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The forms both of Socialism and of Religion,
however, are many, and so we cannot affirm in a
general way much more than that what is true in
the one cannot be brouofht into ao^reement with what
is false in the other.

world would create a difficulty. It is difficult to fit God and His worship
into such a scheme. Religion presents a future life more noble and lasting
than the present, having its own rewards and punishments awarded to
conduct in this life, and not dependent merely on the service of humanity
but on the service of God. Any act is good or bad according as it pleases
God, and not sim^^ly as it tends to the general good of men collectively.
Again, religion aims primarily at individual sanctification for happiness in
the next life, and only secondarily for the material prosperity of all in this.
Now, religion and the worship of God is a standing fact, and the Socialist
in dealing with it, seeing that it is opposed fundamentally to his aspirations
for humanity, either denies and seeks to abolish it or he strives to make
religion consist in the service of humanity, and both alternatives necessarily
tend to atheism, and hence the alliance. Furthermore,- Socialism wages
war against all class distinctions, and especially against the governing
class. In the socialistic state the government must be by the people for
the people. No power or pre-eminence can be held that is not entirely
under the control of the people. Hereditary rank, class privileges^
individual rights, will disappear. All authority and power must be derived
from the people, be exercised in their name, and be terminable at their
will. In such a state what place is there for ecclesiastical authority ?
Religion supposes an authority derived from God to regulate a system for
the worship of God. The Catholic Church has a hierarchy of officials —
pope, bishops, and clergy — with authority to command the obedience of
the people independent of the State. These officials cannot rule at the
will of the State, nor can their authority be derived from it. Hence
sacerdotalism becomes one of the bugbears of Socialism. Unable to
arrange their ideal State to include an independent ecclesiastical authority.
Socialists are led to abolish religion in order to get rid of its ministers.
They are of the governing class, and let them disappear with the rest.
Thus the process of general levelling and the abolition of independent
authority leads to the negation of religion and formal worship of God, and
makes Socialism tend to atheism." — The Catholic Times, August lo, 1894.


The relation between them is not one of identity.
They are two, and distinct. Each is only itself.
Those who would identify them try to do so by
sacrificinof one of them to the other. The Socialists
who profess to do so while retaining- the name of
Eeligion reject the reality which it denotes. Their
view is essentially the same as that of the Socialists
who maintain that Socialism is inherently and
necessarily antagonistic to Religion.

Nor is the relation between Socialism and Religion
essentially one of harmony. Those who imagine
that it Is are for the most part not really Socialists,
but mean by Socialism merely sociability, philan-
thropy, co-operation, and the like, and by Christian
Socialism " Social Christianity," " Christian social
ethics," or Christianity applied to the improvement
and guidance of the life and conduct of society. The
genuine Socialists among them are hazy or mistaken
in their notions of the nature of Christianity.

The view that Socialism and Religion are naturally
antagonistic is substantially correct. The antagonism,
indeed, is not direct or inevitable. There is not an
immediate or logically necessary connection between
Socialism and Atheism or Materialism. A Socialist
may be a religious man, or even a zealous Catholic
or Protestant. But a connection which is not direct
and necessary may be Indirect and natural. And
such is the case here. Were it otherwise the actual
relations between Socialism and Religion would not
be what they are. The almost universal hostility
of Socialism to Religion is not explicable by merely
historical causes, although the Influence of these


need not be denied. It also implies that the ideal
of human life which Religion brings with it is
irreconcilable with that which Socialism presents.
In holding that Socialism and Religion have
principles and tendencies which naturally bring
them into conflict we are at one with the vast
majority of Socialists themselves.

We need not treat further of the relation of
Socialism to Religion in general. It is of much
more importance to consider how Socialism and
Christianity bear on each other. For the vast
majority both of Socialists and of Anti-Socialists
Religion means practically Christianity. It is only
in that form that they know it or feel any interest
in it. Christianity is the only Religion which con-
fronts Socialism as a formidable rival and foe. It is
the only Religion which Socialists feel it necessary
steadily and zealously to combat.

