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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 49

Secularists Teaching Morals

Secularists Teaching Morals.

The helplessness of the Secularist as a teacher of the people is best described by Herbert Spencer in "First page 39 Principles:" "Few, if any, are as yet fitted wholly to dispense with such (religious) conceptions as are current. The highest abstractions take so great a mental power to realize with any vividness, and are so inoperative on conduct unless they are vividly realized, that their regulative effects must, for a long period to come, be appreciable on but a small minority. . . . Those who relinquish the faith in which they have been brought up, for this most abstract faith in which religion and science unite, may not uncommonly fail to act up to their convictions. Left to their organic morality, enforced only by general reasonings imperfectly wrought out and difficult to keep before the mind, their defects of nature will often come out more strongly than they would have done under their previous creed." No one is better entitled to a hearing on the side of the Secularists than Herbert Spencer. How far they are able to provide a code of morals for the training of the young in substitution of that of the Christian religion, he has clearly stated. The child accepts its lessons in science and morals on authority. The Secularist child has no other authority than that of the teacher, supplemented and enforced by its parents. Hence the necessity of harmony of thought between parent and teacher. But "moral goodness," to be effective even in the Secularist's idea, demands vividness of conception beyond the power of attainment on the part of children, since few of their parents can rise to its realization. In other words, the teaching of morals in a Secularist's school is all but impossible.