The Christian Failure 1943
Comments - Rae West
- Very important question, namely the historical influence of Christianity: good or bad? Difficult of course even to get much of a grip on the question.
Singer is unfortunately somewhat of a waffler - at some point I made an exasperated pencilled note to the effect that at this point I decided definitely that he was drivelling. He can't bring himself to admit that religion and science are opposed, I think; at any rate this seems a likely cause for many of his dubious and tiresome generalisations & for the related problem of treating the history of science as though religious questions were the more important part of the thought of the 'scientific people' who presumably worked out the stuff. However, he's at least aware this is problematical - he criticises a theologian, Barth I think, for just this weakness, and takes the liberty of 'translating' a sentence of his into less convoluted language. He can't bring himself to admit that a state of mind isn't a 'religion' and spends much time on 'the religion of humanity', largely futilely I'd say.
- No indication of what induced him to write histories of medical science, but I'd very much expect his attitude to be conditioned by his early youth.
- Because of the date, quite a lot of material deals with the Nazis and Fascists and Jews (and minor churches, groups I've never consciously heard of, the Assyrian Christians, for example) and comments on their temporising and dishonest unscrupulousness. Because of his background from originally I presume German Jewry, he can read German and is therefore familiar with Luther's diatribes against Jews - a tradition which seems to have been maintained.
- The last chapter deals with his own life (see below) and no doubt explains everything above. Interesting stuff on Russian pogroms, which he dates precisely to the decade 1881-1891 & 1933 on; and on e.g. his father sonorously reading biblical passages which aged 67 Singer still found entering his dreams.
- Interesting to compare Belloc's view of Jews with Singer's view of Christians.
I DAWN OF THE SCIENTIFIC AGE
II SCIENCE CONFRONTS RELIGION
III SCIENTIFIC METHODS AND LIMITATIONS
IV CHARACTER AS MOULDED BY THE SCIENTIFIC MOOD
V THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY
VI CHRISTIANITY FACES THE "NEW PHILOSOPHY"
VII THE HISTORICAL RECORD - THE ROOT
VIII THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS - THE FRUIT
IX THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY
X A PERSONAL NOTE
DETAILS OF CONTENTS Scanned and checked 8-9 October, 95
I DAWN OF THE SCIENTIFIC AGE
14-15: ..important on that account. The direct influence of his own theological efforts may, however, safely be dismissed as negligible.
Newton was more gifted with the power of scientific demonstration than any man. He is rightly regarded as the very type of the modern man of science, and, in the pages which follow, he is treated as the scientific exemplar. Modern science, however, did not originate with him. It opened its triumphant course at least a century before he was born. Several of its most famous exponents had done their work before he saw the light. Nevertheless, Newton formulated, more clearly than any of his predecessors, those primary data on which others came to build that comprehensive philosophic system which later became known as "scientific determinism." The term was introduced about the middle of the nineteenth century but the passages just quoted from Newton's Principia contain essential elements in the determinist faith. Some of the exponents of that faith have, however, extended the conception of "phenomena" far beyond anything that Newton intended. They have, for example, ranked as phenomena events within the mind itself, and they have treated them also as determinate.
The conception that mental events are determinate has been much more revolutionary for religion than anything in the Newtonian system proper. That man's body works on ascertainable mechanical principles had indeed seemed obvious to Descartes (1596-1650) before Newton and as long ago as 1627. The followers of Descartes directed the thought of the age for about a century. All the Cartesians, however, recognised with their master that men are something more than mechanical systems. Man thinks as well as acts. Only if man's entire nature, including his thinking, could be fitted as links into a long chain of causal development, could his actions and his mind be treated as truly determinate. It was in this very way that the conceptions of Descartes and Newton were extended in the mid- and later nineteenth century, especially after 1859, in which year appeared both Darwin's Origin of Species and Marx's Communist Manifesto. The former contains the germ of modern biological determinism, the latter of modern psychological determinism. Both are sources of the doctrine of social determinism.
Years before the Origin and the Communist Manifesto, the seer William Blake (1757-1817) had seized on the apparently unoffending figure of Newton as type of those who deny freewill -- which in fact Newton did not. Blake could not read any part of Newton's science, but echoes of the evolutionary rumours of his own age must have reached his very limited circle. Despite his misunderstandings, Blake had a remarkable vision of scientific determinism. But he was not the first. There were certain schools of thought in the eighteenth century that followed the determinist path. Such were the French Encyclopaedists and some of the first English Utilitarians. With these may well be classed certain heretical groups during renaissance and mediaeval times. Behind these again were strains of Stoic and of Epicurean thought in classical antiquity. Further back, too, at the very dawn of philosophy, we see a cleavage on determinism between the thought of Socrates and that of his rival Anaxagoras. Rational religion, moreover, exhibited early a comparable antithesis as between freewill and predestination. The contrast is presented with all the simplicity of superbly sophisticated art in The Book of Job. Through all the ages to modern times, these attitudes have opposed each other. Neither had nor could then have demonstrational backing. It was Newton who first demonstrated a Law of physical movement the writ of which ran equally...
18-21: II SCIENCE CONFRONTS RELIGION
EXAMINATION of the records makes it clear that misinterpretation of the nature of the impact of science and religion has commonly arisen, and still commonly arises from two very different errors. First, the confusion between the pursuit of scientific knowledge, on the one hand, and the application of such knowledge as has been won on the other. Second is the assumption of an inherent and deliberate hostility or incompatibility between science and religion. We will begin with the first.
Science, like religion, is extremely difficult to define but, like religion, it involves simultaneously a "mood," an attitude of mind, and a method. The result of the concurrence of these and their combined action is a body of knowledge. It is characteristic of the body of scientific knowledge that it is necessarily growing. But science is no more scientific device than religion is theology. And science should no more be identified with scientific mechanisms or inventions--that is to say, with the application of the knowledge won by science--than should religion with either liturgy or ecclesiastical preferment. To ascribe to science the evils of modern warfare, for example, is as absurd as to treat the invention of the cutting edge in the Old Stone Age as the "cause" of murder. That error should hardly need refutation outside the Fifth Form Debating Society.
The causa sine qua non, the indispensable condition of war, as of murder is, of course, the evil inclination of man, which uses the most effective instrument available to it. There is nothing so innocent that it may not be turned to an ill use, for you cannot have power for good without having also power for evil. Mother's milk itself has been the first nourishment of every murderer. This power for evil, which is exactly the same as the power for good, is surely one of man's chief prerogatives. To say this is the same as saying that it is one of his chief responsibilities. The point is fundamental for any understanding of either science or religion. It is more: it is fundamental for all thinking. For, if there is any significance at all in our activity--if and in so far as we are anything but mechanisms--it must be an activity of choice; it must be a selection of a course that is relatively good as against one that is relatively evil. In other words our activity must have some "value."
The very conception of value clearly involves the existence of evil as well as of good. There are various evasions of what is called the "problem of evil" as, for example, the denial of the existence of evil; or the allegation that it is purely negative or privative--that is, that evil is the mere absence of good; or the complete separation of mind from matter--the old Nous and Hyle --the one good in essence and the other in essence evil. All in the end must involve an abandonment of the conception of value. But, properly speaking, there is no problem of evil and what goes under that name is rather the problem of existence which necessarily involves both good and evil. The problem of existence is insoluble. ['This sentence caused me to definitely decide that Singer is a waffler' - RW] Surely on this the prophet has said the last and only word:
"My thoughts are not as your thoughts,
Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord,
For as the heavens
Are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways,
And my thoughts than your thoughts."
Why should any man seek further? The meaning of existence is hidden from us by a veil that never can be rent. It is best not discussed, for the conventional theological solutions are no more than verbal devices. But that there is such a thing as value we can hardly doubt, for the act of doubting itself implies it.
Acceptance of value involves the separation in two very different categories of the things called evil. On the one hand there are things evil in themselves, evil intrinsically, evil in all their aspects. Such things, in the nature of the case, can only be things of the mind, mental states. On the other hand, there are things outside the mind which are evil in relation to mental states. For such things we need a suitable word; they may be called misfortunes or miseries. They are relative evils, relative, that is, to ourselves. Among them are, for example, those ills to which all flesh is heir. These are not evil in themselves. There is nothing intrinsically evil in the bacteria of disease, for example. The activities of bacteria may become misfortunes in relation to ourselves but, under certain other circumstances, they may be relatively good. Other such misfortunes which may also be relatively good are the cataclysms of Nature and all those miseries that arise from the determinate workings of Nature. Into the same category must go those activities which arise from the mental states of others. To ascribe any of these things to the action of a Devil, not only makes science meaningless, but must ultimately destroy the whole conception of value. Belief in a Devil is more than error; it amounts to denial of value to human personality. If the kingdom of God is within us, so also is the kingdom of Satan.
The power to choose between good and evil is not the only great human prerogative and responsibility. Another is the power of reason. However determinate the processes of man's mind, whatever man's origin, and whatever man's lower manifestations in the idiot or lunatic, these two powers, to sin and to be foolish, separate him pretty clearly from the beasts. And it may be that, ultimately, these are not two powers, but one power. Such, at least, was the opinion of those who wrote the "Wisdom Literature" of the Old Testament. Man may be foolish and sinful or may be wise and virtuous in employing scientific apparatus. For the moral character of those who employ its aids, science as such, and men of science as such can be neither praised nor blamed.
The point may be exemplified by a single illustration. It has been said that in the first forty years of the twentieth century a greater weight of minerals was won from the earth than in all the ages before. This might have been used for improving the human lot. The larger part was the immediate instrument of destruction, and much of it was hurled with murderous intent from one side to the other of a no-man's-land. Shall we charge this evil and foolish use against the miner on the coal-face against the metallurgical chemist in his laboratory? Against the professor of mathematics, geology or physics? Against the engineer improving the internal combustion engine? Against the pathologist investigating the biology of gas-gangrene and trench-feet? Against the meteorologist predicting the weather for flying? Surely such charges could mean nothing unless we assume that these men- each living his own life, each with his own loves and duties, his own cares and joys--are, on the whole, worse than they would have been had science not shaped the pattern of their lives.
For such worsening of human nature there is no shadow of evidence. Men are not manifestly worse than they were; but also they are not manifestly better. There was no Golden Age. There was no primitive state when men lived in unspoiled mutual love and gentleness. And if ...
- 23: [Singer says the 'famous Bridgewater Treatises', 1833-1840, were funded by the will of 'semi-insane' Francis Henry Egerton, and had as introductory volume 1833 THE ADAPTATION OF EXTERNAL NATURE TO THE MORAL AND INTELLECTUAL CONSTITUTION OF MAN, by Thomas Chalmers, 'the theologian'.
'.. perhaps the last important pronouncement of the anthropocentric view of Nature.']
24: 'That Nature reveals the mind of God was the very foundation of eighteenth-century Deism..'
[Russell is his essay 'The Place of Science in a Liberal Education' seems to make this almost a central feature of science].
III SCIENTIFIC METHODS AND LIMITATIONS
.. might be supposed. All the major departments of science have, at some time or other, been involved in some or other of the greater and more urgent human issues, and any minor department may, at some time or other, become similarly involved. The innocuous neutrality that we seek is not characteristic of any department of research. Knowledge is "neutral" and fails to raise these issues only in so far as it cannot be seen to bear at the moment upon the human state. A science the advance of which is at one stage far removed from these dangerous fields, at another may cross and recross them. Historically the sciences that most disturbed thinking in the early seventeenth century were mainly astronomical; in the later seventeenth they were mainly physiological; in the eighteenth, mathematical; in the early nineteenth, physical; in the mid-nineteenth, geological and biological; in the early twentieth, physical; and in the mid-twentieth they are perhaps especially psychological. We must therefore avoid all the major departments of science and turn rather to some minor speciality.
For a science as neutral as any, there may serve the intensive study of some group of insects. We must be careful that it is not an economically significant group. Unfortunately insects are the prevalent creatures on this planet. In the evolutionary sense, they are marvellously successful. More species of insects have been recognised than of all other creatures put together. Many species exist in numbers of astronomical magnitude. Certain species not only deeply affect human habits, but even determine the possibilities of human life. Therefore, even among the insects, we cannot safely choose at random. Let us select for our example some group of beetles of no immediate or obvious economic importanceù Having chosen our subject for scientific investigation, let us examine the implications.
