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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/71

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LIBERTY OF THOUGHT.

as accepted and very important truth, and so she objects to every one reading what she considers to be infidel books.

But, again, portions of the Christian Church have opposed inquiry because it made true statements which contradicted certain wrong interpretations and inferences that the Church had made from Scripture, and so, in undermining the errors of theology and the Church, seemed to be undermining the important truth, and, while in reality doing a good service, seemed to be doing harm. For instance, investigation of the laws of nature has ever been supposed by many "to be doing away with the being or the perfections or the providence of God; the discovery of second causes has been thought to detract from the glory of the Great First Cause." The discovery that God works by law, or with regularity, has been supposed to interfere with the faith that he is personal, has a choice to do this or that, and interferes among men for or against. A class of thinkers have assumed that, at least in some spheres, God acts without the aid of second causes, and frequently without regard to uniform laws—acts irregularly. Science has been steadily reducing the extent and the number of such spheres, but in the case of every one there has been a battle offered by those who believed that in that sphere God operated without regard to law; that there man should not look for regular laws or for secondary causes, and that to do so is presumptuous if not irreverent and impious. In this way good men and great men have shown themselves opponents of real science; have made the mistake of assuming that their prejudices and views were in harmony with the spirit and the views of the Bible, or of true religion. These men have supposed that they and the Bible were at one, and have been mistaken. They have undertaken contests in which they were defeated, and in which it became afterward apparent to the Church at large that they were mistaken.

This opposition of portions of the Church to mental liberty is contrary to the original views and practices of the Church. And the right has also been disputed by worthy men, such as Ambrose, Hilary, and Martin, within the Church. The Christian religion is not accountable for this false position of the Church toward freedom of thought.

Let us now look at the mental enslavement in Western Christendom. Strange to say, that great Christian Church which has played such an important part here, has, as before intimated, been guilty of such enslavement; has, with all its illumination on many subjects and its great power, been an opponent of freedom of thought; has been hostile to views of Scripture and doctrine different from the accepted views of the day; has considered all expression of divergent views as exceedingly bold, if not irreverent and heretical. For centuries the clergy and the monks directed the whole current of European affairs, personal, family, community, or national; scientific, literary, philosophical, or theoretical. The clergy and monks were a body by them-