Did You Read It?
(This postcript to the Book Review Department will serve as a reminder of old books worth rereading, as well as those which the reader may have missed at the time of publication.)
BROTHERHOOD THROUGH RELIGION
(By Paul N. Elbin, Ph. D. Dorrance & Co., Philadelphia. 1944. $1.75.)
E. Stanley Jones states the theme of this worthwhile book in his brief foreword. Pointing out that educators and religious leaders alike now realize that brotherhood "is no longer a subject for moralizing-it is now an issue of life and death for civilization," he continues, "What the idealists have been saying is now turning out to be literally true: humanity is one. Down underneath cultural differences is one basic humanity . . . . . The differences lie in the culture not in the basic humanity. There is one blood in all men. The four types of blood run through all races. There is one brain in humanity. The raw brain material of humanity is the same, and given an equal stimulus or incentive will come out the same."
In the Preface, the author himself states it thus: "The brotherhood of man is the creed of all mature religion. Without the practice of brotherhood, peace is only a truce. The clear call of the hour therefore, is for religion-religion dropping its weight of debatable dogma, selfish sectarianism, and escapist ritual; religion proclaiming anew to all the people of the world their brotherhood under God."
It may be unnecessary to add any comments, since those two quotations describe the subject matter. Yet, there are innumerable ways of handling such material, and sometimes the results are noble but dull. Be assured, that is not the case in Paul Elbin's little book. His style is simple, but vital, and his points are reinforced by the liberal use of equally interesting quotations.
Evolution of Beliefs
First he traces the evolution through which a man's personal beliefs may pass in a lifetime from partisan politics, tribal patriotism and religious sectarianism to liberalism, internationalism and belief in the underlying unity of religion. "The good of humanity, the human family, is superior to the good of a political party, a nation, or a religious sect. When a man lets one of these lesser loyalties interfere with the major loyalty-love of God and man-he is not a good partisan, or a good patriot, or a good sectarian. It is all a matter of proportion or relativity. Small things are good when they fit into large purposes. They must be destroyed when they conflict with large purposes."
Just as a man's patriotic ideals evolve, so his religious concepts may change from childhood's belief in a superman God, to sectarianism, to atheism, agnosticism, and finally-if he matures religiously-to full faith in a God of love and brotherhood. Of course, every one does not reach this final stage, for, "To mature religiously is often the most difficult part of growing, up. . . . One reason is that many never give serious thought to their religion. Adults who do not study the Bible and religious questions under alert teachers, who are not interested in religious topics, may be good home-makers, good citizens, contented and happy-but they are potential atheists! The lag between their general maturity and their religious naivete may suddenly cease. Religiously, the most critical time in life is when a growing mind confronts the religion of childhood and declares, 'This is no longer adequate.' When a childish religion must be transferred to maturity, a complete transformation is required-just as it is required in the realms of amusement, companionship, reading, work, etc. The foolish are those who go just far enough in their religious maturity to discover the inadequacy of their childish conception of faith . . . . . Really, atheists are fools. They are people who are stuck midway between infancy and maturity. They are examples of arrested development."
Those who do progress find that God is love, is Spirit. He is manifested within man, and as "the Good" in humanity, as law in the universe, as life in all nature. This conception gives an unshakeable faith, and: "Such a believer will not be disturbed if someone calls his faith by such a term as Christian pantheism. His faith has brought him such satisfaction that whether this or that is God or is only a manifestation of God, or whether one can distinguish today between the acts of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit, finds him only mildly interested. In the universe of the believer God is both Father and Mother, and all men and women are brothers and sisters . . . . . A religious person has a lifetime job (1) cultivating his own Best Self, (2) trusting the God in others, and (3) finding God in every cranny of the universe."
Descriptive Chapter Heads
The chapters which follow (almost two-thirds of the book) are of equal interest, but too varied in contents to describe here. However, even the chapter headings give some idea of the subjects. In The Case For Religion, Elbin speaks for religion "at its highest," and of the enemies which have tried to strike it down. Many of these have been leaders in the churches themselves, for no church history is free of embarrassing instances of persecution, intolerance and denial of brotherhood, running all the way from prejudice to murder, and: "The difference between massacre and prejudice is only one of degree, let us remember."
Religion For The World of Tomorrow should start today, with each person bringing God's kingdom into his own heart, realizing that the religion of love is for all, and that all forms of bigotry and greed (these are described) which stand in the way of brotherhood must be outgrown. The Lost Gospel has been veiled by petty divisions, often created to advance individual aims. Churches have lost sight of the heart of it, the gospel which Jesus announced: God is Father; all peoples are members of His family. The author mentions ways in which science, art ven business--can help in its recovery.
In the chapter Pride and Prejudice the history of these two evils is traced and their conflict with idealistic religious tenets described. "The twin curses of mankind today are pride and prejudice. Pride is an expression of selfishness. Alexander Pope called it 'the never-failing vice of fools.' Prejudice is an expression of ignorance. When we develop a prejudice, we are guilty of 'pre-judging' before the facts are gathered . . . . . For ourselves, we have little except pride; for others, nothing but prejudice." The facts and figures quoted leave the reader' no excuse for harboring any remnants of religious or racial pride!
Problems arising from these twin sins are enlarged upon in the closing chapters: Jew and Christian Conscience and the Negro, Democracy and Brotherhood. There are so many changes to be made, so many injustices to be eradicated, so many narrow outlooks to be broadened and yet, there are signs of increasing unity too. These signs feed that little flame of hope in the heart of every individual who, as Paul Elbin does, longs "fervently for the day when I can belong to a church known simply and accurately as 'The Church of Human Brotherhood.' To that church today belong in spirit many Christians and many Jews, many white people and many so-called colored people. It is a church devoted not to the peculiarities of sect but to the great common aspirations of all mankind."-Reviewed by Virginia Scott,
Note on Religious Freedom
"I detailed to him what I had found out about the return of religion to Russia-the reopening of the churches, the reestablishment of relations with the Moscow Patriarchate by foreign Orthodox churches, the printing of the Bible after 27 years, the training of the priests in seminaries (even though the study of the Soviet Constitution and the organization of the socialist state must be part of the curriculum) the freedom of all sects to worship as they pleased. These different religions, included to my surprise, twenty-two million Moslems as well as Lutherans, Baptists, Buddhists, Old Believers, Seventh-day Adventists, Armenian Christians, Shamanists from Mongolia, Animists from the Tunga, Jews, Catholics . . . . .
"Fedya laughed. 'You know more about the U-S-S-R than we do.' But when I repeated the question whether he didn't fear the Marx dictum, "Religion is the opium of the people" he shrugged his shoulders -'There is no danger in religion now,' he said. "That slogan was true under the Czar, when a reactionary church dominated our political life, then priests hid rifles in their church basements with which to overthrow our Revolutionary plans. Today as you saw in the play, priests fight loyally for our Government .....
"The church cannot interfere with our communist education that still gives the children the scientific explanation of the universe ......... -From I Saw The Russian People, by Ella Winter.
Men still sit at little desks remote from God or life and rack their inadequate brains to meet fancied difficulties and state unnecessary perfections. They seek God by logic, ignoring the marginal errors that creep into every syllogism. Their conceit blinds them to the limitations upon their thinking. They weave spider-like webs of muddle and disputation across the path by which men come to God. It would not matter very much if it were not that simpler souls are caught in these webs. Every great religious system in the world is choked by such webs.-H. G. Wells.
Return to Index