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Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White Volume II by Andrew Dickson White

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through his prayers, addressing them in the direction of Mecca.
He was utterly oblivious of the crowd about him, and the
simplicity, directness, and reverence in his whole movement
appealed to me strongly. At various other times, on the desert,
in the bazaars, in the mosques, and on the Nile boats, I
witnessed similar scenes, and my broad-churchmanship was thereby
made broader. Nor was this general effect diminished by my visit
to the howling and whirling dervishes. The manifestations of
their zeal ranged themselves clearly in the same category with
those evident in American camp-meetings, and I now understood
better than ever what the Rev. Dr. Bacon of New Haven meant when,
after returning from the East, he alluded to certain Christian
"revivalists" as "howling dervishes."

I must say, too, that while I loved and admired many Christian
missionaries whom I saw in the East, and rejoiced in the work of
their schools, the utter narrowness of some of them was
discouraging. Anything more cold, forbidding, and certain of
extinction than the worship of the "United Presbyterians" at the
mission church at Cairo I have never seen, save possibly that of
sundry Calvinists at Paris. Nor have I ever heard anything more
defiant of sane thought and right reason than the utterances of
some of these excellent men.

But the general effect of all these experiences, as I now think,
was to aid in a healthful evolution of my religious ideas.

It may now be asked what is the summing up of my relation to
religion, as looked upon in the last years of a long life, during
which I have had many suggestions to thought upon it, many
opportunities to hear eminent religionists of almost every creed
discuss it, and many chances to observe its workings in the
multitude of systems prevalent in various countries.

As a beginning, I would answer that, having for many years
supplemented my earlier observations and studies by special
researches into the relations between science and religion, my
conviction has been strengthened that religion in its true
sense--namely, the bringing of humanity into normal relations
with that Power, not ourselves, in the universe, which makes for
righteousness--is now, as it always has been, a need absolute,
pressing, and increasing.

As to the character of such normal relations, I feel that they
involve a sense of need for worship: for praise and prayer,
public and private. If fine-spun theories are presented as to the
necessary superfluity of praise to a perfect Being, and the
necessary inutility of prayer in a world governed by laws, my
answer is that law is as likely to obtain in the spiritual as in
the natural world: that while it may not be in accordance with
physical laws to pray for the annihilation of a cloud and the
cessation of a rain-storm, it may well be in accordance with
spiritual laws that communication take place between the Infinite
and finite minds; that helpful inspiration may be thus
obtained,--greater power, clearer vision, higher aims.

As to the question between worship by man as an individual being,
face to face with the Divine Power, and worship by human beings
in common, as brethren moved to express common ideas, needs,
hopes, efforts, aspirations, I attribute vast value to both.

As to the first. Each individual of us has perhaps an even more
inadequate conception of "the God and father of us all" than a
plant has of a man; and yet the universal consciousness of our
race obliges a human being under normal conditions to feel the
need of betterment, of help, of thankfulness. It would seem best
for every man to cultivate the thoughts, relations, and practices
which he finds most accordant with such feelings and most
satisfying to such needs.

As to the second. The universal normal consciousness of humanity
seems to demand some form of worship in common with one's
fellow-men. All forms adopted by men under normal conditions,
whether in cathedrals, temples, mosques, or conventicles, clearly
have uses and beauties of their own.

If it be said that all forms of belief or ceremonial obscure that
worship, "in spirit and in truth," which aids high aspiration, my
answer is that the incorporation, in beliefs and forms of
worship, of what man needs for his spiritual sustenance seems to
me analogous to the incorporation in his daily material food of
what he needs for his physical sustenance. As a rule, the truths
necessary for the sustenance and development of his higher nature
would seem better assimilated when incorporated in forms of
belief and worship, public or private, even though these beliefs
and forms have imperfections or inadequacies. We do not support
material life by consuming pure carbon, or nitrogen, or hydrogen:
we take these in such admixtures as our experience shows to be
best for us. We do not live by breathing pure oxygen: we take it
diluted with other gases, and mainly with one which, if taken by
itself, is deadly.

This is but a poor and rough analogy, but it seems a legitimate
illustration of a fact which we must take account of in the whole
history of the human race, past, present, and future.

It will, in my opinion, be a sad day for this or for any people
when there shall have come in them an atrophy of the religious
nature; when they shall have suppressed the need of
communication, no matter how vague, with a supreme power in the
universe; when the ties which bind men of similar modes of
thought in the various religious organizations shall be
dissolved; when men, instead of meeting their fellow-men in
assemblages for public worship which give them a sense of
brotherhood, shall lounge at home or in clubs; when men and
women, instead of bringing themselves at stated periods into an
atmosphere of prayer, praise, and aspiration, to hear the
discussion of higher spiritual themes, to be stirred by appeals
to their nobler nature in behalf of faith, hope, and charity, and
to be moved by a closer realization of the fatherhood of God and
the brotherhood of man, shall stay at home and give their
thoughts to the Sunday papers or to the conduct of their business
or to the languid search for some refuge from boredom.

