« PreviousContinue »
thanked, even so, adding somewhat to condoned, valued, pitied, loved by the the meaning of life, edifying when we Master of the House; welcomed by his least know it, teaching when we are world that has long looked for our comwholly unaware; helpful, instructive, ing; served by his servants; waited upeven in our blunders, profiting others on by wind and wave and those others by the often profitless lessons and fa- who do his bidding; afforded the bread bles of our lives; enlightening when we of life to eat, given the wine of life to are most ignorant of so doing, and even drink; warmed by the shining welcomwhen our own lives are darkened. ing sun; lighted by no less candles than In a word, guests; and what is of even the stars; and with rest and peace, and sweeter import, all of us understood, a bed at last for every one.
WOMAN AND RELIGION
BY BERNARD IDDINGS BELL
It is a thing somewhat surprising to dents, he said that whenever he heard find a gentleman listed in the front of a suffragist talk he felt impelled against the Atlantic as one of the chief spokes- suffrage, and vice versa. One feels a men of the English feminists' devoting good bit that way about these articles his time and his ink to a series of dis- of Mr. George's. If women are really sertations apparently designed to prove as inane as he paints them, and if male that woman's intellectual equipment is feminists
feminists — possibly because of femiinferior in most important particulars nine associations(?) - are as 'intuito that of man. As a feminist one is tive' and illogical as he himself seems curious to know what good Mr. W. L. to be, then let us revert as soon as possiGeorge thinks can be accomplished by ble to the 'cave-man’ period. In these turning over the affairs of the race to days of spies and plots, it is not diffiwhat he deems the least capable por- cult to imagine that this leading Brittion of the community. Nor is it easily ish feminist may be an 'anti' in discomprehensible how anyone in this age guise. of scientific research dares publicly and One might feel inclined to ignore openly to draw sweeping conclusions these articles, smiling uncertainly at about the intelligence of a whole sex them as possibly another instance of from observation of about sixty-five that very dry humor so common in cases, with only twenty-six of whom he Punch, that insular drollery so subtle has what he terms as much as an 'ade- as to be beyond most of us on this side quate acquaintance.'
the great water, were it not for their inIn an address recently made in our cidental references to religion. These town by the quieter of our ex-presi- are, at least to the present writer, cu1 In the Atlantic for December, 1915, and Jan
mulative as irritants. uary, 1916.
‘Most people practice religion be
cause they are too cowardly to face to leaven this anti-Feminist lump of the idea of annihilation,' remarks Mr. social ideas and ideals. In the first George. Shakespeare knew better. He place the Church maintained to a reunderstood that what people really fear markable degree her Master's teachafter death is existence, not the lack ing that marriage is a free contract and of it. Hamlet's wisdom is preferable an indissoluble one. This may seem to that of Mr. George. One thinks of anti-Feminist to some people, possibly the intellectual giants, the pioneers in to Mr. George, but even they will adthought in ancient and modern times, mit it a step in advance when they rewho have been fearless in facing truth member that the freedom of dissolution and yet deeply religious, and one feels of marriage which was replaced by a little hurt at an ignorance which so Christian indissolubility was a freedom unjustly contemns the blessed saints. for the male only, - except in the rar
*These modern religions are no long- est instances, a freedom which made er spiritual; they have an intellectual of woman a slave and an instrument of basis; they are not ideal religions, like passion, to be discarded whenever she Christianity,' says Mr. George. It is failed to satisfy. Nor was this all that dusk. One must have read amiss. One the mediæval Church did. Through lights the lamp. Now, once more. Con- her feminine monasticism she provided found it, that is what stands written! the only alternate career to marriage It sounds like the sage conclusion of the that was possible in that day. By the occupant of the cracker-barrel in the competition of the nunnery the posicorner grocery, like the village atheist, tion of woman in marriage was lifted or like the young collegiate undergrad- past belief. Moreover, the abbesses of uate, scornful of Christianity and quite the great houses had power and authoroblivious of the fact that most of his ity such as no feminist of to-day has professors find it not incompatible with even conceived. Of all this, and much philosophy and science. Here is a pre- besides, many people seem wholly igsumably intelligent man who knows norant. nothing, it would seem, of the science Finally, one comes to this marvelous of theology.