First, if I decide to be a specialised entomologist, I must, by that very fact, abandon (in my entomological mood) all thought of animals other than insects. I must concentrate as much as possible on my own special group of beetles. While I am at work on these Coleoptera I must give up any consideration of other sciences, save for their bearing on beetles and their ways of life and relationships, to say nothing of all consideration of the great themes of religion, art, philosophy, literature and the rest. If I cannot put these things aside while at work in my laboratory, it is quite certain that my entomology will be ineffective. This is but to say that a science must work by abstraction. If it does not, it is not a science.
Changing a word or two, all this might be said of any other science. Perhaps, therefore, in the strictest sense, there is no such thing as science, but only sciences, each of which has its own field. Insects are the field of entomology, minds of psychology, metals of metallurgy, and so on. Sometimes sciences may combine to form a new science with its own technique. Thus, combining two of our examples, there is a science of insect psychology. One science can use the results of another science, but each science can describe only its own little bit of the universe in its own terms. These terms are derived by a comparison of yet smaller bits of the universe with other smaller bits. Such terms have little or no application outside the particular science for which they were devised. The technical terms of the sciences have no universal application or value and their use outside the field for which they were invented is, in fact, a very frequent source of misunderstanding.
Much misunderstanding, even by scientific men, has arisen from such transference of scientific terms from their original field of reference. Consider, as examples, the mass of fruitless and futile disputation that has arisen in ...
IV CHARACTER AS MOULDED BY THE SCIENTIFIC MOOD
.. Their force is their own, but their authority should never be mistaken for the authority of science when they are not speaking within the range of their own chosen studies. Within that area proficiency is proven in the only way in which science can establish its claims--namely, by an appeal to the senses, especially through exact prediction. In other forms of activity things quite different are needed to carry conviction, and proficiency is exhibited in quite other ways.
Nothing in the mental constitution or temper of most great exponents of experimental science suggests that the highest importance need be attached to their utterances on philosophic and religious themes. Set down, for example, the greatest names in the annals of experimental science through three centuries. (Of course no two historians would make exactly the same list.) Copernicus (1472-1543), Vesalius (1514-64), Stevin (1548-1620), Galileo (1564-1642), Kepler (1571-1630), Harvey (1578-1657), Boyle (1617-91), Huygens (161???29-95), Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), Newton (1624-1717), Hales (1677-1761), Linnaeus (1707-78), Herschel (1638-1822), Lavoisier (1743-94), Laplace (1749-1827), Cuvier (1766-1832), Young (1773-1829), Darwin (1809-82), Joule (1818-88), Pasteur (1822-95), Kelvin (1824-1907)ù Nearly all of this long list of men held somewhat conventional views outside their own sciences. A few were exceptionally conservative and even backward. The most influential of them all, Newton and Darwin were negligible as regards their personal outlook on philosophy. Perhaps only Galileo among them wrote effectively on anything of the nature of philosophic themes.
The great investigators are thus not commonly the best exponents of the nature of the scientific method. Nor is that method easily deduced from their published results. In fact the very process of scientific exposition is so constructed as to conceal the process of discovery. If we seek those who have best elucidated the nature of scientific method and its relation to general thinking, we should need to step outside the circle of the experimenters. There we shall find in our period such names as Bacon (1561- 1626), Descartes (1596-1650), Locke (1632-1704), Leibnitz (1646-1716), Bentham (1748-1832), Whewell (1794-1866), Mill (1806-73), Spencer (1820-1903), all interested in scientific theory and its bearing on religion, but none making very effective experimental contributions.
Thus most of those who have written effectively on the relationship of science to the other regions of experience have not themselves participated very actively in the process of scientific demonstration. But even if they have done so, it should be emphasised that, when discussing universal topics, they are not using the scientific method and should therefore not be credited with the rightful prestige of that method in its own marvellous field of experience. During the present generation a number of men of the highest scientific eminence have written sheer rubbish on universal themes. To draw attention to this is no more to belittle what scientific men in general may have to say outside their sciences than it would magnify their scientific work to say that they were men of saintly character, musical ability or philosophic attainments. It has to be recognised that scientific achievement is irrelevant to universal themes. Specifically it is irrelevant to the inmost nature of man and the inmost element in religion. All that can be safely inferred as to the producer of good scientific results is that he is a man of great mental activity.
Despite all this, it is yet true that the pursuit of science has certain effects on the mental and spiritual life of that society or community in which it is active. It has created and introduced a new kind of intellectual climate. It attracts a type and intensity of interest which changes the content of the mind so fundamentally that ultimately it alters even the way of thinking. Science has done more than give us a new heaven and a new earth. It has given us not merely an altered and revised version of heaven and earth, but a heaven and earth of a kind unconceived before. But more. Science has also given us new minds and hearts and memories to enjoy the new heaven and the new earth.
Theologians miss this point at their peril, for science has set such a wall between the generations as has never before been seen. The worlds of Newtonian interrelationship of parts, of Darwinian grading of beast and man, of Freudian extension of the field of mind, and of Einsteinian space-time continuum, for example, do not, perhaps, integrate with each other. They have this, however, in common, that none of them can be discussed in either the language or the mood of the days when theology was Queen of the Sciences and St. Thomas thought he was reinterpreting the synthesis of the moral and material universe set forth fifteen hundred years before him by Aristotle of Stagyra.
"The longest Tyranny that ever sway'd
Was that wherein our Ancestors betray'd
Their free-born Reason to the Stagirite
And made his Torch their universal Light.
So Truth, while onley one supplied the State,
Grew scarce, and dear, and yet sophisticate;
Until 'twas bought, like Empirique Wares, or Charms,
Hard words sealed up with Aristotle's Armes." 1 JOHN DRYDEN, I663
1"Sealed up empiric wares" is the seventeenth-century equivalent for what we should nowadays call "patent medicines"--that is, costly standardised mixtures the composition of which we do not understand, and the action of which is a matter of faith. "Sophisticate" in the language of the time means adulterated or mixed with some inferior substance, and is a term specially applied to drugs and other "empiric wares."
The very habit of sustained ratiocination on a deductive basis, so cherished still by certain theological and philosophic minds, had lapsed even in Dryden's day in so far as it was not even then discredited. Of our own age we may safely say that only those who have submitted to a special discipline can ever again think the thoughts of the ages of faith. Indeed the application of the experiential method had barely started on its triumphant course before many perceived that they had reached a parting of the mental ways. They discerned--as we discern again to-day--that the coming world was to be a new one, though they could hardly descry--as we to-day cannot descry--what shape its newness should take.
The first to grasp clearly that the intellectual revolution had come was certainly Francis Bacon (1561-1626). The nature of his "New Philosophy," which is almost (though not quite) What we call science, was a main object of debate by the "wits" of the seventeenth century. It is nevertheless extraordinary how little impression it made on the literature or the formal theology of the age. From that learned century there has come down to us much discourse both of religion and of science, but the two seldom met and yet seldomer disputed. (The incident of Galileo requires special treatment. See ch. vi, p. 52.) Their interests fell apart; there was hardly a struggle between them. Religion and science came to employ a different vocabulary; that of science was designedly developed, that of theology as deliberately arrested. Nullius in verba, [Footnote: The phrase is taken from Horace's Epistles (I, I, I4), Nullius addictus urare in verba magistri, "Pledged to swear by the words of no master."] "By the words of no man," was the motto from the beginning (1664-) of the Royal Society of which the function was the exposition of the new philosophy.
The phrase Nullius in verba is sometimes taken to mean the rejection of authority. In the sense in which the ...
Further, on the plane ofhuman relations, the first needs of the pursuit of a science are sober, industrious and modest living and, above all, loyalty to the great ideal of unflinching criticism of evidence, and therefore openness of mind, acceptance of correction, and outspokenness wherever error is in question.
Thus the sciences produce in their votaries very noble and characteristic patterns of conduct and even elements of sanctity. Anyone who denies this cannot be well informed as to the lives of the great devotees of the sciences and of the ways in which they have come to be interpreters of nature. Let him read the personal records of such as Archimedes, Boyle, Darwin, Faraday, Hales, Herschel, Huygens, Lister, Linnaeus, Maxwell, Newton, Pasteur, Ray. True, there have been great exponents of science who were not of this lofty type--Gauss and Young were perhaps among the meaner of scientific thinkers of the front rank. But the general character of great men of science bears comparison with that of any class and, notably, with that of any long line of distinguished theologians or ecclesiastics. This is no criticism of religion but it is a criticism of certain approaches to it.
Patterns of conduct produced by devotion to the sciences are different from the patterns produced by religion; yet they are not wholly different. The mood in which scientific men approach their task can never have been derived from religion, even though some of then have thought it was. But it may well be derived from something that bears a strong likeness to religion, something that may enter into religion, something very near to that "holy, subtle, lively, clear and undefiled thing that is more moving than any motion and goes through all thing by reason of her pureness." It is pictured in the unforgettable seventh chapter of the Book of Wisdom, itself an echo, on its own peculiar Alexandrian sounding-board, of the authentic prophetic voice. The Prophetic Religion does indeed adapt itself to the pattern of conduct produced by absorption of the mind in the beauty of natural order. In this very book of about 100 B.C., we watch the prophetic spirit seeking, under Greek inspiration, to adjust itself to what we should nowadays call the metaphysical foundations of science. It is a note that will hardly be heard during the first fifteen Christian centuries.
"I prayed and understanding was given me
And the spirit of wisdom came to me.
Riches I esteemed nothing in comparison of her
Because all the gold of the earth in her sight is but a little sand.
Above health and beauty I loved her,
And chose to have her rather than light,
For the light that cometh from her never goeth out.
All good things together come to me with her
And I rejoiced in them all.
I learned diligently and communicate her liberally,
I do not hide her riches,
For she is a treasure unto men that never faileth,
Which they that use become the friends of God.
For God hath granted me to speak as I would
And to conceive thoughts worthy of what has been given.
For in his hands are both we and our words
And it is he that hath given me knowledge of the things that are.
How the world was made, and the operations of the elements,
The turnings of the sun, and the changes of seasons,
The circuits of years, and the position of stars,
The natures of living creatures, and the furies of wild beasts,
The Powers of minds, and the reasonings of men,
The diversities of plants, and the virtues of roots.
These things Wisdom, which is the artificer of all things, taught me.
V THE RELIGION OF HUMANITY
.. was the basic religion of the West, it has probably long ceased to be so. But regarded as a civilisation, the history of the Christian Church remains an inescapable fact. Its record is unalterable. We all partake of the civilisation in which we are embedded whether we profess the Christian faith or not. The history of Europe is in effect the history of Christian civilisation. The Christian civilisation is in our daily habits; it is in our dress and diet; it is in the structure of our language and in the script which we use to write it; it is in our social and legal systems; it is in the very form in which our thoughts are cast. That the Christian religion has moulded the Christian civilisation is manifest, but the civilisation has also moulded the religion. Neither therefore can be considered entirely without the other, but the Christian religion is confronted and largely displaced by another religion, whereas the only competitor of the Christian civilisation is its mere negation, Barbarism.
Quite justly it has been said that a religion can be understood truly only from within. But apart from personal religion, there is the effect of religion on the life of a society. With equal justice it may be urged that the functioning of religion in the human fellowship can be observed effectively only from without, for it is not given to all of us to see ourselves as others see us.
To estimate the influence of a religion on a society is extremely difficult. Many factors, besides religion, determine those relations of men to each other which give their special characters to human societies. But it must be borne well in mind that the society influences the religion just as the religion influences the society. An analysis of the effect of the inflence of a religion is therefore likely to be best formed by those who can adopt the perspectlve of observers. It is only as one of these that this writer can offer any reflections. He professes neither the Christian religion nor what seems to him to be its most formidable immediate rival which has largely displaced it. This has sometimes been very ineptly called the "Religion of Science." At risk of misunderstanding, it is here discussed as the "Religion of Humanity." By this is meant the religion that regards man as both a means and an end in himself.
