The War and the Churches/Chapter I
AND THE CHURCHES
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHURCHES
The first question which the unprejudiced inquirer will seek to answer is: How far were the Churches able to prevent, yet remiss in using their influence to prevent, the present war? There is, unhappily, in these matters no such thing as an entirely unprejudiced inquirer. Our preconceived ideas act like magnets on the material of evidence which is submitted to us, instinctively selecting what bears in their favour and declining to receive what they cannot utilise. Nowhere is this more conspicuous than in the field of religious inquiry, nor is it confined to either believers or unbelievers. There has been too much mutual abuse, and too little attention to the fact that the mind no less than the mouth has its palate, its impulsive selections and rejections. One can meet the difficulty only by a patient and full examination of the pleas of both parties to a controversy.
And the first plea which it is material to examine is that, since it is claimed that all the nations engaged in the war are Christian nations, one may accuse them collectively of moral failure. From the earliest days of the Christian religion it was the boast of those who accepted it that it abolished all distinctions of caste and race. In the little community which gathered round the cross there was neither bond nor free, neither Greek nor Roman. This cosmopolitanism was, in fact, a natural feature of religious movements at the time, and was due not so much to their intrinsic development as to the political circumstances of the world in which they spread. All round the eastern and northern shores of the Mediterranean a great variety of races mingled in every port and every commercial town, and it was the policy of the powerful Empire which extended its sway over them all to overrule their national antagonisms. When, in the earlier period, Jew and Greek and Egyptian had maintained their separate nationalities, hostility to other races had been a very natural social quality, an inevitable part of the spirit of self-preservation in a race. When the great Empires had conquered the smaller nationalities or the decaying older Empires, this mutual hostility was moderated, and, as the vast movements of population which marked the end of the old and the beginning of the new era filled the Mediterranean cities with extraordinarily mixed crowds, mutual friendship became the more fitting and more useful social virtue. A good deal of the old narrow patriotism had been due to the fact that each nation had its own god. In the new Roman world this theological exclusivism broke down, and the priests of a particular god, scattered like their followers among the cities of the eastern world, began to seek a cosmopolitan rather than a nationalist following. In the temple of each of the leading gods of the time—Jahveh, Serapis, Mithra, and so on—people of all races and classes were received on a footing of equality. The doctrine of the brotherhood of man spread all over that cosmopolitan world.
When the old world, to the south and east of the Mediterranean, was blotted out of history, and Europe in turn became a group of conflicting nationalities, racial hatred was revived and in its political and social aspects the doctrine of the brotherhood of man was virtually forgotten. But the Christian Church had embodied that doctrine in its sacred writings, and was bound to maintain it. In its ambition of a universal dominion it was the direct successor of the Roman Empire. All the races of Europe were to meet as brothers under the one God of the new world and under the direction of his representatives on earth. It was this change in the features of the world which gave a certain air of insincerity to the Christian gospel. In the older days there had been political unity with a great diversity of religions; now there was religious unity spread over a great diversity of antagonistic political bodies. Men were brothers from the religious point of view and, only too frequently, deadly enemies from the political point of view. The discord was made worse by the feudal system which was adopted. Even within the same race there was no brotherhood. In effect the clergy as a body did not insist that the noble was a brother of the serf, and did not exact fraternal treatment of the serf. Thus the phrase, "the brotherhood of man," which had been a most prominent and active principle of early Christianity, became little more than a useless theological thesis.
The solution of the difficulty would, of course, have been for the clergy, as the supreme representatives of the doctrine of brotherhood, to apply that doctrine boldly to every part of man's conduct; to pronounce that all violence and bloodshed were immoral, and to devise a humane means of settling international quarrels. I will consider in the next chapter why the Christian leaders failed even to attempt this great reform. For the moment it is enough to observe that the conditions of modern times favoured a fresh assertion of the doctrine of brotherhood. Great as the power of sincere moral idealism has always been, the historian must recognise that economic changes have had a most important influence upon the development or acceptance of moral ideas. Just as in earlier ages the development of forms of life was conditioned by changes in their material surroundings, so man's moral development has been profoundly influenced by industrial, commercial, and political changes.
