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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/394

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376
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

but these are ignored, as if there were no such relations. Here, in our judgment, is the most serious defect of our schools, and not in the lack of proper "correlation" of studies.

Whether the study of human relations is the province of the schools we can not stop to discuss, but pass it with the remark that the schools belong to the people, and the people have the right to do what they please with their own. They can make the function of the schools whatsoever they choose to make it—whatsoever will serve themselves best.

How can this most serious defect be remedied? By introducing instruction in pure human ethics, divorced from religion, which then becomes a study of the relations which exist among men in this real world. One great difficulty in the way of providing instruction in ethics heretofore has been the lack of a clear distinction in the minds of the people between ethics and religion. The Christian world has been in the habit of thinking and of claiming that there can be no valid system of ethics, except that which is based upon the existence of God, and upon the relations which we suppose exist between him and us. This claim has never been substantiated in a manner satisfactory to scientific thought. Religion is a system of beliefs and worship, and points to an after life, for which we all hope; while ethics is a system of principles of conduct for man as a social being in this life, which we are all now living. Ethics deals with realities, with a real life in a real world. Its realm is entirely a realm of actualities; while the realm of religion, defined in a scientific manner, is one of beliefs and hopes. So far as these beliefs and hopes are determining factors in the conduct of man to man, the realm of religion affects the realm of ethics. But apart from this, if by some magic power the realm of beliefs and hopes were annihilated, the realm of ethics would remain absolutely undisturbed. Does ethics, then, find its basis in religion? Does that which is real depend for its existence upon that which we suppose to be real? It may, providing that which we suppose to be real is actually real; but when, as in this case, it is beyond human powers to determine whether it is real or not, it is about as unphilosophical to declare that something which is known to be real depends for its existence upon another something which we suppose to be real, as to declare that the Himalayas hang upon the sky. The only possibility of substantiating the claim that ethics and religion can not be divorced is found in so formulating a definition of one of them as to embrace in it the realm of the other. But such an attempt would be futile in this scientific age of discrimination and definition. Ethics and religion are both right, and have their separate and appropriate missions and fields, which, as we have indicated above, overlap; but their foundations are two distinct things in