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first half of the century is represented by 40, during the last half it is represented by 20, during the last twenty years it is represented by 4, and during the last ten years it is represented by 0.” “The Anglican Church finds it harder than ever to get preachers; the condition of the Methodist Church is distressing in the extreme, and the Baptists are going through a period of marked depression.” “Nine tenths of all the preachers in his circle of acquaintance are discouraged. The great majority of pastors are practically hopeless of accomplishing anything worth while.” “In Russia the peasants are very largely becoming either indifferent to the Greek Church or hostile to it. In Austria there is a revolt against ecclesiastical authority. In Germany attendance at worship is falling off. In Italy and Spain it is the same thing. Everybody knows how enormous is the proportion of the French people untouched by the Church. In Great Britain there are echoes of our own depression. Whoever has had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the mental condition of the intelligent classes in Europe and America, must have perceived that there is a great and rapidly increasing departure from the public religious faith; and that, while among the more frank this divergence is not concealed, there is a far more extensive and far more dangerous secession, private and unacknowledged. So widespread and so powerful is this secession that it can neither be treated with contempt nor with punishment. It cannot be extinguished by derision, by vituperation, or by force. The time is rapidly approaching when it will give rise to serious political results.” “Desertions from the State Church in Germany are increasing so rapidly, that grave apprehensions are caused in ecclesiastical circles. Added to this is the significant fact that the numbers of communions, baptisms, and church marriages are rapidly diminishing.” “The last decade has been the most strenuous and discouraging for Christian workers which this city (New York) has probably ever known.” “There is such a thing as a religious crisis in America, however much we may scoff at the idea."
The thought of coupling in some way these two series of facts must have occurred even to the most casual reader. There is a causal connection between the rise of democracy and the decline of ecclesiasticism. The idea is getting abroad among the working masses that institutionalized religion is on the side of the propertied class. Says Guizot: “The Church has always sided with despotism.” Emperor Charles V saw in the Reformation the break-up of the old ecclesiastical system, the forerunner of political revolutions. States a news despatch from Germany: “Among the working classes, especially those attached to the Social Democratic party, there exists a bitter hostility to the clergy and all institutions which they control," and we read that in Germany church-going on the part of any member of the proletariat is "looked upon as disloyalty to class." "In the present democratic revolution, the churches are not for the most part with the rising people, but are either indifferent or are with the dominant class. The clergy represent privilege." Says a labour leader: "The American workingman hates the very shadow that the spire of the village church casts across his pathway.” And as to the cities, “the overwhelming proportion of workingmen is out of touch with the churches." Witnesses crowd to the stand: “We don't want church institutionalism. It leads to intolerance, loss of liberty, and persecution; and then the cause of the people goes to the wall.” The doctrine of the divine right of property is remembered — that the mass of people are born with saddles on their backs, and a favoured few booted and spurred to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. The priest and the exploiter - natural born twins: “Issachar is a strong ass crouching between two burdens.” “Only employers, trades-people, property owners and usurers go to church.” “The religious world with its organizations is something far removed from the labour world with its organizations. The two are drifting farther apart from each other every year.” Says the Labour Leader, editorially: "In these later days the Church has fallen almost into obscurity as a power in the moral and civic life of the nation. Its form remains, its habiliments are still gorgeous: but it walks behind, not in front of the State, and its gestures and speech are almost unheeded in the great march of the nation.” The wage earners huzzah Shaftesbury when he exclaims, amidst his campaign for human rights: “The sinners are with us; it is the saints who fight against us.” “The surprising thing to me is not that work people don't attend church. The surprise would be if they were to attend church. Why should work people attend church? What have they got to learn there? The Church has allied itself with land and capital, and generally with the master against his workmen. Its clergymen have dined with the rich and preached at the poor.” Exclaimed Moody: “The gulf between the church and the masses is growing deeper, wider, and darker every hour.” “The successful classes, even if they didn't know it, have used religion and heaven to keep the peace and to put off a lot of troublesome duties." The democracy is unable to believe that the Church is entirely disinterested in her zeal to preserve the present order of things. It points to the wealth pouring into her coffers and those of her allied institutions, and says, Does the Church serve Capitalism for naught? It points further to the more than suspected source of much of this wealth, and refuses to be impressed by the Church's richness of organization and sumptuous adornment. As when one discovers a corpse under a lilac tree, feeding its beauty, thereafter for all time there hangs over that tree a haunting ghastliness.
Quite pertinent to this suspicious attitude of the submerged classes toward organized religion, are some phases of priestly activity in another day. Conspicuously, there is the Tower of Babel story — in every line of it the pen of the priest. “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven" — not so wicked an attempt on the part of those builders. To the contrary it seems to have been a fine undertaking the Tubal Cains of that day exulting in their progressive mastership over nature and reaching up toward a neighbourly relationship with heaven. “Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” an honourable motive and one that has inspired the noble handicrafter in every age. But it was accounted by the priest mind a parlous thing for the working masses to get too exalted an opinion of themselves. Then, as now, religion was thought to reside in man's weakness and not in his strength — in his humiliations rather than in his masteries and achievements. Therefore this priest narrative pictures heaven as jealous and as frustrating the builders: “The Lord scattered them, and they left off to build the city.” The curse upon labour, in Genesis, is a chip from the same block. The strict embargo placed around the Tree of Knowledge, also reeks of this grudging and distrustful attitude of the priest toward the common people: “In the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods" — recalling that later motto of the Church, "Ignorance is the mother of devotion.” Not strange that certain sects among the gnostics boldly denounced this priest-pictured god as a
a malicious power seeking to thwart man's upward strivings, and worshipped the Serpent as the Prometheus of the world, true friend of man, the forerunner and type of the Messiah.
This Promethean struggle between the masses and the Olympian ones, jealous of their class privileges, has left a trail across several literatures. It is seen in the Greek legends of the Aloidæ, who sought to reach heaven by piling up mountains, and were wrathfully cast down. Also in the Hindu legend of the tree which sought to grow into heaven, and which Brahma blasted. Pindar, the singer of aristocracy, issues a warning note: “Seek not to become a god." The Olympians in sooth are a close