PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO
DALLAS ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO
MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
WILLIAM KELLEY WRIGHT, PH.D.
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN DARTMOUTH
COLLEGE, U. S. A.
SOMETIME INSTRUCTOR IN PHILOSOPHY IN CORNELL
UNIVERSITY, U. S. A.
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
All rights reserved
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Set up and electrotyped. Published February, 1922.
FERRIS PRINTING COMPANY
NEW YORK CITY
"The students who elected the courses in the
History and Philosophy of Religion at Cornell
University, 1913-1916, and the summers of
1915 and 1917.
THE purpose of this book is to furnish college undergrad-
uates and general readers with the necessary data facts and
arguments on which they will be able to work out their own
philosophy of religion. The book is an outgrowth of lecture
courses given at Cornell University from 1913 to 1916. While
the majority of the students electing these courses represented
the various Protestant denominations, there were a number of
Roman Catholics and Jews in each class, and a fair sprinkling
of men and women who at any rate believed themselves to be
atheists and agnostics. The constituency of the classes led us
to be objective and impersonal, to respect one another's
opinions and sentiments, and to realize that there are several
sides to most religious and philosophical questions. We con-
centrated our attention upon the philosophical and psycho-
logical study of features common to all the three religious
confessions represented ; by so doing, we believed that we were
concerning ourselves with those features of religion that
probably are most significant. My endeavor never was to
influence any one to change his religious affiliations. Whenever
a student consulted me privately, I advised him to continue in
the religious faith and associations in which he had been
brought up, unless he had formed deep and rationally
grounded convictions that rendered this impossible, which was
very rarely the case. Students frequently urged me to publish
the lectures, and I promised to do so. The interruptions of the
war, and the necessary concentration of time upon my courses
in another institution, in which I do not teach the philosophy
and psychology of religion, have prevented an earlier fulfilment
of this promise.
My experience has been, that when an undergraduate elects
a course in the philosophy department bearing on religion it
is usually for one or more of the following reasons. Either
he wants to make up his mind whether or not there is a God,
and if there is a God, what kind of one ; or he is puzzled about
the freedom of the will, or the problem of evil ; or he wonders
if he has a soul, and whether it is immortal. Very likely he
is asking himself whether or not he ought, as an intelligent
person, desirous of his own mental and moral advancement
and conscious of his social obligations, to become or to remain
identified with a church or synagogue. Perhaps he is suspicious
that the mechanical and evolutionary conceptions taught in
the sciences with which he has become acquainted call seriously
into question the truth of whatever religious instruction he
has had. Very often, too, he is curious to know something
about the different religions of the world. In these days, when
almost everybody in college elects psychology, he is pretty
sure to be curious about what psychology has to say concern-
For one instructor to treat of all these topics in a single
course is a rather large undertaking, especially if he has to
devote much of his time to teaching other of the philosophical
subjects ordinarily included in an undergraduate curriculum.
However, the demand for this kind of a course is genuine, deep
and earnest, and philosophy departments ought to meet it. So,
though painfully conscious of its inadequacies, I venture to
submit this book. While not claiming to be a specialist, I have
endeavored everywhere to follow the best authorities and to
consult sources as freely as possible. I hope that I have not
made too many mistakes. My own opinions on the various
topics are frankly stated, but I hope not made obtrusive, or
put in a way that will prejudice the reader's judgment, or
prevent him from making independent conclusions.
The literature to which I am indebted is indicated in the
notes, and in lists of references appended to the chapters.
Those of my teachers whose influence was greatest in the
formation of my philosophical and psychological opinions as
an undergraduate and graduate student were Professor James
H. Tufts and President James Rowland Angell. Other
teachers to whom I owe much are Professors A. W. Moore,
G. H. Mead, E. S. Ames, and Warner Fite. My views have
since become considerably modified under the influence of
Professors J. E. Creighton and William McDougall; and, to
a less extent, but substantially, by many others in degrees
not always proportionate to the length or brevity of my
personal contact with them. Among these latter must be
mentioned Professors Frank Thilly, E. B. McGilvary, L. T.
Hobhouse, Graham Wallas, Irving King, J. H. Leuba, Dr.
F. C. S. Schiller, and Dr. R, R. Marett. Most recently my
thought has been colored by contact with Professors W. H.
