chapter  7
18 Pages

Religion and the Churches

Religion and the Churches ALMOST all the changes which the world has undergone since the end of the Middle Ages are due to the discovery and diffusion of new knowledge. This was the primary cause of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the industrial revolution. It was also, very directly, the cause of the decay of dogmatic religion. The study of classical texts and early Church history, Copernican astronomy and physics, Darwinian biology and comparative anthropology, have each in turn battered down some part of the edifice of Catholic dogma, until, for almost all thinking and instructed people, the most that seems defensible is some inner spirit, some vague hope, and some not very definite feeling of moral obligation. This result might perhaps have remained limited to the educated minority, but for the fact that the Churches have almost everywhere opposed political progress with the same bitterness with which they have opposed progress in thought. Political conservatism has brought the Churches into conflict with whatever was vigorous in the working classes, and has spread free thought in wide circles which might otherwise have remained orthodox for centuries. The decay of dogmatic religion is, for good or evil, one of the most important facts in the modern world. Its effects have hardly yet begun to show themselves : what they will be it is impossible to say, but they will certainly be profound and far-reaching.