The destruction of feudalism and the development of the modern worker were notoriously not due to religious influence, yet they had an important relation to religious doctrines. Once the new spirit had asserted its right, the clergy recollected that all men are brothers from the social as well as the religious point of view. Many of them, and even some social writers of Christian views, maintain that the new social order is itself based on or inspired by the religious doctrine of brotherhood. This speculation is entirely opposed to the historical facts, but it will easily be realised that when the workers had, in their own interest, asserted afresh the doctrine of human brotherhood, the Churches had a new occasion to preach it. How timid and tentative that preaching was, and even is, we have not to consider here. On the whole the brotherhood of men was re-affirmed by the Churches both in the social and religious sense.
This situation makes more violent than ever the contrast between the political and religious relations of men, and gives a strong prima facie case to the charge against the Churches which I am considering. It is wholly artificial and insincere to say that men are brothers socially and religiously, yet are justified in marching out in millions, with the most murderous apparatus science can devise, to meet each other on the field of battle. We condemn crime for social reasons. We have relegated to the Middle Ages, to which it belongs, the notion that the criminal is a man who has affronted society, and that society may take a revenge on him. In the sane conception of our time the criminal is a mischievous element disturbing the social order, and, in the interest of that order, he must be isolated or put out of existence. It is not the guilt, but the social effect, which we regard. And from this point of view a single great war is far more calamitous than all the crime in Europe during whole decades. It is estimated by high authorities that if the present war lasts only twelve months it will cost Europe, directly and indirectly, including the destruction of property and the loss to industry and commerce, no less a sum than £9,000,000,000; and it will certainly cost more than a million, if not more than two million, lives, besides the incalculable amount of suffering from wounds, loss of relatives, outrages, and the incidental damage of warfare. The time will come when historians will study with amazement the wonderful system we have devised in Europe for the suppression of breaches of the social order at a time when we complacently suffer these appalling periodical destructions of the entire social order of nations.
It is quite natural to arraign the Christian Churches in connection with this disastrous outbreak. Unless they discharge the high task of the moral direction of men, in international as well as in personal conduct, they have no raison d'être. Few of them to-day will plead that their function is merely to interpret to their fellows what they regard as the revealed word of God. In face of the challenging spirit of our time they maintain that they discharge a moral mission of such importance that society is likely to go to pieces if Christianity is abandoned. We therefore ask very pertinently where they were, and what they were doing, during the months when the nations of Europe were slowly advancing toward a declaration of war.
In examining the charge that, for some reason or other, they neglected their mission at a crisis of supreme importance, we must recall that few of us believed that a great war would occur until we actually heard the declaration. No indictment of the clergy is valid which presupposes that they are more sagacious or far-seeing than the rest of us. Yet, however much we may have doubted the actual occurrence of war, we have known for years, and have quite complacently commented upon, the danger that half of Europe would sooner or later be involved in the horrors of the greatest war in history. Now it is notorious that the Christian Churches have done little or nothing, in proportion to their mighty resources and influence, to avert this danger. No collective action has been taken, and relatively few individuals have used their influence to moderate or obviate the danger. The supreme head of the most powerfully organised and most cosmopolitan religious body in the world, an institution which has its thousands of ministers among each of the antagonistic peoples—I mean the Church of Rome—gave his attention to minute questions of doctrine and administration, and bemoaned repeatedly the evil spirit of our age, but issued not one single syllable of precise and useful direction to the various national regiments of his clergy in connection with this terrible impending danger. The heads or Councils of the various Protestant bodies were equally remiss. Here and there individual clergymen joined associations, founded by laymen, which endeavoured to maintain peace and to secure arbitration upon quarrels, and one Sunday in the year was set aside by the pulpits for the vague gospel of peace. But in almost all cases these movements were purely secular in origin, and the few movements of a religious nature have been obviously founded only to keep the idealism linked with a particular Church, have had no great influence, and have been too vague in their principles to have had any effect upon the growing chances of a European war. There is no doubt that the Churches have remained almost dumb while Europe was preparing for its Armageddon.
