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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review 1912

The Heretics' Club

The Heretics' Club.

"Philosophy shall lap us round
To dream of spheres where all is well,
Not troubled by the uncertain sound
Of those that prate of Heaven and Hell."

In the belief that every institution, social, religious, political or philosophical, is to be judged by its works, and by its works only, it is proposed in this report merely to summarise the meetings held under the auspices of the Heretics' Club since the June number of The Spike, and to leave it to the reader to decide whether or not the Heretics' Club is justifying its existence.

The third meeting of the year was held on Friday. 31st May, when Mr. John Gammell read a paper on "Old Testament Criticism." In the course of his address, the lecturer discussed the main points of modern criticism as regards the Old Testament. One thing had become abundantly clear—no sane person to-day could believe, for one moment, that the Old Testament was an inspired revelation given by God to a chosen people. Its rank now was that of a code—an ethical code, or permanent value. The defects in the orthodox representation of the Old Testament were many. As one instance, among many, might be given the fact that, chronologically, the Book of Amos should be placed first, and Genesis after Malachi. The "confusion worse confounded" that existed in orthodox theology to-day was not surprising in the light of such fundamental errors as these. Mr. Gammell completed his .survey of the three divisions of the Old Testament, and then briefly referred to the question of the Bible in schools. There could be no objection to the teaching of the Bible in schools, provided it was taught scientifically. The lecturer concluded by stating that one thing was still our best heritance from the Old Testament, and that was the sublime, monotheistic idea of an ultimate, omniscient God.

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At the fourth meeting, held on 14th June, Professor Mackenzie read .a paper on "Ethics: The Source of Enlightened Religion," and; at an early stage put his case in a nutshell. "Ethics is a human necessity; Religion, a human luxury" As a matter of history, there could not be the slightest doubt that Ethical sentiments were of earlier emergence than Religious. Religion was the product of the moral and spiritual experience of man. Men work up to it inductively. Enlightened religion, on the other hand, proceeds deductively. The great necessity for religion was to keep in touch with contemporary life. As our ethical horizon broadened so should our religion.

The fifth meeting was held in the short vacation on 4th July. Miss Christie delivered an address on "Theosophy," and gave an outline of the general principles of her subject. Theosophy is a subject which to the ordinary man is clothed in mystery, and it is not therefore surprising to note that one short lecture was insufficient to dispel the clouds However, those who were forunate enough to hear the lecture were provided with ample food for thought. Next year's committee might well place in its syllabus a further lecture on a Theosophical subject.

At the sixth meeting, held on 2nd August, His Honour Sir Robert Stout read a paper on the "Problem of Religion," and outlined fully the questions which one had to face to-day when considering religion. Recent scientific discoveries had completely altered one's views of life, and a readjustment of our religious views was now a necessity. For instance, we had to consider how we obtained our knowledge; what were the origins of religion? Had we approached any nearer to a solution of the problem? The attitude of the agnostic seemed a very reasonable one to-day. His Honour concluded by referring to the moral code enunciated years ago in China, and questioned whether we had advanced far beyond it.

The seventh meeting was held on 16th August before a large audience. Professor Hunter delivered an address on "Some Heresies of To-day," and treated in turn five subject-. The first was "The Exemption of Church Property from Taxation After giving an historical outline of the practice of "Tithes" in England, the Professor pointed out that much the same practice existed in New Zealand, inasmuch as Church lands are exempt from rates and taxes. This was an extraordinary thing in view of the efforts of the Church to overthrow the State's system of secular education. Practically it amounted to no less than this, that the State was subsidising its opponent in its deliberate attempt to wreck the national system of education. The next subject was "Oaths." It was pointed out that, with very little practical value. Oaths were now, a dangerous instrument in the page 71 hands of the unscrupulous The subject that appealed to students most closely was the third, "Oral Lectures in a University." Professor Hunter argued for the reform of the present oral system by substituting the issue of printed lectures and class discussion. In regard to his fourth subject, "Burial," the Professor pleaded for a saner and more sanitary mode of disposing of the dead than earth burial. The last subject, "Civil Marriage," was also one that appealed to all. Since marriage had fallen under clerical domination, ii had become a most dangerous instrument. The discussion as to the "Ne Temere" decree, and as to the validity of marriage with one's deceased wife's sister, clearly showed the necessity of reform, and that lay in civil marriage—compulsory in every case.

The eighth meeting was held on 30th August. Rev. B. Horace Ward delivered an address on "Religious Belief," and treated his subject in three divisions—Religion, Faith, and Religious Faith. The address was interesting all through, and was appreciated by all. Of special interest was the account of Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and the Greek Religion, and their comparison with Christianity. Indeed, the lecture was marked by a complete absence of bigotry and intolerance, and was expressive of sentiments so much in accord with the views of the Heretics present, that one remarked, after the lecture, "If this is orthodoxy, we shall have to change our name."