A Clergyman’s Attack on the Socialist Position

Your reply is somewhat as I expected. I looked for thinness of argument veiled behind abuse. If the abuse is absent so also is the argument. You have combined acuteness with ignorance, quibbling with evasion, and bluster with all. You are quite right in pointing out that none of the statements which I controverted is vital to Christianity ; for if you take the trouble to look up my previous correspondence you will see that I did not set out to defend Christianity. No defence is needed until a real attack is threatened.


But let me examine your reply. You attempt to ridicule my statement that the Origin of Religion has not been found in ghost-worship : (i) by a piece of foolishness ; (ii) by a misstatement ; (iii) by an evasion.

(i) You insert some interesting information as to the date of death of certain people, your theory being, I presume, that they are no longer to be listened to, because they preceded Spencer. Intelligent readers will perceive that this is a very foolish criterion. Euclid, Newton, Leibniz, Euber, Legendre have been long dead, and yet no serious mathematician can ignore them.

(ii) You dismiss Rawlinson, Caird and Flint because they were “theologians, whose evidence can no more be accepted as unprejudiced than can that of a brewer regarding the social utility of beer!” Had you known your subject, you would have observed that James Caird the theologian is not the same person as Edward Caird the philosopher, whose opinion I quoted. Further, do you insinuate that the livelihood of these men was bound up with their defence of some other theory than that of Spencer’s ? Then note that Rawlinson was Camden Professor of History ; E. Caird was Professor of Moral Philo­sophy ; and Flint held a similar chair for some time. In short, mercenary motives did not, and should not, enter.

(iii) But supposing that modernness was absolutely essential, even supposing that no theologian was capable of giving an opinion, your argument collapses, for you most astutely ignored the most modern of the names I quoted. Max Müller, Von Hartmann, Paulson are all as modern as Spencer, or even more so; not one of them agrees with his theory; and at least the first two, by their depth of study, their breadth of scholarship, their clarity of reasoning, hold the field to-day, Spencer to the contrary not­withstanding.

Proceeding, I perceive that you have misunderstood the point of my concluding remarks under the first section. I am sorry, yet not surprised. It is a simple point, yet one often missed by the hasty. It is this: The answer to the question “How?” is rarely, or never, also an answer to the further question “Why?” Most books of elementary philosophy will make this clear to aa enquiring reader, I will not, therefore, take up space in illustrating it.


You next proceed to demolish (?) my statement that the Hebrews did not believe in the Resurrection-life; and this you do by quoting Encyc. Brit., Vol. 8, p. 536. Clever man ! Had you taken the trouble to read the whole article, instead of wrenching snippets from their context, you would have seen that my statement was fully borne out. Not until the Judaic period began did the doctrine of the Resurrec­tion arise; aud even in the time of Christ, orthodox Judaism (the Sadducees) denied there was any resurrection (Luke 20, 27). “Better still, see the Old Testament” as you say, for it confutes you. If you had but known it, every one of your references is very late: e.g., Dan. 12, 2, was written nearly 300 years after the foundation of Judaism ; even as conservative a critic as Ewald puts Ps. 16 late in date ; Duhm dates Is. 26, 19 over 300 years after the close of the Hebraic period ; Macc. 7, 14 about the same ; while to quote Joaephus as an authority on the Hebraic creed is as bad as to cite Marie Corelli’s novels as illustrating religion in the 12th cen­tury. Gentle reader, peruse the Book of Job if you are still in doubt, and you will find that my adversary is floundering in a bog of error.


In your section on miracles I am afraid you betray a want of reasoning. You imagine I imply that miracles never have been put forward as a proof of Christianity. I suppose you could not answer my plain statement that for many years the argument from miracles has been given up, because the content of the term “miracle” has changed completely since the time that science has ceased to be dogmatic. Christians rely on facts which happen daily within their own experience, and facts which psychologists are recognising and accepting more fully every year. Your jibe about Christian “peasants” is worthy of you. I put it alongside of those “jokes” which some make against Socialism.


Now you proceed to “controvert” my denial that submission is the “cardinal ethic” of Christianity. This you do in a way that is ludicrous to anyone who knows the New Testament well. You first endeavour to shew that sub­mission is taught in the N.T., apparently not realising that it might be taught without it being the cardinal ethic. To bolster up your case you quote a number of words whose meanings in the N.T. you evidently don’t understand. Your knowledge of the works of Spencer, Marx and Engels may be good, but I would advise you, for your own sake, to make sure that you understand the New Testament before you begin to criticise it, lest you fall into another bog of errors similar to those exposed in No. II. In any case, you do not see that even if submission was the cardinal ethic of Christianity, it would apply as much to the Christian employer as to the Christian employed, would not be applicable only to the “masses.”


