Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/797

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SCIENCE AND MORALITY.

nature points true to that of Him in whom we have our being; that he is with us when we do right, against us when we do wrong; that our well-doing moves his love, our evil-doing his aversion. There is nothing apparently more absurd in this than in believing the same thing with regard say to a friend, or even with regard to the community of which we form a part, and the good-will of which is a motive and a support of our rectitude. Nor is there any sort of necessity, so far as this belief is concerned, for entangling ourselves in a metaphysical labyrinth by going behind the divine nature and speculating on the possibility of its having been other than it is. Being is an inscrutable and overwhelming mystery: there is no more to be said.

That religion had its origin in primeval worship of the ghosts of ancestors or chiefs, and that, these ancestors or chiefs having been ferocious cannibals, we are hence enabled to account for the belief in propitiation by self-torture and the other diabolical characteristics of modern creeds, is a theory which Mr. Spencer habitually propounds as certain and almost self-evident. Scientific the theory may be, and on questions of science the utmost deference is due to its inventor's authority: that it is historical must be denied. In truth, when it appeared some of us could not help being reminded of Voltaire's prompt explanation of the fossil shells found on mountain ranges, and adduced by ecclesiastical writers in proof of the Deluge, as cockles dropped by pilgrims from their hats. Euhemerus explained the Greek mythology in some such way, but his explanation has not been applauded. Not in the Hebrew Scriptures, not in the Rig-Veda, not in the Zendavesta, not in any of the monuments of primitive religion which philological science has been placing before us, not in any important mythology, whether Greek or of any other nation, can we find the slightest confirmation of the cannibal chieftain view. Everything seems to show that the earliest religious impressions were those made by the great powers of Nature, especially by the Sun in his glory; and that this was the real origin of natural religion; though, be it remembered, there must have been a religious impressibility, however rudimentary, in man, otherwise religious impressions could not have been made. As man advanced, the power seen through his moral nature became, instead of those seen with his eyes, the paramount object of his worship. There would surely be something utterly preposterous in the supposition that evangelical Christianity was a survival of the primitive worship of dead chieftains. Mr. Spencer seems to have swallowed whole Mr. Tylor's theory of animism, and to have given it an application which was not given it by its acute and learned author; for Mr. Tylor, if I do not misunderstand him, would allow that Nature-worship was the origin of religion. The result, at all events, historians will say, is an unhistoric presentation of the most important subject in the history of opinion. In his volume on "Ceremonial Observances," Mr. Spencer maintains the surprising thesis that ceremony