Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/352

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.





XII.—The Theological Bias.

"WHAT a log for hell-fire!" exclaimed a Wahabee, on seeing a corpulent Hindoo. This illustration, startling by its strength of expression, which Mr. Gifford Palgrave[1] gives of the belief possessing these Mohammedan fanatics, prepares us for their general mode of thinking about God and man. Here is a sample of it:

When 'Abd-el-Lateef, a Wahabee, was preaching one day to the people of Riad, he recounted the tradition according to which Mahomet declared that his followers should divide into seventy-three sects, and that seventy-two were destined to hell-fire, and one only to Paradise. 'And what, O messenger of God, are the signs of that happy sect to which is insured the exclusive possession of Paradise?' Whereto Mahomet had replied, 'It is those who shall be in all conformable to myself and to my companions'. 'And that," added 'Abd-el-Lateef, lowering his voice to the deep tone of conviction, 'that, by the mercy of God, are we, the people of Riad.'"[2]

For present purposes we are not so much concerned to observe the parallelism between this conception and the conceptions that have been, and are, current among sects of Christians, as to observe the effects produced by such conceptions on men's views of those who have alien beliefs, and on the views they are led to form of alien societies. "What extreme misinterpretations of social facts result from the theological bias may be seen still better, in a case even more remarkable.

By Turner, by Erskine, and by the members of the United States Exploring Expedition, the characters of the Samoans are, as compared with the characters of the uncivilized generally, very favorably described. Though, in common with savages at large, they are said to be "indolent, covetous, fickle, and deceitful," yet they are also said to be "kind, good-humored, ... desirous of pleasing, and very hospitable. Both sexes show great regard and love for their children;" and age is much respected. "A man cannot bear to be called stingy or disobliging." The women "are remarkably domestic and virtuous." Infanticide after birth is unknown in Samoa. "The treatment of the sick was ... invariably humane and all that could be expected." Observe, next, what is said of their cannibal neighbors, the Fijians. They are indifferent to human life; they live in perpetual dread of one another; and, according to Jackson, treachery is considered by them an accomplishment. "Shedding of blood is to him" (the Fijian) "no

  1. "Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia," vol. ii., p. 370.
  2. Ibid., vol. ii., p. 22.