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Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, [1911], at

§ 13.

Tribal ethic, then, would progressively mould tribal religion and be moulded by it—that is to say, a moral step enforced by political circumstances would be reflected more or less clearly in religion, as in the case of the blood covenant with the God, or in the reduction of the pantheon to monarchic or familial order; while on the other hand the established ethical view of the God would prime the ethical view of the political system. It was not that man was primarily, as it were, incapable of moral ideas as such, or that his notion of mutual duty could arise only, as Dr. Jevons seems to suppose, in the sheath of the idea of taboo. Thus to credit men's ethic wholly to their religion, while claiming for their religion a separate root in a separate order of consciousness, is merely to beg the question in the interests of occultism. What happened was a habitual interaction of the norms of conduct. Theism would help the king; and monarchy would help theism. The outcome was that the entire ethic of the community had as it were a religious shape, 1 from which rational criticism could only gradually deliver it. When, then, religious reformers arose whose end and aim was the moral life, they would carry into their ethic the psychology of their religion, were it only because that had been the matrix, so to speak, of the most serious reflection—this even if they did not state their moral doctrine in terms of a recasting of the current religious belief. For Dr. Jevons, such a recasting would be irreligious unless the reformer professed to have direct intercourse with deity; 2 but we have seen that line of distinction to be untenable, and we cannot consistently deny either religious spirit or religious form to the argument: "God must be good: how then could he have ordained a cruelty or an injustice?"

Inasmuch, however, as all such reforms of morals took effect in modifying the current code for action, the very conception of such a code is historically a religious growth; 3 and while the concept of public law would quite early differentiate from that of morality as

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standing for What-is compared with What-ought-to-be, the idea of a code which had a superior moral authority as coming from a God through a Good Teacher remains so nearly homogeneous with that of a code framed by a new Teaching-God or a Good Teacher that they have far more in common than of incompatible. The essential structural continuity rests on the conception of spiritual authority, of "religious" obedience. Where that is present, the religious temper is substantially conserved even if the cosmological premisses of religion are disregarded or dismissed. Thus it is that such a system as that of Buddhism is not merely à posteriori but à priori to be regarded as a religion. To refuse so to regard it is once more to embrace the anomaly of the decision that what serves for religion to half the human race is non-religion.

Where ethics decisively diverges from the religious norm is the point at which it is freed from the concept of external authority. This point, indeed, is slow to become clear; and Kant, who is definitely anti-religious in his repudiation of all forms of ritual of propitiation, but finds his moral authority in a transcendental imperative, is still partly on the religious plane. Fichte, who brushed aside Kant's identification of religion with ethic, and insisted that religion is knowledge in the sense of philosophy—Fichte will be pronounced by others than Dr. Jevons to be nonreligious as regards his ethic, though he is still religious in respect of his pantheism. It is only when both are divested of apriorism that religion is done with. Then, though some may still claim to apply to their independent philosophy of life the name of religion, on the score that it is at least as seriously framed and held as ever a religion was, the anthropologist may reasonably grant that a real force of differentiation has emerged. When every man consciously shapes his own "religion" out of his conceptions of social utility, the term is of no descriptive value; and when many do so and many more still cleave to religious cosmology and to the ethic of specified authority, the description as applied to the former is misleading. In any case, it is a historical fact that only slowly do ethical schools lose the religious cast. Jurare in verba magistri is their note in all save vigorously progressive periods; and the philosophical schools of the Middle Ages all strike it. That those of to-day have wholly abandoned it, perhaps few would considerately assert; but it is at least obvious that it belongs as essentially to Buddhism as to Christianity, whether or not the individual Buddhist accepts, as most do, a mass of religious beliefs alien to the alleged doctrine of the Master.


55:1 Cp. Exodus xv, 16-23; Deut. i, 17.

55:2 Cp. p. 24.

55:3 Cp. Exod. and Deut. as above cited; Ex. xxi, 6; xxii, 8, Heb.; Kuenen, The Hexateuch, Eng. tr. p, 272. Tiele, Egypt. Relig. Eng. tr. pp. 73, 93; Hist. comparée, p. 247; Letourneau, Sociology: Eng. tr. iv, c. viii, p. 345.; Maine, Ancient Law, pp. 4-5; Pulszky, Theory of Law and Civil Society, § 38; Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 368; Oettli, Das Gesetz Hammurabis und die Thora Israels, 1903, p. 84. And see below, Part II, ch. ii, § 1.

Next: § 14. Definition of Religion