All modern Socialism has grown up within
Christendom, and is the product of causes which
have operated there. With comparatively few
exceptions its adherents may be reckoned among
"the lapsed masses" of Christendom. The same
influences which have diminished the membership
of the Christian Church have filled the ranks of
Socialism. The causes which are now strengthening
Socialism at the expense of Christianity are, for the
most part, those which had previously produced
large bodies of Atheists, Secularists, and Political
Radicals and Revolutionists.

These causes are numerous and of various kinds :


speculative and historical, scientific, moral, politi-
cal, ecclesiastical, and industrial. I shall make no
attempt to treat of them here ; to do so even in
the most summary manner would require a special
chapter. The Church, however, may well seriously
inquire what they are, and how she should act with
regard to them. Had she better adjusted her con-
duct in relation to them ; had she more truly dis-
criminated between the good and the evil, the
essential and the accidental, in them ; had she read
with clearer insio'ht the sio^ns of the times and
listened more readily and reverently to the words
of God in the events of history ; had she been more
filled with the spirit and more obedient to the pre-
cepts of her Founder and Lord ; fuller of life, of
light, and of love ; and more faithful and earnest
in the discharo-e of her social mission : she would
not have had to lament that so many had left her
and gone over to the enemy. The first and chief
work which the Church of Christ has to accomplish
in dealing with Socialists is to bring them back to
the Christian fold from which they have wandered
awav bevond the sound of her voice. Her main
difficulty with them, perhaps, is to get them to
listen to her. They are at her doors, yet to all
practical intents are more inaccessible to her than
the Chinese or Hindus.

Catholic writers have often attempted to throw
the blame of this state of matters on Protestantism,
arguing that the revolt in the sixteenth century
airainst authority in the Church, weakened it also
iu the world, and has continued to exercise on


society a dissolving and corrupting power, of which
SociaHsm is the natural outcome.* This is surely an
insufficient explanation. Protestantism was not an
assault on authority, but essentially an appeal to
authority, true and divine authority, that authority
a recognition of which is the only and the adequate
defence against both the despotic and the revolu-
tionary tendencies of Socialism. Besides, Socialism
springs even more from the abuse of authority than
from illegitimate resistance to it. Catholicism
tends more to Socialism and less to Individualism
than Protestantism. Socialism preceded as well as
accompanied the Keformation. In countries where
Protestantism took firm root. Socialism has been
late in appearing, and now that it has appeared in
them it is very far from confined to them. Italy,
Spain, France, Belgium, and Austria are not Protes-
tant countries, and yet a very virulent sort of
Socialism is at work in them.

The Heformation, I admit, was not an unmixed
good. Protestantism has shown, and is everywhere
showing, tendencies to disruption and dissolution
which bode ill for the success of its endeavours
to leaven society with the Gospel, even in the
countries where it is most dominant. So long as it
is content to remain broken up as at present into
competing and conflicting denominations, it cannot
possibly discharge effectively the duties to society,
and especially to the poorer classes of society,

* For a full statement of the argiunent referred to see the treatise of
M. Auguste Nicolas, " Du Protestantisme et de toutes les heresies dans leur
rapport avec le Socialisme." Bruxelles. 1852.

2 F


^vlnc]l are iucuiiibuut on the Christian Church.
The unity of spirit and of organisation which cha-
racterises the CathoHc Church ought to be of
immense advantao^e to her in the work of bring-ing:
Christianity to bear on the amelioration of social
life. But she has defects which more than counter-
act these advantages, and which make her certainly
not less responsible than the Protestant Church for
the rise and spread of Socialism. Neither Church
should attempt to exonerate herself by throwing
blame on the other. Each should rather seek to
find wherein she has been herself at fault, and how
she may best amend herself. They should be will-
ing to co-operate as far as they can in measures
which tend to the safety and welfare of society.
It is alike the duty and the interest of both to
endeavour to remove the evils to which Socialism
mainly owes its strength. It is foolish for either
to pretend that she alone has the right to combat
or the power to conquer these evils.

