The Faiths Of Religion
( Originally Published 1915 )
THE psychology of faith is prepared to make the most important contributions to the understanding of the phenomena of religion, whether as a personal life or as a historical development. "Every-where," says a writer on this subject (Waitz), "essentially the same type of spiritual life meets us." "We find," says another writer, also from the historical point of view (M. Réville), "the same fundamental principles, the same laws of evolution and transformation, the same internal logic"; in a word, "a fundamental identity of spiritual being" with ourselves. And to this thought still another writer adds: "All mythology and all history of beliefs must finally turn to psychology for their satisfactory elucidation."
It will be noticed, however, by all careful readers on this subject that the word customarily employed in describing the attitude of the human mind toward its object is, in all the lower forms of religion, the word "belief" rather than the word "faith." This distinction is significant, whether it be intelligently made or not. For in these lower forms, the mind's assent is uniformly characterized by a lack of attempts at harmony with our more positive knowledge about the facts and laws of the physical universe and of the mental and moral life of man; it is, therefore, affected with the weaknesses of credulity, the vices of superstition, and the defects of moral imbecility. When, however, the intellectual elements of belief have incorporated more of a "sweet reasonableness," and have adopted into themselves the ideals of personal life from the moral point of view, this attitude of assent itself becomes essentially changed in its character. To personal trust in a personal Object, who is conceived of as enfolding all the ideals of truth, wisdom, beauty, and goodness, as not only Absolute and Infinite but as perfect Ethical Spirit, the Father and Redeemer of man, are added love and the yielding of the will in obedience. Belief, which, while it remains mere intellectual assent, may be credulous, superstitious, and inoperative or even opposed to the pursuit in the practical life of moral ideals, blossoms into a reasonable faith.
In order to understand such a faith, with its individual variations and its historical developments, it will be enough for our present purpose to quote from a work in which the whole subject is discussed at length and in its many phases ("Philosophy of Religion, pp. 89 f.)
"Taken at its lowest terms and considered as universal with man, religion is the belief in in-visible superhuman powers (or a Power), which are (is) conceived of after the analogy of the human spirit; on which (whom) man regards himself as dependent for his well-being, and to which (whom) he is, at least in some respects, responsible for his conduct; together with the feelings and practices which follow from such a belief. Thus the lowest form of religion is most properly denominated a `vague and unreflecting Spiritism.'
"Thus defined the essential characteristic of religious belief, as it springs everywhere and at all times from the soul of man, is the belief in `Other-soul that is also Over-Soul.' From this belief, and as inseparably connected with it, various feelings arise, which for their peculiar characteristics and differentiation depend upon the character attributed to those invisible, superhuman, and spiritual powers, that are `posited,' as it were, by the belief itself. And in an equally natural and inevitable way, certain practices having reference to these powers and to man's adjustment of his active relations toward them, form a part of religion.
"It will be seen, then, that religion considered content-wise is an attitude of the human Self toward other and superior Soul-life, which it is desirable or necessary to apprehend and to conciliate, because this Other can affect man's welfare in manifold important ways. Religion is thus essentially animistic; if only the term be employed in a sufficiently indefinite and comprehensive fashion. What is the precise nature of the spirits (or animae) which are thus brought by religion into relation to the life of man, is a question to which the earlier forms of belief give most vague, uncertain, and even fantastic answers. For man has, as yet, attained little or no reflective knowledge of his own Self-hood; and the stirrings of his fancy, emotional impulses, and unintelligible, obscure longings, are not at all clear as respects their significance and worth to himself. A child of nature, he views all nature as moved and influenced by soul-life similar and yet superior to his own. His conception of his own spirit is not a fixed and well-defined affair, either as to its characteristics, or location, or relations to the body, or to other human spirits, or to the Other-and-Over Souls with which his imagination peoples the world. But inasmuch as he is sensitive to whatever affects his happiness or misery, and has the rude but potent social and ethical notions which so largely enter into his constitution as human, he desires to adjust himself to the invisible and spiritual world which is, he believes, the most important part of his environment."
The universality of religious belief, from the earliest times back to which the history of the race can be credibly traced, and down to the lowest stages of savagism or of the mythical "primitive man" to which scientific hypothesis can be respectably carried, is now conceded by practically all the most trustworthy authorities. "I have sought atheism in the lowest as well as the highest. I have nowhere met with it except in individuals or in more or less limited schools" (Quatrefages). "Hitherto no primitive people has been discovered devoid of all trace of religion" (Roskoff). "A people destitute of all religious notions has never been discovered" (Réville). "The statement that there are nations or tribes which possess no religion, rests either on inaccurate observation or on a confusion of ideas" (Tiele). And Professor Jastrow goes so far as to conclude from a survey of the entire field of history: "The essence of true religion is to be met with in the earliest manifestations of the spiritual side of man's nature" ("A Study of Religion," p. 1N).
Applying this fact of the naturalness and universality of belief in Other-spirit and Over-spirit to the case of the inquirer into the question, What should I believe? in the religious sphere of life and of conduct, this one answer may be even now regarded as established. It assumes the form of a point of view, from which to take into account all subsequent considerations bearing on the final answer. The man who has no religious faith is to this extent — and the extent is great — cut off from participation in that "unity of the human spirit," before which, in "its perpetually similar features, the individual, national, or even racial differences sink into insignificance."
Enormous differences do, however, exist, under essentially the same type of spiritual life, in the different forms of religious belief; — and this, not only with regard to the Object of this belief as constructed by the intellect and imagination working conjointly; but also as to all the more important corollaries following, whether quite logically or not, from this central truth. On the side of the humanity of religion we may gracefully admit that
"In even savage bosoms
but "the sent of the blossom is not in the bulb." And religious belief is, above all other forms of human belief, both obligated and able, through its own special form of development, to establish a claim to be regarded as a divine Self-revelation by the seeker after a reasonable faith.
It would be impossible for us in this little book to undertake even a sketch of the science of comparative religions and of the history of the religious development of mankind. But this is not essential to the intelligent use of "the will to believe" the essential truths of religion; even less, to the choice which commits the entire personal life and the issues of its unfolding, to a reasonable religious faith.