The Religion of Humanity is by no means incompatible with theistic doctrine but customarily treats it mainly as irrelevant to conduct. It is largely concerned with conduct. And since it is a recognised law that competing faiths stress opposing human needs, it is natural that the Religion of Humanity should stress the humanitarian aspect in precisely those circumstances in which its rival, Christianity, most emphasises ritual and theological activities. Indeed, humanitarianism (which is an aspect of the Religion of Humanity but must not on that account be confused with it) is often a way of escape for the ritually and theologically glutted. These are wont to speak and act as though humanitarian conduct were itself Christianity or, at least, the peculiar prerogative and characteristic of the Christian religion. A very little reflection is sufficient for the conclusion that this is by no means the case. Read Marcus Aurelius.
The Religion of Humanity in our age and country is a basic rather than a professed faith. For this reason the immense hold that it has is but little apparent and has not been fully appreciated. Nevertheless it is by far the most serious opponent of Christianity. The Religion of Humanity has a much firmer grip on men's minds than the other competitors with Christianity, the pagan faiths of Nationalism, or than the Prophetic Religion. The Religion of Humanity pervades the centuries and has retained its outlines through the millennia. The Religions of Nationalism are forming and dissolving under our very eyes, like miasmic clouds, unsavoury emanations of ill-corralled herds, nor are they aught but the reek of the herd-instinct. The Religion of Humanity has a grand philosophic background and a venerable ethic of its own; both its Philosophy and its morality have stamped themselves deep on Christianity. The Religions of Nationalism are founded on an error as to their origin, and have in common only a hatred af all that is universal; the only way in which they can embrace Christianity is when, as often, Christianity belies itself and ceases to be universal. Philosophically the Religions of Nationalism are merely contemptible, or rather they are the very negation of philosophy. They will be remembcred only as a nightmare is dimly recalled. But be assured that the Religion of Humanity will endure, since it answers certain unchangeable needs of man's heart and mind. I say that not as one of its initiates from within, but as an observer from without.
During the last few centuries the Religion of Humanity has been partlcularly forward in applying the conclusions of the sciences to the amelioration of the human lot. Its ethical system has thus become na‹vely regarded, even by some of its ablest exponents, as based upon and developed from scientific data. It is in this way that there arose the misconception of the "religion of science." The error perhaps began with Voltaire whose writings, like those of the English Utilitarian school, are full of some such idea. But the Religion of Humanity is something very much older than the "New Philosophy" which began only in the seventeenth century, and it is something incomparably deeper set in the spirit of man. It is indeed a religion and is neither an appanage nor a product of science, nor does it need science for its full development. It is one of the great independent faiths.
Of the great Religion of Humanity--for a great religion it verily is--Communism is a modern sect, product of certain special conditions. But the Religion of Humanity has far more ancient roots than Communism and is antecedent to Christianity itself. Who shall say how old it is? Perhaps it is coeval with man himself. Scientific activity is in no way essential to its efflorescence. In that minute fraction of human time during which man has been literate, the Religion of Humanity has appeared under many names. Such are Stoicism, Humanism, Deism, Utilitarianism, Positivism, Secularism, Communism and a hundred more. A way of thinking and of living that inspired Hippocrates, Pericles, Zeno, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Vives, Herbert of Cherbury, Grotius, Locke, Voltaire, Pope, Benjamin Franklin, Bentham, Mill, Comte, Marx, Lenin has had a series of very great prophets.
The Religion of Humanity is ignored in most works on political history, for it has never, until our own age, developed organised Churches. It has no architectural monuments to show. Until of late, it has not had many formal followers. Its historic course is at some periods difficult to trace since it constantly makes compromises with any form of religion the ethical system of which is not wholly incompatible with its own ethics. Many of its greatest exponents have been and are content to bear the labels of other faiths and even to profess orthodoxy therein. I believe the Religion of Humanity to be the prevalent basic faith of our own time. Compared to it, Nationalism is a shallow thing for, after all, the forms of Nationalism must, in due course, cancel each other, but the Religion of Humanity is a universal religion.
The historian of the human mind can hardly be in doubt of the continued significance of the Religion of Humanity. For long in the Roman Empire it was openly, as Stocism, a formidable rival to Christianity. Episodes ..
VI CHRISTIANITY FACES THE "NEW PHILOSOPHY"
.. its end, from the great region of pure and endless light, infinite in space and time.
With such a plan of the heavens in mind, there was erected a complete system of thought in which the spiritual and moral world was immeasurably more important and incomparably more interesting than the diagrammatically known material world. Indeed, it would be more true to say that in such a world-view, the mere material universe was hardly worth serious study at all. Such was the world of the doctors of the Church from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas and beyond. Such was the system of thought in which developed the technical terminology of theology.
With such a world-outlook science could not flourish. The material world was not worth the trouble of detailed investigation. Perhaps the only serious reason for studying it was as a means of succouring human life; that is, as a basis for the art of medicine. But since science had ceased to be an active process, medical practice had become necessarily divorced from scientific theory. Thus medicine had degenerated into mere lists of drugs and recipes, often of disgusting character, more or less furtively supported by the verdicts of astrology. The only group who took any deep interest in the material world were the artists. Their attention was drawn to Nature because they thought that the material world that they were depicting did, in some degree, foreshadow as an "archtype" the spiritual world on which alone they, like all their contemporaries, had fixed their deeper thoughts. They used Nature, but only for such edificatory value as they thought they could extract from her.
And would such a material world as we have briefly outlined, if we believed in it, be worth exploring by the painfully laborious methods of research? Remember that there was the adventure of thought, the experiences of the soul, the subtleties of ratiocination, the analogies and imagery of religious discourse, the marvellous experiences of the mystic. Surely these would be not only far more exciting and more interesting than the paltry material world, but also the only things exciting or interesting. There are those who still seek to exalt the medieval ways but, of a truth, those ways are open now only to such as are prepared to embrace the mediaeval world-scheme and to repudiate that of Newton. In those centuries of faith there was no scope for the method of scientific fragmentation. Thus among the "sciences," among which Theology insisted on her place as Queen, there was hardly to be numbered any of those which are now regarded as sciences. The scientia of the mediaeval thinker is immeasurably different from that which we call "science." The one is a complete and rounded scheme, closed at all points by a divine mystery; the other is a series of exploratory adventures into a boundless ocean of experience, each voyage yielding new wonders.
Remember again how much more science has done in our age than merely to produce fragmented knowledge. It has opened up spacious vistas, the beauties of which may be endlessly explored in widening regions of space and time and thought. It has unveiled an inconceivable complexity of minute things. At every turn it has revealed unsuspected types of order. It has disclosed astonishing beings, denizens of a world more strange than ever dreamed by the most fantastic artist of mediaeval or renaissance times. Think back to the coming of these new things in the seventeenth century. It was an epiphany for all men to see with the eye of flesh, and has been not seldom compared to another that, like it, spread ever wider. In a sense very different from that of the poet, a wit of the day might have wished his scientific friend:
"May the great time in you still greater be,
While all the year is your Epiphany."
RICHARD CRASHAW, c. 1642
It was to be a revolution, but it began very gradually and at first with a most subtle change in mood, but Oh! how fundamental it was. We cannot here trace the change and perhaps its beginnings may never be altogether clear, for there are certain peculiar difficulties in its elucidation at that early stage. There were inklings and rumours and partial attempts and glimpses of what was to come, that together make a story as intricate as it is absorbing. Not until the early seventeenth century, even in the intellectual class, was there any appreciation that somehow some drastic adjustment of the old scheme must be made. And among those who felt thus were some few who were following the experimental way.
At first, as was natural, these men of the New Philosophy sought a compromise with the medieval system. They had no complete scheme of their own and hardly even a partial one. What justification, then, would there be for any of them--even for Galileo or Descartes--to break with what he was in no way prepared to replace? The compromise they sought is the compromise that men still seek. Galileo put it in a sentence when he said: 'The Bible teaches men how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." He asked therefore that the clerics should go their way and allow him to go his until he had finished his work. Such a dichotomy was still quite possible, and Galileo's work, On the Interpretation of Holy Scripture (1636), really amounts to hardly more than this.
Galileo shielded himself to some extent with the name of that conservative and orthodox scholar, Copernicus (1473-1543), long since dead, whose views were, of a truth, much more medieval than modern. The Scriptures speak always as though earth were flat. Mediaeval scholastics had fully accepted the spherical earth of the Aristotelian system (see p. 52). Why should not the seventeenth-century clerics accept the sun-centred world of the Copernican system and go their way as before? The adjustment of view would have been no greater than that admitted by their medieval forebears who had adapted the Aristotelian world system to Christian theology. In fact, some of the wiser clerics were much inclined to make this not very difficult compromise.
Why then should a shifting of the Earth from the exact centre, as suggested by Copernicus, have introduced such an upheaval? The true answer is that it did not. The religious mood is always conservative. There was certainly opposition to the views of Copernicus in his own day, but for two generations it was neither fierce nor dangerous. Copernicus died in 1543, in which year was issued his book, De revolutionibus orbium celestium, "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres." It was seventy-three years before it was placed on the Index of Prohibited Books (1616). What had happened in the meantime? The answer, which demands considerable readjustment of the conventional historic view, brings out the essential nature of the clash which roused such ferocity. The conflict was on something incomparably more significant than the interpretation of a few biblical passages or the mathematical formulae used to express the movements of the heavenly bodies.
In the scheme of Copernicus the outer heavens were, as in the orthodox scheme, at a limited distance from the Earth. Copernicus thus offended conservatism, but hardly orthodoxy. The world of Copernicus, being thus limited, could still be treated as a "creature," a thing made, [Footnote: Greek ktisis (Rom. viii. 19-22 and elsewhere); ktizein, to build, establish, make, create] and thus something separate from the Godhead. But into this view, fully accepted by the orthodox Copernicus, a corollary factor was injected even before the end of the sixteenth century. Before Galileo had spoken, there was in the air another view, dimly adumbrated in the Middle Ages, that the Empyrean had no definite existence. It was suggested that the stars were not set in an outermost sphere, but were scattered through infinite distances of space. [Footnote: The conception of an infinite universe had been expounded by Nicolas Krebs of Cues (Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, 1401 -64). But the writings of that active papal statesman aroused little attention during his lifetime, though they profoundly influenced Bruno in the following century.] Thus the world, being devoid of frontiers or limits, could not be thought of as a "creature." To say this is, in effect, to say that Creator and Creature are indistinguishable. It is in effect Pantheism.
This was a truly revolutionary conception and was entirely inconsistent with the medieval world-outlook. It was most forcibly voiced by Giordano Bruno (1547-1600), who was its martyr. To place him among martyrs of science is to get him out of focus. He was no man of science. He knew nothing of the experiential method. Had he known of it, he would not have been interested in it or have sympathised with it. Science was not at all in his way of thinking but, like certain others of his day, he sensed certain philosophic implications if the same treatment as that accorded by Copernicus to the inner spheres were extended to the outmost frontier of the astronomical universe.
In Bruno's view the stars lay scattered in infinite space. This was, with him, still philosophical theory, for Galileo's telescope was not invented (1610) till a decade after he was burned to ashes (1600). But it could not be conceived that infinite space, with its sprinkling of starry universes could whirl around the minute sphere of Earth which moreover, could no longer be regarded as the heavens' centre. All thought of a centre and circumference of the world must go. The whole range of ideas involved in the conception of a limited astronomical world must be abandoned. The conception of absolute position has lost all meaning. The very frontier between the corruptible earthly sphere and the incorruptible heavens has vanished. Nay, the act of Creation itself can no longer be maintained. The whole of medieval cosmological thought and with it much of mediaeval theology becomes nonsense.
Thus it was something very different from a technical change in the mathematics of the heavens that so deeply moved the theologians. They obtained a dim view of the implications of Bruno's thought. They were right to be moved. But it was still a dimly philosophical vision; it had not received that demonstrative garb that we now call scientific.
