Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/302

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through the universe, but a being of righteousness that deals with men and nations according to their moral character. It was this view that caused the worship of Jehovah to supplant that of all the other gods among the Hebrews themselves, and to survive the crash of faiths that early befell the entire ancient world.

In this brief outline of the main steps that have been taken in the development of religion, it is not claimed that any hard and fast distinction can be made between them. Indeed, it is the opinion of competent authorities that all the different forms of religion described above coexisted among the Hindus, the Greeks, the old Norsemen, and to some extent still coexist among modern Africans, as well as the negroes and Indians of our own land. Nor is it held that any sudden or complete transition from a lower to a higher stage has actually taken place at any time in history. On the contrary, the changes have been gradual, and many evidences of the survival of the old amid the new exists in the notions and customs of even the most highly civilized and intelligent nations of our own day.

Amulets, charms, lucky stones and coins, the veneration of sacred relics, everything that goes under the name of "mascot," are all legitimately descended from fetishism; just as belief in ghosts and haunted houses, fear of the dark, and the like, come from a more primary form of religion. Current ideas concerning lucky and unlucky days and numbers, spilling salt, throwing rice at a wedding, charming away warts, are survivals of a similar sort. So, too, are the present notions of man as to sacred days and places, sacred utensils, holy water. And we should not hesitate to class in the list of primitive and outgrown religious ideas the worship of saints, and the common belief that a person acquires peculiar supernatural authority in religious matters by the laying on of hands, or by any other form of ordination. For they are notions on a par with the old Greek tradition that one gets a supernatural inspiration by the very act of paying a visit to the fountain of Parnassus, or taking a draft at the Pierian spring. But the most striking of all is the present popular belief that between man and the Supreme Being there exists an ascending gradation of angels and archangels on the one hand, and evil spirits on the other, reaching up to a supreme evil demon, who, under the title of Devil or Satan, is supposed to be the author of the sin and misery of mankind.

In the light of this view of the evolution of religion, we can see how irrational it is to divide religions into true and false, instead of classifying them as primitive and developed. It was maintained by Empedocles among the ancient Greeks that all religions are false because they are the product of a diseased mind, and Feuerbach in the last century strongly advocated the same view among the Germans.

While few, if any, maintain that opinion at present, there are many