I speak of the clergy, but in our time the responsibility cannot be confined to these. Even in the Church of England the laity have now a considerable influence, and in the other Protestant bodies they have even more power in the control of policy. No doubt the duty of initiative and of work in such matters lies mainly with the more leisured and more official interpreters of the Christian spirit, yet it would be absurd to restrict the criticism to them. The various Christian bodies, as a whole, have confronted a very grave and imminent danger with remarkable indifference, although that danger could become an actual infliction only by seriously immoral conduct on the part of some nation. They saw, as we all saw, the vast armies preparing for the fray, the diplomatists betraying an increasing concern about the relations between their respective nations, the press embittering those relations, and a pernicious and provocative literature inflaming public opinion. We all saw these things, and knew that a war of appalling magnitude would follow the first infringement of peace. Yet I think it will hardly be controverted that the Churches made no serious effort to avert that calamity from Europe. They were deeply concerned about unbelief, about personal purity, about the cleanness of plays and books and pictures, even about questions of social reform which a rebellious democracy forced on them; but they took no initiative and performed no important service in connection with this terrible danger.
That is the indictment which many bring against Christianity, and we have now to consider the general defence. I will examine later a number of religious pronouncements about the war, and will discuss here only a few general pleas which are put forward as a defence against the general indictment.
It is, in the first place, urged that the moral and humanitarian teaching which the Christian Churches never ceased to put before the world condemned in advance every departure from the paths of justice and charity; that it was not the fault of Christianity if men refused to listen to or carry into practice that teaching. But at no period in the history of morals has it sufficed to lay down general principles. Everybody perceives to-day, not only that slavery was in itself a crime, but that it was essentially opposed to the Christian morality. Yet, as no Christian teacher for many centuries ventured to apply the principle by expressly denouncing slavery, the institution was taken over from Paganism by Christian Europe and lasted centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Church itself had vast numbers of slaves, and later of serfs, on its immense estates. Leo the Great disdainfully enacted that the priesthood must not be stained by admitting so "vile" a class to its ranks, and Gregory the Great had myriads of slaves on the Papal "patrimonies." So it was with the demand for social reform which characterised the nineteenth century. To-day Christians claim that their principles sanctioned and gave weight to those early demands of reform, yet their principles had been vainly repeated in Europe for fifteen hundred years, and, when the people themselves at last formulated their demands in the early part of the nineteenth century, it is notorious that the clergy opposed them. The teaching of abstract moral principles is of no avail. Man is essentially a casuist. Leave to him the application of your principles, and he will adapt almost any scheme of conduct to them. The moralist who does not boldly and explicitly point the application of his principles is either too ignorant of human nature to discharge his duty with effect or is a coward. The plain fact is that the preaching of justice and peace throughout Europe has been steadily accompanied by an increase in armaments and in international friction. It had no moral influence on the situation.
A more valid plea is that we must distinguish carefully between the nations which inaugurated the war and the nations which are merely defending themselves, and we must quarrel with the Christian Churches only in those lands which are guilty. It may, indeed, be pleaded that, since each nation regards itself as acting on the defensive and uses arguments to this effect which convince its jurists and scholars no less than its divines, there is no occasion at all to introduce Christianity. Most of us do not merely admit the right, we emphasise the duty, of every citizen to take his share in the just defence of his country, either by arms or by material contribution. Since there seems to be a general conviction even in Germany and Austria that the nation is defending itself against jealous and designing neighbours, why quarrel with their clergy for supporting the war?
