Superstition versus Science

Like other phases of mortal tyranny, superstitions govern men until their higher reasoning faculties rouse them to resistance. Superstition recognizes some fancied agencies of the invisible world in every fact and incident of human experience. Mystic presences seem to brood in the midnight skies, smile in the sunshine, rage in the tempests, smite with the lightning, eat with devastating fire, and frown in the gloom of the mountain cliff. In bygone days the altars smoked with sacrificial blood; anthropomorphic gods dwelt in the skies; Neptune and mermaids peopled the oceans; Vulcan stirred his fires in the volcanic caverns of the earth, and in the fields and woods Pan blew his tuneful reeds.

These superstitions of the centuries slowly waned as the rising sun of a better intelligence dissipated the vapors from sky and earth and increasing knowledge assembled its acquisitions into a crude and bewildered science, groping about in the twilight of a coming dawn. Men began to have a clearer vision and to formulate many theories respecting supposed sequences of cause and effect. Then began the long process, not yet finished, in which religious faith often suffers a cruel disenchantment, its fonder beliefs being torn one by one from its embrace by the relentless hands of increasing knowledge. This disenchantment continues until religious faith may stand like Niobe, forlorn and sorrowing, stripped of all the accessories of materialism and unclothed by spiritual understanding. Such has been the history of many religions, both in the Orient and the Occident. Meanwhile, ecclesiasticism sometimes steals a mantle from the shoulders of religious faith, assumes to be its champion, and with steel and fagot, ostracism and obloquy, wages from generation unto generation a strife still undecided.

Bigotry is a narrow-visaged vice whose every aspect is most odious, whether it be covered by the scholar's cap, the robe of the ecclesiastic, or the haughty turban of the Mohammedan. Nevertheless the world must hold both science and religion blameless for such errors. Furthermore, bigotry among the scientists is as odious as among the theologians. It is but demagogic sophistry to wage assaults on any creed for the crimes or follies of its votaries, as these have their fountain-head, not in the creed, but in the murky mazes of mortal mind. Atheism seeks and finds its fiercest weapons in the annals of bigotry and superstition, but true religion disavows all responsibility for such annals. When winds of sophistry blow fiercely, tossing the seas of controversy into commotion, it is needful to take careful bearings of where the stars shine steadfast and eternal.

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Universal Consideration
April 4, 1914

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