The religion of the future will be a larger, nobler, more sensible thing than the religion of the past. Like some glorious landscape, rich in all that can delight the eye or supply the needs of man, but hidden long by mists and clouds and darkness, gradually emerging into the full sunlight, so is the religion of Christ, or rather what has been called the religion of Christ, coming forth from the mists and clouds and darkness of the past into the clear sunlight of truth.

A large part of the religion of the past, and most of the religion of to-day is a mixture of dogma, ignorance, superstition, selfishness, and form. Churches and so-called Christian people hesitate at the genuine kind which goes deep enough to make altruism a necessity. The majority of the members of the church of Christ are as much steeped in selfishness, and as completely given over to much of the deviltry which selfishness creates, as any follower of Confucius or Buddha could be—yes, even more so. For the sharp tricks by which one man gains an unfair advantage of another, and for that cruelty which insists on retaining that which methods worse than robbery have gained, where shall we find such towering examples as in Christian countries, yes, even in the very church itself? Worst of all, the religion of the day does not want the truth. The churches are afraid of the truth. Its logic is too severe. The churches, as a rule, hire men to preach for them who will agree never to preach anything but what has been already preached and taught. Dogma clanking the chains of a cruel and superstitious and ignorant age, a theology mouldy with the dry rot of dead centuries, formalism clad in the winding sheet of a dead heathenism, these have furnished the chief ingredients of that food which the "teachers" of religion have been pledged to feed to their flocks.

When here and there one has had a heavenly vision and has dared to be true to the truth within him, off has come his head. When one has here and there as teacher or preacher had the grace from heaven to lead his flocks from out the bone-yards of the past into green fields, in other words, when he has dared to think or has had the brains to think, the finger of the holy church has been pointed at him and he has been branded as "heretic," "higher critic," "unsound in his theology" or something else equally ruinous. The religion of the future is going to be free. Men are drifting out of the apostate church, but they are as surely drifting into the new church, the true church. The church of the future will leave men free to think. The scientist, the poet, the man of activity will be encouraged to give his thought free range as teacher and pupil. Churches will demand that the preacher shall tell them something they did not know, and that their grandfathers did not know, or step down and out. No man shall be pledged to any creed but that written by the finger of truth on his own enlightened soul.

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November 3, 1898

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