Some of the socialistic enthusiasts in the earlier
half of this century represented Socialism as the
very Gospel which Christ had promulgated. In
their view Christ had been merely a social reformer ;
and Christianity, as taught by Him, had consisted
exclusively of a few simple practical truths, de-
signed and adapted to be the seeds of a fruitful
harvest of social welfare throughout the future of
the human race ; while all in it, as it has come
down to us, which refers to the direct personal
relationship of the soul to its God, to sin and
redemption, to a divine life and an eternal world,


had not entered into the thought of Christ, but
had been added by popular superstition and priestly
invention, and ought to be swept away.

This is not a view which will bear examination.
It has no historical basis. There is not a particle
of evidence for the existence of the socialistic
Christ. The Christ of history was the Christ who
taught that God was to be regarded before man ;
that the soul was more than the body ; that eternal
and spiritual wants were more urgent than temporal
and social ones. He came to set men right towards
God, and said comparatively little about their rela-
tions to Csesar and society, being aware that the
man whose heart is right towards God will be right
also towards every creature and ordinance of God.
He died on the cross as the author of an eternal
salvation, and not as the promulgator of a political
panacea. The truths which He taught with reference
to man's direct personal relationship to God, those
so rashly pronounced to be the products of craft and
credulity, have an infinite value, independent of any
bearing which they may have on the life that now
is. At the same time, it is especially in these truths
that even the moral and social power of the Gospel
is concentrated, — its power to quicken and leaven,
to pervade and transform, to bless and beautify
every phase of human nature here below.

Christianity is not dependent on any form of
social polity or organisation. This is one marked
feature of distinction between it and the economy
which preceded it. That economy comprehended a
political constitution for the Jewish nation as well


as a Religion. The inseparable interweaving of the
sacred with the civil, if indeed we can speak of the
civil in such a case, constituted the Theocracy.
The Gospel has come free from all the restrictions
which made the Mosaic dispensation fit only for a
single people at a particular stage of civilisation,
and acted upon by special influences. It was meant
to sanctify man's life in every form that life can
assume ; to pervade law and government through
all their changes and stages with its own spirit ; to
make all the kingdoms of this world provinces of
the kingdom of Christ ; and in order to effect this it
has necessarily not been committed to any one
political system, any one type of social organisa-
tion. In order to influence for good every kind of
polity, it is indissolubly bound to none. It stands
above them all, unfettered and independent, in order
that it may be able to aid and strengthen them all,
and free to reprove and correct them all.

Christianity is no more inseparably bound to the
existing order of society than it was to that of
Imperial Home or Feudal EurojDe. The existing
order of society is perceptibly changing under our
own eyes, and will undoubtedly give place to one
very different. Christianity can accommodate itself
to manifold and immense changes. It can accom-
modate itself to any merely economic and political
changes, and has no reason or call to attack any
economic or political system simply as economic or
political. So far as Socialism confines itself to pro-
posals of an exclusively economic and political char-
acter, Chi istianity has no direct concern with it. A


Christian may, of course, criticise and disapprove of
them ; but it cannot be on Christian grounds ; it must
be merely on economic and political grounds. Whether
land is to be owned by few or many, by every one or
only by the State ; whether industry is to be entirely
under the direction of Government, or conducted by
co-operative associations, or left to private enter-
prise ; whether labour is to be remunerated by wages
or out of profits ; whether wealth is to be equally or
unequally distributed, are not in themselves questions
of moment to the Christian life, or indeed questions
to which Christianity has any answer to give.