Sheldon and W. M. Urban, who have in succession been col-
leagues at Dartmouth College. I owe much to my wife, for
criticisms of lectures and manuscript, and assistance in correct-
ing the proof.
The principal claim that I can make for originality is the
arrangement of the material and its adaptation to the needs
of students and other readers. However, I may deserve some
credit for my definition of religion (Chapter V), and the
various applications of this definition in the remainder of
Part I, for my interpretation of the religious attitude as a
sentiment (Chapters XIV, XV) and for certain ideas in the
sections headed "The Author's Opinions" in the chapters of
I have not thought it necessary to defend my methodology
in this volume, as I have treated this subject in an article,
"The Relation of the Philosophy of Religion to the Psychology
of Religion," published in the Philosophical Re-view in March,
1918. I believe that this book has been written in accordance
with the principles advocated in that article. The abundant
use of concrete material, especially in the earlier chapters, is
the result of my experience as a teacher. I regret the necessity
of giving up so much space to illustrations, and the conse-
quently slow movement of thought. But this is inevitable, in
view of the increasingly narrow range of cultural information
at the command of American undergraduates, especially upon
all topics in any way connected with philosophy and religion.
It will be practicable for teachers who find it necessary to
make omissions to leave out Chapters VII-XIII; or any entire
Part could be taken up, and the other two left out. As there
is some continuity running through the chapters, there would
be something lost in reading them in different order; except
that much might be said for the study of Chapter XIV
immediately after Chapter I.
A few words in conclusion regarding the value of the study
of the subjects treated.
Few disciplines, at least as it appears to me, rival the
philosophy of religion in the mental training and breadth of
culture afforded. The student has to learn to enter imagina-
tlvely and sympathetically into the emotional attitudes of the
various types of religious experience in order to understand
them. At the same time he has to evaluate these experiences
cold-bloodedly in a disinterested effort to determine what truth,
if any, they contain. He must learn how to weigh evidence
where demonstration is impossible, and to determine the amount
of probability afforded by arguments based upon analogies.
He must learn to be content to suspend his judgment on many
points. He must also learn, where a decision has to be made
such as his own personal attitude toward a religious body to
which he feels attracted to form a conclusion in accordance
with what, in the absence of certainty, he judges on the whole
to be most probable. He must acquire the ability to consider
fairly the different sides of a question, and to extract the truth
from each. He must gain, not merely tolerance, but also
sympathy and respect for those who arrive at different con-
clusions from himself.
PART I. RELIGION AND THE CONSERVATION OF
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION. 1
(i) The two questions is religion true? and what is
religion? The latter to be discussed first, (n) A word of
counsel, (in) Definitions of the psychology and philosophy
of religion, theology, natural and ethical religions.
CHAPTER II. RELIGION IN ITS LOWEST TERMS. 8
(i) Reasons for beginning with the natives of Australia.
(n) Australian ceremonies described. (m) Why these are
religious, (iv) The supernatural element in the ceremonies.
(v) Values conserved.
CHAPTER III. THE DIFFERENTIATION OF
(i) Introduction, (n) Religion of the Todas. (in)
Lessons from Toda religion, (iv) The Melanesians. Mana.
(v) Psychological explanation of mana. (vi) Is there any
truth in the mana conception?
CHAPTER 1 IV. RELIGION DIFFERENTIATED. 31
(i) The Baganda. (n) Gods, (m) Fetiches, (iv)
Amulets, (v) Ghosts, (vi) Magic, (vn) Conservation of
values, imaginary and real.
CHAPTER V. DEFINITION OF RELIGION. RELA-
TION OF RELIGION TO OTHER HUMAN ACTIVITIES.
(i) Purpose of the definition, (n) Its genus, (m) Its
differentia, (iv) Comparative religion, (v) Relation of
religion to animism, (vi) to magic, (vn) to morality, (vra)
to art to play.
CHAPTER VI. THE EVOLUTION OF DEITIES,
SACRIFICE AND PRAYER. 58
(i) The rise of ceremonials, (n) The evolution of deities,
(in) of sacrifice, (iv) of prayer.