When the plea is broadened to this extent we must emphatically reject it. There has been too much disposition among moralists to listen indulgently to such talk as this. When we find five nations engaged in a terrible war, and each declaring that it is only defending itself against its opponent, the cynic indeed may indolently smile at the situation, but the man of principle has a more rigorous task. Some one of those peoples is lying or is deceived, and, in the future interest of mankind, it is imperative to determine and condemn the delinquent. There is no such thing as an inevitable war, nor does the burden of great armaments lead of itself to the opening of hostilities. It is certain that on one side or the other, if not on both sides, there is a terrible guilt, and it is the duty of Christian or any other moralists, whether or no they belong to the guilty nations, sternly to assign and condemn that guilt. It is precisely on this loose and lenient habit of mind that the engineers of aggressive war build in our time, and we have seen, in the case of neutral nations and of a section of our own nation, what chances they have of succeeding. They have only to fill their people and the world at large with counter-charges, resolutely mendacious, and many will throw up their hands in presence of the mutual accusations and declare that it is impossible to assign the responsibility. That is a fatal concession to immorality, and we must hold that in some one or more of the combatant nations the Churches have, for some reason or other, acquiesced in a crime.
The plea is valid only to this extent, that the guilty nations in this case were notoriously Germany and Austria-Hungary, and therefore one cannot pass any censure on British Christians for supporting the war. I have in other works dealt so fully with the guilt of those two nations that here I must be content to assume it. The general and incessant cry of the German people, that they are only defending their Empire against malignant enemies, must be understood in the light of their recent history and literature. No Power in the world had given any indication of a wish to destroy Germany; there were, at the most, a few uninfluential appeals in England for an attack on Germany, but solely on the ground that it meditated an attack on England, and the accumulated evidence now shows that it did meditate such an attack. England did not desire an acre of German ground. France had assuredly not forgotten Alsace and Lorraine, but France would have had no support, and would have failed ignominiously, in an aggressive campaign to secure those provinces. On the other hand, an immense and weighty literature, which is unfortunately very little known in England, has familiarised Germany for fifteen years with aggressive ideas. The most authoritative writers claimed that, as they said repeatedly, "Germany must and will expand"; and leagues which numbered millions of subscribers propagated this sentiment in every school and village. A definite demand was made throughout Germany for more colonies and a longer coast-line on the North Sea; and it was in relation to this ambition that England, France, and Russia were represented—and justly represented—as Germany's opponents. England, in particular, was described as the great dragon which watched at the gates of Germany and grimly forbade its "development." It is in this sense that the bulk of the German people maintain that their action is defensive.
In passing, let me emphasise this peculiar economic difference between the four nations. Russia had a vast territory in which her people might develop. France had no surplus population, and had a large colonial field for such of her children as desired adventure abroad or would escape the competition at home. England had, in Canada and Australasia and South Africa, a magnificent estate for her surplus population. None of these Powers had an economic ground for aggression. Germany was undoubtedly in a far less fortunate position, and had an overflowing population. Six hundred thousand men and women (mostly men) had to leave the fatherland every year, and, as the colonies were small and unsatisfactory, they were scattered and lost among the nations of the earth. The proper attitude toward Germany is, not to gratify the cunning of her leaders by superficially admitting that she was not aggressive, but to understand clearly the very solid grounds of her desire for expansion.
