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The Spirit of the Age

Four hundred and twenty-five years before the birth of the Nazarene, Socrates said, "The gods are on high Olympus, but you and I are here." And for this--and a few other similar observations--be was compelled to drink a substitute for coffee--he was an infidel! Within the last thirty years the churches of Christendom have, in the main, adopted the Socratic proposition that you and I are here. That is, we have made progress by getting away from narrow theology and recognizing humanity. We do not know anything about either Olympus or Elysium, but we do know something about Athens.

Athens is here.

Athens needs us--the Greeks are at the door. Let the gods run Elysium, and we'll devote ourselves to Athens.

This is the prevailing spirit in the churches of America to-day. Our religion is humanitarian, not theological.

A like evolution has come about in medicine. The materia medica of twenty-five years ago is now obsolete. No good doctor now treats symptoms--he neither gives you something to relieve your headache nor to settle your stomach. These are but timely ting-a-lings--Nature's warnings--look out! And the doctor tells you so, and charges you a fee sufficient to impress you with the fact that he is no fool, but that you are.

The lawyer who now gets the largest fees is never seen in a court-room. Litigation is now largely given over to damage suits--carried on by clients who want something for nothing, and little lawyers, shark-like and hungry, who work on contingent fees. Three-fourths of the time of all superior and supreme courts is taken up by His Effluvia, who brings suit thru His Bacteria, with His Crabship as chief witness, for damages not due, either in justice or fact.

How to get rid of this burden, brought upon us by men who have nothing to lose, is a question too big for the average legislator. It can only be solved by heroic measures, carried out by lawyers who are out of politics and have a complete indifference for cheap popularity. Here is opportunity for men of courage and ability. But the point is this, wise business men keep out of court. They arbitrate their differences--compromise--they cannot afford to quit their work for the sake of getting even. As for making money, they know a better way.

In theology we are waiving distinctions and devoting ourselves to the divine spirit only as it manifests itself in humanity--we are talking less and less about another world and taking more notice of the one we inhabit. Of course we occasionally have heresy trials, and pictures of the offender and the Fat Bishop adorn the first page, but heresy trials not accompanied by the scaffold or the faggots are innocuous and exceedingly tame.

In medicine we have more faith in ourselves and less in prescriptions.

In pedagogy we are teaching more and more by the natural method--learning by doing--and less and less by means of injunction and precept.

In penology we seek to educate and reform, not to suppress, repress and punish.

That is to say, the gods are on high Olympus--let them stay there. Athens is here.


Elbert Hubbard