I close by noting with amusement your re­mark that Christianity in particular and Theism in general is “melting away.” Doubtless “the wish is father to the thought.” If your readers will get hold of as much literature bearing on the history of the progress of Christianity as they can, they will find that the same cry has been raised by Anti-Christians generation after generation. In actual fact the Christian Churches (by no means as large as the sum-total of Christians) are entering on a new era of triumph, because the “hangers-on” are falling off, and the sincere have got a wider outlook and a clearer vision.

As to Theism, I repeat my assertion that reading will shew that Materialism is dead as a door-nail. I expected you would quote Dr. Schafer. If he is right in his theory, which is by no means accepted by all scientists, it will only explain the “How?” (see I). On turning to Lotze (a theist as nearly all philosophers of the 19th century were,) you will find an expla­nation of the “Why?” Science, as you say, deals with facts, which belong to the “pheno­menal” world; the discerning mind therefore perceives that it is incapable of even so much as approaching the Real (vide Spencer, amongst others).

Finally, I read with amusement your state­ment that any schoolboy could tell me that my second principle in Natural History is only a part of the first. If you like to gain information from schoolboys you are welcome to do so; I prefer better authorities, for schoolboys some­times make “howlers.” When the leaders of research in this branch of knowledge say that these two principles are really one, which they do not, I will withdraw my criticism, but not till then.

Your loose and scattered defence, if one may call it by that name, can only sway the ignorant. Let your readers put us both to the test; let them turn to the books which can be had in any good library. I am quite willing to abide by the result, for “great is the Truth and it shall prevail.” If you dare permit them to test you in the same way, then will be fulfilled the purpose of



Philalethes does not like his medicine. His annoyance is quite understandable because, although to suit his own case he carefully selected a few inessential points as far as the pamphlet is concerned, he has signally failed to substantiate a single one of his pretended “facts.”

With the charity that we have learnt to expect from the Christian he tells us he expected abuse, and appears to have a grievance because he did not get it. On the other hand, the “reply” to the facts given in our last contribution, is, as will have been noticed, mingled evasion and bluster which verges on the insulting. We will examine his latest epistle in order to make plain to him that his fatuous charges of “ignorance,” “evasion,” “bluster” and “foolishness” recoil upon his own head.

His opening paragraph contains a misrepresentation worthy of him. We indicated that none of the statements he contested was vital to the position laid down in the pamphlet ; he childishly says that we stated that none of his points was vital to Christianity. Comment is needless.


The statement regarding the origin of religion that was in dispute was that it IS generally accepted that ancestor-worship was the earliest form of religion. And to show that this is not accepted to-day Philalethes cited blindly men who had been dead many decades before modern research opened out such wide horizons to com­parative religion ! That is about as intelligent a proceeding as it would be to quote Dalton and his predecessors against the fact that the electron, and no longer the atom, is generally accepted to-day as the smallest particle of matter ! Moreover, our opponent made the entirely false statement, which we disproved, that “Caspari and Le Bon alone agree with Spencer.” His silence on this point is eloquent as to his intellectual honesty. He further says that it was Edward Caird, not James Caird, that he cited. Evidently he knew so little of his subject that he did not realize the necessity of saying so. But who is James Caird, the theologian ? He is unknown to the encyclopaedia. Our reference was to John Caird, professor of theology, Gifford Lecturer, author of the “Introduction to the philosophy of Religion,” etc., elder brother to Edward Caird, the moral philo­sopher, and considered the more famous of the two. In speaking of a James Caird in this con­nection Philalethes again exposes his ignorance.

His further unsupported assertion that Müller and Von Hartman hold the field to day, with the theory of Henotheism which he attributes to them, is quite beneath contempt as evidence, and beside the truth.


With regard to our demolition of his assertion that the Hebrews did not believe in existence after death, Philalethes says the article in the Ency. Britt. from which we quoted fully bears out his contention. This can only be characterised as a deliberate untruth, as every reader can test for himself. He wisely refrains from quota­tion. And it is not of the slightest use for him to ring the changes by referring to the develop­ment of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, which is a distinct issue. The point is that the Ency. Britt. and practically every competent authority, recognise that the Hebrews believed in the persistence of life after death. They had a special name for the ghost or spirit and imagined a special abiding place in Sheol. We took our opponent at his word, and applied the library test, with, disastrous results to his so-called facts.

In order to convince us he advises us to peruse the book of Job. His recommendation is indeed diverting. The book is dated by modern critics variously between the 4th and 9th centuries B.C., which is sufficient indication of the utter worthlessness of the other dates given by our opponent.

