Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/208
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
reason is found for putting the civilized intellect out of court altogether. The verdict of the stupid, ferocious savage, who makes an idol out of a bit of wood and a red rag, and then pacifies its spite by slaughtering fowls or prisoners in its honor, is not at first sight superior to that of the modern philosopher; but the philosopher is "one-sided." This, however, is beside the point. It is clear that modern tendencies have penetrated into the hostile camp. It is the much-abused philosopher who has taught us to take a new interest in the lower religions of the world instead of summarily rejecting them as the work of devils. The mere fact that we have risen to such a conception as that of a comparative study of religion is certainly not sufficient by itself to confute the pretensions of what claims to be an exclusive revelation. It is possible to adapt the old to the new beliefs by the methods of which Dr. Newman's argument is an example. After Mr. Darwin and his followers have traced out the resemblance between men and monkeys with the utmost possible clearness, it is always possible for a dogmatist to discover some good reason why the transition should have required a miraculous intervention. In the same way, the analogies which the philosopher may discover between the various religions of the world will never convince him that his own special creed is not of supernatural origin, though the others which resemble it so strangely are traceable to the spontaneous working of the human intellect. A very little dexterity is required to raise the resemblance to that point at which it becomes an argument for the reasonableness of the supposed revelation, and is yet no argument against its supernatural character. Admit your naked savage to prove that man has a need for the belief in Atonement, but do not let him be produced as evidence that the belief finds its most congenial element and grows to the largest dimensions in a debased and torpid intellect. By such logical manipulation as this, the accumulation of uncomfortable facts may long be rendered harmless. It all depends upon the way in which you look at things. The acute thinkers who have helped to elaborate any ancient system of thought have always provided a proper set of pigeon-holes in which inconvenient facts may be stowed away. It is long before the facts become weighty enough to break down the framework. But no agent is so powerful in bringing about the change as the subtle and penetrating influence of a new method. It may not follow logically that because catastrophes have been banished from geology, and the series of animated beings has been proved to be continuous, therefore the same conceptions should be applied to the religious beliefs of mankind. And yet nobody can doubt that in practice the influence would be unmistakable. The burden of proof would be shifted, and that in itself makes an amazing difference. The popular belief has hitherto been that, unless you could prove the contrary, it would be reasonable to suppose that the transition from monkey to man involved a sudden leap. If it came to be the popular belief that, unless you