The issues involved were not at first generally recognised. Some, who were profoundly stirred by the pagan form in which much of Bruno's thought was cast, fixed on the almost irrelevant detail of the Earth moving round the Sun as contrary to Scripture. This idea Bruno had certainly taken from Copernicus, whose work was not, as yet, prohibited. But Bruno's vision had far deeper implications than a mathematical readjustment of the current world-scheme. A finite universe, spherical or not, with or without the Earth as its centre, whether the sun moves or not, can be conceived as "created." An infinite universe cannot be so contemplated. Creation is fundamental to Christianity--at least to the Christianity of that age--nor need it surprise us that the Christianity of that age struck at Bruno. In 1600 he was burned at the stake, havingù passed eight years in the prisons of the Inquisition. His philosophical writings were suppressed, but their seed had been sown. During the centuries which followed, the seed came to fruit.
Bruno perished miserably without the hope or thought that he had a disciple. Yet his view was soon to displace that of medieval Christianity. Before he had been dead for half a century, the world was, for the man of science, no longer a diagrammatic scheme which required investigation only as regards its details. It had become a world without bounds and therefore of infinite possibilities. Yet it was a world whose parts were slowly being revealed as uniformly related according to mathematical rules, the physical bases of which were in process of discovery. And then, toward the end of the century with Newton, it was seen that these mathematical rules of the heavens were the very rules obeyed by earthly engines. The world, as it was more and more explored, seemed everywhere a machine.
It was, of course, true then; as it is, of course, true now that the view of universal law did not and does not occupy the whole mind of all men of science. Most men of science reserved, and still reserve, some department of experience in which they forbid full play to their vision of universal law. But when and where they give rein to that mood, then and there it is bound to displace the mood of faith, nor can the Cartesian compromise stand against it. Thus the three little tracts of Bruno, printed in London in 1584 and containing the essence of his philosophy, mark the real change from mediaeval to modern thought and especially to modern scientific thought. The change was long in coming, longer for some topics than for others longer in some minds than in others. But the coming of that change was inevitable once these three tracts had got abroad. Every attempt was made to suppress them, but they had done their work.
Bruno's view links up with the Pantheism that long after his death came to flower with Spinoza. It was indeed the case that those who condemned him had more cause to fear than he whom they condemned, as he himself said at his trial. But when, ten years later, Galileo's Messenger of the Heavens (1610) announced a host of new stars arranged in no crystalline sphere but stretching magnitude after magnitude, beyond the reach of vision even with his telescopes, it was, indeed, something terrifying that had happened. The whole fabric of traditional thought was at risk, the very scheme that seemed to hold civilisation itself together. There is evidence that from now on Galileo himself was more than a little afraid. The world has hardly, even now, recovered from the fear that he shared.
It is otiose at this date to discuss the misunderstandings of stupid men about the movements of the earth. Yet it is the simple fact that to this day theology has not settled its account on this point of the distinction of Creator and creature. This is no conflict between religion and science. It is a fundamental antithesis between two ways of looking at the world. One of these has developed a philosophy that has come to terms with science; the other has not. One is the Religion of Humanity, the other has remained, in all essentials, traditional Christian theology.
-62-65: CHAPTER VII THE HISTORICAL RECORD - THE ROOT
Since the rise of the New Philosophy in the seventeenth century, the theological apologist has had to bear with him, on his defensive manoeuvres, the enormous burden of a vast, ancient, rigid and antiquated tradition. Many nowadays refuse to take him quite seriously, since they feel that he is not appealing to a real public but rather is entertaining his fellow athletes. There is surely a private world, a multitude of private worlds, where Christ is King. That world does not need his apologetic exercises nor is its nature relevant to the issue before us, nor even, perhaps, substantially supported by any of the theological scaffolding used for erection of the edifices of the Churches. Yet some there are that can still hear a dialogue between the two main ways of thinking that have always commanded the respect of men. And as they listen to the great debate that goes on through the centuries between the philosophy of Theism and that of the Religion of Humanity they can, perhaps, afford to regard the ground-rumble of theological apology as "noises-off." It is with the relation of these two outlooks that they are primarily concerned.
Can the historical record be subsumed under either of these world outlooks? The answer of any theistic thinker must necessarily be "Yes." We must find God in history; if God cannot be found there, he can be found nowhere save in private worlds. If history is devoid of purpose, there can be no real value in human society. This is to say that, effectively at least, there is no God. The Religion of Humanity can afford to accept this situation and is not very greatly shaken thereby. Theism can hardly do so. But to take the theistic standpoint that we can see God in history is very different from saying that we can see or demonstrate God's purpose throughout all history or through most of history. That we certainly can not do.
To assume God and God's purpose in history is to frame a "hypothesis," in the original and primal meaning of that word. A hypothesis in its first sense is literally "something placed under" - that is, a support. God is such a hypothesis, a support to life. Be it noted well that this is no hypothesis in the scientific sense of that word. The one kind of hypothesis, the scientific kind, provides a support for obtaining knowledge; the other kind of hypothesis supports the knowledge when obtained.
Behind these two uses of a word there lies a great deal more than a mere question of definitions, or of current usage, or of etymology. The whole contest around the determinist position is involved, and not only the Christian but the whole theistic outlook is at stake. At the beginning of his Principia Newton uses his famous phrase: "I frame no hypotheses." The prestige of his name led to the bold assertion that "whereas his predecessors described the motions of the heavenly bodies, Newton was the first to explain them." But did he explain them, or has anyone explained them? The matter is important for any theistic view of the world.
The critical passage of Newton runs as follows: "I have not yet been able to deduce from the phenomena the reason of these properties of gravitation and I frame no hypotheses. For whatever cannot be deduced from the phenomena should be called an hypothesis." Now Newton here gives the word its exact original meaning. In the works of Plato, as well as in yet earlier writings, the word "hypothesis" has its literal sense, "a thing placed under," a foundation - that is, a postulated scheme - which must be accepted if discussion is to take place. We have such hypotheses constantly before us in the language of the Law. Of these legal uses some are mere fictions, as that "the king can do no wrong"; others are convenient presentations of an extremely remote possibility, as "the lease that runs for 999 years"; others refer to procedure, as that "a man is innocent [i.e. treated as innocent] until proved guilty." All these are hypotheses in the Platonic and Newtonian sense. None are deduced from the phenomena. None are verifiable. Most are false. All are parts of a working scheme into which certain events can be conveniently and tidily fitted. In this use and sense of the word, Newton was certainly right when he said, "I frame no hypotheses."
But if hypothesis is to mean what we usually understand by a scientific hypothesis, that is to say, a generalisation drawn from a series of observations which, it may reasonably be hoped, will be confirmed by yet further observations, then we must say that Newton was constantly both framing and employing hypotheses. His application to the movements of the moon of the doctrine of gravity as he had experimentally demonstrated it on earth was an obvious example. Once he had such a "hypothesis" that would fit the moon, he could and did apply it to other members of the planetary system. Its verification from the planets strengthened his conviction of the value of his first inference. The whole of his scientific activity was remarkable for invention of such hypotheses. The successful invention of such hypotheses is indeed the very mark of his scientific eminence.
As regards the distinction between description and explanation, the position is somewhat similar. Newton knew that a property which we call gravity is associated with all matter of which we have direct experience. Having reached an exact conception of this property, he proceeds to examine the motions of the planetary bodies and finds that they may be re-expressed in terms of gravity. To do this is to give a description, not an explanation, for as to the nature of gravity, as to why bodies possess gravity, Newton could say nothing at all.
It may reasonably be claimed that such "description" is the true aim of science. Science is ever engaged in bringing things together into new or wider categories and expressing their behaviour in general formula. This merely indicates for us with some clearness the field and the limitation of the scientific method. That method enables us to describe any piece of the universe that we select. To explain such a fragment, it must needs be related to all other pieces. For this, science does not helP at all. In the attempt to present the world as a whole we are left effectively with two outlooks which confront each other, that of Theism and that of the Religion of Humanity. Both are "hypotheses" in the Newtonian and Platonic but not in the scientific sense.
Of either of these religions or "hypotheses" we are entitled to ask: "What then is Man?" The Religion of Humanity avoids the answer or is content with one or more of the scientific answers. To me all of these seem intellectually trivial and fundamentally unsatisfying. For Man is neither a walking test tube nor a living anatomy. He is neither a colony of cells nor a self-repairing machine that carries its own spare parts. He is neither a summation of the factors of heredity and environment nor a unit in a social system. He is neither a logical apparatus nor a bundle of complexes. And, finally, he is not a mere summation of all these things and their like because, among many reasons, these things, as we have seen, cannot be added together. [I noted 'drivel' - RW] But again, as we have seen, we may consider man as a whole as separated from the rest of creation if we think of him as a being with values and, therefore, a being with a purpose.
What is that purpose? The answers to this question are
verbal subterfuges and..
- 68-71: ... all this is that "Being is Becoming." Moreover, such is the history of the human race - "biological evolution" as we are accustomed to call it - that we carry our history in our very bowels. Both spiritually and biologically the dead live in each one of us.
The resemblance between our social and mental life on the one hand and our biological life on the other is more than a mere analogy. We need to remember - and how we long to forget - that we are the resultant of the entirety of our experiences, the bad no less than the good, the pleasant no more than the unpleasant. In the inner sanctum of the private world a man may doubtless be born again through repentance and through grace, but that in no way changes the fact that his sins were sins and have now become parts of his history. And so it is also with human societies. Social institutions, and specifically religions, are the products of historical processes which are not inappropriately compared to the evolution of biological types. Religions, like living organisms, like ourselves, have their rudiments and their vestiges; their dependent, degenerate and parasitic phases; their static and their developmental periods; their rapid metamorphoses and their cataclysmic declines. They, too, carry their history with them. Alike of men and of the lives of men, as of religions,
"Our deeds still travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are."
Therefore, while it would be foolish to judge a religion by its feeblest exponents, it must and should be judged by its historic, its official, its formal representatives. The intelligent and the only intelligible practice of the Church is to be found in the acts of its leaders and the writings of its most respected theologians. We must not accept the common mode of evasion that such men often have not the root of the matter in them. How often one hears of some detestable action or attitude of the Church: "Oh, but that isn't Christianity." But it is Christianity; it is historic Christianity. Whatever pang the limitation may cost the Christian, he cannot be allowed to choose his history, or even to select from it. All that has been is history, and the individual Christian of our day is the heir of the whole historic record of the Christian religion and of Christian civilisation. We live in this moment which, at the next, goes past recall to make us what we shall be. What we do at this moment will be still with us in the next and each one of us is heir of all that has been. History is utterly unforgiving and ruthless.
The acts of the Spanish Inquisition; the massacre of the Albigenses; the record of Luther with reference to the Peasants' Revolt and royal divorce; the inhuman temper of Calvin; the evil lives and designed cruelty of many of the Popes; and, in our time, the temporising of Christians and of Churches with the evil forces that have overwhelmed much of the world; these are, for comparative and scientific purposes, as essential parts of the history of Christianity as are the lives of the saints. All these events, in sober fact, have had their share in shaping current Christianity. They have had their share in shaping Christians themselves.
Some may say that from these acts, these records, these attitudes, these lives, the spirit of Christ had wholly departed. Let it be so. We have not been discussing the spirit of Christ, but the record, and to claim that these things are not representative of the historic process known as Christianity is to attempt to falsify the record. Torquemada, Luther, Calvin, Innocent III, Alexander VI were official exponents of Christianity. They were, indeed, the very embodiments of its history. They were typical products of the history of Christianity just as they shaped the history of Christianity. The Christian apologist must answer for them no whit less than the exponent of the Religion of Humanity must answer for, let us say, the persecution of religion in Russia. And should the Christian apologist evade the charges against historic Christianity of the many accommodations that it has made with the forces of evil of our time?
Can there be a quantitative measure of inhumanity? If so, we should need to rank the standard of cruelty attained by Christianity high among the achievements of the great religions and the great civilisations. The Christian attainment in cruelty has certainly not been lower than anything of the sort reached by the religion of Humanity. And even in our time the overwhelming majority of National Socialists still Profess a formal Christianity.
The man who can read history and say that Christianity has not produced many abominations, many horrors, many perversions of the human spirit, must have been reading with specially constructed spectacles. Yet how many there are who habitually wear these odd distorters of vision. We are urged to make our society Christian. But Europe had been Christian for a full nine hundred years after the vision of the Cross had come to Constantine when every soul in B‚ziers was butchered in Christ's own name, by the will of Christ's own vicar. "Kill all; the Lord will know His own." It is but one example among many; but this, and all the wickedness that led to it and flowed from it, was approved by one of the greatest of those who have sat in Peter's seat. Each of the centuries as it went by was lit by its own cruel fires and religious wars. How grand if we could wipe out these records as from a slate. We cannot. The human soul may doubtless be freed from sin by grace, but history never forgives. That, to me, is one of the most solemn thoughts that is.
