THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
|STEPS IN THE EVOLUTION OF RELIGION|
THE most remarkable thing yet discovered about this planet is the fact that human beings exist upon it in large numbers, scattered almost everywhere over its surface, that pay homage to superterrestrial powers. But this fact, remarkable as it is, is only a portion of the truth. For the most searching and unprejudiced investigation has failed to reveal any time in human history when it was otherwise. However ignorant and forlorn man may have been in the past, we have no evidence that he has ever been so low down in the scale of being that he did not look upward with some degree of reverence and awe to higher powers.
Not many years ago this fact of the universal prevalence of religion among men was seriously called in question by no less weighty writers than Sir John Lubbock and Herbert Spencer. They quoted at length from the reports of certain travelers and missionaries among the Eskimos of North Greenland, the Hottentots of South Africa and the Indians of Lower California in support of their position; and they stoutly contended that in these documents we have proof positive that there are communities now in existence that have no religion at all. This challenge led to a careful and thorough study of the status of these tribes by competent anthropologists, and in every case an extensive mythology was discovered among them, together with elaborate religious rites. A false idea of the meaning and scope of religion, a short stay in the country, or a lack of knowledge of the native language, had been the cause of the mistaken judgment. Probably no scholar of repute to-day would hesitate to accept the statement of Professor Brinton in his recent work on "The Religions of Primitive Peoples" that:
The reason for this historical fact is a psychological one, and has never been more clearly or forcibly expressed than by Dr. Edward Caird. He asserts: