The Beginnings of Christianity

By George P. Fisher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.
THE POPULAR RELIGION OF THE GREEKS AND ROMANS.

THE heathen religions did not spring out of a mere scientific curiosity which, in its rude beginning, can give no better account of the world than to attribute it to a multitude of personal agents. No explanation of the origin of heathenism is adequate, which fails to recognize the religious factor,--the sense of the supernatural, the feelings of dependence and accountableness, and that yearning for a higher communion which is native to the soul. These innate sentiments lie at the root of religion, even in its cruder forms. "I consider it impossible"--writes one of the most genial and profound of scholars--"that that allcomprehending and all-pervading belief in the divine essence, which we find in the earliest times among the Greeks, as well as other nations, can be deduced in a convincing manner from sensible impressions, and conclusions built thereon; and I am of opinion, that the historian must here rest satisfied with pre-supposing that the assumption of a hyper-physical living world and nature, which lay at the bottom of every phenomenon, was natural and necessary to the mind of man, richly endowed by nature."1 This native faith was determined as to the particular forms it should assume, by the nature and circumstances of individual nations and tribes: hence the various modes of religion. Under the prompting of this latent belief, the

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1
K. O. Müller, Proleg. zu einer wissenschaftl. Myth., Leitch's English Transl., p. 176.

-74-

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