Socialism and Christianity, however, are by no
means entirely unrelated. Nor is their relationship
merely antagonism. Socialism is of its very nature,
indeed, erroneous and of evil tendency, seeing that
one-sidedness and exaggeration are precisely what
is distinctive of it ; and it does not contain any
truth or any good principle which is exclusively its
own. But it is not, therefore, to be thought of as
without any truth or good in it ; or as to be utterly
■condemned and opposed. There is much in it which
is not distinctive of it or exclusively characteristic
of it. It is to a large extent an exaggeration or
misapplication of principles which are true and good,
which Christ has taught and sanctioned, which the
■Gospel rests on and must stand or fall by ; and
Christians will betray Christ and the Gospel if they
■desert these principles, or depreciate them, or allow
them to be evil spoken of, or act as if they were
ashamed of them, because Socialism has so far recog-
nised and adopted them.


Let us take note of some of the features of
Socialism which cannot fail to receive the approval
of every intelligent Christian.

I. In all its forms it is the manifestation of desire
to know the laws of social life, the conditions of
social welfare. Even the most fantastic of its
systems testify on the part of those who originated
them and of those who accepted them to the opera-
tion of a belief that the social world is, like the
pliysical world, a world of law and order ; a world
to be studied in the spirit and by the methods of
science ; a world which science will eventually con-
quer and possess. This grand conviction is of
comparatively recent origin, and, indeed, has only
come to be universally entertained in the present
century. Socialistic theories were among the early
expressions of its prevalence, and it has to a con-
siderable extent propagated itself by means of them.
They may be regarded as preludes to a true Sociology
or Social Science. The Social Science not of the
present only, but of the future also, must be ascribed
in some measure to Socialism, either as consequence
or counteraction. And so far as this has been the
case the Christian must see good in it. Christianity
has the greatest interest in God's laws being brought
to light in every region of His dominions. It is even
more, perhaps, to be desired on its behalf that the
laws by which God governs humanity should be
known than that those by which He rules the
physical creation should be known. So far as
socialistic theories are the results of honest efforts
to throw light on the constitution and order of the


social world, Christianity, which is of the light and
favours every effort to increase light, will not refuse
to welcome them.

2. Socialism has assailed the competency of the
older Political Economy to guide and govern society.
Political Economy was gradually raised by the labours
of a series of eminent men, of whom Adam Smith is
the most famed, from a rudimentary and confused
condition to the rank of a science rich in important
truths as to labour, capital, wages, rents, prices,
interest, population, &c. These men were keenly
alive to the enormous evils which had resulted from
the guardianship exercised by the State over industry
and commerce, from the privileges granted to guilds,
and corporations, and classes, from legal restrictions
on activity and enterprise ; and they deemed it the
prime duty of the State to cease from interference,
to remove old restrictions, and to leave individuals
alone so long as they do not defraud or injure
others. They maintained that Governments should
let labour and capital develop themselves freely
within the limits of morality, in the confidence that,
as a general rule, each man knows best how to
manage his own affairs, and that if individuals be
left to seek, as they please, without violence or
injustice, their own advantage the self-interest of
each will tend, on the whole, to the common good.
They did not pretend that economic truths were
alone necessary to the welfare of mankind, or that
Political Economy was the only social science, or
that laissez-faire was a rule without exceptions. '
Unfortunately, however, many who professed to


apply their teaching to practice acted as if that had
been the sum of it. They talked and behaved as
if the heaping up of wealth were the one thing-
needful for society, and as if it were a crime to put
almost any restraint on the process. Under the
plea of industrial freedom they claimed social license,
rights of oppression, fraud, and falsehood. For
the nefarious deeds to which their ruthless greed
prompted them they sought exculpation from the
reproaches of their consciences in the plea that the
pursuit of self-advantage could not fail to promote
the benefit of the community.