Into the whole case against Germany, however, I cannot enter here. Familiar from their chief historical writers with the supposed law of the expansion of powerful nations, convinced by their economists that the country would soon burst with population and be choked by their own industrial products unless they expanded, knowing well that such expansion meant war to the death against France and England (who would suffer by their expansion), the German people consented to the war. Their official documents absolutely belie the notion that they were meeting an aggressive England. But the Christians of Germany were utterly false to their principles in supporting such a war. I do not mean merely that they set aside the precept or counsel to turn the other cheek to the smiter, for no one now expects either nation or individual to act on that maxim. They were false to the ordinary principles of Christian morals or of humanity. Even if one were desperately to suppose that learned divines like Harnack were unable to assign the real responsibility for the war, or that the whole of Germany is kept in a kind of hot-house of falsehood, it would be impossible to defend them. The Churches of Germany have complacently watched for twenty-three years the tendency which William II gave to their schools; they have passed no censure on the fifteen years of Imperialist propaganda which have steadily prepared the nation for an aggressive war; and they have raised no voice against the appalling decision that, in order to attain Germany's purposes, every rule of morals and humanity should be set aside. They have servilely accepted every flimsy pretext for outrage, and have followed, instead of leading, their passion-blinded people. It was the same in Austria-Hungary. Austrian and Hungarian prelates have passed in silence the fearful travesties of justice by which, in recent years, their statesmen sought to compass the judicial murder of scores of Slavs; they raised no voice when, at the grave risk of a European war, Austria dishonestly annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina; they gave their tacit or open consent when Austria, refusing mediation, declared war on Serbia and inaugurated the titanic struggle; and they have passed no condemnation on the infamies which the Magyar troops perpetrated in Serbia.
I am concerned mainly with the action or inaction of the Churches in this country, but it is entirely relevant to set out a brief statement of these facts about Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Christian religion was on trial in those countries as well as here. It failed so lamentably, not because there is more Christianity here than in Germany and Austria, not because the national character was inferior to the English and less apt to receive Christian teaching, but because the temptation was greater. Until this war occurred, no responsible traveller ever ventured to say that the German or Austrian character was inferior to the British. It is not. But the economic difficulties of Germany and the political difficulties (with the Slavs) of Austria-Hungary laid a heavier trial on those nations, and their Christianity entirely failed. Catholic and Protestant alike—for the two nations contain fifty million Catholics to sixty million Protestants—were swept onward in the tide of national passion, or feared to oppose it.
One might have expected that at least the supreme head of the Roman Church would, from his detached throne in Rome, pass some grave censure on the outrages committed by Catholic Bavarians in Belgium or Catholic Magyars in Serbia. Not one syllable either on the responsibility for the war or the appalling outrages which have characterised it has come from him. The only event which drew from him a protest—a restrained and inoffensive remonstrance—was the confinement to his palace for some days of my old friend and teacher, Cardinal Mercier! To the stories of fearful and widespread outrage, even when they were sternly authenticated, he was deaf. One knows why. If Germany and Austria fail in this war, as they will fail, the Catholic bodies of Germany and Austria, the strongest Catholic political parties in Europe, will be broken. Millions of the Catholic subjects of Germany and Austria will pass under the rule of unbelieving France or schismatical Russia. So the supreme head of the Roman Church wraps himself nervously in a mantle of political neutrality and disclaims the duty of assigning moral guilt.
On us in England was laid only the task of defending our homes and our honour. It is in those other countries that we most clearly see Christianity put to the test, and failing deplorably under the test. I do not mean that there was no opportunity here for the Churches to display their effectiveness as the moral guides of nations. In those fateful years between 1908 and 1914, during which we now see so plainly the preparation for this world-tragedy, they might have done much. They did nothing. They might have seen, at least at the eleventh hour, the iniquity of sustaining the military system, and have cast the whole of their massive influence on the side of the promoters of arbitration. I do not mean that any man should advocate disarmament, or less effective armament, in England while the rest of the world remains armed. As long as we retain the military system instead of an international court, the soldier's profession is honourable, and the man who voluntarily faces the horrors of the field is entitled to respect and gratitude. But in every country there was an agitation for the general abandonment of militarism and the substitution of lawyers for soldiers in the settlement of international quarrels. Had the Churches in every country given their whole support to this agitation, and insisted that it is morally criminal for the race as a whole to prolong the military system, we might not have witnessed this great catastrophe.
