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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Personal Volume

Religion and the state. A New Year's address ... in the Unitarian Free Church on ... 4th January, 1914

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Religion and the State.

A New Year's Address Delivered in the Unitarian Free Church on Sunday Evening, the 4th January, 1914.

By Sir Robert Stout, K.C.M.G.

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Religion and the State.

It was long ago pointed out by an eminent political philosopher that there were at least three ways of considering every question or Social Science. It may be viewed from—
(1).The historical side,
(2).The theoretic side, or
(3).The practical side.

May I use all these three ways of approaching the important subject of Religion and the State?

I feel that at least one hour is all too short for considering any one of these three aspects. To-night I can, therefore, only indicate—and that in a brief way—how the subject may be viewed, leaving to my hearers the duty and, I hope, the pleasure of more fully discussing the subject at their leisure.

(1). What then is the history of the relationship of Religion and the State?

I do not know if we sufficiently realise that every race of human beings, nay, every tribe, has a religion. The most primitive races with which we have become acquainted have had some form of religion—that is, some theory of their existence and some method or ritual of appeasing the power or powers by which they considered they were surrounded. We call their religion unpleasant names. Sometimes we say it is idolatry, or paganism, or magic, or sometimes we use all these three epithets in describing it. Whatever name is used, we must recognise the experiences of these primitive peoples as "religious experiences," to use the phraseology of the late Professor William James of Boston.

May I refer, in illustration of what I mean by religion amongst primitive peoples, to what is found in Australia? The aboriginals of Australia are not high in the scale of civilisation. They are very low in the scale. They have views of their origin, and they have religious assemblies—we call them "corrobborrees." Their ritual is varied, differing in the different tribes. The Arunta tribe, for example, has one, and the Warramunga trioe another. Full details of their ceremonies are given in Spencer and Gilleas' works on Australian exploration. Each tribe has only one religion. Heresy is unknown. There is only one church, one religious experience, one tribal religious conscience and consciousness. There is in the Arunta tribe no specialisation of social functions. The chief men are leaders in their government and their religion. The division of the tribe into "warriors and priests" has not yet arrived to them. Religion and the State are one. There are no heresy hunts, no religious persecutions and so far as is known, no one has been burned for holding heretical opinions; and obviously there have been no discussions about the realm of spiritual or temporal power. The head or heads of the tribe are not differentiated from the religious rulers. This practice of non-differentiation or non-specialisation has continued amongst European nations to our own day, so do not let us cast stones at the Australian blacks. In Russia the Czar is head of the Russian church, and the King of England is the chief ruler of both the English and Scotch National churches, if you were at the meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland you would see the High Commissioner representing His Majesty—the adumbration of royalty—there. To those acquainted with Scottish history I need not recall the "Ten Years Conflict,' that ended in the "disruption' of 1843 and the creation of the Free Church of Scotland. The headship of page 2 the Church was the most prominent cause of the struggle. Before Italian Unity there was one part of the Peninsula in which the Head of the Catholic Church was also head of the State.

In ancient times there was no room for any variety of religious experiences. The National religious consciousness demanded one church and one only. This old view is still prevalent, so persistent are ancient beliefs. In many modern creeds we can see their foundations extending back for many thousands of years, as a perusal of the volumes of the third edition of the "Golden Bough" by Professor Frazer, already published, will tell us.

It is not surprising that this should be the history of our creeds or social beliefs. It is but a page of the history of living things. Biologists tell us that the most primitive living things were not, and are not, specialised in structure. Some of them have only one sac that has to serve them for their life's equipment. They have no socialised heart, or lungs, or liver, and yet they can perform all the functions necessary for life. As the ladder of life is ascended, specialisation is seen both in structure and function. We see animals with a heart, lungs, liver, etc., etc. There is a vast difference between a pro-tozoa and a mammal.

