A RECENT writer, whose work has been very much discussed, tells us that social evolution depends more on the kind of religion a community possesses than on any other circumstance. A given community, provided with a suitable religion, will far outstrip in civilization another more richly endowed intellectually but with an inferior religion. Like all new formulas, this one has been having considerable vogue; and many persons whose strong point is not intellectuality are gratified to think that a snub has been administered to that aggressive quality. What we should like the able author to do would be to supplement his generalization by telling us how the suitability of a religion for purposes of social evolution is to be determined, and also how a community that is not in possession of the right kind of religion is to get into possession of it. Another question which the work undoubtedly suggests is how the right kind of religion is to be maintained in authority against the intellectual influences which the writer seems to say tend to undermine all religions. As Greece and Rome both reached a very high level in civilization, we must presume their religions were relatively superior at least in the sense of being favorable to social evolution to those of less distinguished races; but their religions decayed. Was any one to blame in the matter? Or was the decay in each case inevitable? Was it a needful preparation for the advent of a still higher form of religion? If so, what is to be done when other forms of religion seem about to undergo transformation? Should we try to arrest the process, or let things take their course?
These are entirely practical questions, on none of which does the author to whom we are referring throw, or attempt to throw, any light. They are not only practical questions, but they are questions which any thoughtful man finds it impossible not to ask when confronted with Mr. Kidd's formula; and which he feels must be answered in a very definite manner before it can prove of any utility either for the interpretation of history or for guidance in the present. What we would suggest would be an amendment to the formula which we think would greatly increase its applicability both to the past and to the present course of events. If we are allowed to understand by religion the ideal of social duty, then it seems to us very true that social evolution will, in the long run, be mainly dependent thereon. What made Rome great was the social cohesion between her citizens. How this superior degree of social cohesion was in the first place produced would be one of the most obscure of historical problems; but that it existed and was largely the cause of the growth of the Roman power can not be doubted. Devotion to the state and faith in its fortunes were in reality the most important elements in the religion of an ancient Roman. His gods were in the fullest sense civic gods, and as civic—that is to say, local—gods merely he regarded those of other races. The virtues which he esteemed and reverenced were those which made for the strength
- Kidd. Social Evolution.