Before, however, I press this charge against the Christian bodies, let me discuss the third plea that may be urged in defence of the Churches. It is the plea of those who are so eager to disclaim responsibility that they are willing to allow an enormous decay of religious influence in the modern world. You have repeatedly told us, they say to the Rationalist, that Christianity has lost its hold on Europe. You speak of millions who no longer hear the word of Christian ministers, but who do read Rationalist literature in enormous quantities. Very well, you cannot have it both ways. Let us admit that the nations of Europe have become non-Christian, and we cast on your non-Christian influence the burden of responsibility for the war.
This language has been used more than once in England. It leaves the speaker free to assume that in England, whose action in the war we do not criticise, the nation remains substantially Christian, while in Germany and Austria the Churches have lost more ground. Indeed, one may almost confine attention to Germany. Profoundly corrupt as political life has been in Austria-Hungary for years, there is no little evidence in the official publications of diplomatic documents that at the last moment, when the spectre of a general war definitely arose, Austria hesitated and entered upon a hopeful negotiation with Russia. It was Germany's criminal ultimatum to Russia which set the avalanche on its terrible path. Now Germany is notoriously a land of religious criticism and Rationalism. Church-going in Berlin is far lower even than in London, where six out of seven millions do not attend places of worship. It is almost as low as at Paris, where hardly a tenth of the population attend church on Sundays. In other large towns of Germany the condition is, as in England, proportionate. Almost in proportion to the size of the town is the aversion of the people from the Churches.
It is absolutely impossible in the case of Germany to determine, even in very round numbers, how many have abandoned their allegiance to Christianity, though, when one remembers the enormous rural population and the high proportion of believers in the smaller towns, it seems preposterous to suggest that the country has, even to the extent of one half, become non-Christian. But I am anxious to do justice to this plea, and would point out that it is the educated class and the men of the large cities who control a nation's policy. The rural population—the general population, in fact—follows its educated leaders. Now there is no doubt that in Germany, as elsewhere, this body of the population—the middle class and the workers of the great cities—has very largely lost the traditional belief. The workers of Berlin are solidly Socialistic, which means very largely anti-clerical. And I would boldly draw the conclusion that the responsibility for the war is shared at least equally by Christians and non-Christians. The stricture I have passed on the Churches of Germany is based on the fact that they, being organised bodies with a definite moral mission, were peculiarly bound to protest against the obvious political development of their country, and they entirely failed to do so. But I should be the last to confine the responsibility to them. Not only religious leaders like Harnack and Eucken, but leading Rationalists like Haeckel and Ostwald, have cordially supported the action of their country. So it was from the first. Of that large class of men who may be said to have had some real control of the fortunes of their country a very high proportion—I should be disposed to say at least one half—are not Christians, or are Christians only in name.
While we thus candidly admit that non-Christians as well as Christians in Germany bear the moral responsibility, we must be equally candid in rejecting the libellous charge that the principles, or lack of principles, of the non-Christians tended to provoke or encourage war, in opposition to the Christian principles. This not uncommon plea of religious people is worse than inaccurate, since it is quite easy to ascertain the principles of those who reject Christianity. In Germany, as elsewhere, the non-Christians are mainly an unorganised mass, but there are two definite organisations, which, in this respect, reflect or educate the general non-Christian sentiment. These are the Social Democrats, a body of many millions who are for the most part opposed to the clergy, and the Monists, an expressly Rationalistic body. In both cases the moral principles of the organisation are emphatically humanitarian and opposed to violence, dishonesty, or injustice; in both cases those principles are adhered to with a fidelity at least equal to that which one finds in the Christian Churches. It is little short of monstrous to say that the moral teaching of Bebel and Singer and Liebknecht, or of Haeckel and Ostwald—all men of high moral idealism—gave greater occasion than the teaching of Christianity to this atrocious war. The Socialists, indeed, were the strongest opponents of war and advocates of international amity in Europe. How, like the Evangelical and the Christian Churches, they failed in a grave crisis to assert their principles may be a matter for interesting consideration, but it would be entirely dishonest to plead that the substitution of the influence of Rationalists and Socialists for Christian ministers has in any degree facilitated the war.