CHAPTER VII. BRAHMANISM. 69
(i) Introductory, (n) Vedic period, (m) Brahmanical
period, (iv) Philosophical period. Brahmanism: description;
psychology; merits and defects, (v) Modern Hinduism, (vi)
Concluding remarks Why Brahmanism failed application to
CHAPTER VIII. BUDDHISM. 85
(i) Introduction comparison with Christianity, (n) The
Buddha facts and legends, (in) The Doctrine; Nirvana;
karma; other details; not wholly pessimistic, (iv) The
Brotherhood, (v) Events in Buddhist history, (vi) Merits
and defects of primitive and Southern Buddhism, (vn)
Mahayana Buddhism. (VHI) Buddhism in China and Japan,
(ix) Respective merits of Buddhism and Christianity.
CHAPTER IX. GREECE AND ROME. 108
(i) Introduction, (n) Family religion, (in) Religion of
Greek city state deities and values, (iv) The Olympians.
(v) Attempted reforms by poets and philosophers, (vi) Greek
mystery religions, (vn) Religion in the Roman republic,
(vin) Religion and the Roman emperors, (ix) Mystery
religions in the Roman empire Mithraism and Christianity.
(x) Debt of modern religion to Greece and Rome.
CHAPTER X. JUDAISM. 131
(i) Introduction. Contrast with Greece and Rome, (n)
Historical outline, (m) The prophets before the exile, (iv)
The law and the synagogue, (v) The Messianic hope, (vi)
Conclusions; comparison with Christianity; the future of
CHAPTER XI. ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL CHRIS-
Definition of Christianity, (i) Jesus of Nazareth, (n) The
Apostolic Age. (m) The Ancient Catholic Church ; episkopoi;
(iv) canon ; (v) sacraments ; sacramentals ; (vi) creeds ;
(vn) function, (vin) The medieval Latin church.
CHAPTER XII. MODERN CHRISTIANITY. 172
(i) The modern Roman Catholic church, (n) The earlier
Protestantism, general characteristics ; (m) Movements on
the continent of Europe ; Lutheranism ; Calvinism ; Arminian-
ism; Socinians. (iv) The English reformation; the Anglican
church ; Puritans ; Baptists ; Presbyterians ; Friends. ( v) The
Enlightenment ; philosophical movements ; influence on religion.
(vi) The Evangelical revival; the Wesleyans. (vu) Construe-
tive movements in philosophy; intuitiomsm ; romanticism;
Kant; post-Kantians ; influence on religion, (vni) Recent
tendencies in Protestantism; Unitarianism ; liberalism in the
CHAPTER XIII. CHRISTIANITY AND THE CON-
SERVATION OF VALUES. 199
Introduction, (i) Values which Christianity has conserved,
(n) The function of the Christian religion, (in) Differences
between denominations in values recognized, (iv) Finality.
PART II. RELIGION AND THE SELF.
CHAPTER XIV. PSYCHOLOGICAL CONCEPTIONS. 214
(i) Introductory, (n) The Subconscious, (m) Instincts,
(iv) Habits and Sentiments, (v) The religious sentiment,
(vi) Innate, non-specific tendencies: suggestion, sympathy,
imitation, play, (vn) Development of the self; application to
the religious sentiment.
CHAPTER XV. THE RELIGIOUS SENTIMENT. 234
(i) Introductory, (n) Religion in childhood, (m) Ado-
lescence, (iv) The religious sentiment in adolescence;
continuous religious growth; conversion; mixed types of
awakening, (v) Role of the subconscious in adolescent awaken-
ings, (vi) Conditions determining the types of awakening,
(vn) Adults, (vm) Pseudo-conversions and revivals, (ix)
Non-religious awakenings, (x) The relation of God to
CHAPTER XVI. PRAYER. 257
(i) The conversational nature of thought and prayer, (n)
Types of prayer, (m) Merits and limitations of each type,
(iv) Prayer and the subconscious, (v) Prayer tends to
become discriminating, (vi) The efficacy of prayer, (vn)
The objectivity of prayer; theories of an external and of an
CHAPTER XVII. MYSTICISM. 286
(i) Introductory; definitions, (n) Milder forms of mysti-
cism, (in) The great mystics, (iv) Spiritual exercises, (v)
Ecstasy ; visions, (vi) Inspiration, (vn) When are mystical
states normal? (vm) Mysticism and truth.
