Religion through the Ages: An Anthology

Religion through the Ages: An Anthology

Religion through the Ages: An Anthology

Religion through the Ages: An Anthology

Excerpt

One's religion ordinarily contains positive elements and negations or denials of outgrown beliefs. When the positive elements are strong, the religion is vital. One way to present an outline of theology and religion would be to discuss the various elements or doctrines of belief. That plan is not followed here. Rather, the method used is the assembling of religious writings that mirror or set forth truths believed.

In the history of doctrine we find times when the positive is emphasized. These are creative periods. Great religious leaders seek to synthesize all experience. Then follow eras when varieties of experience and developing life outrun the synthesis and the theology that was once satisfying. Religion becomes more and more restricted, as one phase of life after another is surrendered; and theology especially falls into disrepute. The need is for a new and broader synthesis, a larger and more inclusive theology. In my opinion, for many years theology and religion have been in this negative or diminishing phase, and that is why they seem so remote and so ineffectual,--especially as accentuated in the so-called more liberal theologies. On the other hand, the inclusive synthesis of a bygone day can no longer be fully effective. It has been outgrown beyond hope of revival. Religion tends, as Carlyle says, to become an imbecility or a Machiavelism; or, as Coleridge concludes, men do not believe, they only believe that they believe.

In these selections, positive, and in my judgment, satisfying and inclusive beliefs are set forth.

Relatively few discussions of fundamental religious beliefs, or grounds therefor, are to-day published or welcomed. It may even be widely held that such discussions are likely to become quarrelsome, and to be divisive in results. Yet if one is free, it remains true that "it is part of that freedom that we should be allowed openly to state our thoughts and our doubts which we cannot solve ourselves, without running the risk of being decried on that account as turbulent and dangerous citizens. This follows from the inherent rights of reason, which recognizes no other judge but universal human reason itself. Here everybody has a vote; and, as all improvements of which our state is capable must spring from thence, such rights are sacred and must never be minished." (IX-4.) . . .

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