The Spike or Victoria College Review 1936
Quo Vadis? — Random Thoughts on Christianity
Random Thoughts on Christianity
I like to go to church. I like to hear the organ play, to hear the choir sing, often to join in singing the hymns; sometimes I like to hear the sermon. But to suggest that to know God I must go to church, that seems to me the merest moonshine. I suppose that by the name "God" is meant that supernatural power which is the author of our being; I suppose that is the commonly accepted conception of God. It seems to me a proper conception, for surely no one would deny that there must have been some divine spark behind the creation, call it what you will, and we have called it God. But surely we no more know God in church than we do in the fresh air and the sunshine amid the creatures and solitudes of nature, or speeding through space in an aeroplane, or in a crowded dance hall where is concentrated that life which God created. Surely God is in all these places and we do not need to wade to the altar rail through a welter of meaningless phrases, to meet Him face to face, meaningless phrases which drag by in the aimless repetition of the dreary order of service, albeit some of these meaningless phrases, as for example the lovely song of Simeon—"Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace . . ." are couched in very beautiful language; some of them too in most dangerous language, as for example when I was a little boy I used to pray diligently every night "for all soldiers and sailors." In the way in which I meant it in those days I am not at all sure that it was a proper prayer or one that a God of love would have welcomed from a little boy, but it was part of the "authorised version" for little boys at that time and I did not question it.
But to return: need I really go to church to be a Christian? I admit I may be trying to find an easy way to God, even if it be a more logical way, but it seems to me that Christ is only a name for the finest and best and most Godlike (in the opinion of all Christians) life of all time, so that all men may aspire to emulate Christ and live Christian lives, just as all soldiers may strive to emulate Napoleon or all poets to write Miltonic verse. Whether He rose from the dead and if so whether He is immortal and lives in Heaven (whatever that may mean) is beyond my understanding, and on the evidence known to me, with great respect to many noble people, my knowledge. If I am right I am entitled to accept Christ as a pattern for my life or not as I like. It may be that I prefer to follow some other lead. It may be that if I do I shall end up just as near to God. Of course it may be that I like the comfort of my fireside better than the stern dictates of that religion whose adherents pray to God for peace.
However it seems to me that the churches are the last strongholds of that ancient herdinstinct based on a mob psychology which required of everyone to do everything alike at the same time and in the same place, a system which is being broken up by the shocks upon it of modern scientific development. It seems to me that the outcome must be a realisation that religion for each one of us is essentially a personal matter for our own consciences. You know the old argument about the savage who never heard of Christ and was therefore a sinner who had no part in the monopoly of riches stored up in Heaven. I refuse to believe that a savage never lived a godly life. No, the way to God is an individual one, and it is becoming ever more so. There is a restlessness in the old order of religious thought that is seen in the gradual break-up of the various orders, as sect multiplies into sect, each smaller than the last, until indeed each individual must become a sect unto himself. Then will the day of religious freedom have dawned, when each man can be permitted to believe that which appeals to his own conscience. There will then only be a justification for religion in the mass on those rare occasions of herd hysteria such as national thanksgivings when it provides a valuable outlet for emotion. We shall then be able to have the Scriptures applied to modern problems by people who really do count instead of wasting a fine summer morning listening to some witless and worldless nincompoop vainly trying to expound a vague metaphysical conception based on an obscure remark of a rather unimportant low class intellect of 2000 years ago—not that I deny that there are to-day some marvellous preachers or that there is much wisdom in some of the apostles' teachings.page 18
Well, I have written very frankly the substance of a viewpoint sincerely arrived at and if this is ever read I hope it will be with just such sincerity. I am very worried about it all and only too ready to see a happier viewpoint if someone can convince me, because I fully realise that in coming to these conclusions, I have banished still further the ultimate problem of where we are all bound for? I do wish we only knew.