The Christian who regards all these non-Christian influences as "Pagan," and feels that a "return to Paganism" explains the essential immorality of Germany's conduct, usually has a grossly inaccurate idea of Paganism. Whatever may be said of sexual developments in modern and ancient times, we shall see that the Roman writers held principles which most decidedly made for peace and brotherhood and justice. In point of fact, the majority of the German writers who have been responsible for the education of Germany in war-like ideas have been Christians. The Emperor himself, who is mainly responsible because of his deliberate prostitution of German schools to militarist purposes since 1891, will hardly be described as other than Christian; certainly every prelate or minister in Germany would vehemently resent such a description. Treitschke, who is probably the best known in England of the Imperialist writers, definitely bases his appalling conception of life on Christian principles, and claims that he is acting from a sense of the divine mission of Germany. General von Bernhardi uses precisely the same Christian language. But these are only two in a hundred writers who, for more than half a century, have been educating Germany in aggressive ideas, and, speaking from personal acquaintance with their works, I should say that the overwhelming majority of them are Christians. Not a single Socialist, and not a single well-known Rationalist, has contributed to their pernicious gospel.
Probably the one German writer in the mind of those English people who speak of Germany's return to Paganism is Friedrich Nietzsche. It is true that Nietzsche was bitterly anti-Christian, and he has probably had a greater influence in Germany, in spite of his strictures on the country, than many seem disposed to allow. German booksellers have recently drawn up a statement in regard to the favourite books of soldiers in the field, and it appears that Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra is second on the list—leagues ahead of the Bible. But to conclude from this that the anti-moral doctrine of the Pagan Nietzsche is the chief source of the outrages committed is one of those slipshod inferences which make one despair of Christian literature.
In the first place, Goethe is even more popular with the troops than Nietzsche, and, although Goethe too was a Pagan, his teaching was the very antithesis of crime, violence, injustice, or hypocrisy. No nobler human doctrine was ever set forth than in the pages of his Faust, the first on this list of favourite books. In the second place, this fact at once warns us of a circumstance which we might have taken for granted: in the knapsacks of the overwhelming majority of the soldiers there are no books at all. It is the minority who read; and it is quite safe to assume that this thoughtful minority are not the minority who have disgraced German militarism. Thirdly—and it should hardly be necessary to make this observation—the sensitive and high-strung Nietzsche would have regarded with shuddering horror these outrages which some ignorantly attribute to his influence. It is indeed probable that, if he still looked from his hill-top upon the fields of Europe, he would pour out his most volcanic scorn upon the warring nations, and especially upon Germany and Austria. In fine, it is necessary to remember that Nietzsche was violently anti-democratic. For the mass of the people he had only disdain, and it is folly to suppose that his aristocratic philosophy has been accepted among them as a gospel.
Nietzsche has had a considerable influence on the more thoughtful reading public in Germany, yet even here one has to make reserves in charging him with a part in the preparation of the country for an aggressive war. His peculiar art and temperamental exaggerations make it impossible for any but a patient few to grasp his teaching accurately, and are peculiarly liable to mislead the less patient. When, therefore, he stresses—as most anti-Socialists do—the Darwinian struggle for existence, when he assails the humanitarian and Christian doctrine of helping the weak, when he calls into question the received code of morals, and when he extols self-assertion and strength of will, his fiery words do lend some confirmation, which he assuredly never intended, to the Prussian ideal of a State. Nietzsche was too much averse from politics to intend such an application of his teaching, which is essentially individualistic, and he had nothing but contempt for the bluster and philistinism of the Prussian State in particular. We must admit, however, that in this unintentional way he contributed to the formation of that German temper which led to the war. General von Bernhardi's admiring references to his philosophy sufficiently show this.