The plain record is that some of the fiercest and most cruel peoples that the world has seen have exhibited their fiercest and most cruel moods in the very name of Christianity. The plain record is that among the fiercest and most cruel wars have been those waged by Christians in the cause of what they regarded as their religion. The plain record is that massacre, torture and pillage have repeatedly been employed by Christian men in what they held to be a Christian cause. And, above all, the plain record is that the leadership of the Christian world has seldom had any clear relationship to personal sanctity.
Theologians will doubtless be loth to believe that the history of Christianity can have anything to do with the shape of the religious war in which we now find ourselves, but the theologians will be wrong. If Christianity means anything at all, it means that history is all of a piece, and that, were our knowledge adequate, a pattern could be traced in the human drama throughout the ages. Nor is it theologians alone who refuse to remove the veil that they have themselves drawn over their eyes and are blind to that which they do not wish to see. Yet to some of those who are not theologically minded, it is not at all difficult to discern how a modern religion of hate, cruelty and pride has developed out of religion as expounded by such men as those who have been named above. The loathsome and satanic religion of National Socialism seems to have come as a surprise to Christians. It has not come at all as a surprise to some of the observers of historic Christianity. Those who have read the life of Martin Luther or Alexander VI need not be astounded at the life of Adolf Hitler. There is a stock whose root is rottenness and its fruit shall come up as dust.
In the physical world there is a law of the indestructibility of energy, but there is also a rule of passage from a higher to a lower potential. The pebble dropped into a ...
- 75-85: CHAPTER VIII THE CHURCHES IN CRISIS--THE FRUIT
THE true measure of influence of Christianity on the body politic is surely the way in which the community of Christian states--and, above all, the Christian Churches of those states - respond to acts which ignore or views which repudiate central Christian doctrines. Surely the I most fundamental, anticipating even the Incarnation, is that there is a dignity and worth of the individual soul, for without that the Incarnation itself would be meaningless. How have Christian states and Christian Churches responded?
We pass over the record of the Churches in relation to torture and cruelty. We set aside compulsory conversion, along with the wars of religion, the horrors of inquisitions and of their variants, and the subtler but yet more deadly enemy of human dignity, clerical censorship in all its forms. It is better to be silent as to the witch-mania as well as to the Christian doctrine of serfdom. We must not print specimens of the foul invective which became a commonplace of theological debate, nor discuss the persistent and systematic defamatory propaganda of the Church against Islam and against Judaism, compared to which that of Goebbels shows as a mere prentice effort. Forget the futilities of the Crusades and the endless and fruitless misery and bereavement that they brought upon mankind. Pass over the long monopoly of higher education by the Churches, as well as the record of the Churches in their subservient moods as buttresses of ruling powers or classes. Turn rather to the situation as it is.
Memories are short. The failure of Christian states to respond to the call of human suffering seems to many to be a major cause of the crisis of our civilisation, but pass that by to consider the Christian leadership. Will anyone suggest that everywhere men who call themselves Christian have been for the last ten years aflame with the outrages inflicted on the most sacred human rights? Will anyone say that the leaders of the Churches, or that Christian men who occupy high positions in politics, were in general, or even often, early to see and to proclaim that acts of injustice were foul offences against the Christian conscience? Will anyone make this claim, for example, for the major ecclesiastical and lay leaders of the great Churches from 1933 onward, men whose names must be in the minds of any reader? No one will do so, for the opposite is most certainly the case. The conception of the nature of the crisis came late to leading Christians. It was accepted very reluctantly by them. Those outside the Christian fold, and notably exponents of the Religion of Humanity, long anticipated them.
Memories are short. A very few examples--there is no space for more--of how Christian leaders have shouldered their moral responsibilities, may perhaps serve to awaken some memories. It would be best not to adduce as a Christian responsibility acts of those whose Christianity may be doubted by any Christian, or of those who do not represent a large section of Christian opinion. We must seek typical examples.
Consider what was held to be the best standard of Christian conduct only four short years ago. A single but typical example must suffice. The Dean of Chichester, particularly well known for his humane and modern views issued a learned and authoritative work, The Struggle for Religious Freedom in Germany. (The Preface is dated May 1938.) This scholarly production will doubtless remain current as a record of the events that it records, though at the time of its issue there had ceased to be any effective struggle, if indeed such had ever existed. In sober fact, it had never been conducted with any very convincing vigour, or by any but a minute proportion of professed Christians in Germany. This admirable book is, in effect, a presentation of the Christian effort, not for religious freedom--for no such effort was seriously made--but for the freedom of certain Churches. The text runs to 270 pages, and the treatment of Jews is not discussed until the two hundred and sixty-seventh. There it receives exactly one and a half lines in the following passage:
"It certainly does not become us to utter one word of reproach for those who have not been able to rise to sacrificial heights. Nor may we criticise those who have so risen, because they have not done something else as well; because, for example, they have not made a violent protest against the shameful treatment of the Jews, or the horror of the concentration camps.
"Karl Barth, himself a Swiss, has forestalled any such criticism for us in his lecture at Oxford, when he asks how little likely it is that the Christians of any other country would have given greater proof." (Italics added.)
So much for the heroism that a Christian expected Christianity to elicit in its most devoted adherents. And this 1,600 years after the adoption of Christianity as the State religion of Europe. A Christian, defending the action of representatives of his faith, hints that the same courage and steadfastness cannot be expected from the soldiers of Christ as we are now daily witnessing by the ten thousand from the soldiers of Satan. But one cause of the feebleness of the Churches shows through this very passage. Apart from the point that Professor Barth, far from forestalling any such criticism in his lecture, had in fact dealt with it most inadequately, it must be said that the very plan of the book is corrupted by the great Christian fallacy. Nor is it this book alone. There is now a large literature on the anti-Christian movement in Germany and I have been able to find very few indeed that do not contain the same fallacy.
Before going further the reader should be seized of what so open-minded a Christian as Dr. Duncan-Jones regarded, as late as May 1938, as "forestalling any criticism." In Dr. Barth's lecture, as printed, the sole reference to the subject is contained in the following passage which exposes with great frankness the unhealthy state of European Christianity:
"There are many spectators in other countries of the struggle of the Church in Germany who make it a cause of reproach that the Church has not given a greater proof of the reality of the Christian faith. Why, one hears it asked, have the Christians in Germany not been able to prevent the horrors of National-socialism, the concentration camps, the persecution of the Jews? Yes, and still more: where were the Christians in Germany when this National-socialism first rose up? Why did they for the most part go so far as to accompany it with enthusiasm? Such questions lie only too near; but one should be very careful before giving expression to them. It is only too easy to overlook much: how complicated the situation in Germany had become in the fifteen years after the War, how weak internally the position of the Church at that time was, how easy it was at the beginning of 1933 to deceive oneself as to the bolshevistic character of the Hitler movement, and above all, how little likely it is that the Christians of any other country would have been in a position to give in similar circumstances that greater proof of the reality of the Christian faith. But even if it be assumed that a greater proof would in fact have been possible, this remains true: a small proof of the reality of the faith has been given and is still being given by the Church in Germany." [Footnote: Trouble and Promise in the Struggle of the Church in Germany, by Karl Barth: "Translation of the substance of the Deneke Lecture at Oxford on 4 March 1938 by P. V. M, Benecke" (Oxford, 1938).]
Yes, Dr. Barth is just in his claims. But no one has ever suggested that there were no Christians. What many more than suspect, however, is that Christians are very few and that they are little represented in the leading of the Churches. Thus, to return to Dr. Duncan-Jones' account of their position, if the question of the relations of the Churches to the Nazi Movement is to be treated as a whole, if the attempt is made to get these relations into true historic perspective, if in fact we are to understand what has happened in Germany, then the passage quoted above from Dr. Duncan-Jones' book is wrongly placed and wrongly stressed. It should open the whole story, not close it as a sort of afterthought. Surely the treatment of Christians has a related sequence to the treatment of Jews. The false step taken early in 1933 by the Church leaders in accepting the "shameful treatment" of Jews, as Dr. Duncan-Jones rightly calls it, was at least a factor that led to the shameful treatment of Christians as Dr. Duncan-Jones wrongly omits to indicate. It was at least partly because the Church leaders had uncovered the nakedness of their own professions, and had showed that they had no regard for human dignity, that they were exposed to treatment with contempt by their enemies. How could it have been otherwise? Surely even on the very simplest Christian view a man must be a man before he can be a Christian, and God's estimate of man's worth must precede His Sacrifice. Every Nazi knew that.
The book rightly indicates that the enemies of the Churches were not slow to perceive their weakness. Dull indeed would they have been to have missed it! It needed no very recondite knowledge of human character to foresee that opponents of the Churches were likely thus to react to signs of yielding, especially by their leaders, to doctrines and practices manifestly opposed to the most elementary Christian principles. Yet the leaders of the Churches in Germany, while the Churches were still "intact," made no protest till their own interests were manifestly and immediately threatened. And even when they did at last make some stand, their protests were--as they still are - with insignificant exceptions, based upon their corporate rights or deduced from their own specific doctrines and not upon the dignity and worth of man as man which surely forms the very basis of all their teaching.
By the Catholic Church in Germany, so far as I have been able to learn, practically no stand has been made except upon its own rights. The material has been ably collected and admirably set forth in the anonymous volume: Persecution of the Catholic Church in the Third Reich (London, 1940). Much of this refers to the critical years when National Socialism was newly in power and something might have been effected. But evidence of efforts to take a stand on the rights of man as a child of God, instead of his rights as a member of the Church, is conspicuous by its absence. On this Point the story is practically identical with that of the Protestant Churches. [Footnote: Such protests as were made by the Churches are collected by Elizabeth Castonier, The Eternal Front, 1942, "The inside story of the Christian opposition--both Protestant and Catholic- to Nazi doctrine within Germany and in the occupied countries of Europe, with translations from original documents." It is a very short book and, especially for Central Europe, singularly unconvincing. For Poland the Jews are not even mentioned!]
Dr. Duncan-Jones' book and Dr. Barth's lecture must suffice as examples of the state of informed and sympathetic Christian feeling in the first half of the year before the war. Let us pass to the end of that year and again take a typical example.
November 11th is a day of remembrance, the Armistice Day of the termination of the 1914--18 War. The eve of that day in 1938, four years ago, was celebrated by a massacre of Jews in Germany. Nearly all their synagogues were burnt under police supervision. Thousand of homes were wrecked by Government-directed violence. Many persons were killed, and yet more died of ill treatment. The German Churches showed hardly any reaction at all. But on that November 11th, National Socialism having been in power for five years and nine months, the then Archbishop of Canterbury wrote as follows to The Times:
"Strain upon British Friendship.
"SIR, -- I believe that I speak for the Christian people of this country in giving immediate expression to the feelings of indignation with which we have read of the deeds of cruelty and destruction which were perpetrated last Thursday in Germany and Austria. Whatever provocation may have been given by the deplorable act of a single irresponsible Jewish youth, reprisals on such a scale, so fierce, cruel and vindictive, cannot possibly be justified. A sinister significance is added to them by the fact that the police seem either to have acquiesced in them or to have been powerless to restrain them.
"It is most distasteful to write these words just when there is in this country a general desire to be on friendly terms with the German nation. But there are times when the mere instincts of humanity make silence impossible. Would that the rulers of the Reich could realise that such excesses of hatred and malice put upon the friendship which we are ready to offer them an almost intolerable strain!
"I trust that in our Churches on Sunday and thereafter remembrance may be made in our prayers of those who have suffered this fresh onset of persecution and whose future seems to be so dark and hopeless.
"Yours faithfully, COSMO CANTUAR: "LAMBETH PALACE, November 11th, 1938" (Italics added.)