PART III. RELIGION AND REALITY.
CHAPTER XVIII. MECHANISM AND TELEOLOGY.
(i) Introductory: metaphysics; teleology; mechanism, (n)
Inorganic evolution, (in) Are organisms mechanistic or
teleological? (iv) Biological evolution, (v) Psychology,
(vi) Teleology and dysteleology. (vn) What does the world
, CHAPTER XIX. EVIDENCE OF GOD. 338
Introductory, (i) The conception of God is symbolical and
anthropomorphic, (n) Arguments for the existence of God:
(1) teleological and evolutionary; (2) religious experience;
(3) moral arguments; (4) idealistic arguments; (5) prag-
matic arguments; (6) the new realism, (in) Arguments
against belief in God: (1) atheistic; (2) agnostic, (iv) The
"right to believe" argument. Faith.
CHAPTER XX. THE NATURE OF GOD AND THE
PROBLEM OF EVIL. 370
(i) Introductory, (n) Traditional theism, (m) The older
pantheism, (iv) Modern philosophical theism and pantheism,
(v) James* conception of an external God. (vi) Other
theories of a limited God. (vn) Royce's conception of an
immanent God. (vin) God and absolute idealism, (ix) The
CHAPTER XXI. GOD AND HUMAN FREEDOM. 391
Purpose of this chapter, (i) Traditional theism, (n)
Freedom as employed in ethics, "psychological" and "ethical."
(in) Freedom in psychology, (iv) "Determinism" and "indeter-
minism." (v) Indeterminism and God. (vi) Royce's conception
of freedom and the Absolute, (vn) The author's opinions,
CHAPTER XXII. IMMORTALITY. 412
(i) Immortality as a known fact, "biological" and "social."
Significance of "personal immortality" as here employed, (n)
Conditions of personal immortality as a postulate, (in) Is
continued existence after death scientifically possible? (iv)
What kind of personal immortality is morally desirable? (v)
Arguments for immortality as a postulate, (vi) Types of
immortality as a postulate separate souls, continued existence
in God. Royce's attempted combination, (vn) Salvation and
damnation, (vni) The author's opinions, (ix) Conclusion.
PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
THE time has passed when thinking men and women can
either accept or reject religion uncritically, The age of faith,
when persons could be led through simple and childlike trust
to accept religious teaching unquestioningly, has passed away.
No reasonable person now can think it wrong to doubt, or to
ask for the reasons why he should believe. And, on the other
hand, the time has ceased when anyone who knows anything
about the subject tries to explain away religion by attributing
its origin to fraud and superstition. A factor that has
persisted so long in human history, and influenced society in
all ages so profoundly, must hold some integral place in human
life and experience. It has had its beginnings in the beliefs
and practices of the lowliest savages. From these we can,
with some degree of confidence, outline the gradual course
of its evolution down to the present time. Religion must be
regarded as one of the most important and fascinating subjects
for human investigation.
I The Two Questions
The first question that a beginner in the study of religion
naturally wishes to ask is, "Is religion true?" A very little
thought, however, will convince anyone that this question
cannot be answered by a simple "Yes" or "No"; and that
before it can be considered at all, it is first necessary to find
an answer to the question "What is religion?" For while all
of us have general notions as to what we mean by the word,
it would be quite impossible for anyone to give an accurate
definition of religion without considerable study.
There are two ways of attempting to answer this question,
"What is religion?" We shall make use of both of them. In
Part I we shall endeavor to trace the course and development
of religion through human history, to find out what character-
istics have always belonged to it and so appear to be essential ;
and what characteristics have appeared only at times and not
at others, and so are presumably accidental to it; what are the
laws that govern its development; and what influence it has
had upon human events.
Part II will be devoted to the second way of answering the
question, "What is Religion?" This will be a report of some
things that psychologists have learned from a study of the
religious experiences of persons most of whom have lived in
our own times. These will throw much light on the kinds of
religious experience that people now have, and the nature and
efficacy of religious awakenings, prayer, and mystical states.
