Moral Standards and Religious Faith

Moral Standards and Religious Faith

WE cannot believe that an untrustworthy personality is a success, however high he may be rated in Dun’s and Bradstreet’s. If a man’s life consists in the satisfaction he takes in living (and no one can be said to truly live otherwise), then his own happiness must be affected by the question of integrity. Even though the world does not know of his dishonesty, he knows; and a sense of failure must come to him as he realizes that he won by “hitting below the belt”—of inferiority because he did not stand on the level with others and play the game according to the rules. Many a man recognizes himself as a failure although he is not so considered by others.

And deeper yet is the failure of him who is not conscious of moral obliquity, upon whom the lash of his own scorn does not fall as he views himself in the light of honest achievement; who is a coward and does not know it, a thief and does not see it, a liar and does not feel it.

In the long run “honesty is the best policy” because if we do not have a code of morals which applies to all alike, the standards of conduct are destroyed, every man’s hand is against his brother, and social chaos is the result. The hard-won gains of civilization are those

of moral and ethical achievement. Without those no permanent gain of wealth would be possible since the certainty of loss through the dishonesty of others would discourage effort.

The greatest menace to civilization lies not in bobbed hair, women’s rights, “the problem of the sexes,” the unearned increment, top-heavy fortunes, or taxes; it lies in the fading authority of the moral code. The ideals of men are as their gods and they both rule and ruin. They have the power of life and of death over our laws for our laws are but bodies in which our ideals are housed or embalmed as the case may be. First comes an idea or an ideal, which if agreeable is adopted as a general practice; then it becomes a custom; the custom is made uniform and finally prescribed; the prescription is the law. Laws, then, are built up out of the generally accepted ideas and ideals of a people.

Sometimes we find the ideas or ideals have changed in which case the law is mummified, as in the proscription of the teachings of evolution, or the ancient statutes regarding Sunday observance. No amount of reactionary fanaticism can actually enforce an antiquated law of this kind because the ideas of society have changed. The same is true of new laws, written into the statutes before the ideas and ideals, which the laws seek to embody, have been sufficiently and generally accepted.

The greatest servants of society are not the law makers nor the law enforcers, but the law creators. The creators of laws are the ideas and ideals popularized and established in the minds of the people. For this reason, he who would reform society must reform its ideals.

The great moral ideals of society, the rules of conduct, are in general embodied in the Ten Commandments, which history has worked out as the controlling force in personal and social character. Therefore we advocate the reconsecration of reformers, preachers, teachers, welfare workers, social reconstruction, etc., etc., to promotion of the moral and ethical code of the Ten Commandments. We believe that it has been a mistake to take the moral code out of the schools merely because it happens to be best expressed in the Bible. It was not given to us by the Jews. They had already borrowed it. It does not belong to any religion.

But this question of religion ought to be faced fairly in this connection. Why is the teaching of religion excluded from our schools? The major reasons are these:

  1. We desire to separate religion and State, and as the school is a State institution, we do not wish to have religion brought under the domination of the State through the schools. It was to escape a State religion, that our forefathers came to America and declared the principle of religious freedom.
  2. We desire to avoid the teaching of religious creeds, dogma, in the schools. As soon as one begins to interpret religion he is teaching theology. But each great religion and every branch of each religion has a different mode of interpreting its major principles. This forms sects, denominations, cults, and isms, in which each “ology” is different and presumably better than any other. Accordingly the Catholic opposes Protestant teaching, the Protestant opposes modernism or fundamentalism, as the ease may be, and both oppose ethnic religions.

Must we, therefore, rear half the population of America without religious training, since less than half attend churches? And must we develop a pagan race on the free shores of American whose moral ideals are uninspired by religion and perhaps untaught altogether? Or is there a way out?

It is our contention that the Ten Commandments can be taught in the public schools without giving offense to any religion. The religious background is, “The Lord, thy God (thy God, whether you be Jew or Gentile, Christian, Mohammedan, Buddhist, etc.), is One.” Each race, nation, religion, or sect can say that of his God; He is One and no other is before Him. He demands the allegiance of every heart and it is His will and purpose that we obey the moral law. To violate the moral law is to place one’s self in opposition to the will of God, out

of harmony with the divine order and therefore in a position of personal peril. Not the peril of an angry God but the peril of those who have separated themselves from the source of power, guidance, and help.

The motivating power of morals is religion and religious responsibility. We cannot say that morality and ethics are instinctive; the training of childhood is the cataloging of do’s and don’ts. The child is non- moral and non-ethical, but he is not non-religious. He is natively, instinctively, intuitively, fundamentally, and organically religious. The movement of his mind is naturally toward faith in God.

The instinct of worship is found in the very lowest races.

This native quality of the soul must be capitalized. It is in accordance with the deepest principles of psychology that we work always in harmony with the fundamental laws and instincts of mind to produce a desired result. Therefore to effect and enforce moral and ethical standards we should work in harmony with the fundamental instinct of faith and worship, fidelity to the code of conduct because it is the law and will of God. “The fear of God (that is, reverence and respect for His august authority) is the beginning of wisdom.”

The mistake often made by reformers and politicians is the effort to seize upon religion as a sort of bludgeon. We hear them orating—and this runs clear up to the highest public authorities in the land—on the necessity of religion as a police force. But this is not the object of religion. The object of religion is to satisfy the human heart, to put meaning into life, to give strength to those who are weak in any respect, and to constitute a real brotherhood of the race through the common Fatherhood of One God. To attain this satisfaction, it is necessary to live in harmony with the source of it. One cannot be in such harmony who violates the wishes and the will of Him whose help they seek. But it is not a mere bargain, for there is a satisfaction in this state of harmony aside from any benefits that flow from it.

The child should be assured that his natural faith in God is rational, that others believe in God as he does, that his teacher believes in God; and so do the leaders of the community and national life. God should be an accepted fact of human and social life.

All this can be accomplished without any sectarian teaching, without any personal comment, simply by

the repetition of the approved moral code which gives proper place for the supernatural.27

Such discussion may seem discursive but the psychological significance must not be lost. For whether the educational ideal here presented is accepted in the schools or not, the individual who seeks success must adhere to the scientific principle; fidelity to the moral code is essential and that code is rooted in religion. The motivating power of morals and ethics is faith in God. It is not blind faith, it is law. The law is that there is only one source for all things, one soil in which seeds of every kind are to be planted; and each will bring forth fruit after its kind, and no other. “You cannot gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles.”

The soil in which these seeds are planted is the individual subconscious mind, the social subconscious, and the Universal Subconscious, with which we shall deal in Book II of this series. We must be in harmony with the Universal Principle which underlies and is fundamental to every principle whether financial,


27 The use of the Ten Commandments is illustrative only. Another set of principles could easily be devised which all religions and creeds could accept as fundamental to their particular faith.

moral, ethical, or social. The fundamental principle of the subconscious is that the more refined the seed, the more refined will be the fruit. The higher the ideals, the words, the thoughts, the concepts, the purpose, the motive, the finer will be the product. Let us live and let us teach our young that “as ye sow ye shall also reap.”


I am in harmony with and have faith in the moral order. I shall not be misled by the seeming possibilities of “the short-cut to success” through broken law of any kind. I am strengthened in my resolve to work out my problem and roach my goal in complete fidelity to social responsibility. I have faith in the triumph of right. I have faith in myself, faith in others, faith in God. I know that the law of mind cannot fail and that I shall not fail. I shall succeed, for I think success. I am success.

Fenwicke Lindsay Holmes

Fenwicke Lindsay Holmes

Fenwicke Lindsay Holmes was an American author, former Congregational minister, and Religious Science leader.

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