The language of this letter may be subject to a little analysis. "Whatever provocation may have been given by ... an irresponsible youth, reprisals on such a scale, so fierce, cruel and vindictive, cannot possibly be justified." This can only have a meaning if it be supposed that reprisals on a lesser scale could be justified. To give a meaning to the word "possibly," it must be supposed that the writer seeks at least to palliate reprisals on a lesser scale. Moreover, the sentence carries the suggestion that an act of an irresponsible youth is a provocation.
"It is distasteful to write these words when there is a general desire to be on friendly terms with the German nation...but mere instincts of humanity make silence impossible." As though at other times reprisals would be of less significance or their discussion less distasteful, and as though nothing but the most extreme act could justify silence! The same suggestion is made a third and fourth t;me. "Would that the rulers of the Reich could realise that such excesses of hatred and malice put upon the friendship which we are ready to offer them an almost intolerable strain.') To give this sentence meaning, it must again be supposed that excesses less outrageous would put only a tolerable strain! Had the Archbishop ever heard of Mein Kampf?
Is there one of the six sentences of this letter which bears a distinctive Christian mark? Is there one that expressed what was by then the general feeling that had been reached by the people of this country? That the laity differ from their official leaders is perhaps to be explained by their having a different basic religion. But if ecclesiastical language is intended to mean anything--and perhaps it is not--this letter can only mean that an English Archbishop had only a qualified disapproval of these crimes committed upon non-Christians. Of course, much of this is mere blundering in the use of language. But that such blunders can be made, and that repeatedly, reveals a hesitance and cowardice in the presence of revealed evil that augurs ill for the Church in the world that is struggling to birth.
The temporising hesitancy of this letter, and comparable actions by other high ecclesiastics in several confessions, in part reflected and in part determined the wavering reluctance of Christendom in the face of what, to all outside the Christian fold, was apparent as a direct attack on the very essence of Christianity. There were, happily, others who, if they could not speak in the name of a formal ecclesia, could do so for that universal Church that is to be found wherever two or three are gathered together unto the Name. At the time when the Archbishop was finding it "distasteful" to write a word against National Socialism, Dr. Karl Barth who, as resident in Germany, had seen the thing at close hand from the beginning, and whose previously expressed view must have been familiar to all responsible theologians, was now perfectly clear as to the danger that threatened Christianity. [Footnote: Dr.Barth is not German but Swiss by birth and early education. He has been professor of theology in three German universities: G”ttingen, 1921-5, Mnster, 1925-30, Bonn, 1930-5. In 1935, when residence in Germany became impossible for him on account of his views, Dr. Barth returned to his native Basel, where he has since held a chair.] Dr. Barth wrote as follows from within sight of the German frontier:
"The Church should have established from her own perceptions and knowledge that in National Socialism there had entered the field not only a strange God, but a hostile, evil God, and a hostile, evil service of God. The decisive reason for this does not lie in the anti-Christian asseverations and actions of National Socialism. It lies in that thing which, in this last week, has specially moved us, namely the anti-Semitism which is one of its principles. This by itself is sufficient to justify the sentence National Socialism is the anti-Church fundamentally hostile to Christianity. Hitler and those responsible do not realise, of course, the thing that they have touched upon. When it is resolved to exterminate the people of Israel, to burn the synagogues and Scriptures, to reject the 'Jew God' and the 'Jew Bible' as the essence of abomination to the German, then an attempt is made to strike a mortal blow into the roots of the Church. Can any even wish to close his ears to all the unutterable misery caused by this anti-Semitic pest, crying to Heaven in every German country? How can Christian ears do other than tingle? Objectively what are we without Israel? He who rejects and persecutes the Jews rejects and persecutes Him who died for the sins of the Jews and thereby for our sins. A radical enemy of the Jews is a radical enemy of Jesus Christ. Anti-Semitism is a sin against the Holy Ghost for it is rejection of the grace of God. But National Socialism lives, moves and has its being in anti-Semitism. What sign must still come if this does not say to the Church that she can have nothing whatever to do with National Socialism; that she has to awake and at every point resolutely to reject it." [Footnote: For the reader's sake I have slightly abbreviated this passage and somewhat simplified Professor Barth's very involved style of writing. The passage will be found in full in his The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day (London, 1939).]
But Dr. Barth was, from the beginning, fighting what proved a losing battle. The large majority of those who called themselves Christian outside Germany, and an increasing and finally overwhelming proportion of those who called themselves Christian within the German orbit, still preferred to temporise in the spirit of the Archbishop's letter. It is true that now, in 1942, most Christians have received such an awakening that a change in the temper of Christendom is clearly observable. But it was before that change that this vast evil had fastened itself on European civilisation. For its alleviation, on the most hopeful estimate, the work of unborn generations will be needed. It is an evil so great that it must bulk as one of the major incidents in European history. But Nazi iniquity is only one side of the picture: a side with which all are now familiar. Christians complaisance and hesitancy, trimming and time-serving, is the other side of the picture. From that Christians have very wrongly and unwisely averted their gaze. It is truly an ugly sight and an ugly story.
Memories are short. The Archbishop was not the only one engulfed by the Christian fallacy. What was the proportion of Christian leaders who, professing their religion to be Catholic or Ecumenical or Universal or Orthodox, exclaimed at the first hearing that the claim of a race to override the rights and dignity of man as man could by no means be Christian or compatible with Christianity? The true answer is that there were hardly any Christian leaders who assumed that attitude until the nature of the crisis had long been obvious to every intelligent non-Christian observer. The profession of Christianity added no penetration at all to scrutiny of the situation, but seems rather to have dimmed the spiritual vision. Not until it became quite evident, even to the wilfully blind, that the Churches themselves were threatened were their leaders able to see through what did not seem to others a particularly dense fog. Since then they have discovered that National Socialism is wickedness. Since then they have seen, what others saw long before them, how weak and feeble and sick is Christianity in ...
- 88-93: .. or not--it is a very grave portent that the Churches in Germany were so extremely tardy as to appear actually reluctant to defend the civilisation, the ethics, and the liberty of their own creation. The gravity of the portent is not lessened but emphasised by stressing the internal weakness and division of the Churches.
The line adopted by Dr. Barth that, to quote his own words, after Hitler's seizure of power, "the Church of Christ took some time to recognise the Nazi r‚gime as its enemy," is certainly true, but it carries with it an extremely severe condemnation of the leaders of that Church, including Dr. Barth and including Niem”ller himself. The racial policy of National Socialism was the very basis of Hitler's Mein Kampf. This book, which both Dr. Niem”ller and Dr. Barth had certainly read, was published in the years 1925-6. The racial policy was given a Prominent place in all Hitler's early speeches. It was also given a place in the often published and very widely circulated Programme of the Party, to which my own attention was drawn in 1931 by several German colleagues. It is quite impossible to believe that German Church leaders were ignorant of the significance of a current matter of internal German policy perfectly familiar to every intelligent German outside clerical circles as well as to many foreigners. It is very much easier to believe that Church Leaders hoped that by silence or by compromise or by accepting the Nazi r‚gime, they and their followers and Churches would escape attack. Of humanity outside their own Churches they were not thinking and, with very few exceptions, there is no evidence that they have much thought even now. That, I believe, is the highly discreditable fact. That I believe to be a major key to the religious situation in Europe. That great lapse is a most important historic event and is an integral and irremovable part of the history of Christianity. Those who seek to conceal this do an ill-service to Christianity.
Memories are short, but the plain and damnatory fact, which the historian will record, is that from 1933 and for four full years and more, all the major Churches sought to come to terms with the abominable heresies of National Socialism and Fascism. In so far as the Churches spoke at all it was, at least until 1937, evasively and with the manifest desire to avoid committal.
Memories are short, but with the documents of these years before him the historian will not omit to record, as significant events in the history of Christianity, many incidents which some would fain forget. There are the papal agreements with the murderers and blasphemers, Hitler and Mussolini. There are the many early equivocal pronouncements of high Anglican dignitaries. There is the expertly oracular amphibology that has consistently emanated from the Vatican. There is the pitiful breakdown of Protestantism in Germany and its substantial absorption into the Nazi system. There is the miserable acceptance of National Socialism by Austrian clerics and notably the open allegiance to Hitler and his doctrines by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Innitzer. There are the many unholy alliances in many Roman Catholic countries between Churches and Fascism from 1933 to 1938 and beyond. There has been the ill-concealed sympathy of many if not most Churches with totalitarian methods. There is the inhuman indifference of the Central European Churches, and the very slow reaction of all the Churches outside Germany, in face of organised anti-Semitism. How slow it was, how dull it was, how reluctant, how inhuman, how unimaginative, how senseless it was, only those who watched the situation at near hand will, perhaps, ever fully realise. There is the stupid and semi-wilful blindness of the Churches to the evident fact that the formal basis of National Socialism is not only a denial of Christianity, but makes it also a deadly enemy, not only to Christianity, but to every thing that is universal in every religion. There is the degrading silence of the elderly adolescent who represented Britain in Berlin. There is the ill-concealed support of Hitler's way by certain so-called statesmen in this country. Not least there is the long procession of presumably Christian British Foreign Secretaries, so humiliatingly tongue-tied whenever confronted with the denial of the humane foundations of that international law which is, perhaps, one of the greatest products of Christianity. Perhaps they and other heroes of the Munich agreement and of German and Italian appeasement have now reached the conclusion that we all are members one of another. It is a pity that their spoken words still do not more clearly indicate as much. Is there any passage in all our history that raises such a blush as our foreign policy from 1933 to 1939?
Regarded as an event in the long course of ecclesiastical history, the striking feature of the terrible episode through which we are living is negative. Nothing that has happened in it is as significant as what has not happened. There was, until the Churches themselves were in unmistakeable danger, no general Christian upsurge of indignation, even against their own treatment. The salient spiritual characteristic of our age has been the failure of the Churches to produce seers or martyrs or even great leaders. Christian reaction to the situation has been very, very slow and, in general, very, very reluctant.
Think of the hundreds of millions of people in Europe who call themselves Christian and then of the minute number of those who have made any voluntary sacrifice for their Christian faith. Their names are mostly known - Niem”ller and the rest. They made, till quite recently, a mere stage army that passed in and out of the news. Those who have shown any willingness to sacrifice themselves for Christianity, outside perhaps Holland and Norway, form the merest handful. Even fewer are those who have shown, by deliberately facing personal danger, any care for Christian ethics.
The theologians have manfully wielded their pens overtime, but Christian men who by their lives and with their lives have shown eagerness or even willingness to bear practical witness to their faith have been conspicuously few. Compare the numbers of this tiny band to the hosts of young men who have risked and lost their lives gladly for the idolatrous Religion of Nationalism. Hardly one of the very few Christian protesters who has taken a personal risk has occupied a prominent ecclesiastical position. If the blood of the martyrs be indeed the seed of the Church, then we must have lean spiritual years ahead, The name Niem”ller is constantly "in the news," but in the Lutheran Church alone and in the limits of the old Reich there were some 20,000 pastors. And, moreover, Niemi”ller himself was a Nazi till he realised that the Church itself was threatened. I have read all his available sermons. They are able and eloquent, but if they contain a breath of humanity, in the sense in which that word is normally understood, then it has escaped me.
But if saints and martyrs, and even steadfast and consistent Christians, have been few, even fewer have been the Christian leaders who, early in this world-crisis, showed insight as to its essentially spiritual origin. We now have it dinned into our ears that Christianity is in danger from these new religions of National Socialism and Fascism, of course it is. So it was from the first. But when did Christian leaders discover this extremely unpleasant truth? The answer is that it took hardly any of them less than four years to reach this elementary conclusion. Yet the fundamental incompatibility of Christianity with the Religion of Nationality--"the new paganism," as it came to be called--was abundantly evident from the very first to many outside the Christian fold, of whom this writer was one. The twenty-five point programme of the Nazi Party was published in 1920, not 1942, and there was, above all, Mein Kampf.
The Religion of Humanity has had a better record than Christianity during these apocalyptic years. Without the Religion of Humanity our state now would be even worse than it is. Human mercy would have been an even scarcer commodity, and this war would have assumed on both sides, instead of only on the Axis side, all the traditional horrors of a "war of religion." Looking back on the last three centuries of history, the Religion of Humanity can be seen increasingly as the effective working faith of the great "humanitarian" movement so characteristic of the age. This rise of the Religion of Humanity, largely indistinguishable as a separate faith, has concealed an insidious, an ancient and a deep-seated process in the course of which Christian faith has receded as a motive.