We witness the same specialisation in out industrial life, as we have in our physical life. At one time our worker could be farmer, tailor, bootmaker, carpenter, etc. Now we have specialisation so great, that it takes several workmen to make a pair of shoes. And as civilisation has advanced, so we have had the number of our political and social agencies increased. Our local bodies are numerous and their functions are specialised. One body, or society, or department looks after one thing, another after another, and their spheres of action are kept separate and apart. The test, one might say, of progress, or of civilisation, is the specialisation that is seen in the framework of society. And specialisation is seen not only in the physical structure of living things, in the division of labour in the manufacturing of goods, in the functions of Government departments and local governing bodies, but in the variety of religious beliefs. As intellectual development has appeared so have there been seen many varieties of beliefs. Heretics are not found where the level of intelligence is very low. Voltaire was amazed at England having many creeds, and only one sauce. He found in England thought and freedom, and he should not therefore have been surprised that creeds were numerous, Heretics appear where there are thought and freedom. What a list of them might be read out—Socrates, Galileo, Bruno, Servetus, Ferrer, etc., etc.

It the mass think alike, the religious experiences are alike, and a State Church may have a reason for its existence, and be successful, If you allow freedom to think, do not be surprised at a variety of religious experiences.

I am stating no new doctrine. Has it not all been stated by Herbert Spencer and many others? The law or progress shows a change from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous.

If we consider the struggles between the Christian Religion and the Religion not Christian, or the many struggles between the varieties of Christian faith, we will find that the struggle is ever to go back to the old theory, to try and have only one religion. Illustrations might be given that would take hours to tell. We know that Roman Catholics were put to death in Elizabeth's reign because of their religious beliefs. We have read of the Wigton martyrs, of two women drowned in the Solway because they would not conform to Episcopalianism, of Thomas Aikenhead hanged because he did not believe in the inspiration of the Bible or in the Deity of Christ, of Chevalier de la Barre because, as stated on his page 3 monument erected in Montmarte, Paris, he did not make obeisance to a passing Church procession. We Know how Non-conformists were penalised in the 18th century in England, denied the right of education, and not allowed even to have schools of their own. Have we not heard of rivers of France running led with the blood of dissenting Hugueaots? Were all these people that joined in such persecutions wicked people? Not at all: most of item were sincere. They thought they were saving souls, and the race having been trained for centuries to believe there should be only one religion, they struggled for that end. And amongst us we have sincere people who are dominated by the same idea. In their view, there should be only one religion, and the State should and that religion. They believe there can be no morality and no happiness unless their variety of religious experience is made universal, and they are 30 blinded that they do not see anything wrong in utilising the re-sources of the State to help them to propagate their creed.

II. Let us now consider what is a State. What is the function or what is the duty of a State? where can this be found recorded? There are many books on the subject, Bluntschll's, Humboldt's Bosanquet and many others. Before a wise man builds a house he has a plan of what the structure is to be. A State is a growth, it is an organism of a Society which has taken long to evolve, and in most states there has not yet been committed to writing or put in print the exact limitations of its authority over individuals. There is a limitation, but it varies in different States. All admit that the State exists not for itself out for the people. It is supposed to be, to quote Abraham Lincoln, "A Government of the people, for the people, by the people.'" It is not for a majority only—it is for all. There is such a thing as human liberty.

We say an Englishman's house is his castle. Within his dwelling there is a holy place which even a State officer cannot invade. There must be individual freedom. Freedom in what? In religion! It was not always so. In Great Britain at one time Catholics could not even in their own houses hold their religious services without incurring the penalties of Statutes. At another time Protestants could not worship when or where they pleased. Protestant non-conformists were punished even when the State Church was Protestant. Do we know that at one time not even a school could be opened by non-conformists without the license of an Anglican Bishop? The power of a State has waned since the 17th and 18th centuries. We have more freedom, Indeed, nowadays one might define the duties and functions of a State by enumerating what it can not do. We must have freedom, and if freedom is denied, like Tennyson we feel inclined to leave the State and seek a country where men and women are free. Can we say of our land:—

"It is the land that freeman till,
That sober-suited Freedom chose,
The land where girt with friends or foes,
A man may speak the things he will."

And may we not also say with Tennyson—

"Should banded unions persecute
Opinion, and induce a time
When single thought is civil crime
And individual freedom mute.
Tho' power should make from land to land
The name of Britain trebly great,
The every channel of the State
Should fill and choke with golden sand,
Yet waft me from the harbour mouth wild wind."

