« ForrigeFortsett »
Bound by our most sacred principles to uphold definite views of national and international morality, we could not fail to encounter the prejudices of party, of class, of race, of patriotism, in their hours of keenest heat. Though resolutely abstaining from any party entanglement and from any criticism of practical applications of principle, it was in the last degree difficult to prevent some divergences of view, and impossible not to drive away thousands of those who were otherwise disposed to join. No system of thought, no economic scheme, certainly no religious movement, ever had to meet such inherent obstacles to acceptance. A philosophy appeals to thought, but it does not meddle with angry political debates. The social reformer has his own difficulties, but he does not rouse up the passions of politicians, party, and journalism. The religious reformer renders unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and is absorbed in the higher interests of the soul and its salvation. But Positivism, because it is a polity, as much as it is a philosophy and a religion, is continually forced to face the most angry storms of popular delirium and of political passion. And never so much as to-day.
Lastly, the distinctive aim of Positivism is to promulgate the conception of a real religion based on positive science. No religion can be stable or dominant if it rests on hypotheses and aspirations, which are necessarily dreamy and in constant flux. If religion, in our age of realities, is to be based on acknowledged proofs, its object must be earthly and human. The supreme power, dominant on earth and over man, of which we have scientific knowledge is Humanity. And the ideal of Positivism is gradually to form the sense of a religion of Humanity.
And this is, also, the main difficulty that Positivism has to overcome. Denouncing, as it does, the insolent folly of atheism, and also the arid nullity of agnosticism, it is yet difficult to convince the religious minded that Positivism can be anything but a new attack on Christianity and on theism. Comte said: “The atheist is the most irrational of all theologians, for he gives the least admissible answer to the insoluble problem of the universe.” Neither in open controversy, nor in private meditation, does the true Positivist hold the belief that the Infinite All came about by chance or made itself. But the orthodox controversialist perversely confounds him with those who do hold the atheistic creed, and this becomes the source of rooted antipathy and prejudice. The Positivist neither denies creation with the atheist, nor is he satisfied, with the agnostic, to boast that he knows nothing as to the religious problem. He simply says that. whatever higher paths may yet be known, the historic conception of Humanity and its practical providence offers all the essential elements of a religious faith.
This does not satisfy the theist, and the forms of theism are infinitely vague, indefinite, mystical, or even verbal, almost as numerous as the individual theists. A well-known man of letters thus summed up his creed: “He fancied there was a sort of a something!” Any of us might say that, and not find it a working religion. It is the very definiteness, the undeniable reality of Humanity, its close touch upon every phase of human life, that repels so many anxious wanderers in the limitless wilderness of theology. In these days of shallow spiritualism, the weaker brethren will cling to anything that is cloudy, unintelligible, transcendental. And their practical gods are Mammon and Moloch.
Much less is Positivism an attack on Christianity. It is the rational development of Christianity, its incorporation with science and philosophy. Not, certainly, with the miraculous and supernatural dogmas of Christendom, but with the humanity of the gospel in its spiritual ideal, and the moral and social ideals of the Christian churches. No doubt, the Christian ideal is but a fractional part of the Positivist ideal, just as the Christian ideal is only in touch with a fractional part of human nature and man's life on earth. But so far as this Christian ideal is honestly human and essentially permanent Positivism is destined to give it a vast development. But this is not enough for those who still hanker after the Athanasian Creed or the Westminster Confession, or even some more inscrutable label.
The human type of religion must radically differ from the theological type, for it can have nothing of the violent, ecstatic, sensational character which is inherent in monotheism. Positivism is an adult and mature phase of religion, primarily addressed to adults, to men and women of formed character and trained understanding. It is a manly and womanly religion, full of manly and womanly associations and duties. Hence, it must grow gradually, work equally, and be marked by endurance, reserve, good sense, completeness, more than by passion, fanaticism, and ecstatic selfabandonment. When they ask us,
Where are the tremendous sanctions, spasmodic beatitudes, penances, raptures, beatific visions, and transcendent mysteries of Christianity? we can only smile. These things belong to the childhood of man, the fairy tale of religion. The “customs of Dahomey, the sacrifices of polytheism and Mosaism disgust the maturity of man. Christianity will never satisfy the later ages of civilization, until it is rational from top to bottom, co-extensive with human life, and in close touch with our latest culture and all forms of healthy manliness and womanliness. Religion is not to be forever nourished by mere hysterical emotions and vague yearnings for what we cannot rationally conceive.
Religion, so reconstituted, will lose much of its rapturous and ecstatic character. It will gain in solidity, constancy, and breadth. Instead of being a thing of transcendental hopes and fears, stimulated on Sundays and occasional moments, but laid
aside, if not doubted, for the rest of man's active time, religion will be a body of scientific convictions, poetic emotions, and moral habits, in close relation with all our thoughts, acts, and feelings, and naturally applying to everything we do or desire or think. It will be part of the citizen's daily life: more social than personal, more civic than domestic, more practical than mystical. It will give ample scope to the personal, the domestic, even the mystical side of human nature, within the control of reason and the claims of active duty. Religion will thus mean the guidance of right living by the light of personal and social duty as taught by a systematic sociology. Its creed will be a synthetic philosophy, resting on the general body of positive science. And its worship will be the expression of loyalty to Humanity in all its phases, as manifested in its true servants, the known or the unknown, the living or the dead, of all ages and of every race.