To ascribe this recession to "science" is a shallow misunderstanding. The Churches, it is true, have shown an indisposition or an incapacity to adapt themselves to the philosophic needs of the time, dating from an outstanding and unsettled account with the New Philosophy. But this last is a mere symptom of a much deeper lesion, for far more important than events external to Christianity has been an insidious process the seeds of which were sown much earlier. The trouble lies within the Churches not without.
- 93: CHAPTER IX THE CHRISTIAN FALLACY
Such is the situation as seen by one, and I believe by many, outside the Christian fellowship and by some at least within. In this, one of the greatest contests of all time, the religion of Christianity is receding. I believe that this will continue until some internal revolutionary change becomes manifest within the Church of Christ. The nature of that upheaval cannot be hazarded, but it must be of internal origin. No external event will serve. The trouble has arisen within, nor, to those without, do some of the seeds of decay seem wholly obscure. In traditional Christian habits of thought they perceive grave dissonances summarised and typified in a tension of ancient standing between the claims of the Church and those of the Faith.
Certain elements, which have in part both contributed to this tension and arisen from it, may be separately distinguished. On the negative Side we have referred to (1) a maladjustment to the "new philosophy," leading to (2) displacement of Christianity in the social field by its rival, the Religion of Humanity, opening the way for (3) further weakening of the Christian position by totalitarianism, at first welcomed by most Churches. On the positive side we have to consider (1) the fallacy that history may be read selectively, treating some events as though they had not been, (2) an ostrich-like fantasy that the Church's failures in the field of her own doctrine are not apparent to those without, and (3) the deadening illusion that the Faith can be supported by the State. There is a widespread fallacy that certain major passages, incidents, personalities, and aspects of personalities ...
-94-95: [Interesting material on Luther and written works, many not translated says Singer, as a foul mouthed bigoted type, especially as anti-Jewish. This is not put into perspective though, nor [Note: censorship:] can 'all that he says of them.. be printed in decent English'.]
96-7: Hitler as follower of Luther
'Not a few theologians' follow Hitler, heir of Luther.
99: 'There is, or rather was, a separate and specifically Jewish civilisation. That civilisation.. is now in the ladt stages of decay..'
(Singer seems not interested in the German peasants; nor in other massacres, e.g. Armenians).
-102-103: .. compulsory or, as it has now become, semi-compulsory religious element in our own State schools,
Should it succeed, what can be hoped from it? For a full thousand years the Church has possessed an endowed representative in each of the hundreds of thousands of parishes throughout Europe. She has controlled all schools and all seats of learning and maintained a representative in almost all institutions. Thus states have become specifically Christian and have been designated as such. Moreover the Church herself has always distinguished between states that are Christian and those that are not. If, therefore, after all these centuries, Christian states still fail to act on ethical principles distinguishable as Christian, then Christianity must be held to have failed in its major field. It has been an extremely long experiment--long even on the grand, historical scale. It has been a most unsuccessful experiment.
It is sometimes disingenuously rejoined that the State itself is not the field in which to seek the characteristic social contribution of the Church, which is the emphasis on the individual. This is certainly true in the limited but highly important sense that Christianity has succeeded in making a consideration of the dignity and worth of the individual a part of the ordinary thought of many ordinary men. But the challenge cannot be thus avoided. How has the Church presented, developed, exampled, that which she claims, with partial justice, as her own doctrine of man's birthright, the preciousness of human personality? Seek to history for the answer.
Historically, states have been habitually guided by men who called themselves Christian. Historically, such states have constantly elaborated ingenious apparatus for compulsory conformity in all its varied and various degrees and forms, designed to bring to nothing the dignity and worth of the individual. Historically, organised Christianity has been the chief enemy of that for which its greatest claim is made. The greatest concession to the dignity and worth of the individual is that he shall worship God as he believes God desires. That concession has never been made by Christianity. Rather it has been wrung from Christianity by the Religion of Humanity, and that only in very modern times.
Historically, the Churches have always claimed to guide the State. There was an epoch in which they really succeeded. Only a crazed medievalist will suggest that then was the Golden Age. It was the age in which the Inquisition began its evil course; it was the age of forced conversion; it was an age of basest superstition; it was an age of the most extreme mental contraction in which all the wisdom of antiquity dwindled away; it was the age in which beliefs known to be untrue were most sedulously inseminated from the highest quarters; it was the age of the most rigid separation of classes; it was the age of serfdom; it was the age of barbarous cruelty in which the statesmen of the Church may have succeeded in reforming morals within the monasteries, but conspicuously failed outside them. But to the next age--and to that section of the Church whose special charge it was to voice the claim of the individual conscience--it was left to sink the worth and dignity of the individual to nothing at all. The Cujus regio, ejus religio, "Of whom the power, his be the religion," of the Peace of Augsburg L(1555) Carried an equal threat to freedom of conscience and to faith. To that most evil of compromises between several evils, we trace directly the spiritual dilemma of our times, though the origin of the tension thus expressed must be sought much further back in history.
The point of view makes so much difference to the appearance of the scene surveyed. Thus to those within the Church Innocent III seems one of its great architects, ...
107-115: CHAPTER X A PERSONAL NOTE
WE are in a spiritual blizzard. In the last chapter I have expressed my belief that, despite its anachronistic and threadbare covering, the Jewish faith is standing the weather better than the Christian (p. 99). This may seem difficult to believe. I feel, therefore, that I cannot end this little volume without some justificatory evidence. I am not at all concerned here with either of the two religions as such and still less with their theology; least of all would I wish to claim that one is better than the other. I am concerned only with the relation to conduct of certain habits of thought. For our purpose, the actual ethics of the two faiths are identical.
It is difficult to display the relation between religious thought-habits and conduct because, in our modern complex world, conduct is determined by so many cross-currents. Turning the matter over, I have reluctantly reached the conclusion that certain relations that I have myself observed can best be made clear by telling something of my own life. I am not so simple as to suppose that my own experience is, in itself, either sufficiently interesting or sufficiently important to be worth relating, but I can think of no better way of putting outside myself certain things that I see clearly.
I was born in London sixty-seven years ago. My father was a rabbi and, like my mother, of English birth. He was a man of learning and culture, but, before all things, a minister of religion. He is remembered as the author of the standard translation into English of the Hebrew liturgy. This was made during my most impressionable period. I was, from my childhood, constantly in and out of his library in which he was engaged upon this, his main work. There, even as a child, I came in contact with many distinguished Jewish and Christian scholars and often heard their discussions. There was, of course, much that I could not understand, but I was accustomed to ask my father questions about their talk which he would try to answer as suited my childish powers. I believe that he enjoyed thus reducing difficult theological and philosophical problems to their simplest forms. I, on my side, learned at least to keep quiet and to listen, so that I have a memory richly stored with matters of this kind.
My father was an observant and deeply religious, though certainly very far from what is usually called an "orthodox" Jew. His sympathies were always with what is now known as "Liberal" Judaism, a movement that was making considerable progress in my later formative years. Had he been a Christian divine he would doubtless have belonged to what used to be the "Broad Church." His intellectual interests were wide. One of the memories of my early teens is that of his reading to me some of the dialogues of Plato in the then comparatively new version of Jowett. I can well recall his comments, suited to a childish mind, and his simplified accounts of the impact of Greek philosophy on the Hebrew religion. He spent also much time and thought explaining to me the differences between Judaism and Christianity, and I learned from him something of Hebrew and rabbinic studies. This balanced my schooling, which was entirely in a Christian atmosphere.
Toward the Bible my father took what was then regarded as an "advanced" attitude. He was an excellent German scholar and made a point of keeping abreast of the literature of biblical criticism which then emanated mostly from Germany. But he was an especial lover of the English Bible. I shall always carry with me the echo of his declamation of the messianic chapters of Isaiah and especially of the great passages of Judaeo-Christian controversy. Their cadence is, I think, constantly sounded in his English renderings of the Hebrew liturgy.
My father had a devoted young friend and disciple, Israel Abrahams, who rose, as is generally admitted, to be one of the great Hebrew scholars of our time. He is well remembered in learned circles for his New Testament studies and the light from rabbinic sources that he shed upon the Gospel narratives. His expositions of certain aspects of the Hebrew religion seem to me on a peculiarly lofty plane. He and his friend, Claude Montefiore, worked together for many years. They did more than any others to reveal to the English reader some of those elements that give the Jewish religion its astonishing vitality and power of endurance. Both were very often with my father.
Moving in such an atmosphere, few can have had more competent early biblical instruction than I, and it is in no way remarkable that this should have set its stamp on my thoughts. After sixty years I find that some of those early lessons are reflected in my dreams. Nothing in literature means so much to me as the magnificent roll of some parts of the Book of Isaiah which I can still hear resounding in the voice of my father or of Montefiore. To any with experience comparable to mine, the decline in Bible-reading with the corresponding impoverishment of language and thought must appear a national disaster.
Along with religious and biblical instruction, I received a grounding in Hebrew. Of this I acquired the first elements from my Christian nurse. She had been my father's nurse also, and had learned something of Hebrew in trying to follow his studies when he himself was a mere boy. My father had been left an orphan at fourteen, and she lived with him for fifty-three years in all and died in his service. She would at one time gladly have become a Jewess, but my father was against this course. As with most Jews, he attached no great importance to professions of faith. Since in this case proselytisation might have been misinterpreted--as almost every act may be misinterpreted--he preferred, and she came to prefer, that she should live and die a professed Christian.
As I seek to recall my childhood, there stand out vividly in the background two events which affected the life of my family. They both proved significant for subsequent European history, and especially for developments of the last decade. Those developments were actually foreseen much more clearly and far earlier by most intelligent Jews than by any but a minute proportion of Christians. The two events that changed the spiritual climate in which my youth was passed were the wave of persecution of Jews in Russia and the rise of Zionism.
The era of pogroms in Russia began in 1881. I will not set down again the story of those wicked deeds, of the organised massacres of thousands and of the systematic degradation of millions of God's creatures. I recall only the famous saying of a Russian statesman of the time who claimed to be directing the Russian Church. "When the pressure on the six million Jews in the Russian Empire has had its full effect," said the Procurator of the Holy Synod, "one-third will be dead, one-third will have fled the country and the remaining third will have adopted the Christian religion." These pogroms were organised by the Russian Government as the means to such an end. If they were not approved, they were substantially ignored by the ecclesiastical chiefs of the Russian Church. They were actually directed by the supreme lay chiefs of that Church. Their ostensible cause was, in the first instance, the murder of the Czar Alexander II, with which, in fact, no Jew had anything whatever to do. These are things that Christian theologians may forget, but they are things which the historians of Christian civilisation will certainly remember.
The degrading record of carefully directed murder, pillage, persecution and humiliation can be traced until the outbreak of the First World War. When I recall the sequence of events in those thirty-five years of the history of the Jews in Russia, I often wonder that any human beings emerged sane from them. To seek among men and women, fleeing from generations of such horrors, the poise and balance of those who have behind them generations of security and peace, is to seek what human faculties will not yield. To expect that those who have suffered these things will be able to train their children in the calm, wise atmosphere of an established and historic culture, and that in a language that is foreign to them, is to ask them to exhibit superhuman powers. It is a fact that a great many Jews are abnormal beings. Our civilisation must take it to heart that, whatever happens, it must be at least some generations before the Jewish people can possibly return to a normal condition.
Among my earliest memories is the talk of my elders concerning the state of the stricken multitudes, fleeing to Western Europe as a haven of refuge, mostly hoping to find their way to the "land of promise," America. As the emigrant ships, packed with their wretched human cargoes, approached the harbour of New York, there loomed up out of the mist the great statue of Liberty holding her torch aloft. Had they known the language they might have read inscribed on that monument certain verses written by an American Jewess:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
EMMA LAZARUS, 1849-87.
It was the action of secular men that made possible the passage to America and the settlement there of these outcasts from Europe. How did the Churches comport themselves toward the mass of human misery? The Greek Orthodox Church connived at all this cruelty. The Catholic Church had almost nothing to say. The German and other Continental Protestant Churches in effect ignored it. The Churches of the English-speaking countries were at least benevolent to the victims and took a stand somewhat more speedily than they did on the German persecution in the twentieth century.
