Back to Methuselah eBook

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interested in such things as in marbles or Police and Robbers.  That would be better than beating all good feeling towards religion out of the child, and blackening his mind by teaching him that the worshippers of the holy virgins, whether of the Parthenon or St Peter’s, are fire-doomed heathens and idolaters.  All the sweetness of religion is conveyed to the world by the hands of storytellers and image-makers.  Without their fictions the truths of religion would for the multitude be neither intelligible nor even apprehensible; and the prophets would prophesy and the teachers teach in vain.  And nothing stands between the people and the fictions except the silly falsehood that the fictions are literal truths, and that there is nothing in religion but fiction.


Let the Churches ask themselves why there is no revolt against the dogmas of mathematics though there is one against the dogmas of religion.  It is not that the mathematical dogmas are more comprehensible.  The law of inverse squares is as incomprehensible to the common man as the Athanasian creed.  It is not that science is free from legends, witchcraft, miracles, biographic boostings of quacks as heroes and saints, and of barren scoundrels as explorers and discoverers.  On the contrary, the iconography and hagiology of Scientism are as copious as they are mostly squalid.  But no student of science has yet been taught that specific gravity consists in the belief that Archimedes jumped out of his bath and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting Eureka, Eureka, or that the law of inverse squares must be discarded if anyone can prove that Newton was never in an orchard in his life.  When some unusually conscientious or enterprising bacteriologist reads the pamphlets of Jenner, and discovers that they might have been written by an ignorant but curious and observant nurserymaid, and could not possibly have been written by any person with a scientifically trained mind, he does not feel that the whole edifice of science has collapsed and crumbled, and that there is no such thing as smallpox.  It may come to that yet; for hygiene, as it forces its way into our schools, is being taught as falsely as religion is taught there; but in mathematics and physics the faith is still kept pure, and you may take the law and leave the legends without suspicion of heresy.  Accordingly, the tower of the mathematician stands unshaken whilst the temple of the priest rocks to its foundation.


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