
slaughter is not abated. Some creatures are best at night, and the
outcry of the dying and terrified is always on the wind.
Almost all animals meet death by violence and through the most agonizing
pain. With the whole animal creation there is nothing like a peaceful
death. Nowhere in nature is there the slightest evidence of kindness,
of consideration, or a feeling for the suffering and the weak, except
in the narrow circle of brief family life.
Man furnishes no exception to the rule. He seems to add the treachery
and deceit that the other animals in the main do not practice, to all
the other cruelties that move his life....
Nowhere in the universe is there evidence of charity, of kindness, of
mercy toward beasts or amongst them, and still less consideration amongst
men. Man is only a part of nature, and his conduct is not substantially
different from that of all animal life. But for man himself there is
little joy. Every child that is born upon the earth arrives through the
agony of the mother. From childhood on, the life is full of pain and
disappointment and sorrow. From beginning to end it is the prey of
disease and misery; not a child is born that is not subject to disease.
Parents, family, friends, and acquaintances, one after another die, and
leave us bereft. The noble and the ignoble life meets the same fate.
Nature knows nothing about right and wrong, good and evil, pleasure and
pain; she simply acts. She creates a beautiful woman, and places a
cancer on her cheek. She may create an idealist, and kill him with
She creates a fine mind, and then burdens it with a deformed body. And
she will create a fine body, apparently for no use whatsoever. She may
destroy the most wonderful life when its work has just commenced. She
may scatter tubercular germs broadcast throughout the world. She
seemingly works with no method, plan or purpose. She knows no mercy nor
goodness. Nothing is so cruel and abandoned as Nature. To call her
tender or charitable is a travesty upon words and a stultification of
intellect. No one can suggest these obvious facts without being told
that he is not competent to judge Nature and the God behind Nature.
If we must not judge God as evil, then we cannot judge God as good.
In all the other affairs of life, man never hesitates to classify and
judge, but when it comes to passing on life, and the responsibility
of life, he is told that it must be good, although the opinion beggars
reason and intelligence and is a denial of both.
Emotionally, I shall no doubt act as others do to the last moment of my
existence. With my last breath I shall probably try to draw another,
but, intellectually, I am satisfied that life is a serious burden, which
no thinking, humane person would wantonly inflict on some one else. The
strange part of the professional optimist's creed lies in his assertion
that if there is no future life then this experience is a martyrdom and
a hideous sham.