The canons of scientific evidence justify us neither in accepting nor rejecting the ideas upon which morality and religion repose. Both parties to the dispute beat the air; they worry their own shadow; for they pass from Nature into the domain of speculation, where their dogmatic grips find nothing to lay hold upon. The shadows which they hew to pieces grow together in a moment like the heroes in Valhalla, to rejoice again in bloodless battles. Metaphysics can no longer claim to be the cornerstone of religion and morality. But if she can not be the Atlas that bears the moral world she can furnish a magic defense. Around the ideas of religion she throws her bulwark of invisibility; and the sword of the skeptic and the battering-ram of the materialist fall harmless on vacuity.
We find that most men fit easily into types. You describe to me one Durham cow and you picture all Durham cows. So it is with men: they belong to breeds, which we politely call denominations, sects or parties. Tell me the man’s sect, and I know his dress, his habit of life, his thought. His dress is the uniform of his party, and his thought is that which is ordered and prescribed. Dull indeed is the intellect which can not correctly prophesy the opinions to which this man will arrive on any subject.
Durham cows are not exactly alike, I well know, but a trifle more length of leg, a variation in color, or an off-angle of the horn, and that cow is forever barred from exhibition as a Durham. She is fit only for beef, and the first butcher that makes a bid takes her, hide and horns.
Members of sects do not think exactly alike, but there are well-defined limits of thought and action, beyond which they dare not stray lest the butcher bag them. In joining a sect they have given bonds to uniformity, and have signed their willingness to think and act like all other members of the sect.
Herbert Spencer deals with this “jiner” propensity in man, and describes it as a manifestation of the herding instinct in animals. It is a combination for mutual protection–a social contract, each one waiving a part of his personality in order to secure a supposed benefit. A herd of cattle can stand against a pack of wolves, but a cow alone is doomed.
Few men indeed can stand against the pack. Wise are the many who seek safety in numbers! Think of those who have stood out alone and expressed their individuality, and you count on your fingers God’s patriots dead and turned to dust.
The paradox of things is shown in that the entrenched many, having found safety in aggregation, pay their debt of homage to the bold few who lived their lives and paid the penalty by death.
Across the disk of existence, each decade, there glide five hundred million souls, and disappear forever in the dim and dusk of the eternity that lies behind. Out of the bare handful that are remembered, we cherish only the memories of those who stood alone and expressed their honest, inmost thought. And this thought is, always and forever, the thought of liberty. Exile, ostracism, death, have been their fate, and on the smoke of martyr-fires their souls mounted to immortality.
Future generations often confuse these men with Deity, the Maker of the Worlds. And thus do we arrive at truth by indirection, for in very fact these were the Sons of God, vitalized by Divinity, part and parcel of the Power that guides the planets on their way and holds the worlds in space. Upon their tombs we carve a single word: Savior.
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