Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/95

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RELIGIOUS BELIEF AS A BASIS OF MORALITY.
RELIGIOUS BELIEF AS A BASIS OF MORAL OBLIGATION.

By Prof. E. P. EVANS.

FOLLOWING the primitive period of tribal ethics[1] comes a second stage of social and moral development, which Mr. Maine calls the supersession of the bond of blood by the bond of belief. Ethnocentric attraction gives way to what might be called theocentric attraction, and a broader and more spiritual sort of association is formed, having for its basis, not consanguinity, but conformity in religious conceptions. The god takes the place of the human progenitor of the tribe, or rather grows out of his deification in the evolution of ancestor worship, which is probably the oldest of cults.

Nevertheless, in this case, the fundamental principle of primitive society, which makes friendship coextensive with kinship, is not abrogated, but only enlarged in its application, causing those who worship the same deities or propitiate the same demons to enter into fraternal relations and call themselves brethren.

The canonical prohibition of marriage between persons connected merely by the artificial ties of a religious rite, such as sponsors and baptized infants, godfathers, godmothers, and god-children, proves how intimately the idea of ritual relationship was associated with that of real relationship in the minds of those who established and perpetuated this institution. This fiction of sacramental kinship was at one time carried so far in the papal Church as to forbid the sponsor to be joined in wedlock even to the parent of a godchild. Cohabitation between a patrinus and a matrina was regarded as incest until the Council of Trent removed the ecclesiastical bar to such unions. The fact that they had assumed the position of spiritual parents to one infant prevented them from becoming the real and lawful parents of another infant. The importance attached to the name-day, which in most Catholic countries quite supplants the birthday as an anniversary, is also additional evidence of the vigor and vitality of primitive conceptions as embodied in ecclesiastical institutions.

Religion is, in fact, as Schelling observes, the strongest cement of primitive society, and the influence which contributes more than any other to the evolution and organization of the nation and state out of the tribe. Plutarch says: "Methinks a man should sooner find a city built in the air, without any ground to rest upon, than that any commonwealth altogether void of re-

  1. See Popular Science Monthly, January, 1894.