Source: Socialist Spirit
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “God’s Way”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 1
Issue number: 2
|“God’s Way.” Socialist Spirit Oct. 1901 v1n2: pp. 11-12.|
|McKinley assassination (religious interpretation: criticism); society (criticism).|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley.|
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 absurdity.
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 and then.
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 his life.
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 trees.
We had rather grow weeds, and listen to the cries of starving children, and hug the devil-worship we call religion.
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 He said.