Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/748

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sition of the body in the grave. There are many who hold that both the content and the impulse of ethical life are given by religion ; that man can neither know nor do right without divine aid ; and that human virtue, apart from the supernatural element, is a delusion and a snare, since it allures men to a fatal self-dependence by holding out the false hope that they can be really good without divine aid. This is the annihilation of morality in the ordinary sense of the term.

On the other hand, the opinion is held that religion and morals are wholly distinct, neither in any wise affecting the fundamental conceptions or the practical development of the other. According to this view, the two start from different points, have regard to different objects, look to different aims, and follow different methods. Sometimes this distinctness is represented as belonging only to the ideal conception of religion and ethics, sometimes it is claimed as a characteristic of the historical development of the two. Religion, it is said, deals with God, ethics with man ; and this difference, it is held, severs the two by a world-wide interval. Such a position may be maintained both by those who accept and by those who reject a supernatural divine revelation of truth. A believer in revelation might hold the atonement of Christ to be a distinctively religious fact, while he might regard the ethical teaching of Jesus or Paul as the product of human experience.

Still another view considers the two as different indeed in origin and modes of development, but, since both are essential elements of life existing from the beginning, as acted on and interpenetrated each by the other. It may be held, for example, that the posture of mind necessary to produce ethical convictions is, if not created, at least modified by the religious theory, the consciousness of the presence of the Deity deepening the instinct or conviction of duty toward one's fellow-men ; or that, in the inverse direction, the sentiment of duty toward the Deity is quickened by the feeling of human obligation ; or, again, that the hope of reward or the fear of punishment from the supernatural powers may furnish a strong motive for right-doing ; or that the ideals of duty, constantly transcending practice, and embodied in the Deity, may be an ethically elevating influence. According to this view, the present ethical religious thought of the world is the product of a long series of interactions between ethical and religious ideas which have grown up more or less independently.

In order to test the correctness of these various opinions, we must consider briefly the history of the development of men's religious and moral ideas and practice. Our knowledge of this history can be only a general one : we have not the data necessary to describe the beginning of any line in human life ; we do not know with certainty how man formed his first notion of the super-