Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/303

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
299
THE EVOLUTION OF RELIGION

who hold that all religions are false except one, and that the one they themselves have come to adopt. The Jew does this who asserts that God by a perpetual covenant, recorded in the Old Testament, has made his own race the sole repository of his will. The Islamite does this who regards the Koran alone as the sole guide to truth and life. And the Christian who sees in the New Testament the only source of religious faith and practise belongs to the same class. No writer has given us a more vivid picture of the erroneous way of regarding the religions of the World than Milton in his "Paradise Lost." That all religions except the Christian are pure inventions of the Devil to ensnare the unwary is his fundamental thought.

This position has been the source of untold mischief and suffering in the past, and immensely impedes the progress of mankind at present. It is contrary to actual fact, and is based upon the false assumption that man possesses the ability to acquire absolute certainty in religious matters, a thing which is denied to him in every other sphere.

The truth is that man's religion develops as he himself develops. The steps in the evolution of religion are the steps in his own mental advancement. There is never a time after he comes into conscious possession of his powers as a person when he is without religion, and there is no possibility of his outgrowing religion. He does not get his religion out of any book, but primarily out of the experiences of his own mind and heart. The experiences of others are a help to him only as he reproduces them in his own. The more sensual he is, the more sensual will be his religion, and the more rational and pure his life is, the more refined and spiritual will his religion become. In other words, the more of a man he is himself, the loftier will his conception be of the Maker and Sustainer of the universe.