Now, to my mind that man’s education failed somewhere, and its failure lay in the fact that it did not develop in him ideals of success that would have made him immune to these irritating factors. We have often heard it said that education should rid the mind of the incubus of superstition, and one very important effect of universal education is that it does offer to all men an explanation of the phenomena that formerly weighted down the mind with fear and dread, and opened an easy ingress to the forces of superstition and fraud and error. Education has accomplished this function, I think, passably well with respect to the more obvious sources of superstition. Necromancy and magic, demonism and witchcraft, have long since been relegated to the limbo of exposed fraud. Their conquest has been one of the most significant advances that man has made above the savage. The truths of science have at last triumphed, and, as education has diffused these truths among the masses, the triumph has become almost universal.
But there are other forms of superstition besides those I have mentioned,—other instances of a false perspective, of distorted values, of inadequate standards. If belief in witchcraft or in magic is bad because it falls short of an adequate interpretation of nature,—if it is false because it is inconsistent with human experience,—then the worship of Mammon that my engineer friend represents is tenfold worse than witchcraft, measured by the same standards. If there is any lesson that human history teaches with compelling force, it is surely this: Every race which has yielded to the demon of individualism and the lust for gold and self-gratification has gone down the swift and certain road to national decay. Every race that, through unusual material prosperity, has lost its grip on the eternal verities of self-sacrifice and self-denial has left the lesson of its downfall written large upon the pages of history. I repeat that if superstition consists in believing something that is inconsistent with rational human experience, then our present worship of the golden calf is by far the most dangerous form of superstition that has ever befuddled the human intellect.