There are two convictions as to the nature of the Object of religious faith, and as to the attitude toward this Object which a reasonable faith involves, that may be borrowed from the study with which in the present connection we are, for practical purposes, compelled to dispense. The first is this: The rationality of this Object must be accepted as established for purposes of faith, by our increasing knowledge of the facts and laws of the physical world, but especially of the personal life and of its successful spiritual development. The second conviction is that which Professor Jastrow has so aptly characterized as the distinguishing contribution of the Hebrew prophets, — "the investiture of the one God with ethical attributes." To this Christianity added "the scent of the blossom" by imparting the spiritual freedom which Jesus had; and which the faith that was his, and is "in him," bestows on the "sons of God." But even when we commend Christianity to ourselves or to others, as placing under obligation the will to believe, we do well to remember what Augustine said: "Christianity is a river in which a lamb may walk, while an elephant must swim."
We have already rejected the demand of Emerson, if made literally and without limitations, for a religion which is science. On the other hand, no man can understand the essence of the religious consciousness, or the influences which have worked most powerfully in the religious evolution of the race, and, as well, the enormous effects of religion itself in modifying all the other factors of evolution, without recognizing the fact that religious faith can lay for itself sure and satisfying foundations for the human spirit to repose upon, only as it cherishes an intellectually reasonable belief. They who do not seek for the elimination of credulity and superstition from the faiths of. religion do these faiths an equal wrong with those who reject them, in the foolish opinion that they are all themselves no better than superstitions adapted to deceive the credulous. In religion, unbelief and credulity may be alike unreasonable.
It is not, then, in the vain hope to institute a positive science of religion, such as physics and astronomy (although not always on altogether indisputable proofs) boast of, in their times of confident repose, that we make diligent and serious search for some sound kernels of knowledge about the world and about ourselves, in which to discover the sources of a reasonable religious faith. For we are quite determinedly opposed to the conception so current and so seductive to unreflecting minds, which would have us regard the beliefs of religion as essentially to be taken in the form of "pap," prepared by the "Unknown" for sensitive nerves and weak digestions, rather than as strong meat fed from the divine hand to those who crave nourishment that shall fit them for the intellectual as well as moral struggles of the present life. And if we are told that in fact, religion has always been, because it essentially is, a matter of vague fears and hopes and other emotional stirrings, which man shares at first with the lower animals, and which he must throw off in order to become rational, we flatly deny the statement. The beliefs of religion, even among the lowest savages, have been born of reflection. They are explanations of experiences in this world of sense by reference to an in-visible and spiritual world. For savages are not without keen powers of reflection, are not in-capable of subtle analyses and of far-reaching inferences. Indeed, one is tempted to think that in these respects they excel large numbers of those who constitute the most favored social circles; not to say, an occasional modern ethnologist or psychologist. Nor is this to be wondered at, for in its origin and growth, religion is as rational as science is.
This "kernel of belief," out of which grow the intellectual elements of highly developed religious faith, has been suggestively spoken of by Carlyle as what every man should have respecting "his vital relations to the Universe, his duty, and destiny there." As Otfried Müller says of the Etruscans: "Divinity seemed to them a world of life." Or, to quote Carlyle again: "The thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough without asserting it to himself, much less to others) ; the thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain concerning his vital relations to the mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest. That is his religion."
But in all the nature-religions, especially in the lower forms (and the history of the develop-ment of all the greater religions, including that of the Old Testament, discovers certain of their roots in nature-worship) the Universe is not conceived of in a way to invite, or even to make possible, a reasonable religious faith. Its own spiritual nature is divided, torn asunder between contending spirits, some having a certain good-will toward some men and others hostile to those to whom their divine rivals are friendly; or else hated and hateful to all. All the spirits, of air and water and earth and of the underground world, are jealous of their own interests, selfish in their exactions of offerings and libations, fitful and capricious in their attitudes toward those who most faith-fully worship them. Among these spirits are those of man's departed ancestors. For ancestor-worship is found almost, if not quite universally combined with nature-worship in all the earlier stages of man's religious evolution. The two become more or less "amalgamated." This "amalgamation" of the two kinds of spirits, in the belief and worship of which the earlier forms of religion as known from historical sources consist, is illustrated by the case of the Semites according to the following description borrowed from a student of the subject. "The primitive Semitic community was thought by them to be made up of gods, men, and animals, all of which were akin to one another. The gods were confined each to his own tribe or clan, and in their activities were limited to certain localities.... In this chthonic period they were especially associated with springs, wells, and trees, and were regarded as the proprietors of naturally watered land. The bond between them and their worshippers was thought to be one of physical kinship, and was believed to be renewed by sacrifice."
Of course, all these elements which entered into the jumbled conception of the invisible world as full of spirits, differed among different peoples in dependence on the physical character of their environment and upon the cruder or more elaborate form of their domestic, tribal, and national relations. But everywhere, the Universe was conceived of as divided against itself, and its spiritual agencies as truly divided in their attitudes toward individual men and toward each individual in dependence upon passing moods and selfish considerations. Such a Universe could not possibly call forth implicit trust, active affection, loyal and self-sacrificing obedience.