It then it is the right of men and women to have freedom of belier and freedom of worship, it cannot be the function of the State to teach a creed which is the creed of the majority only, and at the expense of all. It may be contended that the State page 4 has a right to teach all creeds and that concurrent endowment is propar. That would mean the State paying churches to teach the children religion (and why not adults), and leaving the control of that teaching in the hands of the churches. That is an understandable position, and is certainly more logical, and more in accord with freedom than endowing one or more churches and leaving others [unclear: meidowcd]. We have many citizens in New Zealand who are not Christians. We have Confuscians, Mahometans. Agnostics, Theists. Spiritualists. Theosophists—I suppose some people will not call unitarians Christians. Are all these citizens to have aid in the inculcating of their tenets to the young? Very few in a community would say that such was the duty of the State.

The present State Education system would have to be abolished and all religions endowed if we were to have concurrent endowment. To say that the State has a right to select one religion and teach its creed because it is the religion of the majority, is to declare it to be the duty of the State to propagate the religious experiences of only one section of the people. That would not be "the Government of the people for the people," but a Government for part of the people. If such a function is proper, many of our ancestors who fought for religious freedom, and for the abolition of State churches have suffeled martyrdom for nought, and may have been injuring humanity. The State under such an ideal of a State's function is no longer an organisation Cambracing all its citizens. Hitherto those who have been what are called liberals or progressiveists have recognised that there are varieties of religious experiences, and that whatever the beliefs of citizens may be, all must have equal rights and equal privileges "before the law," Make one class outcasts because of their race or religion and you banish freedom and [unclear: Jihcfy] from the state Whenever a state curch exists in a community of people of divers creeds, injustice is there present, and true liberty is absent. This has been recognised in some countries of Europe, in the United States in Canada, and in Australasia. As intelligence and civilisation have advanced there has been less and less interference by the State with religion. In some districts of the United States there was once a State Church—there in none now. The re sult of the alliance of the State and religion in the united States can be gathered from Longfellow's "New England Tragedies."

It may be said by some advocates or the State teaching religion that they do not want State Churchism revived. But surely: if it is the duty or function of the State to teach religion, the question of age is of no importance. If it is the function of the State to teach religion to children up to 14 or 15 years of age, it cannot be wrong to teach youths up to 21, and to inculcate religious doctriness to youths even after they have reached their majority. The question is—"Is religion in the care or keeping of the State or is it not"? If it is, the State's functions cannot, be confined to teaching children up to 15 Years of ago, nor to the providing of religious teaching in week-day schools.

A proposal being made in our Do-minion is that a certain kind of reigion shall be taught in our State schools. Some time ago it was urged that the Bible should be treated as literature, as Hebrew literature. Thus it was said these ancient, books, or extracts from them, should be used is our schools as moral text-books. It was overlooked that, there were ancient stories such as are found in the history of primitive peoples that would not be suitable for the edification of twentieth century folk, but now these two suggestions are merged in the proposal that these books are to be used as religious text-books.

In addition there is a proposal that the clerics or ministers of the various churches should have free access a teachers of religion to the state page 5 schools. Diverse religions are to be taught. If such proposal were a-dopted we might see a lesson given in one room on sacraments, and another minister [unclear: explaning;] that sacraments have no longer any existence in true Christianity, an our citizens, the Friends, say. Are we to have in the schools what me called sacred or religious emblems? I wonder if the end will be civic peace and civic brotherhood if our schools are turned into diverse Church seminaries? If a State is to he fair and just to all and human liberty preserved, the State must be neutral to all phases of religious experience. So far as teaching is recognised as a State function, the State must teach those things, and those only, in which all citizens may participate. There are not two parties about the teaching of languages, or mathematics, or geography, or music, or science, or technology, etc. And the State is not, by having secular schools preventing the teaching of religious beliefs. It recognises its function as a teacher is limited to certain subjects, and it leaves to parents and churches or voluntary effort the inculcation of religious beliefs. In theory the interference, of the State in the religious domain cannot be defended.

III. May we now approach the queston from a practical point of view There are various tests we may apply as to the effect of the State interfering with religion. Pope said:

"For forms of government let fools contest,
Whatever is best administered is best."

