( Originally Published 1916 )
"As sure as the sun rises," said the Believer. "That," replied the Unbeliever, "is not sure at all."
Believer What do you mean? Would you dispute the sun?
Unbeliever—Certainly! Why not? The sun-rise is only one of those things everybody takes for granted. You have perhaps seen it a half dozen times. From that you reason that it takes place everyday. But I doubt if the sun rises when there is no one present to see it. Would a theatrical company go on with a performance if every seat in the house were empty?
Believer You are crazy.
Unbeliever—Rational, you mean. The probability is that this sunrise business is just another scheme of hotel proprietors of mountain resorts, of farmers who want their farmhands to get up early, and of other interested people. Whenever you find a permanent institution which imposes upon the whole of mankind you will find graft behind it.
Believer—What a charming belief ! Unbeliever—Don't accuse me of belief! I hate 218
the word. I have only unbelief. That alone is consistent with high mentality. It is the dupes of the world who believe. It is the sharpers of the world who live upon beliefs.
Unbeliever—Sure ! If there were no confidence there could be no confidence men. If there were no trust there could be no heartbreaks. If there were no assurance there could be no disappointment.
Believer—But, man, you know the sun rises every day, and will rise tomorrow.
Unbeliever—Nothing of the kind! When I see it rise, I know it rises. When I don't see it, I do not know. I refuse to take other people's word. And how do you know the sun will come up to-morrow? Simply because you saw it today and yesterday. But because a thing has happened twice or three times or a million times, is that any proof it will go on happening? I took Christabel out to dinner last night and the night before; do I have to go on taking her out to dinner for-ever?
Believer—Good! You have convinced me. I shall begin by doubting the things that make me unhappy. First, I shall doubt the cocksureness of my own reason. That will land me in a comfortable confidence in my instincts. Thén I shall register a doubt against that fixed belief of yours in the evil of all men and the cussedness of things in general. By that I shall bounce back again into my old faith in good men and my trust that all things work out for the best. I shall doubt the frailty of women and so come again to my belief in virtue. I shall doubt doubt, and hence have faith in faith.
Believer—But me no buts! If I am to be a doubter I am going the whole hog. Unbeliever—Amazing!
Believer—Not at all. Rational! Superrational !