MORALITY WITHOUT GOD
Including Letter to Right Rev. Bishop Anderson
A Lecture Delivered Before the Independent Religious Society.
Orchestra Hall, Michigan Ave. and Adams, Chicago, Sunday at 11 A. M.
By M. M. Mangasarian
Right Rev. Bishop Anderson, Chicago, Ill. Reverend and Dear Sir:—
Last Sunday's papers announced that the Episcopal Church has arranged for a series of meetings in this city "to arouse a national revival of interest in church extension at home and abroad." The report also furnished the names of the distinguished speakers who will address these meetings at Orchestra Hall.
I write this note to suggest that, if agreeable to you and your committee, a representative of your church be sent next Sunday morning to deliver an address before the Independent Religious Society, which holds its Sunday meetings at Orchestra Hall. We shall be very much pleased to have you deliver this address, but it will be equally agreeable to us to welcome anyone whom you may delegate in your place.
If you have no objection, I request that your address be on the following important and timely question: "Can there be any morality without a belief in God?" This subject will offer you, or your representative whom you may send in your place, an opportunity to show the importance of the church in the moral education of the people.
It is understood, of course, that the lecturer of the Independent Religious Society will be upon the platform with you at Orchestra Hall, to introduce you, and to present his thoughts on the same subject You may speak first, or if you prefer to make the closing address, there will be no objection to it.
Let me assure you that this meeting will not be in the nature of a debate, as no interruptions from the audience or comments by the lecturer upon your address will be permitted. Immediately upon the conclusion of the two addresses, the house will be dismissed.
If it will be a help to you to know in advance what position I will take on the subject of the proposed addresses, let me say as clearly as I can, that I will try to show that morality is independent of a belief in God or gods, and that, therefore, church attendance is not essential, but that, on the contrary, often church going retards both intellectual and moral progress; and further, that the countries in which a larger proportion of the people go to church, and the Ages of Faith, in which everybody went to church, are and have been, the least moral.
Hoping that you will not refuse to come and present your views on this serious question to the large audience which will receive you most cordially at Orchestra Hall, next Sunday morning,—or if you cannot come next Sunday, on any other Sunday morning that you may appoint,—I remain,
Yours with all good wishes,
M. M. Mangasasian.
MORALITY WITHOUT GOD
When I invited Bishop Anderson of the Episcopal Church of this city to address you, it was from a sincere desire to give you an opportunity to hear in this house, and under the auspices of this movement, a strong and comprehensive statement from the other side, if I may use that expression. I invited the bishop because he is freer on Sundays than the average clergyman who has his own people to preach to, and in the second place, because he has the authority to send someone in his place if he could not come himself. In the third place, I addressed my letter to the Episcopalians because they were to have a convention in this same hall for the purpose of rousing interest in church work.
The Right Reverend Bishop Anderson of Chicago should have accepted cordially our invitation, yet not even of the courtesy of a reply has he deemed either you or me worthy. I do not know how to explain the good bishop's indifference to our invitation, except by saying that, either the bishop considered us hopelessly beyond the saving power of his religion, or that in his own heart he considered his creed, while good enough for the unquestioning, a little antiquated for an inquiring American audience. But the fact is now on record that he was invited to deliver his message to us, and he has not even acknowledged the invitation. To reconcile such action with the spirit of "brotherly love," publicly professed by the bishop, or with the divine command to preach the gospel to every creature, will require considerable mental dexterity.
We have heard the bishop and his people sing the hymn
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war."
Where are the soldiers? Why do they avoid a conflict if they are soldiers? We did not invite them to a fight: we did not ask them to a debate; we did not care to enter into a "duel of words," as some papers have put it. Far from it: we assured the bishop that there would be no questions asked by the audience, and no comments permitted. He would listen to our message and deliver his. But suppose we had invited him to a clash of ideas—to an argument—suppose we had asked him to give us "the reasons for the hope that is in him," as the Bible says—how could he decline such an invitation? The Apostle Paul reasoned before pagan rulers, and from Mars Hill, in Athens, he preached to pagan philosophers—to doubters. Why should Bishop Anderson have less courage, or be more cautious?
When a great cause, or a cause that has been great once, declines a public opportunity to advance its interests, to justify its claims, to convince—to convert, it is a pretty sure sign that its fires are burning low, and that it has fallen into the "sere and yellow leaf."
Christianity, once an aggressive and virile movement, now resorts to apologetics, compromise and concession to prolong her life. She seeks shelter against the spirit of the age. She is cultivating the art of silence. Yes, Christianity is seeking a lower level. It attacks wooden idols seven thousand miles away, but at home,—in the presence of intellectual inquiry, it is paralyzed.
Of course it could be said that if we wished to hear the bishop's gospel we could have gone to his church. Yes, we could. But so could he have come to us. Furthermore, the bishop does not say to the Hindoo, or to the Japanese, "If you want my religion, come and get it." He sends it to them, and he even asks for iron-clads to compel the Japanese and the Chinese to hear his gospel. Yet at home he will not step around the corner to deliver his message to us.
The invitation to the bishop is a standing one; it will never be withdrawn.
The same invitation is extended herewith, this morning, to any clergyman or layman who is willing to come and deliver his message to us and to hear ours—on one condition, however—that the clergyman or the layman who accepts our invitation shall come as the representative of his denomination or church—he must come with his credentials—he must be commissioned by his church to speak for the church. And whenever any denomination in this city or country shall send a delegate to address us, he will be received with the greatest cordiality, and his message shall be listened to in a spirit of fairness.
The question: Can there be any morality without a belief in God, is a fundamental one, and the fact that we are willing to study it proves that we take more than a superficial interest in what might be called radical problems. To this question the first answer is that of philosophy, and the second is that of history. This morning we will confine ourselves to the theoretical or philosophical aspect of the question.
What is there in a belief in God which should be indispensable to the moral life? Why should the moral life be inseparably associated with a belief in God? The theological position, in which you and I were brought up,