The spirit of true inquiry can never
be justly charged with disrespect toward anything, however much
it may be resented by those who unconsciously substitute feeling
for thinking. We make progress only as we subject our impulses of
whatever nature to keen intellectual review. The dynamic for right
action finds its source in feeling. The intellect may be likened
to the pilot which seeks out the true direction. Hence there is
no irreverence in the attempt to analyze the phrase which has been
caught up and repeated with the object of emphasizing the deep religious
nature of the late President.
Pietism is the acceptance and public
observance of conventional notions regarding the deity. Religion
is the right relations between men, indicated to the individual
soul in moments of communion with the source of spirit life;—whatever
that source may be. Religion and pietism may sometimes conflict.
At any rate, they are never the same thing.
Under these definitions it is clear
from the late President’s words and actions that he was a pious
rather than a religious man. In this he was at one with the great
middle-class of Americans.
“It is God’s way,” applied to death
by assassination, is to a truly religious nature highly revolting.
It is to think very meanly of God to attribute the act of Czolgosz
to His will.
If the American people believe that
the assassination of President McKinley was God’s will, why do they
put Czolgosz to death? Do they wish to express their official disapproval
of the will of God?
Ignorance is always blind to its own
It is quite evident that the people
do not recognize the significance of President McKinley’s pious
phrase, however much they have exploited it and printed it on his
photographs. President McKinley himself would have been puzzled
to explain just what he meant. We are so unaccustomed to using our
brains in religious matters,—as if ignorance were God’s and intelligence
were the devil’s domain,—that we have fallen into a kind of fatalism.
We unconsciously attribute everything which happens to God’s will,—just
because it happens. This relieves us of the obligation to help God
to make a better world. What’s the use, if everything which happens
is ordained to happen?
It is this fatalism which makes it
seem God’s will for us to murder the Filipinos, and prevents our
recognition of the fact that we are thinking of God as a creature
of animal passions and clouded intellect when we put him into partnership
with the military and with Czolgosz.
We really must use our reason now
Nature expresses God’s will, if anything
does. The tree lives its appointed time; so does the flower; so
does the dog, and so should man.
The earth, our common mother, is perfectly
adapted to human life. In its resources resides everything that
can make for comfort, for beauty, and for happiness. If we were
to stop fighting one another and administer the bounties of nature
for the common good, soul-growth would become possible. We would
soon grow ashamed of our fatalism then, and recognize that we have
 been blaming God for things
which it lies in our will to abolish.
The soul aspires as soon as the requisite
physical wants are satisfied. It is waste time for well-disposed
preachers to try saving the souls of hungry men. One cannot appreciate
the music on a passing steamer if he happens to be swimming for
We assume by our actions that God
is a niggard; that there is not enough for us all. Then to avoid
the logical odium of our wrong assumptions, we take refuge in a
vulgar fatalism, giving to the deity the instincts and attributes
of the assassin.
We are very foolish people.
God would grow fruit enough along
the American country roads to feed the world if we would plant the
We had rather grow weeds, and listen
to the cries of starving children, and hug the devil-worship we
Really God is very patient. Perhaps
He hopes we may yet come to our senses. He has been waiting a long
time. He might make progress by sweeping the earth clean and beginning
again:—say with dogs. Dogs do not oppress each other. Only men do
that. The more one sees of men the better one likes dogs.
It seems such folly, such an awful
waste of life energy,—if life really has any value,—to exploit and
bully one another, when all nature waits to be conquered. We have
only touched the outer garments of such giants as electricity.
This is really God’s way:—to make
the world a decent place to live in; to abolish economic fear; to
enable men to do right, not in the pietistic sense, which is stupid,
but in the religious sense, which is god-like.
We can stop breeding assassins if
we really want to. No one enjoys being an assassin.
We must look a little more carefully
after the downmost man.
Perhaps when we do this we shall find
a nobler idea of God. “Unto the least of these,” we used to think