Belief Of Scientific Men In God And Immortality -- By: Alfred C. Lane
BSac 74:296 (Oct 1917) p. 620
Belief Of Scientific Men In God And Immortality
Tufts College, Mass.
The recent book on God and Immortality by Professor James Henry Leuba 1 has received such wide comment, and been cited as authority by such diverse men as Cardinal O’Connell, Mayor Curley, and Rev. William Sunday, that it seems specially important to examine it with a view of estimating the value of its statements and inferences. The first 127 pages of the book and Chapter VI. pertain to the historic argument for God and immortality, drawn, largely, from the fact that a future life (or immortality) has been believed almost universally. Space, however, prevents giving attention to this part.
It is more important to deal with Part II., which is a statistical study of the present belief in a personal God and personal immortality in the United States, as indicated by anonymous answers of certain groups of people, and this is the original part of the book. But a fatal lack in this part of the book is background. How do these groups compare with the population in general? On page 223 he speaks of one respect in which our scientists are “ordinary men.” Would it not have added to the value of the book, and perhaps materially changed his conclusions, if he had kept this in mind and (to use chemical language) run a blank test and tried to see how his special groups compared with that same ordinary man or man in the street? His groups are all in the literary or scientific classes. He should have found how the results with them compared with five hundred labor leaders, five
BSac 74:296 (Oct 1917) p. 621
hundred men selected from the directory of directors, or by taking random names from local directories. Can we get a rough idea of the faith of the average man?
One may note that of about 102,000,000 people in the United States there are 14,815,870 Catholic communicants and 25,194,837 communicants of churches who are not Catholics; so that something like 39% of the whole population are communicants, at least nominally, or 29% of the Protestant population. This should be corrected for children younger than the age of those to whom Leuba wrote, and for a few men still on church books but without faith, and for many non-communicants who believe in God and immortality. But in default of better information it might show that, if only four men out of ten in Leuba’s lists believed in God and immortality, this might be only what would be true of the average man. His surmise that fifty years ago American students would have “answered with uniformity and assurance “in the “terms of the catechism then in use” fairly made the writer rub his eyes and look up ...
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