But even many centuries ago, a "kernel of belief" which could serve for evoking a genuinely devout and reasonable faith was forming in certain divinely endowed and inspired minds; and this not among the Hebrews alone; or, beyond Judea, chiefly among the Chinese under the influence of Confucian ideas. Some one of the greater heavenly bodies, or some of the more impressive of the natural forces, or some one of the more distinguished of the ancestral, tribal, or national divinities, might be selected, and endowed with the higher personal and spiritual qualities, by imagination working at the task of forming an Object worthy of trust, affection, and devoted service. Numerous facts bear witness to the existence of such experiences of faith. Thus the eighty-fourth prayer of the Orphic hymns runs: "Render us always prosperous, always happy, O Fire; Thou who art eternal, beautiful, and young." In the "Book of the Dead," Osiris proclaims himself, saying: "I am the maker of the heaven and the earth. . . . It is I that have given all the gods the soul that is within them." Away back in the darkness of almost prehistoric times we may listen to whisperings of consolation, or to the cries for moral vindication, in the prayers of faith uttered by those who knew only the God whom their thought and imagination, helped by the Spirit of Him whom they worshipped, had been able to present to the eye of faith. So in the "Maxims of Ani," we read: "Pray humbly with a loving heart all the words of which are uttered in secret. God will protect thee in thine affairs." On papyri in the British Museum is recorded the faith of pious souls, unknown to us and of the most ancient of the recorded dead, who could pray: "O my God and Lord, thou hast made me and formed me: give me an eye to see and an ear to hear thy glories." Or, again: "Hail to thee, Amon Rd, Lord of the thrones of the earth. . . . Deliverer of the timid man from the violent, judging the poor, the poor and the oppressed. Lord of wisdom, whose precepts are wise. . . . Lord of mercy, most loving, at whose coming men live." The greatest of all Egyptian monarchs, Rameses II, when in sore distress poured forth the prayer of faith: "Who, then, art thou, O my father Amon! Doth a father forget his son? Surely a wretched lot awaiteth him who opposes thy will; but blessed is he that knoweth thee, for thy deeds proceed from a heart of love." And he who, perhaps, in our Sunday-school days was represented to us as a monster of impiety, has left on record the prayer of his faith in his god, Marduk:
"According to thy mercy, O Lord, which thou bestowest upon all,
But these instances of genuine religious faith toward the indwelling and controlling Spirit of which the Universe, as known by sensuous experience, is the revealer, with the union of trust, affection and devotion which are the essential elements of such a faith, are rare indeed, as long as the current notions of this Universe remain unchanged by the advances of science and philosophy. In a word, the knowledge of what the world really is must reveal the essential nature of the Spirit that is in it, before the development of a reasonable religious faith is possible. It is scientific observation and reflective thinking which greaten and make more worthy the Object of religious belief on its more purely intellectual side. Science does not give us a religion which is science; but it does provide us with a conception of the world which makes more reasonable and morally worthy the attitude, toward that World, of religious faith. Philosophy does not give us a speculative system of dogmatic religion, or even a strictly demonstrable conception of the Universe as itself Universal Reason. The Absolute of speculative thinking cannot be substituted for the Object of religious faith (subjectively considered). Even less does philosophy provide a scheme of abstract thinking which will afford all the emotional and practical satisfactions of a religious faith (objectively considered). But, since its method is reflective thinking, and its sphere is the entire complex of both things and men, philosophy does help to present to the intellect a Universe of a more gloriously elevated and rationally unified type. And such a Universe is surely better fitted to elicit the confidences of a well-balanced intellect than is the world as conceived of in terms of any of the nature-religions.
We have already seen what sort of a conception of the world as a Cosmos, or orderly and beautiful system in which a vast variety of seemingly heterogeneous and contending things and conflicting forces are, as the phrase is, "made to listen to reason," has come to be the crowning belief and sleeping postulate of the modern sciences. We do not need to repeat the argument. We may appeal to the fact as on the whole favorable to the intellectual side of the beliefs of religion. It is no longer required of the man who would assume and make practical the religious view of the physical Universe that he shall people it, everywhere and at all times, with a heterogeneous and contending crowd of invisible spiritual agencies, which he will do well either to placate or to avoid. But science has not driven the Spiritual clean out of the World of Space and Time; or quite back of the World in Time, to the position of an original Creator, but now no longer needed Presence and Power. On the contrary, science has somewhat more clearly revealed the nature of that Spirit who is the World's indwelling Mind and Will.
According to Martineau, religion is "belief in a supreme Mind and Will." While the fuller definition which Pfleiderer derives from a life-long study of its history runs: "Religion is the reference of man's life to the World-governing Power, — a reference which seeks to grow into a living union with it." Now, the last phrase of this definition adds something which is not precisely, by any means, the same thing as intellectual belief. To the more purely mental attitude of "reference," the " growing into a living union " with the " World-governing Power" adds something of a more intimate relation of heart and will. It is this addition which converts belief about God into an active faith in God. It is, however, of the contributions of science to the reasonableness of religion as an intellectual belief of which we are now speaking.
We are well aware that there are numerous students of the physical, chemical and biological sciences, — and a few of this number, that have made notable contributions to these sciences — who are ready to contend that science has either destroyed or greatly impaired the foundations of the intellectual belief in God. But this is not the position of most of the best of such students. They are greatly tempted, as are (more basely) large numbers of the theologians and of the clergy, to relegate even the intellectual beliefs of Christianity, and a fortiori of all the other religions, to the domain of mere feeling; or to the judgment of the court in which the Pragmatist decides promptly the question, Is it true? by his prejudices as to the often much more difficult question, Will it work? But we may still refer to an ever-increasing number of the most thoughtful who are ready to affirm with the late Lord Kelvin: "Overpoweringly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie around us; and if ever perplexities — whether metaphysical or scientific — turn us away from them for a time, they come back upon us with irresistible power, showing to us the influence of a Free-Will through nature, and teaching us that all things depend on one Everlasting Creator and Ruler" (as quoted in the Monist, No. I, 1906, p. 31).
The whole history of philosophy, as a record of the attempts which the human mind has made to comprehend the World by the method of reflective thinking, and the progress which has crowned these efforts in the persons and doctrines of the foremost philosophers and of their immediate or remoter followers, shows us that philosophy and the intellectual side of the beliefs of religion, have quite uniformly advanced in relations of dependence each upon the other, or of common consent to the same great truths. The greater problems of religion and those of philosophy are the same. From both points of view, the religious and the philosophical, the answers given to these problems profoundly influence religion as a life.
Whence do I come? or, Who is the author of my being? What are the essential relations in which I must stand, and what are those other relations in which I ought to stand, toward this source of my being, as well as toward my fellow men? What is to be my destiny, and what is it necessary for me to do and to be, in order best to realize this destiny? — such are some of the questions which, whether we call them questions of religious belief or questions of philosophy, are essentially the same and must be answered in essentially the same way. This position is not particularly affected by the appeal to revelation or inspiration as, telling against reason, on the side of faith: for the same reason is the organ of revelation, the inspired of inspiration; and the faith which it produces and which reposes in it seeks ever to become a more reasonable faith.
