Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

VII

WAR AND THE WORLD ORDER-THE

MATERIALISTIC VIEW

T

HE world war was a mere incident in the social upheaval which has engulfed all of our

cherished ideas and institutions in a vast revolution. The final form which the new social order will take will not be determined by diplomats skillfully juggling their differences and desires around a peace table, but by the slow crystallization of thought and sentiment in the minds of the large mass of people. The real center of this seismic disturbance which ripped our vaunted civilization from its hinges and brought down our sacred institutions with a crash, and liberated insatiable passions must be found in two groups of ideas now deeply imbedded in the world's thought. One of these is scientific in its origin, the other is religious. The war has startlingly revealed their force and opposition, but it has also disclosed the necessity and possibility of their reconciliation in a much deeper interpretation of Christianity. The social world will be redeemed from its chaos and confusion and reconstructed upon a higher spiritual plane in proportion as materialism is overthrown and men are brought to accept the Christian philosophy of life. This is preëminently the task of religious education, as it functions through both Church and college.

In order to grasp the social significance of the interpretation of Christianity as a world philosophy, let us sketch briefly the outlines of the present conflict. More than a generation ago the world was suddenly cleft asunder by the statement of the Darwinian hypothesis of evolution. An impassable gulf seemed fixed between the leaders of science on the one side and the leaders of religious thought on the other. The conflict was as bitter as it was unfortunate and unnecessary. Instinctively the Church felt that the application to society of the Darwinian theory of development meant a denial of Christianity. This attitude was due to the fact that Christian leaders conceived of Christianity as wholly static and the theory of evolution as entirely materialistic. Of course upon such grounds the Church was right and the conflict was inevitable. In response to the Church's charge that the theory of evolution did violence to the moral and spiritual interpretation of human experience, science sought to deduce from man's animal history the source and development of all his higher moral and spiritual qualities. Against this utterly false and materialistic view of life the defenders of Christian idealism lifted their voice in immediate and forceful protest, and they were absolutely right. There was set afloat in the world a totally materialistic and brutal philosophy of life, based upon false inferences made from the idea of evolution. This

theory struck deep root in Central Europe, where it immediately and profoundly affected the whole conception of the social structure.

The world is so familiar with the general theory of evolution as at first proposed by Darwin that we will merely suggest its main contention. The theory was based upon a study of the lower animal world, where the gradual development and persistence of the higher forms of life were supposed to be dependent upon conflict, struggle, and the survival of the fittest through physical force. Immediately there were groups of men who saw in this theory of life a defense of all selfish ambition. Lifted to the realm of social development, it was simply a system of merciless, conscienceless competition, a bitter struggle wherein success sanctified every motive and method. The whole matter of morals and ethics was subordinated to brutal lust and passion. Might made right.

Among others, Nietzsche applied this theory to the development of the individual. To him success was the triumph of individual power over all obstacles and interests, a kind of superman, a blonde beast. His work was done with fascinating effectiveness and with utter disregard of all the finer moral sentiments. With keen insight Nietzsche saw that the greatest antagonist of his theory was Christianity, so with characteristic audacity he proceeded in an effort to annihilate it. Here is one of his characteristic statements:

[ocr errors]

"I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no expedient is sufficiently poisonous, secret, subterranean, mean I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.

“That which defies me, that which makes me stand apart from the whole of the rest of humanity is the fact that I have unmasked Christian morality.

Christian morality is the most malignant form of all falsehood, the actual Circe of humanity, that which has corrupted mankind."

In the realm of sociology Gumplowicz, the great Austrian sociologist, applied the philosophy of brute struggle with merciless logic. He is representative of many others. In pagan Babylon and Rome he found proof of his theory far back in history. Napoleon's betrayal of the ideals of the French Rev. olution and his brutal crushing of Austria and Germany were vividly before the mind. On the other hand, the immense gain to Germany through her treacherous humiliation of France in 1870 and the rapid growth of Russian despotism through the subjugation of near neighbors, was effective in forcing upon men a theory of society at first repugnant and unethical, but less and less distasteful in proportion as it became successful. Perhaps, however, the primary force at work was the natural selfishness and cunning of men, together with their love for lust and conquest. A single quotation from Gumplowicz will intimate the nature of the social theory which soon became dominant in Germany.

“Nothing impresses thinking mankind so seriously as the contemplation of the social struggle, for its immorality offends their moral feelings deeply. Individuals can consider ethical requirements, they have consciences, but societies have none. They overfall their victims like avalanches with irresistible destroying power.

All societies, large and small, retain the character of wild hordes in considering every means good which succeeds. Who would look for fidelity, veracity, and conscience in the intercourse of the 'most civilized' states of the world?

"Indeed, it is generally recognized that states oppose each other like savage hordes; that they follow the blind laws of nature; that no ethical law or moral obligation, only the fear of the stronger, holds them in check, and that neither right nor law, treaty nor league, can restrain the stronger from seeking its own interests when the opportunity is offered."

But Gumplowicz was not willing to follow Nietzsche in his stark naked denial of moral idealism and conscience in the individual. He sought, however, to smother and strangle it.

“But these 'perfidious' struggles do not show the individuals to be utterly base. They only prove that in the struggle of the whole, individual opinions play no part, that here social groups struggle inexorably to satisfy their own interests, to demon

« ÎnapoiContinuați »