But thus recognizing the normal need of religious ideas,
feelings, and observances, I see in the history of these an
evolution which has slowly brought our race out of lower forms of
religion into higher, and which still continues. Nowhere is this
more clearly mirrored than in our own sacred books; nowhere more
distinctly seen than in what is going on about us; and one finds
in this evolution, just as in the development of our race in
other fields, survivals of outworn beliefs and observances which
remain as mile-stones to mark human progress.

Belief in a God who is physically, intellectually, and morally
but an enlarged "average man"--unjust, whimsical, revengeful,
cruel, and so far from omnipotent that he has to make all sorts
of interferences to rectify faults in his original scheme--is
more and more fading away among the races controlling the world.

More and more the thinking and controlling races are developing
the power of right reason; and more and more they are leaving to
inferior and disappearing races the methods of theological

More and more, in all parts of the civilized world, is developing
liberty of thought; and more and more is left behind the tyranny
of formulas.

More and more is developing, in the leading nations, the
conception of the world's sacred books as a literature in which,
as in a mass of earthy material, the gems and gold of its
religious thought are embedded; and more and more is left behind
the belief in the literal, prosaic conformity to fact of all
utterances in this literature.

To one who closely studies the history of humanity, evolution in
religion is a certainty. Eddies there are,--counter-currents of
passion, fanaticism, greed, hate, pride, folly, the unreason of
mobs, the strife of parties, the dreams of mystics, the logic of
dogmatists, and the lust for power of ecclesiastics,--but the
great main tide is unmistakable.

What should be the attitude of thinking men, in view of all this?
History, I think, teaches us that, just so far as is possible,
the rule of our conduct should be to assist Evolution rather than
Revolution. Religious revolution is at times inevitable, and at
such times the rule of conduct should be to unite our efforts to
the forces working for a new and better era; but religious
revolutions are generally futile and always dangerous. As a rule,
they have failed. Even when successful and beneficial, they have
brought new evils. The Lutheran Church, resulting from the great
religious revolution of the sixteenth century, became immediately
after the death of Luther, and remained during generations, more
inexcusably cruel and intolerant than Catholicism had ever been;
the revolution which enthroned Calvinism in large parts of the
British Empire and elsewhere brought new forms of unreason,
oppression, and unhappiness; the revolution in France substituted
for the crudities and absurdities of the old religion a "purified
worship of the Supreme Being" under which came human sacrifices
by thousands, followed by a reaction to an unreason more extreme
than anything previously known. Goldwin Smith was right when he
said, "Let us never glorify revolution."

Christianity, though far short of what it ought to be and will
be, is to-day purer and better, in all its branches, than it has
ever before been; and the same may be said of Judaism. Any man
born into either of these forms of religion should, it seems to
me, before breaking away from it, try as long as possible to
promote its better evolution; aiding to increase breadth of view,
toleration, indifference to unessentials, cooperation with good
men and true of every faith. Melanchthon, St. Francis Xavier,
Grotius, Thomasius, George Fox, Fenelon, the Wesleys, Moses
Mendelssohn, Schleiermacher, Dr. Arnold, Channing, Phillips
Brooks, and their like may well be our exemplars, despite all
their limitations and imperfections.

I grant that there are circumstances which may oblige a
self-respecting man to withdraw from religious organizations and
assemblages. There may be reactionary zeal of rabbis, priests,
deacons, destructive to all healthful advance of thought; there
may be a degeneration of worship into fetishism; there may be
control by young Levites whose minds are only adequate to decide
the colors of altar-cloths and the cut of man-millinery; there
may be control by men of middle age who preach a gospel of
"hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness"; there may be tyranny
by old men who will allow no statements of belief save those
which they learned as children.

From such evils, there are, in America at least, many places of
refuge; and, in case these fail, there are the treasures of
religious thought accumulated from the days of Marcus Aurelius,
St. Augustine, and Thomas a Kempis to such among us as Brooks,
Gibbons, Munger, Henry Simmons, Rabbis Weinstock and Jacobs, and
very many others. It may be allowed to a hard-worked man who has
passed beyond the allotted threescore years and ten to say that
he has found in general religious biography, Jewish, Catholic,
and Protestant, and in the writings of men nobly inspired in all
these fields, a help without which his life would have been poor

True, there will be at times need of strong resistance, and
especially of resistance to all efforts by any clerical
combination, whether of rabbis, priests, or ministers, no matter
how excellent, to hamper scientific thought, to control public
education, or to erect barriers and arouse hates between men.
Both Religion and Science have suffered fearfully from unlimited
clerical sway; but of the two, Religion has suffered most.

