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This Book




The first part of “Ten Great Religions” was published in 1871. The success it has met with is probably due to the fact that it contains in a compendium an account of the principal religions of the world, sufficiently full for the wants of those who are not special students of this subject. There exist many works on the separate religions, much more thorough, and which enter into a greater detail. But I suppose it would be difficult, even now, to find the chief facts in relation to all of them brought together elsewhere in a single volume.

The present work (based on twelve lectures given in the Lowell Institute in the winter of 1881-2) is 'on a different plan. Instead of describing and discussing each of the great faiths of mankind separately, it attempts to show what they all teach on the different points of human belief. We ask what each declares concerning

God, the Soul, the Future Life, Sin and Salvation, Human Duty, Prayer and Worship, Inspiration and Art. We consider what is the Idea of God in all religions, and ask how it began and in what way it was developed. In the same manner we seek to trace other phases of the religious life, from their simplest beginnings to their fullest outcome.

In pursuing this course of thought I have been often called upon to discuss the religions of the primitive or childlike races, a department of the subject not treated in the first volume. The importance and value of researches in this direction have of late years been more fully recognized than formerly. “The time has long since passed," says Brinton, “at least among thinking men, when the religious legends of the lower races were looked upon as trivial fables, or as the inventions of the Father of Lies. They are neither the one nor the other. They express, in image and incident, the opinions of these races on the mightiest topics of human thought, on the origin and destiny of man, his motives for duty and his grounds for hope, and the source, history, and fate of external nature. Certainly the sincere expressions on this subject of even humble mem

1 American Hero-Mythe, by David G. Brinton, 1882.

bers of the human race deserve our most respectful heed, and it may be that we shall discover in their crude or coarse narratives gleams of a mental light which their proud Aryan brethren have been long in coming to, or have not yet reached.”

This class of primitive or childlike religions I have called Tribal, because they are usually developed by each tribe, and have not the characters of Ethnic or National religions, nor of Catholic or Universal religions. They show the first dawnings of the religious life with a singular uniformity, whether in the heart of Africa, among the islands of Polynesia, or within the Arctic Zone. The special race developments have not yet begun, and these primitive sentiments have not been differentiated under the formative influences of national life. As yet human nature is in its cradle, and the cry of the infant is the same all over the world. All this indicates that the law applies to religion which we find elsewhere, and that here too the progress of the race will be from monotony, through variety, to an ultimate harmony.

The present volume contains, as far as I know, the first attempt to trace these doctrines through all the principal religions of mankind. It is only an attempt, but it indicates at least, what I be

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