observation of Mr. George regarding “The Christian religion has done ev- woman: 'She was seduced and held (to erything in its power to heap ignominy religion) only by cruelty and contempt. upon woman.' This statement shows . . She clings (to the ancient faiths) that Mr. George knows about as much more closely than man because she is of Church history as his reference to more capable of making an act of faith, the council which denied woman a soul of believing that which she knows to be would indicate. As a plain matter of impossible. One is dazed, stunned, fact, the Church has always encour- prostrated. This definition of faith aged Feminism up to the limit of her from a scientific realist? The writer of power to do so. No organization com- the letter to the Hebrews defined it posed of human beings could ever be as somewhat differently and more accufar in advance of its age as Mr. George rately. 'Faith is the substance of things and his kind wish the mediæval Church hoped for, the evidence of things unmight have been. The mediæval social seen.' Is Mr. George really under the system was a composite of the rem- impression that we Christians believe nants of Roman civilization and the in things we know to be impossible? semi-savage institutions of the Teuton- Hypocrites we all are, then, eh? And ic invaders. Christianity did all it could women are stronger in religion than
men because they are greater hypo beginning women were given the privicrites? Is that it? And Mr. George is a lege of participation in the deepest mysfeminist? Can this be because he ad- teries and sacraments, still religion was mires people proportionately to their long looked upon as a thing primarily capacity for hypocrisy? One's brain to be attended to by men. For instance, reels!
in the monastic organizations which But turning from these drolleries of saved religion and European civilizaMr. George's, it is worth serious con- tion in the Middle Ages, there were sideration, this fact, for it is a fact, manifold more men than women. Un
- that women of to-day are very much til quite lately, indeed, men went to more interested in religion than are Church as much as women did, or more, men. In every congregation and every and their interest in things religious denomination this is true to a greater was just as much, or more, evident. or less extent. It is a very conserva- Nor, despite Mr. George's confident tive thing to say that there are four belief, is it because women are less inwomen to every man in the church telligent than men, that they have not membership of America. Many people waked up, as have men, to the essenare wont to lay the blame for this on tial falsity and foolishness of religion. the churches. Quite a number of peo. One does not know just what the facts ple would like to lay it on the men. may be in England, but in this country Some, notably Mr. George, fault the it is certainly true that the average women for it. Is it not possible that the woman is very much better equipped responsibility rests upon our social mentally than is the average man. This structure?
is so for various reasons. In the first It is not at all true, as thoughtless place the girls of the family usually go people sometimes assume, that woman further in school, with us on this side has a spiritual sensitiveness which man the ocean, than do their brothers. It does not possess, that she is by nature is not uncommon to find in high schools more fitted for religion than he is. If three girls enrolled to every boy. It is that were true we should find that the the girls who are introduced to physipresent state of things had always been. cal science. It is they who are enabled The most superficial study of compara- to study history and at least to dabble tive religion, however, will convince a bit in philosophy. Furthermore, in anyone that in all early cults the prac- our college population, the standard of tice of religion was preëminently a male intellectual achievement is usually far duty and a male pleasure. One finds higher among women than among men. this in more complex religious develop- One has, to see this, only to look upon ments of former times as well. Except the elections to Phi Beta Kappa in our in the sex-cults, woman had almost no coeducational institutions. Again, the place or function at all; and it will be Woman's Club movement, having surfound that most even of these excep- vived the ridicule of our men, has tions were directed by men while women brought and is bringing large numbers performed only the necessary subsidi- of our women closely into touch with ary duties. The practice of the Hebrews many modern problems of which their of excluding women from their more husbands and brothers are apt to have intimate and holy religious ceremonies only the vaguest notion. In the United was the rule, rather than the exception, States the best books are read by woamong ancient peoples. And when one men. It is they who as a sex support reaches Christianity, although from the art and music. It is they, preponderat
ingly, who patronize our public libra- work of women almost entirely with ries. It is they who are first to insist up- the production and sustenance of peron the betterment of our public schools. sons. We all of us at times notice the If intelligence and education make peo- great throngs of men who go, at the call ple irreligious, we ought to have fewer of the whistle, in and out of our great women in our churches than we have factories. To the average man's mind, men. As has been said, one does not these hundreds of men are 'hands,' and know about England. Mr. George's the purpose of the factories where they statement may possibly be to some are employed is to produce 'goods'; extent true over there. It will not do but to the average woman's mind, among us.