"Reason" says Kant, toward the close of his "Transcendental Dialectic," where his scepticism culminates in the attempt to remove knowledge in order to make room for faith; — "Reason, constantly strengthened by the powerful arguments that come to hand by them-selves, though they are no doubt empirical only, cannot be discouraged by any doubts of subtle and abstract speculation. Roused from every inquisitive indecision, as from a dream, by one glance at the wonders of nature and the majesty of the Cosmos, reason soars from height to height, until it reaches the highest, from the conditioned to conditions, till it reaches the supreme and unconditioned Author of all." But according to Kant, at the "highest," what reason actually finds and grasps is only an "Idea," — transcendental indeed and having the force and authority of a principle to regulate the intellect, but affording no trustworthy knowledge of the Reality which is assumed to correspond to this idea. As has been pointed out in a previous volume of this series ("Knowledge and Reality," Chapter IX of "What Can I Know?"), this sceptical attitude toward the central conception of religion is equally effective for the destruction of all the claims of all the positive sciences to give us any knowledge of the real World, with the phenomena of which they imagine that they are busying themselves. Indeed, carried to its legitimate limit, such scepticism makes all knowledge and all communication of knowledge impossible and absurd. We must recognize, then, the position and the indispensable value of intellectual belief in the attempt of religion to construct for faith a reasonable conception of the invisible, spiritual Presence that is revealed in the world of sense, in essentially the same way in which we found ourselves compelled to recognize a similar intellectual belief as the crowning achievement and productive postulate of the positive sciences.
It is not true, then, that the faiths of religion come by the way of "a faculty of acquiring knowledge which has no rapport with our normal faculties of that kind." Getting faith does indeed involve gifts of intuition; but they are not a species of magical clairvoyance like that which the Zulu medicine men employ in what they call "opening the gates of distance." On the contrary, there is a most notable resemblance between the scientific belief in a Universe of rational order, with a wonderful but mysterious majesty, having the beauty of sublimity, and the conception of a World created and controlled by immanent and omnipresent Spirit, as imagination and reflective thinking have prepared this conception to be the Object of religious belief.
When, along the line of the development of the nature-religions, under the guidance of a growing knowledge of the physical world, and by the pressure of the needs of the human soul, the personification and deification of the Sun, and his exaltation to the place of Supreme Lord of the earth and Father of the faithful, take place, even this does not prove satisfying to the mind that craves a well-founded conception of the Object of religious belief. The genuine religious faith of the devout soul in his God, Osiris, Amon, Marduk, or Yahveh, requires something more. According to a story which has the marks of authenticity, one of the Incas could say: "I tell you there must be a greater and more mighty Lord above our father, the Sun, who orders him to take the course he follows day by day."
But, as we have already seen, the scientific belief which dominates the conception of the World current at the present time, is not born wholly of intellectual parentage. AEsthetical and at least quasi-ethical considerations have something to say in its formation and in its support, when it is called in question by scepticism or by a quite rigid criticism. For the "scientist" is also a man, is primarily a man; and being a man, he is an artist and recognizes, however faintly or unconsciously, the presence and the worth, in the world of things, of certain resemblances to his æsthetical and moral ideals.
The very nature of religious faith, however, is to lean much more heavily than does either science or philosophy, upon the emotional stirrings and practical needs of the human spirit. And it is these emotions and needs in which the imperative calls for religious faith more patently consist. No other of the several complex relations which every individual sustains in some degree toward the world of things and of men, so completely and so intensely involves the entire soul as do the relations belonging to the religious life.
"A preliminary analysis of man's religious consciousness can only prepare the way and classify the material, for a subsequent detailed consideration of the different active factors which enter into his total religious experience. But even a preliminary analysis must be guided by one assumption which the detailed consideration will amply confirm. This assumption may be stated in the following terms: Religion has its psychological sources in every important form of the functioning of the human soul. It is man in his entirety, who is the maker of religion. Every factor of his complex being enters into his religious life and religious development. The unconscious or — to use a much abused term of modern psychology—the `subliminal' influences are present and potent factors. The lower impulses and emotional stirrings solicit or impel him to be religious. His social instincts or more intelligent social desires and aims co-operate in the same result. The uplift to that condition of rational faith which corresponds to the ideal adjustment of the human Self to the Divine Self is effected largely through the awakening and employment of the higher, or æsthetical and ethical sentiments. Human intelligence — beginning with that instinctive intellectual curiosity which leads man to try to explain things to himself, and himself to his own Self, in naive and childlike fashion, and ending with the most lofty speculative flights of the trained reflective reason — is committed to the cause of religious development. Without his meta-physical nature, his ontological consciousness, man would neither be scientific nor religious; much less would science and religion find subjects for controversy or for friendly discussion. And the voluntary and practical adjustments of himself to that Other and Absolute Self, in whose Being he comes to believe his own being to be somehow comprehended, is the `heart of the heart' of man's religious life. That the finite will should be brought into harmony with the Infinite Will, and man's activities rightly attuned to the active Being of the World in which he lives, is even more definitely the aim of religion than it is the aim of science; and this appears true whenever both religion and science come to understand their truest and highest mission.
"Feeling, and every form of feeling; intellect, and every aspect and phase of intellect; will, and every species of the voluntary and deliberately chosen course of conduct; — all these enter, as integral and reciprocally related `moments,' into the religious experience. For religion in man is nothing less than man himself considered in his total being with respect to its manifold relations toward one of the most complex and comprehensive ends of all life and all development.
"This unqualified manner of asserting the comprehensive character of the religious factors in the psychical being of man, receives confirmation from all the attempts which have been made to reduce these factors to one, two, or three selected forms of mental reactions. Such attempts have inevitably resulted in failure, so far as their positive contentions are concerned. But they have, when taken together, shown what a rich endowment in the religious domain belongs to the soul of man. For the attempts not only correct the exclusiveness of one another; they also supplement one another in such a way as to show that each one of them has truth, but by no means all the truth, on its side." ("Philosophy of Religion,"
If now we turn to the impulses and emotional sources of the faith in an ever-living God, we realize the truth of the declaration of Novalis that the "heart is the organ of religion," — meaning by this,, religion as that attitude of perfect trust, love and obedience, which is religion, in its complete and supreme subjective expression. The impulse toward this attitude may be detected in that sense of unrest, of dissatisfaction with the present world, with present mental and moral attainments, and with the prevalent social conditions, which forms the source of all human progress and all human effort. "All religion," said Humboldt, "rests on a need of the soul; we hope, we dread, because we wish."
But to say that "fear first made the gods," and fear alone, is to contradict the plainest facts of man's religious development. Especially in ancestor-worship is there a longing for the continuance in the spirit-world of those relations of confidence and affection which have characterized the most agreeable, satisfactory, and practically helpful of human relations in the world of sense. The heart of man would gladly transfer these relations into the invisible world; and not only with his deified ancestors, but with as many as possible of the more benignant and companionable of the other heavenly powers. Why should he not, then, invite them to his times of friendly feasting, that they may, though unseen by the eye of sense, by their spiritual presence grace the board? And when he has attained to the higher and more reasonable forms of religious faith, and feels strong within him the desire for communion with the Alone God, he prays to Him as his Heavenly Father for the gift of "Daily bread," and gives thanks for that and every other good thing as received by faith from the benevolent divine hand.
