Historical Reprints Religion Story of Religious Controversy

Story of Religious Controversy

Story of Religious Controversy
Catalog # SKU2089
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Joseph McCabe


Story of Religious Controversy

Joseph McCabe

THE scholarship, immense and convincing, of the present volume will enlighten any reader (although I trust few are actually in need of such enlightenment) concerning the absurdity of a charge often made: namely, the charge that there is something foolish, presumptuous, shallow, smart-alecky and the like in the criticism of religious ideas and institutions.


One almost apologizes for mentioning this belittlement of anti-religious thinkers: yet it is a stock in trade of preachers, of lay defenders of the faith, and is not unheard among men who have some pretensions to culture.

One still hears it said that there is something juvenile -- an intellectual immaturity -- in attacking the Church, the idea of God, the supposed sacred truth of the Bible, the history of ecclesiastical power, and the rest. Confronted by such an attitude, one may ask a few leading questions: Is the subject of religion important? Granting the importance of the subject, should one accept religion carelessly or conventionally? Or should one seriously study the subject, with a view only to ascertaining the facts and clarifying one's attitude by the light of reason? Or should one merely be indifferent?

Of course indifference means presumably a criticism and rejection of religion: or perhaps it means that one has a serene faith which needs no expression: or that one has, when brought to the question, a formal belief without real interest. However, to have no opinion about religion is to be idle-minded. A very little thinking -- the simplest kind of thinking about life -- brings us to questions of a religious bearing: where, that is to say, we have to choose between science -- or common sense -- and religion; between facts and rhetoric; between history and mythology; and, in fine, between free thought and enslaving traditional forms. It is not that we must have some religion, or that life needs a religious explanation. But as such explanations have been notoriously insisted upon, as religion has said thus and so about life, the thoughtful man is forced to a decision. Whoever is interested in ideas cannot be indifferent to religion. Intellectually he may have no respect for it: but a disrespectful opinion is, even so, an opinion of decided importance.

What, then, are the true materials of opinion? Not one-sided reading: not a few platitudes: not a loose complaisance toward allegedly sacred traditions: not, above all, a preconceived notion that belief in religion is sacred and high-minded while disbelief is somehow indecent, low-minded and unruly. One should approach religion, as any other subject, in a strictly realistic manner. Is the power of thought, of reason, man's highest power? Then use it on religion. Are facts worth while? Then let their worth be recognized, quite in the scientific spirit, in the controversy about religion. Of what value is an opinion which is not supported by so much as an hour's genuine reflection and study?

Religion cannot claim exemption from being critically weighed in the scales of knowledge. It must stand or fall by the facts. History, science, philosophy, common sense -- all that man knows and the best that man has thought -- enter seriously into this controversy. In human progress, there has been a plain and growing intellectual tendency, as well as a broadly social and emotional tendency, to make religion justify itself, to force it relentlessly on the defensive. Oracles lose their impressiveness. Doubtless -- certainly in civilized or historic time -- there have always been skeptics. Their number has increased, with the impetus of irresistible logic, as knowledge has grown. And it is but natural that this age, so enlightened by science and swept by such broad vigorous currents of liberalism, should be progressively skeptical in its attitude toward religion. It is too difficult -- or why not say bluntly that it is impossible? -- to reconcile the ideas of religion with modern knowledge.

It is not rationalism that is flippant and poorly based. It is not a sign of foolishness but of good sense, yes and considerably more than the average amount of information, to call in question the old theology and mysticism, even when it disguises itself not very artfully as "Modernism." It is religion that has always made preposterous, even frivolous, and indefensible claims. Shallow and sentimentally weak thinkers are more apt to cling to the ancient faith. Clear, relentless thinking brings one inevitably to a rejection of the whole religious viewpoint, of all the appeals to faith, of all the arguments -- and how poor they generally are! -- for the holy myths and dogmas.

515+ pages - 10¾ x 8¼, softcover