these hundreds of laborers are human Equally unsatisfactory is the theory beings, and the purpose of the factories that women are more religious than is to furnish sustenance, through pay men because they are morally better envelopes, to men and women and boys than men. Leaving aside the interest- and girls and babies yet unborn. In ing speculation as to whether, after all, most of our homes the man leaves hureligion is a thing which appeals to good man interests early in the morning, depeople more than to bad, passing by votes the best hours of his day to the for the moment the interesting asser- welfare of things, and returns to pertion of Jesus Christ that he came not sons again only for the evening's relaxto call the righteous, but sinners to re- ation. His wife, meanwhile, has hardly pentance,' ignoring the possible falsity done an act of labor all the day, has of the assumption of modern ‘liberal- hardly made a plan or had a thought, ism' that being good and being reli- which is not with considerable intimacy gious are but two ways of saying the related to human beings — her hussame thing, it is certainly safe to say band, her children, her neighbors. that hardly any one who has had much Years, even generations, of this help experience in intimate knowledge of to make a male sex which thinks prebared souls — hardly any priest, hard- dominantly in terms of property, a fely any physician — would agree that male sex which thinks most largely in women are better morally than men. terms of persons. They tend to make There are some kinds of sin which men men estimate success in terms of bankcommit more readily than women. accounts, the while they assist woman Such are the sins of lust, and possibly to count achievement in terms of huof anger. But there are others where man happiness. They make society, men and women seem to offend about to the male, an arrangement for the equally, the sins of gluttony, sloth, and protection of the interests of produccovetousness. And of the sins of pride tion; to the female, an organism for and envy, one might say that they are the insurance of proper and adequate preëminently feminine sins.
consumption. They make men interThe real reason why women are more ested, with a fervor no woman can unreligious than men to-day is because derstand, in their business firms and they are more human than men. It is commercial associations. They make not by nature that they are so. Social women absorbed to a degree that is conditions have made them so. As we past the comprehension of most men have divided the labor of the world be- - including Mr. George — in their tween the sexes, the work of men is al- religion and their church. most entirely concerned with the pro- For religion is, in essence, the transduction and distribution of things; the lation into the supernatural realm of
the personal values learned in earthly of men. It is hard to see how it can life. This has always been true. The ever be otherwise, unless in some way deities of savage peoples are always we are able to emancipate men from connected with the social activities of enforced absorption in the making of their worshipers. They are always per- things and to restore to them somefections of those qualities most admired thing of their ancient privileges in the and valued in the lives of those wor- cultivation of persons." shipers. No deity can ever be long re- And that, more or less clearly exvered by a people whose life-values dif- pressed, is impelling large numbers of fer from those that deity expresses. people into the Feminist camp, people Christ offers, for the worship of the who are but little concerned with the world, as God Himself, the perfectly emancipation of woman. They see self-sacrificing Person, the Being who with much greater clearness the need gladly renounces the pursuit of things for the emancipation of man. They for the sake of fulfilling the happiness see, far more than the urgency
for getof people. He says to those who would ting woman into commercial and indusworship Him, 'Man's life consisteth trial pursuits, the necessity for restornot in the abundance of the things ing man to the home and the personal which he possesseth,' and 'He who interests revolving about the family. would be the greatest among you, let At present man is doing most of the him be the servant of all.' The only soul-killing, spirit-deadening work of person who can ever freely and easily the world, and woman is getting all the worship Christ as God is a person whose employment, or nearly all, which makes natural ideals and longings are shaped for real humanity. These people see that way, who really looks on life as a the need of Feminism for the liberation thing of personal rather than property of males from their
of males from their present intellectual values. Woman, nine-tenths of whose and spiritual limitations. life is lived on these terms, is naturally drawn to Christ, understands Him,
1 In corroboration of the point here made it
may be remarked that in almost every commuhonors Him, believes in Him, worships nity it will be found that the physicians are of all Him. Man, in order so to regard Him, men the most religious, — the physicians, whose must carry on a continual fight with work is preeminently with persons. This also his environment, a warfare almost im
serves to discredit a little more the theory that
education makes for irreligion, for the physicians possible for most men. Therefore are
are far better educated than the average man. the churches full of women and empty THE AUTHOR.