Feelings of admiration, of wonder, and of reverent awe, also impel the mind and heart to faith in God. There is no other sure refuge for the individual against the ills that are always threatening to proceed from the Nature that he cannot control, and from his fellow men of evil mind, except that which is to be found in making his God his invulnerable fortress and rock of defence.
But the higher emotions and practical needs of the human spirit as rational and free are the springs from which flow inexhaustibly forth the loving faith in a faithful Heavenly Father and God of love. "The non-satisfaction with the world," said Pascal, "is the last bond which binds the (otherwise) non-pious man to God." It is the last, in the sense of being the profoundest and most powerful of the ties which unite mankind — the individual and the race — to that perfect Moral Spirit, communion with whom, in the confidences of faith, can alone satisfy the spirit of man. This fact is to be explained only on the ad-mission that man is himself a spirit and so capable of developing a spiritual life. He is then following the path of personal perfection after the pattern of the "divine image" in which he is being made, if he is following the path of faith.
It was Judaism alone among the religions of the ancient world, that, by the mouth of its prophets, proclaimed such a conception of God as to make reasonable for the enlightened mind the attitude toward Him of an ethical and spiritual love. To identify the feelings of affection toward the "Heavenly Father," by whatever other name called, as they have occasionally been exhibited by those holding the beliefs of all of the greater religions of the world, with the sexual emotion of love, is seriously to misinterpret the facts of history. Neither can it be credibly said that this emotion supplies the explanatory source of the religious feeling called by the same name. The "natural" source of the love of man for his god is rather to be found in the broader and less sensuous relations of kinship and friendship. It was from Judaism that Christianity inherited the conception of a God who, being himself "Holy," demanded of all those who would enter into the covenant of faith with Him, the being themselves also holy as perpetually purified by the faith that worked upon the life through the power of an ethical and spiritual love.
The spiritually improved conception of the "Being of the World," which fits it to be the object of trust, of ethical love, and loving obedience, is not, indeed, confined to Judaism and to Christianity as its successor in this line of religious development. Something of it — and in not a few individual instances, something large and grand and morally purifying — is to be found in the higher developments of the nature-religions and in ancestor-worship. It is to be found among the Chinese in the Confucian conception of Heaven, and in the personal attitude toward Heaven as Lord of the life of the individual and of the nation, (Shang TI, or T'ien) in certain devotees of Confucianism. Its existence among the worshippers of the Sun-god, as Supreme Lord and Father to the soul which by faith becomes his son, has already been noted in ancient Egypt and Babylonia. To a still greater extent, perhaps, has it emerged in the various conceptions of Buddha as the Merciful (Amida-Buddha), the Lord of Life and Saviour of men. But it is in Christianity as the religion of Jesus, and in Christian Theism, that we find, far more than in, any of the other of the world's religions, the conception of nature as an orderly system of forces and laws, expanding in such a way as to furnish the more adequate personal satisfactions with regard to the inner spiritual content of nature when the spirit of man assumes toward it the attitude of faith. "Doubtless," says the greatest of the Hebrew prophets, — "Doubtless thou art our Father, O Yahveh; thou art our Father, our Redeemer." The attitude of Christian faith reposes in the confidence that it is so.
More even than in the case of the complex and half-mysterious faiths of morality, is it true of the faiths of religion, that the evidence which establishes their claims and puts the will of the individual under obligation to them, is the experience of the faiths themselves. Studied in a comprehensive, historical way, the evolution of this experience is the problem of the philosophy of religion. The main facts are unmistakable. There has been an evolution of religion, regarded both as doctrine to which intellectual belief is invited to attach itself, and also as an experience of the moral and spiritual, as well as social benefits, of religious faith. Described in somewhat uncouth and over-abstract way, we may use the phrase "God-consciousness " for this experience. The complex religious thoughts, feelings and doings of the race, and especially of its leaders and teachers, have resulted in a continuous process of the evolution of this so-called "God-consciousness." With his customary grand style Rothe, in his Christliche Ethïk (II, p. 257 f.) maintains that the religious consciousness as involving the generic likeness of man to God (the so-called "God-consciousness") affords a picture of the world by faith, which is a fragmentary and partial, but really valid representation of the World as known to God. By faith man has a divinely imparted apprehension of the World in its relation to God, — as God's world, that is; and so, as the World appears to God himself.
We need not claim strict scientific accuracy, much less demonstrative certainty, for this picture of the world as it appears to the eye of religious faith. We cannot do this for any form of either moral or religious belief. We cannot do this for the modern theistic or conventional Christian belief in a wholly righteous and graciously redeeming God. To do this would be the destruction of the attitude of faith. But this attitude is itself, and in its essential nature, an affirmation of the existence of God as the object of the soul's trust, affection, and devoted service. It includes belief in God as Author, Preserver, and Redeemer, of the personal life of the individual who has and makes practical use of the faith.
Suppose, however, that one who is exhorted to have for himself and by an act of will, this faith in a living God, pleads, as well he may, the difficulty of choosing amidst the endless variety of the conceptions which attempt to picture more precisely the Object required by faith, and the obscurity which hangs over the face of the picture as it is drawn by any particular religion; and yet more if we try to construct a "composite photograph" from them all. Is it not, indeed, an unanswerable objection to every attempt at a reasonable religious faith, that every man makes for himself a picture of the Divine Being out of material most accessible or most agreeable to him; and that these works of human imagination are all alike tainted by the inevitable mistakes and vices of an unavoidable "anthropomorphism"? In a word, man inevitably makes his god in his own (that is, in man's) image. All gods — those of the greater religions, of Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and even of Christianity, as well as of the lowest nature-religions and of ancestor-worship — are, therefore, "man-made gods." Was not this the sneer of the most ancient Greek atheism, and as well, the ground of the biting sarcasm of Matthew Arnold's attack on the conception of the Christian God, as held by certain English Bishops and theologians of his own day?