Thus acquainted with the facts of religion, we shall be
prepared, in Part III, to take up the fundamental question, "Is
Religion true? Does it have a genuine place in a philosophical
account of the world, comparable with that occupied by
science?" Successive chapters will consider: whether the world
can best be regarded as exclusively mechanical (a possibility
obviously unfavorable to Religion), or whether it is also in
some respects purposive (a possibility that admits of the
existence of God) ; what arguments philosophers now advance
in favor of the existence of God ; what they believe His nature
to be, His relation to evil, to the freedom of the human will,
and to human immortality.
The purpose throughout the book will be to help the reader
to think out his philosophy of religion for himself. While the
author will always conclude by giving his own opinions, the
reader should never accept any of them, unless, after criticizing
them in every way he can, they appear to him more reasonable
than any alternative opinions that occur to him. No educated
person can ever acquire any beliefs on the subject of religion
that will be of the slightest benefit in his own life or that will
increase his effectiveness as a member of society until he has
thought them out for himself and made them his very own.
II A Word of Counsel
A word of counsel needs to be given before taking up the
body of the book. One reason for devoting so much space to
religions in other lands and periods of history in Part I, and
for giving so many references and comparisons to other
religions than the one immediately under consideration all
through the book, is to widen the range of vision as much as
possible. For instance, the best way to understand and
appreciate the Founder of Christianity is to know something
of the founders of other religions, especially of Gautama
Siddartha, the Buddha, one of the gentlest, wisest and most
self-sacrificing of men.
To understand any religion it is not enough to know some
of the facts about it, such as its doctrines, ritual, moral
precepts, ecclesiastical organization, and the architecture of
its temples. These are merely the externals of a religion
at most its foliage. The core of a religion is not easily
described. A religion must be felt, if it is to be really under-
stood. The reader should always try to put himself in the
place of the believers and practicers of the religion under
immediate consideration, to imagine himself feeling as they do,
suffering as they have often suffered, and experiencing their
hopes and joys. He will then be able to understand how the
religion has developed, its ritual, body of doctrine, organiza-
tion and other manifestations. These will be seen to be the
natural expression of its life. With our sympathy must be
combined frank criticism. But appreciation should never be
lacking. Every attempt of humanity to reach forth to some-
thing higher and better than it knows, surely deserves respect.
And as a matter of fact we shall see, that religions have usually,
at least, been modes by which man really has advanced to higher
levels of moral and social insight and attainment.
Preliminary to the subsequent chapters it is necessary for
us to become acquainted with a few definitions. By the
Psychology of Religion is meant, a scientific description and
explanation of the mental states and outward behavior ofi
individual persons, and groups of persons when they have
religious experiences. In Part I these processes will be
observed quite untechnically. For instance, we shall observe
that custom and tradition influence religious beliefs very
largely, that Australian youth at their initiation ceremonies
probably have experiences similar to the spontaneous religious
awakenings and conversions of Americans at the present time,
and so on. In other words, we shall observe simply that mental
processes of a religious nature sometimes affect a whole group
or society of people, and that at other times processes go on by
which the individual absorbs, and in some sense makes his own,
the religious experiences, customs, and beliefs of his group. In
Part II, on the other hand, some attempt will be made at a
more technical explanation of such processes in the language
of modern psychology. The reader should bear in mind, in
reading Part I, that more thorough analysis and explanation
have been reserved for Part II, where both the data derived
from the history of religions and from reports of contemporary
religious experience will be available.
In Part III, we shall be studying the philosophy of religion
in its narrower, metaphysical sense. Thus understood, the
Philosophy of Religion considers the truth of Religion, what
is the ultimate significance of its practices and beliefs in an
interpretation of the world as a whole, or, more technically, the
relation of Religion to Reality. Thus the relationship between
religion and science, and whether religion like science is a
source of knowledge, are philosophical problems in the narrower
sense. The philosophical arguments for a universe in which
moral purposes are accomplished, the existence and nature of
God, and immortality all belong to this field. The purpose
of the book as a whole is primarily, of course, to throw light
upon these ultimate philosophical questions.
Theology in the traditional sense of the term is a very
different discipline from the philosophy of religion and should
not be confused with it. To be sure, it treats of many of the
same subjects, the truth of religion, and arguments for the
existence of God and the immortality of the soul. But tradi-
tional theology finds its ultimate source of knowledge in an
authoritative revelation or pronouncement of some sort the
sacred scriptures of the religion, or the decretals of councils,