Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/224

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212 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the isolated and ignorant who are bigoted. A still higher degree of light gained by those who have come out of the caves of super- stition will induce them to imitate the decision of the witty sage with regard to ghosts he had seen so many that he could not be- lieve in any.

When a future state of rewards and punishments, depending upon belief in a particular dogma, has been established, the atti- tude of believers becomes antagonistic. They maintain that a denial of their belief is disrespect to their god, and they angrily stigmatize such denial as blasphemy or skepticism, or use some other term of vituperation, and they say that their anger is right- eous. But it is simply egotistic. The true ground of their hos- tility to any dissentient opinion is the cloud cast on their title to future happiness. This must be fought as titles are contested in courts of law, or by the last resort of war, or by such persecution as silences the objectors to the title. But as the Israelites claimed no such title, they were not sensitive about its disparagement. In the religious stage described, neither the Indians nor the Is- raelites sought to make religious proselytes. The noble motive of missionaries is to save souls ; but the peoples now compared could not have had, indeed could not have understood, that motive.

At the commencement of this address the rule was laid down that it was essential to omit all reference to revelation as de- ciding the points discussed. Many points, however, have been touched upon which properly bring to notice the order of the development of revelation in general, without discussion of its decisive authority. This procedure may be submitted to students of anthropology as applicable to all revelations save those which each one individually credits.

It is evident that some practice existed early for which a natu- ral explanation may be given. This practice became a formal custom which, after a time, was considered to be obligatory under the vague but compelling idea that it was " bad luck " not to ob- serve it. Bad luck is necessarily connected with the supernatu- ral. Hence the custom or the congeries of customs became a religion, and that was always supported and explained at a later time by a myth. That was not necessarily an explanation made by imposture or with intent to deceive, but grew from the curi- osity of men and their hurry to account for everything. All such myths are declared to be obtained, through revelation, from a power higher than man. The result is, therefore, that revela- tion, which is the last step in the evolution of religion, is enounced, by antedating, to be the first step. When supposed revelation is once regnant, men cling to it as a refuge from the doubt which must always result from reasoning on subjects which do not ad- mit of demonstration. Such clinging becomes fanatical with most

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