Now let us at once make the confession which there is no argument for escaping, and no promise of practical good in delaying. Of course, man makes his own gods and his own Alone God; and he makes this, as every other object of imagination and thought, according to his own human capacity for such work of construction. Man has no other way of perceiving, or imagining or conceiving anything, than his own "man-like" way. He cannot believe in anything, or have faith in anything, which is not constructed in essentially an anthropomorphic way. But then, this word "anthropomorphism" is not the terrible and all-destroying monster which it is assumed to be. In reality, when used in the correct way, it is either a very mild and harmless ghostly existence; or it is a friendly guest which must always be entertained and well treated at every table, whether spread with the bounties of science, art, morality, or religion. For all human science is man-made, and dependent upon the ability of human reason, when properly employed, to reach the truth of Reality. All knowledges and all beliefs are alike anthropomorphic; although they are by no means alike credible or advanced to the same degree of assurance and accuracy.
From the point of view of the psychology and theory of knowledge and of belief, this plea for a universal scepticism has already been sufficiently discussed. Its refutation consists in the ever-increasing and constantly more and more confirmed confidence of human reason in itself. Religion, though more frequently assailed by this kind of agnosticism, is not especially weak under its assaults. Quite the contrary is true. Religion has a more lively and picturesque way of stating the same saving conviction. It asserts that "God made man in the divine image"; or rather, to give a more modern and scientific turn to the same truth: God is perpetually making man more and more into his own divine image; and he is doing this by that process of revelation and its accompaniment of inspiration, to which responds the attitude of faith. Hence the increasing confidence in the reasonableness of this faith.
It would seem, then, that every individual who raises for himself the question, "What should I believe?" if he looks fairly in the face the phenomena of man's religious life and the religious development of the race, must at some time hold with himself a conversation somewhat like the following. "If you are a man, you are already a religious being. You cannot help this. The resolve to be irreligious, in the full negative meaning of the word, — to be non-religious, — will have no effect by way of disposing of this fundamental fact. You may, in some sort, `undo' yourself both morally and religiously, as well as intellectually; but this will not be by the way of voiding or negating all the elements, aptitudes, tendencies,
the entire mental and emotional equipment, which constitutes your religious nature. A wrecked ship is still a ship in process of being wrecked, until every spar is torn out, all canvas blown away, all timbers wrenched apart. Just as a ship, from the time its keel is laid until it is 'launched and fitted out for the longest voyage, is still a ship in the building.
Even the ribs, bare and bleached on the sand-dunes or on the rocks, have still the ship-like shape. They are still the skeleton of a ship that is a wreck. The human soul, whether saved or lost, remains more true to its personal type than is any construction of human hands."
But a God universal, even if not relegated to distant times and spaces but conceived of as immanent in the physical Universe and in human history, does not fully satisfy the cravings of the awakened spirit of the individual man. He wills to say, not simply, "Thou art the Heavenly Father, the Creator and Ruler of the World, the Spirit that makes for righteousness in human history"; but also, "Thou art my God, my Father, and my Redeemer." And now, as we have been led to emphasize the universal reasonableness of the central faith of religion, as growing out of the very nature of things and the nature and develop-ment of personal life, so we may feel warranted in emphasizing the individuality of religion, and of the faith of the individual in his personal relations to God.
That different individuals should emphasize, and accordingly prize and cultivate in a special way, different elements or aspects of religious faith (or of subjective religion) is not strange; it is no disparagement to the individual, much less to the nature of religion. According to these peculiarities the conceptions will vary which different individuals will attain of the Object of their faith. For the working principle here will be the same as in all matters, whether of knowledge or of belief.
"It is a commonplace saying that religion is not a science, or a theory, or a system of dogmas, or an affair of ceremonies and cult; it is a life, an interior experience. But left in this way, the saying is not particularly distinctive or illumining as to the real nature of religion. For in the broadest and yet most appropriate meaning of the words, science, theory, dogma, and cult, are all items of experience. Nothing that is not somehow experienced can exist for man, — not even as a flight of imagination, a plunge of intellect, a soaring of sentiment, or a despair of agnostic unbelief. And to speak of an `inner' experience is, of course, tautological. The most occult sciences, the most abstruse theories, the most complicated systems of abstract dogmas, and the feelings and observances of the most mysterious cult, can only become real as they are experiences of the inner life, the soul of man. And each real experience of whatever kind, and whether communicable and acceptable to the common consciousness, or not, belongs to some particular Self. It is only in the reality of the living experience of the individual Self that the Universal and Absolute becomes known and believed in or dimly apprehended as felt.
"Yet this saying, which makes religion peculiarly subjective and individual, means well and has an important truth to convey. These intuitions of truth and reality, together with their connections, which we feel powerless to produce by any form of demonstration within other minds; these aspirations, hopes, fears, and sentimental attractions and repulsions, in which others do not seem always to share; these moral, artistic, and other ideals, together with the stirrings of soul which they produce in us without seeming in the same way to affect our fellows; — these, and such as these, are the experiences which we consider our very own. The individual life consists in them rather than in the knowledge of matters of common-sense perception, or of accepted scientific formulas. Neither do the opinions and social habits which are received from others as a part of the common life of the family, the tribe, the nation, the race, when regarded as common, seem to be peculiarly the possession of the individual. Such common beliefs, sentiments, and influential practices characterize the religious life and religious development of every human being, — as has already been abundantly shown. And it is these, we repeat, which must chiefly form the data for a reflective study of religion. But after all, religion as an actual experience of the individual is always something more than what is common to others. It is a very special and deeply interior experience, in its higher forms of realization; and even in its lower forms, it is something which, from its very nature, each personal being feels to be of peculiar value to, not only the family, the tribe, the nation, or the race, but to his own Self. Doubtless, then, there is something about this experience which entitles every man to speak of my religion in a different way from that in which he feels justified in speaking of my science, or my politics, or even of my morality. Doubtless, also, the individual who seeks a satisfactory religious belief and cult, a religion that shall `find' him, is not satisfied with what he finds until it becomes a satisfaction especially adjusted to his particular experience.
"What we venture to call the peculiar `individuality' of religion is, therefore, a characteristic which belongs to the very nature of all religious experience. In having this experience, indeed, the individual cannot separate himself from the life of the race. The social and racial influences will fuse with his peculiar experiences of every form, whether he wishes it or not, and whether he is conscious of these influences, or not. Yet every one is quite justified in seeking to have his own religious needs satisfactorily met. And the thesis to which attention is now called maintains that religion ought to be, and in its highest forms of development actually is, able to meet the peculiar needs of the individual. For what, indeed, we mean by the `individuality of religion' is just this: — the adaptability of the common and essential elements of the religious experience to all the differences which characterize, not only the different races, and temperaments, the different epochs of history and changes of political and social environment, and the two sexes, but also the infinite differences in constitution and culture which mark the individuals among mankind." ("Philosophy of Religion," I, pp. 594 ff.)