There were, of course, in the nineteenth century as there are in the twentieth many Christians sufficiently interested to pass resolutions on the matter. A few too saw then, what has perhaps become more obvious now, that unchristian conduct is at least as much a Christian problem as it is a Jewish problem, even when the victims are Jews. My father was much occupied with the relief of distress among the Russian and Polish refugees and was in constant contact with the very few Christians actively involved in such work. He made a number of journeys to Eastern Europe and to various parts of the Continent, to learn something of the sources of the endless waves of misery that beat upon our shores. On several occasions I travelled with him, to bear him company and to keep him in spirits, for contact with suffering made him very depressed. Thus when little more than a child, I obtained a first-hand glimpse of how anti-Semitism was becoming a factor in that dissolution of civilisation which we are all now forced to admit as a reality.
I have often reflected that the world might have gone differently during the last ten years if the leaders of Christianity had not repeatedly turned a deaf ear to those whose tradition of millennia gives them a unique insight as to the spiritual consequences of cruelty. Considering the matter from this distance of time, it seems to me significant that Christian circles were so blind. I can see, clearly enough, where and how the spiritual decay was at work.
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In my childhood and youth, the Jewish population of London was divided into two fairly distinct groups. On the one hand there was an older settlement of those fully Anglicised, whose ancestors had come originally mostly from the Iberian Peninsula, Holland and Western Germany. On the other hand were the more recent migrants from Russian Poland and other parts of Eastern and Central Europe. The latter group were almost entirely of working class, had received an education entirely mediaeval in character, and had lived in an almost mediaeval environment. The former group were mostly of middle-class and perhaps rather better educated than non-Jews of comparable status. They had become set in English ways and of a conservative manner of life. The older universities had been recently opened to them and they were beginning to take to the professions.
Had the immigration been gradual, the newcomers would have been assimilated by the older group and any trace of a "Jewish question" in England would have disappeared automatically in a few decades. But my father's generation of English Jews was suddenly faced with a new and overwhelming responsibility from which it never escaped and never sought to escape. The charge laid upon it was the rescue, the reception, the training and, as far as possible, the re-emigration of numbers far larger than its own of a driven and persecuted people. The small community of English Jews had to help a people of language, culture and tradition very different from its own, that had had all its ways of life deliberately perverted, degraded and humiliated.
[Note: different view: cp Belloc's unflattering description of this emigration:-]
I was too young to share in this great task of mercy and redemption, but I heard and saw much of how the situation was handled. I came only gradually to realise to the full the nobility, courage, and self-sacrifice of the men, and perhaps even more of the women, who handled it. It was an epic of self-surrender and it deserves its own historian. I was one of a family of six, but almost the whole of the energy of my very vigorous and hard-worked mother as well as of my devoted and scholarly father was given from that time, and for the whole remainder of their lives, to the relief of suffering refugees. In this they were very far from being peculiar or even exceptional, for many of their flock made even greater sacrifices than they.
It is fortunate that the tradition of Judaism has always emphasised the service of man. Charity, however, in the limited sense of alms-giving, hardly comes under this head, because it is just part of the ordinary Jewish habit of thought and way of living. The man or woman who did not practise it, on a scale which would astonish many Christians, would hardly be regarded by any body of Jews as a member of its brotherhood. Charity in this sense, is so much the habit of Jews of every type and of every variety of opinion that it is not necessary and hardly even fitting to preach to them on the subject. So much has charity always been taken for granted that in classical Hebrew there is no separate term for it, and the one word zedakah is equivalent to both Charity and Justice. [Footnote: In the English Bible zedakah is usually translated "righteousness," which, in the Jewish tradiiton, is made up of these two elements, Charity and Justice.] Charity is said to be merely "justice to those in want." To the Jew it would seem necessary that this should be so if human beings are to live together in a society and, of course, the very conditions of ghetto life emphasised this. With the general claim of charity thus automatically accepted, Judaism was at least as well equipped as Christianity has ever been to meet calamity. The Russian exodus threatened, but failed to submerge, the little Jewish communities of the West.
I doubt if, outside Jewish annals, it would be easy to find comparable cases of devotion of a whole group. Perhaps a near parallel is that of the societies of early Christians. In my fairly long and fairly varied experience I have seen no movement among the Churches at all measurable, in self-sacrifice and devotion, to that of the minute body of English Jews faced with the charges laid upon them between 1881 and 1891 and again from 1933 onward. If the blood of the martyrs be the seed of the Church, then I say that I have myself seen, and that at close hand, such harvests sown by that small band as men have not beheld elsewhere in my time.
Some years ago I was witness of the Christian handling of a problem incomparably less difficult, and needing incomparably less work and resources from a vastly more powerful and wealthy body. I am thinking of the saving of the Assyrian Christians. What is the Church's record in regard to them? Put the matter into approximate figures. Some 100,000 Jews were living in Britain about 1890 and they supported perhaps 100 ministers of religion. They had to settle and absorb some 200,000 of their brethren and to send on their way more than a million who settled elsewhere. The task was accomplished. There were in Britain in 1919 some 40,000,000 nominal Christians, for whom endowments provided some 25,000 clergy. They had to care for the persecuted Assyrian Church of 100,000, to whom Britain had pledged her word. The Churches failed. These are things which it will be the business of historians exactly to estimate and to set down.
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What I have said here requires, perhaps, a certain amount of explanation. I know, of course, that there are ...'
The Christian reader should ponder that point very carefully indeed. The Jewish religion can thus summon, and has hundreds of times succeeded in summoning, and will yet again summon the devotion of ordinary men and women. Not specially pious or specially clever, or specially wise, or even specially good men and women. Judaism can and will and does summon ordinary men and women to duties that come to them as a mere accident of birth. This is a true noblesse oblige. Does the Christian love of his Saviour so affect every Tom, Dick and Harry? Surely there is some value to mankind in a spirit that can produce these results over and over and over again.
The segregation of the Jewish people for 1,000 years necessarily confined their practice of charity to the ghetto. It was not until the eighteenth century that Jews were released from those prisons, and very many have not yet been freed. Hardly had they rubbed their eyes in the world of light when the strongest of all Jewish traditions asserted itself. Jewish charitable enterprise has proved to be constructive and progressive and something far more vital than the rather negative conception commonly read into the word "charity." To expound this statement would, however, lead us to a discussion of aspects of modern social history that cannot be followed in this place.
All religions produce certain special patterns of character in those they affect. The peculiar history of the Jewish people and the peculiar teachings of the Jewish religion have combined to produce a pattern of distinctive type. In that pattern of life the call of pressing human need makes an automatic, an immediate, an overwhelming appeal. That pattern of life makes its own call to men who are very far from being saintly, or devout, or refined, or even, in other respects, particularly good. It is no accident, I think, that in matters of social reform, and in the organisation of charity, Jews have had a share out of all proportion to their numbers and social status. [Footnote: Those interested in this point may read of details in C. Roth, The Jewish Contribution to Civilisation (London. 1938).]
The special pattern of character created by a religious tradition can perhaps be traced in its simplest outline and therefore be seen most clearly in the conduct of men who, though born within that tradition, are little moved by its actual expression and little interested even in its products. This is quite as true of Judaism as of Christianity. To me it seems, however, that the working of the Jewish religion on the conscience is more subtle-- I do not say and I do not mean more profound--than the working of Christianity. Judaism can survive with a. minimum of expressed or formal faith. The Jewish pattern of life, like the Christian pattern of life, can often be seen even in those who have formally separated themselves from the religion.
How long can the influence of a religious inheritance survive without the constant renewal induced by religious practice? I have no answer to this critical question. A period like the present, when large numbers of those who derive from the Christian and Jewish inheritance find no satisfaction in the activities of Church and Synagogue, offers a special opportunity for the examination of the real strength and weakness of the two religious traditions. The matter is worth a special study.
Christianity has, however, certainly failed to impress its ethic on its own society which is specially that of the great Nation-States. Perhaps it would be more exact to say that, for whatever reasons, and despite appearances, Christianity has not conveyed to most members of those States the idea that it possesses an ethic which could and should control social action. This is in glaring contrast to the position within Judaism. Very many Jews, wholly indifferent to any formal expression of the Jewish faith still feel constrained to carry out its practical teachings on social responsibility. I do not at all doubt that there are other fields wherein the advantage is with Christianity. But the point I would make is that the conduct of men no explicitly conscious of direct religious impulsion is some gauge of the strength and subtilty of their religious inheritance.
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I turn to the second movement--not unrelated to the first--that affected Jews in the nineteenth century, Zionism.
Montefiore, Abrahams and my father spent much time in the consideration of the bearing of Messianism on the general situation, and especially on the new Zionist movement. I thus became, from childhood, familiar with many aspects of this question. To all three of these men the mission of Judaism, the ultimate justification of it existence, was the evangelisation of the world, however long that event might be deferred, however unexpected the form that it might take. Their opposition to Zionism did not involve any reluctance to aiding refugees to settle in Palestine. Quite the contrary. What they rejected and what they feared was Jewish nationalism, which, in their view, was incompatible with any lofty conception of Jewish mission. From their point of view, Judaism had a completelY outgrown the conception of a Jewish State a the Jewish liturgy should have outgrown the priestly service of the Temple and its sacrifices.
On this point the message of the prophets seemed to them, as it seems to me, unequivocal. To them a national movement was an attempt to throw back Judaism to a Maccabaean stage. I can well remember hearing my father say to Herzl, the founder of Zionism, who had come to visit him, "A Jewish Nation! Why, you are fifty years out of date. Only the little half-civilised peoples need an artificial nationality and are busy all over Europe finding their new national consciousness. These persecutions must surely pass. They are against human nature itself. Our distant vision is disturbed by the horrors in the foreground. Israel has waited for centuries: Israel must still wait. Perhaps the deliverer is among us at this moment," How wrong he was! But we were still in the nineteenth century.
And yet was he so wrong? He was speaking not of his own time, but of things independent of time. And in true Jewish fashion--and in the fashion of the prophets--he was speaking both of his own people and of mankind in general. It may seem a strange thing that people who have suffered most are also the most hopeful; but it is a true thing. Suffering is not wholly evil. Hope in the salvation of man is the very condition of the survival of Israel. Judaism has ever seen redemptive power in man's own deepest nature. For those who cling to that faith, life is still worth living, and the world is still worth living in--with patience and with hope. And in so far my father was speaking in his century, it was a century of hope. This was, perhaps, its messianic message to the century that was to come.
Whether or no there survives among the rank and file of Christians a comparable hope, an effective' belief in the second coming of the Messiah, I am unable to judge, though I doubt it. In any event, however, it is the case that, through history, the presentation of the Christian faith by most, if not all, the Churches has been deeply coloured by a profound despair of the world which we know. The prevalence of this attitude is one reason why the Christian ethic has not had any real effect on the political actions of Nation-States in spite of innumerable and admirable expositions of what that effect ought to be. For, at bottom, Christianity has been pessimistic in its attitude to the world. The theologians, Catholics and Protestant alike, repudiate with varYing degrees of ferocity the suggestion of a progressive evolution of the human state or of the human spirit. It is thus not wonderful that there has been little effective Christian guidance on the level of statecraft since States ceased to be closely linked with Churches. Moreover, the conduct of States before that stage was reached was not sufficiently edifying to suggest a resumption of these experiments in government. Contemplation of the records of the Spanish Inquisition, of the holy Roman Empire, of Holy Russia, of the Papal States--to go no further among such attempts --is sufficient to turn the utopian inventor to other models.
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As I look back on what I have here written, there comes to my mind an oft-quoted passage on the blindness of the Synagogue:
"We use great plainness of speech and are not as Moses who put a veil over his face that the children of Israel should not look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away. Their minds were blinded. Until this very day at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remaineth unlifted; which veil is done away in Christ " (2 Cor. iii. 12-15).
He must be indeed a hardy defender of the Churches who would maintain that their bearing during the last ten years shows that the veil cast over the minds and hearts of Jews had, by divine grace, been entirely removed from the minds and hearts of Christians.
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