That is the English attitude. How did education fare when it was left to the Churches? It was left to the Churches until the nineteenth century. In some countries in Europe even to-day half of the adult population cannot read, and the management of the schools is deplorable. Illiteracy is highest in Russia where there is no room for dissenters or heretics. In England down to 1870 education was supposed to be mainly a concern of the Church, though aid was given to schools by the Slate, and with what disastrous results it is not necessary to state? In Scotland the Church had little control of its parish schools, for they were managed mainly by laymen, by "feuars and heritors" us they were called, and they Cared better. Progress in education in our Home country has been delayed by the interminable struggle of the Churches for control of the schools. Wherever and whenever the control has passed to laymen, and the schools have become secular, progress has been seen. Let us take France: What have been the results there? Has crime [unclear: aer caud]? I will give you a few statistics: Of persons sentenced in the superior Courts, the assize Courts, for crime:
France. Persons Convicted before Assize Courts.
Year. Convictions. Convictions per 10,000 of population.
1883 3480 0.92
1887 3179 0.83
1889 2989 0.78
1891 2933 0.76
1892 2945 0.77
1891 2795 0.73
1896 2404 0.62
1898 2226 0.58
1900 2248 0.58
1902 1978 0.51
1903 1996 0.51
1904 2047 0.52
1906 2107 0.54
1908 2379 0.61
1909 1975 0.50
Then let us take the effect on juvenile crime. In Reformatory Schools there were:
Schools under Religious Instruction.
Years. Boys. Girls.
1881 6,777 1,637
1882 6256, 1,545
1883 6,373 1,501
1884 5,661 1,318
page 6
Secular Education in Schools
Years. Boys. Girls.
1901 3,568 690
1902 3,182 561
1903 2,897 468
1904 2,653 471
1905 2,521 475
1906 2,657 618
The percentage of illiteracy was—
1870 21.49
1905 5.20
If we take New Zealand we well find a progressive decrease in crime under our system of secular education. Our Secular Education Act was passed in 1877 and came into force in 1878. Let us begin nine years afterwards, and behold the figures:
Years. Distinct Convicted Prisoners received into gaol under 20 years of age. Proportion per 10,000 of mean population of all ages.
1887 220 3.69
1892 140 2.1 8
1897 125 1.73
1902 109 1.37
1908 124 1.31
1909 98 1.01
1910 100 1.01
1911 85 0.83
1912 129 1.24

These figures have dealt with Juvenile crime.

Let us take prisoners of all ages received into gaol.

Years. Prisoners. Proportion per 10,000 of mean population.
1887 2,639 44.25
1892 2,164 33.69
1897 1,884 25.84
1902 2,396 30.03
1907 3,091 33.63
1908 3,009 31.84
1909 3,159 32.51
1910 3,242 32.66
1911 2,877 28.35
1912 3,023 29.09
We may take serious crime during the five years ending 1912. Sentenced in the Supreme Court there were:
Year. Prisoners. Proportion per 10,000 of means population
1908 501 0.53
1909 514 0.53
1910 478 0.48
1911 403 0.40
1912 395 0.38
Or take another test, those in gaol on 31st December, in the six years:
Years, Prisoners.
1907 847
1908 879
1909 949
1910 881
1911 873
1912 866

But for Intermediate and Habitual Criminal Sentences the numbers would no doubt have shown a far greater decrease.

In Illegitimacy our rate has fallen:
Years, Illegitimate Births per 1000 of married population.
1886 10.70
1906 9.72
1911 9.24
For every 100 births there were:
1900 4.63
1909 4.61
1910 4.47
1911 4.09
1912 4.28

It will be found that compared with New South Wales where there is religious instructions in State schools, our figures are lower.

In New South Wales the figures are for every 100 births:
1909 6.44
1910 6.28
1911 6.14

In crime also our record is less.

page 7

In the Commonwealth of Austalia the rate of illegitimate births was, from 1900 to 1902, 13.3 per thousand of unmarried females and widows: in New Zealand in the same period it was 8.9.