Every awakened human soul who enters upon the life of faith in God must have some-thing answering to this experience :
"Mind seeks to see,
But no "recognition" can be attained as long as this Other remains an "Outside Mind." The avenue of entrance is the experience of faith. And at the last, if successful after being Iong baffled, the searcher will have to say :
"I searched for God with heart-throbs of despair,
"The thoughts of the heart, these are the wealth of a man," said the Chinese sage. "As a man thinketh within himself, so is he," declared the wise man of Israel. But Jesus told the deeper truth when he taught in life as well as speech: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This individuality of the priceless experience of religious faith, and the infinite adaptability of the Object of this faith to all stages in the intellectual and moral culture of the individual and of the race, cannot be disputed; and fortunately it cannot be diminished, by any reference to the creeds, or the sacred scriptures, or the philosophy or the cult, of any set form of religion.
If, now, we say that, in order to have the only mental picture of its Object which can call forth and sustain a satisfying and saving faith, one must frame an elaborate conception of God precisely corresponding to that of other believers in biblical religion or in the creed of some religious communion, whether so-called Christian, or not, one does not alter the facts. God was differently conceived of by all the different biblical writers; and there are indisputable proofs of a great change in some very important factors, if we trace the development of this conception from the earliest to the latest of these writers. Jesus' Father in Heaven is far from being the precise facsimile of the Yahveh of the earliest Old-Testament scriptures. And how differently is the God to whom Jesus looked as Father, and whose son Jesus was in a very special and unique way, conceived of by the different Christian sects and creeds and teachers of historical Christianity ! It is not in the power of human thoughts and human words to fix any comprehensive idea, much less any supreme moral or religious ideal, in this rigid way. And, indeed, who would wish it done to the destruction of these supreme values of spontaneity and efficiency which belong of right to the very nature of religious faith? Is the One who is the Creator and Inspirer of all souls, and the Redeemer of all who come to Him in faith, to be strictly confined in the forms of his revelation to those whom he has himself endowed with the infinite variety in unity, the individuality, that is the characteristic of all finite personal life?
To this thought we may add in justification of the divine procedure that it is this same individuality of the experience of faith which constitutes the wealth of the community of the faithful. Some men, in the religious aspect of life and practice of duty, are predominatingly intellectual, others practical, others emotional. The world has need of thinkers on religious topics, of theologians, of practical reformers, of religious poets, and of monks and nuns. But it has special need of a great host of plain men and women, who take God into their hearts and lives by the experience of faith, to meet the endless variety of their own daily physical and spiritual needs.
But shall one answer for himself the question, What should I believe? in matters of religious concern, with a haughty disregard of authority, and with the pride of self-confidence, or the whimsical rejection of argument and advice from other minds? Is this the way in which any scientific or social belief, worthy of being entrusted with the conduct of life, is to be attained? To ask such a question is to answer it. In such a spirit as this no one ever came into the comforting and helpful experience of a reasonable religious faith.
Referring back to the nature of the intellectual belief in God, we are reminded of the practical maxim that the seeker must be reasonable in his search. This reasonableness includes that he shall not demand a kind of evidence unsuitable to the subject and therefore impossible to provide. It also includes that he shall fairly estimate the evidence to which his attention is called; or to the facing of which he can find his way by the path of reflection. But the call of religion does not tolerate delay or indifference. Yet to secure even this intellectual belief it may often be one's duty to "wait patiently on God." In truth, one's whole life may be virtually a development of faith in God. As Augustine declared, in description of a life of disbelief succeeded by the birth and then the never ceasing vitality of a growing faith: "I will pass then beyond this power of my nature also, rising by degrees unto Him who made me.... Yea, I will pass beyond it, that I may approach unto Thee, O sweet Light."
We are not engaged in preparing a new form of creed; even much less, a detailed statement of all our private opinions and conjectures or settled convictions respecting the truths and the life of religion. Could we accomplish the former task, however bravely undertaken, and completed with no matter how much self-satisfaction, the result would almost certainly be only to create further divergence of the claims that already divide Christian believers. Worse still: it might discourage some soul who would gladly, if only it could, select for acceptance some one of the many existing creeds. If, however, we were to accomplish the latter task, with a really splendid and pride-worthy detail, there is probably not an individual in the whole world who could be found quite completely to agree with the result. It is not thus that we would exhort another to have faith in God. We will explain our purpose, the rather, by quoting the words of Scleiermacher when he was urging upon every man the duty of having a religious faith. "You perceive that I am not speaking here of the endeavor to make others similar to ourselves; nor of the conviction that what is exhibited in one is essential to all; it is merely my aim to ascertain the true relation between our individual life and the common nature of man, and clearly to set it forth." And again: "Religious views, pious emotions, and serious considerations with regard to them, — these we cannot throw out to one another in such small crumbs as the topics of a light conversation; and when the discourse turns upon sacred subjects, it would rather be a crime than a virtue to have an answer ready for every question, and a rejoinder for every remark."
When, however, the question, What should I believe? reaches the depths and rises to the heights of the personal and social interests involved in the faiths and the life of religion, we can have no reasonable doubt as to what our answer should be.
Nothing van be of so great importance for the interests of the personal life as to have it properly adjusted to the Universe, from which it springs, which constitutes its environment, and which determines its destiny. According to the essential nature of the human mind, this Universe, known as a world of allied phenomena by the senses and by inferences from the senses, is interpreted into, and explained by, the forces of an invisible world of personal and spiritual import and character. The belief in the reality of this spiritual world is justifiable, whether we approach the problem from the scientific or from the religious point of view. The necessities of the reason which must be satisfied are essentially the same, in their intellectual aspect, from either point of view. Under the pressure of these necessities, science talks about different degrees and kinds of energies and a fine outfit of mechanism and laws; religion talks about spirits that have minds, and emotions, and wills of their own. In the lower stages of the development of both science and religion, the vast variety of things and of their sensible changes, and the capricious doings of man and other living beings, do not seem to warrant the belief in a real Universe, a "Cosmos," that has rational unity, beauty, and an interest in the development of the higher moral and spiritual life of man. But surely, though slowly and with not a few gaps and seeming inconsistencies, the picture of such a Universe establishes and justifies itself before the reason of the race. Science looks on this process as a natural evolution; religion, with its deeper and more spiritual insight, trusts it as the Self-revelation of the Divine Being of the world, the indwelling perfect Ethical Spirit of God.