The book tells what happened to Job, a non-Israelite, who, with the gracious permission of the Almighty, and at the instigation of his Satanic Majesty, suffers grievous losses and afflictions as a test of his faith. It is therefore difficult to see how it could help Philalethes’s argument. And the reader who accepts the advice to look up this philosophical poem will wonder still more as he reads. One passage in particular is worth quoting in this connection. Ch. XIX, 25 seq :

“But I know that my redeemer liveth, and afterwards he shall arise on the dust, and after my skin, even this body, is destroyed, without my flesh I shall see God ; whom I shall see for myself, and mine own eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.”

It only remains for Philalethes to tell us that if we understood the Bible as well as we “understand the works of Spencer, Marx and Engels,” we would see that this really means that the Hebrews did not believe in the spirit life !


Our opponent now admits that miracles have been put forward as a proof of Christianity. Why, then, did he fall foul of the pamphlet on this point ? Moreover, we must add in the interest of truth, that though, as pointed out in the pamphlet, science has compelled many ministers such as Philalethes to abandon their old positions, yet, as we showed, the Catholic Church in many places, and other priests and street corner gospellers when dealing with the uneducated, repeatedly make use of pretended miracles as evidence of the value of their creed. Verily, since St. Paul, the Christian is all things to all men !


On the matter of submissiveness being taught in the New Testament, our antagonist now ad­mits this to be so, therefore his statement that we do not understand the words we have quoted is quite gratuitous. His further assertion that “even if submission was the cardinal ethic of Christianity it would apply as much to the Christian employer as to the Christian em­ ployed,” is a subtle joke much relished by the Christian employer. That Christ is the central figure in Christianity is obvious, and his char­acter and whole teaching are instinct with meekness and humility. This cardinal ethic is a commercial asset to the exploiter when taught to wage-slaves, and it is recognised and paid for as such.


The Christian Churches, we are next told, are entering on a new era of triumph because the “hangers-on” are falling away ! To what straits must a Christian minister be reduced when he can console himself for the constantly growing indifference to Christianity, and ever-diminishing congregations, with such twaddle !

With regard to Materialsm, as we have al­ready pointed out, Materialistic Monism is the working creed of science to-day. Theism has been driven out. Our opponent’s dismissal of Dr. Schafer is idle, since practically all prominent biologists repudiate theistic or vitalistic explanations of the phenomena of life and explain all manifestations by materialistic processes. As our opponent rightly admits, science deals with phenomena, with facts, and by the same token we point out that this comprises all knowledge. Science is but organised knowledge, and where knowledge ends there are no facts, only the lies and fantasies of religion and superstition, themselves indeed phenomena of mental pathology.

Philalethes makes a very painful effort to smile because he was told that any schoolboy could have put him right regarding the part played by mutual aid in evolution. He is wrong to refuse to learn from schoolboys, for though they do sometimes make “howlers,” these are nothing to those made by professional Christians when talking of science. Surrounded by open-mouthed “faithful,” and inured thereby to the unquestioning acceptance of their every assertion, the ministers of the Gospel develope a recklessness of statement that stands them in poor stead with an informed opponent in the outer world.

If Philalethes would think he would realise how intimately united are the two factors, mutual aid and the struggle for survival. For the individual to struggle effectually it requires the co-operation of the cells, organs, and facul­ties of the individual. It further would be impossible for the struggle to take place with­out the co-operation of parents in family life, and of the tribe or community. In the struggle between species, that species is victorious, other things being equal, which has developed fur­thest the principle of mutual aid and common action in the struggle. It were idle to multiply the instances and labour the obvious. Suffice it to say there can be no struggle without the factor of mutual aid entering on each side, and where there is no struggle mutual aid is neither developed nor required.

It has been necessary to follow Philalethes in his devious and inconsequential wanderings in order to expose the futility of his argument and the falsity of his boasted “facts.” Yet it is to be regretted that, owing to the mistaken cun­ning of the opponent, the main Socialist position on religion, as clearly outlined in the pamphlet in question, has not been dealt with. That it is impregnable we know, but a sincere opponent would at least have endeavoured to meet its main points. We are not simply anti-Christian. We are anti-Christian because we are Socialists, and the Socialist attitude toward religion is positive and scientific, not merely negative. It follows inevitably from the bedrock of science upon which Socialism is founded.

Nevertheless, the controversy is not sheer waste. It serves to indicate the soundness and accuracy of the pamphlet upon even such minor points as a minister of the Gospel fondly ima­gined he could score off. His inability to defend his creed against the vital attack made upon it in the pamphlet, and his utter failure, even with such side issues as he dared to select, to contro­vert a single one of its facts, are eloquent of the weakness of his case and the strength of the Socialist position.


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