But Nietzsche's very limited influence on German thought cannot reasonably be quoted as justification of the common saying that Germany had deserted Christianity for Paganism. Had such a statement been made before the war began, our divines would have indignantly repudiated it. The truth is that all classes—Christian and non-Christian—have yielded fatally to the pernicious interpretation which interested politicians, soldiers, manufacturers, and Jingoistic writers have put on the real economic needs of the country. Of the Socialist and Catholic parties, in particular, the two most powerfully organised bodies in Germany, we may say that, in deserting their ideals, they have been partly deceived into a real belief that Russia and England sought their destruction, and they have partly yielded to that very old and familiar temptation—the desire to retain their numerical strength by compromising with their principles. In justice to the Socialists it should be added that that party has furnished the only men and journals in Germany to raise any protest against the madness of the nation. One of the most repulsive moral traits in Germany to-day is, even when we have made the most liberal allowance for the painful and desperate circumstances of the people, the astounding expression and cultivation of hatred. It has transpired time after time that the Vorwärts has protested against this. Not once has it been reported that the religious press or religious ministers have protested. The new phrase that is officially sanctioned, "God punish England," is a religious phrase that no Neo-Pagan could use. On the very day on which I write this page it is reported that Socialists have protested in the Reichstag against the official endorsement of outrages. We do not hear of any Christian protest, from end to end of the campaign.
Yet I do not wish to disguise the fact that both Christians and non-Christians share the guilt of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The real difference between the two bodies appears when we take a broader view of the war, and only in this way can any general indictment of Christianity be formulated. Important as it is to determine the responsibility for this war, it is even more important to conceive that the war is the natural outcome of a system which Europe ought to have abolished ages ago. We are not far from the time when, in spite of the official teaching of the Churches, every Christian nation maintained the practice of the duel which the Teutonic nations introduced fourteen centuries ago. Although in Germany the Christian clergy have not the courage to assert their plain principles in opposition to the Emperor's barbaric patronage of the duel, the people of most civilised countries now regard the duel as a crime. No one who surveys the whole stream of moral development can doubt that a time is coming when war, the duel of nations, will be regarded as an infinitely graver crime. The day is surely over when sophists like Treitschke and callous soldiers like Bernhardi could sing the praises of war. The pathetic picture drawn by our great novelist of a worthless young lord lying at the feet of his opponent touched England profoundly and hastened the end of the duel in this country. If England, if the civilised world, be not even more deeply touched by the descriptions we have read, week after week, of tens of thousands of braver and more innocent men lying in their blood, of all the desolation and sorrow that have been brought on whole kingdoms of Europe, one will be almost tempted to despair of the race. War is the last and worst stain of barbarism on the escutcheon of civilisation.
The question of real interest is, therefore, the historical question. Those of us who did not foresee this war until we were in the very penumbra of the tragedy cannot complain that our Christian neighbours did not foresee and prevent it. Those of us who feel that the participation of our country is just and necessary may, with no strain of imagination, conceive the men of other countries equally persuading themselves that the action of their country is just and necessary. But from the day when we awoke to an adult perception of the life of the world we have been aware that the established system of settling international quarrels was barbaric and might in any year lead to just such a catastrophe. How comes it that such a system has survived fifteen hundred years of profound Christian influence? Whatever we may think of the clergy of to-day, with the more powerful clergy of yesterday we have a grave reckoning. The Rationalist is a new thing in Europe. The very name is little more than a century old, and until a few decades ago only a few thousand would accept it. Not from such a new and struggling movement do we ask why this military system has dominated Europe for ages and has only in recent times been seriously challenged. During those ages the Churches suffered none but themselves to pretend to a moral influence over the life of the nations, nor were there many bold and independent enough to make the claim. It is of the Churches we ask why this appalling system has taken such deep root in the life of Europe that it resists the most devoted efforts to eradicate it. It is not this war, but war, that accuses the Churches. We are entangled in a system so widespread and so subtle that, when a war occurs, each nation can persuade itself that it is acting on just grounds. It is the system which interests us.