Religious systems must not, however, be judged of by the ordinary laws of reason; they must be estimated rather by their influence for good or evil on men's lives and on society.
The imagination may, when unfettered, during a state of trance, work upon what was during consciousness a constant theme of reflection, and elaborate therefrom ideas and theories pregnant with many moral truths, and, though vanity has, no doubt, influenced the actions of most of the so-called religious impostors, it has taken the direction of attempts to benefit their fellow-men, and to satisfy that craving which seems instinctive in the human mind to lean for aid and sympathy on something stronger and better than itself, to connect the present life with an eternal state of existence, and to attain a high standard of moral perfection.
Imperfect though the doctrines of such men as Swedenborg and Mohammed may be, they attempted to satisfy, and to a certain extent have succeeded in satisfying, those yearnings in many human beings, whom they have made, if not better, at least more contented with life than if left to the unbridled guidance of their own passions and impulses.
A millennium of reason may be in store for the human race, but the day is yet far distant; and we cannot afford at present to sneer at the credulity of our fellow-men, when in the latter half of the nineteenth century we hear of a learned bishop consecrating a cave where Bernadotte Soubarons, a girl of fourteen, saw the Virgin Mary, and read of thousands of pilgrims flocking to this sacred grotto in the year 1872 to worship with the most earnest convictions.
Need we wonder that the ignorant Arabs, 1,300 years ago, living, as far as a knowledge of Nature's laws was concerned, in a state of heathen darkness, should have been attracted to the Moslem faith, which, while it held out bright hopes for a future life, consorted well with their inclinations in the present.
The mere act of believing is, to most men, a source of happiness, and the happiness appears sometimes to be in the inverse ratio to the credibility of the thing believed in, as Moreau (de Tours) says: "Ils croient, mais pour croire, en tout état de cause, ils faut d'abord qu'ils ne comprennent pas."—Abstract from the Journal of Mental Science.
WITHIN the past few years several streets in the city of New York have been overlaid with a compound called by its inventors "asphalt," but better characterized by the public as "poultice pavement." When first laid down, this material appeared to fulfil all the requirements of a serviceable pavement, being smooth, hard, and apparently durable. Actual experience, however, showed the material