Socialists have striven in vain to refute the leading
doctrines of Political Economists, and to prove that
compulsory regulation of labour should be substituted
for free contract. They have signally failed in their
attacks on Political Economy as expounded by its
scientific cultivators. But they have not been with-
out success in discrediting the views and conduct of
those who appealed to it with a view to justify evil
practices in the maintenance of which they were
interested. They have been able to show that there
is no warrant for believing in the sufficiency of the
operation of merely economic laws to produce social
welfare, in universal selfishness tending to universal
prosperity, in competition producing only good.
Thus far they have had truth and historical ex-
perience on their side. And thus far their teaching
has been in conformity with Christianity, which
tells us that man shall not live by bread alone, but
by every word that cometh from the mouth of God ;
which leads us to see that no one class of nature's


laws is sufficient for man's guidance, and that even
all nature's laws are very insufficient, where human
virtue and divine grace are wanting ; that selfish-
ness, unresisted and uncorrected, must lead not to
national prosperity, but to national ruin ; and that
all the wisdom which rulers can exercise and all the
charity which Christians can display, w411 be fully
required to control its action and to counteract its

3. Socialism has helped to emphasise and diffuse
the truth that the entire economic life of society
should be conformed to justice. If we ask its
adherents what they mean by justice, we will
generally find that it is what other men would
consider injustice. But they have had at least the
merit of insisting on the supremacy due to considera-
tions of justice in the regulation of the collective life
of society as w^ell as of the personal life of the
individual. Thev must be credited also with the
further and closely related merit of having search-
ingly diagnosed the moral diseases of society as at
present constituted, of having persistently dwelt on
and boldly denounced its sins and shortcomings, and
of having thereby contributed to rouse, widen, and
deepen in the public mind a consciousness that all
is far from being wholly well in contemporary
Christendom, and that our so-called Christian
England, for example, is still chargeable in many
respects with the violation of justice and the non-
fulfilment of duty. But so far as they have done
and are doing this they have so far done and are
doing what the Hebrew prophets laboured to do in


Ancient Israel, and must be regarded as unintention-
ally co-operating in the performance of a duty which
is imperative on the members, and especially on the
spokesmen, of the Christian Church.

4. Socialism is to a considerable extent an ex-
pression of the idea of fraternity, an embodiment
of belief in the brotherhood of man. It proclaims
the principle of human solidarity : that men are
members one of another, and that the aim of each
of them should be to seek not merely their own
good, but also the good of others, and of the whole
to which they belong. It owes largely its existence,
and almost all that is best in it, to the spirit of
sympathy with those who are in poor circumstances
and humble situations ; to solicitude for the welfare
of the great mass of the people. It insists most
emphatically on the claims of labour, and on the
urgency of striving to ameliorate the condition of
the class the most numerous and indigent. But
there is thus far nothing in Socialism which is not
derived from Christianity. The purest and most
perfect love to man, the love to man which is con-
joined with and vivified by love to God, was fully
revealed by Jesus Christ. The law of His kingdom
is the royal law of love. Men cannot be true
Christians unless they feel and act towards each
other as the children of the one Heavenly Father,
loving even their enemies, seeking to do good to all
vi^hom it is in their power to benefit, and showing
themselves in all human relationships not merely
faithful and just, but also self-denying, merciful,
and charitable. Christianity has sanctified povert}


and dignified toil as no other system or agency has
done. Anti-Christian societies have as yet done so
exceedingly little in comparison with the Church to
console and help the poor, that they can make no
reasonable claim to be more in sympathy with them
or more anxious for their welfare.

5 . The lively sense of the evils arising from com-
petition and the strong desire to substitute for it
co-operation generally evinced by Socialists are, it
may be added, entirely in harmony with the spirit
of Christianity. Socialists err, indeed, when they
represent competition as in itself unchristian ; and
when they propose to suppress it by compulsoiy
collective association they recommend a slavery
inconsistent with the freedom and resjDonsibility
implied in Christian liberty. To do away with com-
petition in the various departments of industrial,
commercial, and professional life would be to infiict

Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 33 of 38)