Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/16

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6
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

man, are worthless in his future calling, is it not plain that your conservatism has become an artificial barrier which the progress of society-must sooner or later sweep away? Is it not the part of wisdom, however much pain it may cost, to sacrifice your traditional preferences gracefully when you can direct the impending change, and not to wait until the rush of the stream can not be controlled?

 
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INFLUENCE OF THE ENVIRONMENT ON RELIGION.
By Professor JAMES T. BIXBY.

WHILE religious phenomena are in some respects singularly constant, they are, nevertheless, as noted for their diversity. While certain essential elements are common to almost all faiths, on the other hand, every individual faith has something peculiar to itself. It not only differs in some respects from other religions, but, as we trace down its history, we find it varying from itself.

The Hindoos, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Kelts, Teutons, and Slavs, are shown by philological research to have come originally from a single stock—the primitive Aryan. Their ancestors originally dwelt together in a common home in the neighborhood of the Caspian Sea; and in this ancient time their religion was, probably, one and the same faith, i. e., in substance. Yet how widely diverse have the faiths of these nations come to be, in the four to five thousand years since that ancient home was little by little deserted! How has this diversity come about? What are the forces or influences that differentiate religions? We may divide them roughly into two kinds: 1. The external variables. 2. The internal variables. In this paper I shall try to sketch the first; i. e., those environing influences about man, about a special race or nation, that tend to produce variation in the course of the development of religion.

1. I would mention the varied influences of outward nature. The diverse phenomena of the world naturally diversify the direction and character of faith. The religious capacities common to all men evolve a stock of religious feeling which lies latent and fluent, as it were, in the soul—like an electric charge in the battery—until some experience of the man occurs to elicit its discharge and give it direction. The form and path of faith are determined, in much, by the kind of natural objects with which the spiritual faculty is most closely or impressively brought in contact. Where the spirit of man is frequently confronted with Nature in its power, beauty, or wrath—where sky, sun, mountain, or river, is an important factor in the daily experience and fortune—there arise naturally the corresponding forms of religion—Nature-worship, fetichism, and pantheism. Where, how-