These statistics raise some practical questions. Under our secular system of instruction crime and immorality have decreased. It is not necessary to go the length of the pragmatists in philosophy, who seem to make a good working theory the test of the truth of a philosophical system. We may, at' all events, contend that the absence of a State re ligious system of education has not led to evil results. If the figures had been the other way we would have bean told from pulpit and platform that the absence of Biblical instruction was the cause of our present social position. This we may say, that there is nothing calling for the interference of the State in religious teaching so far as our ethical position is concerned. It may be said Church attendance has fallen off, and the doctrines belived by us 50 years ago and deemed vital are now not generally accepted. These statements may or may not be true, but what have they to do with the State? We know that ministers of churches were put out of their Churches for holding doctrines deemed heretical, and that ministers of the same Churches hold these views to-day and are not expelled. In 50 years views as to the virgin Birth, Miracles, the infallibility of the Bible, etc, etc. may have undergone a great change. If a change has taken place a very practical question arises. It is—What are the teachers to teach the children? Let us take three subjects only.

(1)Are the children to be taught that the first chapter of Genesis is a true account of the coming into being of the Universe?
(2)Are they to be taught to believe that miracles happened in Palestine?
(3)Are they to be taught to believe in the existence of an Evil Spirit, in a personal Devil?

I wonder if a majority of our members ot Parliament, or of our Cabinet or of our heads of Departments, or of our doctors, or our lawyers or our Professors believe these three things? If not, why should our children be taugnt them? Are we honest and wise in inculcating beliefs to children that when they get to years of discretion they will abandon? It is well known in all the branches of, at all events, the Protestant Churches there are ministers who do not assent to any of the three beliefs referred to? Only the other day memorials from teachers of Divinity in Oxford and Cambridge asked for a modification of the question to intending Deacons of the Anglican Church about their belief in the inspiration of the Bible. Is it not hypocritical to insist on teaching our children the doctrine of special creation which no teacher of Biology in any of our colleges teaches? Evolution rules in our Biological laboratories. Is it moral to tell our children special creation is true when we accept the doctrine of evolution?

As to miracles, this is what a Pro fessor of Lampeter Ecclesiastical Col lege (Church of England) says—"And in this paper it is attempted to show that even if it be held that of all the wonders reported to have been worked by Christ, only the cures of diseased persons are sufficiently credi ble, and that these were not strictly miraculous" etc., etc Again "The miracles themselves are not unattend ed by some difficulties . . . They are bound to be a rather frail story for religious faith. (See Hibbert Journal, vol XII, pp. 162 et seq. And what teacher of repute now refers to Satan as was common 50 years ago? Who accepts the doctrines as to the Devil and Hell that were current fifty years ago? Is the State to see that these doctrines are taught to our children?

There can be no morality unless it is built on the foundation of truth. page 8 Tell the truth to your neighbour is the unalterable maxim of the teacher of morals.

If we teach that which is not true we will be sowing the teeth of Cadmus, and the crop we shall reap will not be profitable.

It is not necessary to point out another practical difficulty. No one should be a teacher of religion who does not believe in the religious creed he teaches. It will not be possible, it there is to be religious teaching in schools, for any teacher not of good standing with some leading church to get an appointment as a teacher, and certainly it would be injurious to anyone desiring to be a teacher to study Biology. No Biologist of standing accepts the poem or myth of Genesis as true. It is difficult now to get male teachers of our primary schools who are men of light and learning, but who will we get when the State teacher is to be a teacher of religious beliefs, that even many ministers of religion have abandoned? Our schools will be closed to them! And can we after such closure talk of equal rights, or equal privileges or of freedom of thought in our State?

Our children would be taught by reactionaries, by men of little thought and less learning, and such an end some foolish people may think will be conducive to true religion, Carlyle said his countrymen were mostly fools. I wonder what he would have said if he had seen a state with a secular system of education, neutral to all religions, where social life had been improved, where statistics showed its crime and immorality had decreased, where the standard of life was high, making over the education or its youths to either hypocrites or ill-informed persons! I fancy the epithet would have been even more emphatic than he applied to his country-men.

May I not then say that there is no need of altering the present relationship between religion and the State. History tells us when there has been a State religion there has ever been tyranny and persecution, which have waned in accordance with the stage civilisation has reached. In theory it is indefensible for a free State to give privileges or concessions to one section of its citizens even if that section is numerically the greater, and in practice there will be grave difficulties if any change is made and per secution of one kind inevitably follows, It would be a grave charge to make against enlightened Christianity that it cannot exist unless it persecutes, or utilises the power of the State to work injustice.

Printed at the Albxandra Herald Office, Tarbert Street, Alexandra S.