Signs of the Times

[Rev. W. R. Matthews, Dean of King's College, London, in the Guardian, as quoted by Public Opinion, London]

It used to be the fashion to enlarge on the joyous and free nature of Greek religion, its delight in beauty, and we were frequently edifited by comparisons between the joy of life of the old paganism and the gloom of Christianity. "Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean, and the world has grown grey with thy breath." We now know that this constrast is based on a complete mistake. It is difficult to see how any one who had read the Greek drama or considered the idea of fate could have thought for a moment that this Hellenic religion was one of joy. And new facts have come to light which show that the real religion of the people, the living faith, was gloomy and pessimistic. It consisted in doing irrational and often disgusting things in order to propitiate irrational deities. So far from it being true to say that Christianity killed joy, it would be nearer the fact to say that men never really laughed whole-heartedly, carelessly, never really developed a sense of humor as distinct from a wry smile or a biting satire, until they became Christians.

February 18, 1922

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