And yet among them there is a persistent strain of positive common tradition. They have ceased to try to explain why they are separate bodies, and merely accept it as a rather unfortunate fact; meanwhile in their plans for common action there is an undoubted tendency to emphasize those parts of positive tradition which they all share, and to make it the centre and motive of missionary propaganda.
But the most stubborn obstacle in the way of forming an irenic world. religion, is the persistence of the original form of Christian traditionalists, the most accurate name for which is Catholicism. At present it exposes several vulnerable points. First, it is not corporately united. Second, the largest body of its three divisions, the body which claims most insistently to represent the whole, seems to be at present committed to the more than dubious cause of religious imperialism. Third, the Catholic body which is most in harmony with Anglo-Saxon development is at present greatly hampered in presenting the whole claim of Christian traditionalism, on account of that large part of its constituency which is under the influence of negative traditions, Protestant or Liberal.
In the popular mind, Catholicism is associated with ultramontane objects and policies. Now the modern world is no more inherently anti-clerical than the poet or the Good Samaritan is; but it is determined not to be Catholicized if Catholicism brings Vaticanism with it. Romanism has marshalled the forces under its control so as to represent Catholicism as constantly attempting control over secular activities; eastern traditionalism, for the present, seems to be safely confined within racial lines. Anglicanism, which is unquestionably traditional in its faith and constitution, is nevertheless, for the sake of internal peace, practically forced, for some time to come, to suppress the full acknowledgment of its birthright. So that, for the present, the domination of public opinion in religious matters is divided between Liberalism and Romanism.
Certainly the present state of organized Christianity, taken as a whole, or in parts, hardly compels the public mind to regard it as a promising competitor for world-domination. So long as Christianity continues so to be presented to public opinion, either as a series of bewildered experiments, or as a hopelessly aggressive organization at liar with human nature, a considerable number of people will feel that existing religion hardly justifies the barriers it erects between common human sympathy and interests; and that the society of the future must find an interpretation of religion that will help human progress rather than impede it; enrich society, rather than cling, beggar-wise, to its skirts for a grudging recognition.
But one cannot have a modern world religion unless all the world goes in for it. Even if Christian traditionalism made no gains, and were satisfied, like Orthodox Judaism, merely to perpetuate itself, the mere persistence of traditional religion would be the one fatal bather. And with or without Roman championship, independent of ecclesiastical policies, papal, anti-papal, or liberal-imperialistic; and irrespective of the limits of its evident spheres of influence, traditionalism is very much alive. The French know this, and have never been deceived by the fiction of social toleration. The French mind, having established its premises, leaps quickly to logical issues. Curiously enough, Anglo-Saxon attacks on religion charge it with interfering too little with secular matters. But both the Latin and the Anglo-Saxon critics are confronted with the vitality of organic religion; 'Its pernicious activity,' says the Latin; 'Its stubborn self-perpetuation in spite of social inefficiency,' says the American critic. Sometimes, it is interesting to remark, the support of religions organizations is presented as an economic problem; and if religion's only justification is direct and efficient and varied social service, it will logically become more and more evident that it is a waste of money and effort to support institutions which are mere perpetuations of religious tradition.