When one considers the outcome of national education entirely
under the control of the church during over fifteen hundred
years,--in France at the outbreak of the revolution of 1789, in
Italy at the outbreak of the revolution of 1848, in the
Spanish-American republics down to a very recent period, and in
Spain, Poland, and elsewhere at this very hour,--one sees how
delusive is the hope that a return to the ideas and methods of
the "ages of faith" is likely to cure the evils that still linger
among us.

The best way of aiding in a healthful evolution would seem to
consist in firmly but decisively resisting all ecclesiastical
efforts to control or thwart the legitimate work of science and
education; in letting the light of modern research and thought
into the religious atmosphere; and in cultivating, each for
himself, obedience to "the first and great commandment, and the
second which is like unto it," as given by the Blessed Founder of



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Address to the Students of Cornell University and to the Citizens
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The Greater States of Continental Europe (including Italy, six
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An Address before the State Agricultural Society, at the Capitol
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Address at the First Annual Banquet of the Cornell Alumni of
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What Profession shall I Choose, and how shall I Fit Myself for
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Address at the Funeral of Edward Lasker. New York, 1884.

Address delivered at the Unveiling of the Statue of Benjamin
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Some Practical Influences of German Thought upon the United
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Letter defending the Cornell University from Sundry Sectarian
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Sundry Important Questions in Higher Education: Elective Studies,
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Yale College in 1853. "Yale Literary Magazine," February, 1886.

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A History of the Doctrine of Comets. A paper read before the
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College Fraternities. An address given at the Metropolitan Opera
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New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Geology. Reprinted from
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The Next American University. The "Forum," June, 1888.

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The Need of Another University. The "Forum," January, 1889.

A University at Washington. The "Forum," February, 1889.

New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Demoniacal Possession and
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New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Diabolism and Hysteria.
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The Political Catechism of Archbishop Apuzzo. A paper read
before, and published by, the American Historical Association,
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My Reminiscences of Ezra Cornell. An address delivered before the
Cornell University on Founder's Day, January 11, 1890. Ithaca,

Remarks on Indian Education. Proceedings of the Lake Mohonk
Conference, 1890.

Evolution and Revolution. A commencement address before the
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1890.

The Teaching of History in our Public Schools. Remarks before the
Fortnightly Club, Buffalo, 1890.

Democracy and Education. An address given before the State
Teachers' Association at Saratoga, 1891. Published by the
Department of Public Instruction, Albany, 1891.

The Problem of High Crime in the United States. Published only by
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The Future of the American Colleges and Universities. Published
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A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.
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An Address at the Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the
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Erasmus, in "The Library of the World's Best Literature." New
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An Open letter to Sundry Democrats (Bryan Candidacy). New York,

Evolution vs. Revolution, in Politics. Biennial address before
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Speech at a Farewell Banquet given by the German-Americans of New
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Sundry addresses at Berlin and Leipsic. Berlin, 1897-1902.

A Statesman of Russia--Pobedonostzeff. The "Century Magazine,"

The President of the United States. Speech at Leipsic, Germany,
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Address before the Peace Conference of The Hague at the Laying of
a Silver and Gold Wreath on the Tomb of Grotius at Delft, in
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Walks and Talks with Tolstoy. "McClure's Magazine," April, 1901.

The Cardiff Giant. The "Century Magazine" for October, 1902.

Farewell Address at Berlin, November 11, 1902. The "Columbia"
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January 14, 1903.

Speech at the Bodleian Tercentenary, Oxford. "Yale Alumni
Weekly," March 11, 1903.

A Patriotic Investment. An address at the fiftieth anniversary of
the Yale class of 1853, New Haven, 1903.

Reminiscences of My Diplomatic Life. Various articles in the
"Century Magazine," 1903-5.

The Warfare of Humanity with Unreason, including biographical
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Speech at the Laying of the Corner-stone of Goldwin Smith Hall.
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February 11, 1905.

The Past, Present, and Future of Cornell University. An address
delivered before the New York City Association of Cornell Alumni,
February 25, 1905. Ithaca, 1905.

The American Diplomatic Service, with Hints for its Reform. An
address delivered before the Smithsonian Association, Washington,
D. C., March 9, 1905. Washington, 1905.

Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White. New York, 1905.

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