Thoughts on Religion

Edited by Charles Gore. Fifth ed.  Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1902.


[41] Religion [compared to Science] … is a department of thought having no less exclusive reference to the Ultimate.  More particularly, it is a department of thought having for its object a self-conscious and intelligent Being, which it regards as a personal God, and the fountain-head of all causation. … To call any theory of things a Religion which does not present any belief in any form of Deity, is to apply the word to the very opposite of that which it has hitherto been used to denote. To speak of the Religion of the Unknowable, the religion of Cosmism, the Religion of Humanity, and so forth, where the personality of the First Cause is not recognized, is as unmeaning as it would be to speak of the love of a triangle, or the rationality of the equator.  That is to say, if any meaning is to be extracted from the terms at all, it is only to [42] be so by using them in some metaphorical sense.  We may, for instance, say that there is such a thing as a Religion of Humanity, because we may begin by deifying Humanity in our own estimation, and then go on to worship our ideal.  But by thus giving Humanity the name of Deity we are not really creating a new religion: we are merely using a metaphor, which may or may not be successful as a matter of poetic diction, but which most assuredly presents no shred of value as a matter of philosophical statement.

           [43] On the other hand, Religion is not in any way concerned with causation [as Science is], further than to assume that all things and all processes are ultimately due to intelligent personality.  Religion is thus, as Mr. Spencer says, ‘an a priori theory of the universe’—to which, however, we must add, ‘and a theory which assumes intelligent personality as the originating source of the universe.’  Without this needful addition, a religion would be in no way logically distinguished from a philosophy.


           [113]  By the term ‘religion,’ I shall mean any theory of personal agency  in the universe, belief in which is strong enough in any degree to influence conduct. 

[Submitted by James A. Santucci]