Thus far goes that theory of the Universe, that hypothesis explanatory of the World's behavior, which commends itself as the most reasonable and important of all intellectual beliefs. But this belief, as bare belief (if, in-deed, it could remain "bare belief "), does not satisfy the human soul. Man desires to come into communion with this mysterious Presence, to know and to do what this supreme Wisdom decrees best for him, to follow the courses of conduct which are prescribed by this Holy Spirit; and, when the consciousness of moral impurity, moral weakness, and moral obliquity, is awakened, the quickened soul desires the Divine forgiveness, and a participation in the fulness of the Divine redeeming love. All this is not modern, is not peculiar to any form of religious belief or religious cult. All this, and much more of the same sort, belongs to the very nature and the universally prevalent essentials of the realization of the values of the personal life, and the conditions of personal development.
But this good, so eagerly sought by the awakened spiritual life of man, as experienced in the individual or evinced in the religious history of the race, can come in only one way. It can come only through the experience of faith. And religious faith demands the whole man. It is, indeed, dependent upon some measure of intellectual belief; but it is itself essentially an attitude of trust, affection, and the submission of will, to the Object of belief. The Object of the faith of religion is God.
It would seem, then, that to have no interest in this question, What should I believe? is unworthy of any one capable of appreciating the supreme values of the personal life. To be indifferent to one's own destiny, or to that of the race, as considered and counselled from the religions point of view, is not to rise into the region of calm and god-like repose; it is, the rather, to sink toward the lower region of an animal satisfaction in the things of easier comprehension and lower value; or of unwillingness to excite the mind in the quest of truths which have the highest theoretical interest and practical importance.
From this view we argue not only the advantage but also the duty of securing and cherishing the faiths of religion. This duty involves the obligation to prolonged effort to determine the content of faith. It involves the duty of a diligent search for God, that one may by faith make him indeed one's very own, "my God." It involves the duty of zealously cultivating this "kernel" of faith when once it has been found. "A germ in darkness; let it grow." It is the call of duty, if by any means found possible, not simply to believe in a Force, or an Unconditioned impersonal Principle, that will help explain Nature as a mechanism under a process of physical evolution; but, the rather, to believe in a God that affords to reason some adequate ground for the moral and religious nature of man, and for the ethical and religious evolution of the race. But above all, if possible (and only by an act of the will to have faith is this possible) is it the duty of the individual person, to have faith in a God, with whom he may come into intimate communion of spirit, and in whom he may find a loving Father and an efficient Redeemer.
We have thus far spoken of only one of the faiths of religion, of which — if we are to judge by the immense variety and the diversity of creeds and cults, the endless verbal controversies and the violent and bloody strifes — there is an indefinite number of hopelessly confused and confusing examples. But this one article of faith is the faith of religion; and by its character and powerful influence it determines the character and regulates and appraises the value of all that religion is and means to man. What one 'really and intelligently believes about God determines all one's religious beliefs; the character of one's faith in God fixes the character of all one's religious life.
It is the God of Christian Theism who, of all the forms of religious belief, considered from the intellectual point of view, most satisfactorily answers to the demands of reason for an explanation of the phenomena of the physical world and of human history. But especially is it by the, experience of trust, love, and the life of obedience to such a God, that the emotional, moral, and æsthetical demands of the soul are best met, and the practical needs of personal development are most satisfied.
This faith in God removes the harsh contrast, often amounting to a conflict, between the natural and the so-called supernatural. It accomplishes this without banishing, God from the world of time and sense, or from any part of it; and also without substituting for a living God an abstraction or a mechanical system of impersonal agencies and things. To this faith, God is ever manifested as immanent in the World, but as never to be identified, to the destruction of his personality, with the sum-total of its existences and phenomena.
This faith also affords, not simply as a speculative system but as a vital experience, the ground for interpreting aright the theological doctrines of God as Creator and Preserver; but, especially, as ever-present and ever-operative Providence and Ruler of the Universe which he holds — as faith figuratively expresses it — "in the hollow of his hand." In this way, also, the same faith makes revelation and inspiration so natural (in the higher and more inclusive meaning of the word, which renders it equivalent to whatever accords with reason and with moral order), as to bring the Divine energies of enlightenment and redemption into the closest contact with every human soul, and to put them at its disposal. This is the supreme triumph of religious faith, to find in God one's Redeemer.
Here, then, we come again upon the two conceptions which we have found dominating our thought in all discussion of the problems of Knowledge, Duty, and Faith, from the practical points of view. These are Personality and Development. Our answer to the question, What should we all believe? so far as a religious faith is concerned, will be determined by the spiritual unity of the race, as it develops under divinely controlled physical and social conditions. But, in matters of faith, as in matters of duty, there will be to the end individuality rather than strict conformity. Every soul will therefore have to determine for itself, What should I believe? The individuality is not eccentricity, or the caprice of superstition, or the practice of religious fanaticism. It signifies the gracious adaptability of the Infinite to all the endless variety of finite needs. But the faith that will triumph must be, both for the individual and for the race, a positive, mightily efficient, and morally purifying and uplifting faith.
The call of the world of men today, which is most insistent and most intense, if not most loud and clamorous, is the call for a rehabilitation of religious faith. The answer to this call must recognize the fact, that man is, from first to last and in all his aspects and activities, a religious being. This experience which we call religion is, in simple verity, is, as fact of psychology and fact of history, of all facts that concern human nature, most important and most powerful. Man is "a speaking being." He is a "rational being," — meaning by this that he restlessly seeks explanation for himself and his Universe. He is "a social being"; and he therefore is resistlessly compelled to find his satisfactions and means for self-development in intercourse with others of his own kind. But, as including all these, and some-thing much more, he is a spirit, called to the perfection of personal life. The way to answer that call is the way of religion; it is the way, the gate to which is religious faith. And on this matter, the voice of emotion in prayer and poetry accords faithfully with the voice of practical philosophy.