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Briefly, then, we dismiss the two opposite dangers of bigotry
and fanaticism, bigotry which is a too great vagueness and fanaticism
which is a too great concentration. We say that the cure for the
bigot is belief; we say that the cure for the idealist is ideas.
To know the best theories of existence and to choose the best
from them (that is, to the best of our own strong conviction)
appears to us the proper way to be neither bigot nor fanatic,
but something more firm than a bigot and more terrible than a fanatic,
a man with a definite opinion. But that definite opinion must
in this view begin with the basic matters of human thought,
and these must not be dismissed as irrelevant, as religion,
for instance, is too often in our days dismissed as irrelevant.
Even if we think religion insoluble, we cannot think it irrelevant.
Even if we ourselves have no view of the ultimate verities,
we must feel that wherever such a view exists in a man it must
be more important than anything else in him. The instant that
the thing ceases to be the unknowable, it becomes the indispensable.
There can be no doubt, I think, that the idea does exist in our
time that there is something narrow or irrelevant or even mean
about attacking a man's religion, or arguing from it in matters
of politics or ethics. There can be quite as little doubt that such
an accusation of narrowness is itself almost grotesquely narrow.
To take an example from comparatively current events: we all know
that it was not uncommon for a man to be considered a scarecrow
of bigotry and obscurantism because he distrusted the Japanese,
or lamented the rise of the Japanese, on the ground that the Japanese
were Pagans. Nobody would think that there was anything antiquated
or fanatical about distrusting a people because of some difference
between them and us in practice or political machinery.
Nobody would think it bigoted to say of a people, "I distrust their
influence because they are Protectionists." No one would think it
narrow to say, "I lament their rise because they are Socialists,
or Manchester Individualists, or strong believers in militarism
and conscription." A difference of opinion about the nature
of Parliaments matters very much; but a difference of opinion about
the nature of sin does not matter at all. A difference of opinion
about the object of taxation matters very much; but a difference
of opinion about the object of human existence does not matter at all.
We have a right to distrust a man who is in a different kind
of municipality; but we have no right to mistrust a man who is in
a different kind of cosmos. This sort of enlightenment is surely
about the most unenlightened that it is possible to imagine.
To recur to the phrase which I employed earlier, this is tantamount
to saying that everything is important with the exception of everything.
Religion is exactly the thing which cannot be left out--
because it includes everything. The most absent-minded person
cannot well pack his Gladstone-bag and leave out the bag.
We have a general view of existence, whether we like it or not;
it alters or, to speak more accurately, it creates and involves
everything we say or do, whether we like it or not. If we regard
the Cosmos as a dream, we regard the Fiscal Question as a dream.
If we regard the Cosmos as a joke, we regard St. Paul's Cathedral as
a joke. If everything is bad, then we must believe (if it be possible)
that beer is bad; if everything be good, we are forced to the rather
fantastic conclusion that scientific philanthropy is good. Every man
in the street must hold a metaphysical system, and hold it firmly.
The possibility is that he may have held it so firmly and so long
as to have forgotten all about its existence.