A Consideration of its Nature and
of its Influence upon the

Progress of Civilization


Frank Sargent Hoffman, Ph.D.

Professor in Union College, author of “The Sphere of the State," "The

Sphere of Science,” etc.

“Truth, by whomsoever uttered, is from God.”

G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
Tbe knickerbocker Press




Tbe knickerbocker Press, New York


This book is written for the express purpose of interesting thoughtful young men and women, especially those in our colleges, in the study of religion. It is the author's firm conviction that no other study offers to the student so many and such varied attractions, or exerts such a broadening and uplifting influence upon his mind and life.

Anthropologists of to-day are unanimous in the opinion that religion came into the world with the very dawn of history, and that in all lands it originated the first signs of a civilized life. It has always in the past been a dominating factor in human development, and there is every reason to believe that it will continue to be so in all time to come.

No man or nation can dispense with religion, or keep it in the background. For every person is so made that when he has progressed far enough to distinguish himself from the world about him, he must recognize the existence of a power above himself and manifest some feeling of dependence upon that power. No human beings have yet been discovered upon this planet who do not possess a religion of some sort, and the only serious question any man has left to ask himself on the matter is this: How can I so improve the religion I already have as to make it of the highest possible worth? It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a subject that in recent years has undergone greater or more radical modifications as to its nature and mission than the subject of religion. President Harris of Amherst College put it none too strongly when he said in his baccalaureate sermon to the class of 1907, “I venture to say that the Protestant Reformation itself did not work a greater, though, perhaps, a more violent change, than the last quarter of a century has marked in religious thought, belief, and life.”

No person in our day has any right to consider himself a fairly well-educated individual who is ignorant of these changes, or has intentionally ignored them as of slight account. For no other matter so vitally affects his own welfare and that of the community at large.

In trying to elucidate in some degree the present-day position regarding the sphere and significance of religion, the author has endeavored to give an impartial hearing to the different forms of religion that have attained any special prominence in the course of history. He assumes that the reader will have little difficulty in selecting the one that, by its own inherent reasonableness and adaptation to actual human needs, is most worthy of the acceptance of his intellect and the service of his life.

Two of the chapters, the first and the ninth, have already appeared in the North American Review, and two others have been printed wholly or in part in the Proceedings of the associations before which they were read and discussed. They are here reproduced with the consent of the publishers and at the suggestion of friends.

If the readers of this book secure from its perusal even a fraction of the pleasure and profit that the author experienced while investigating the topics discussed, he will feel himself amply repaid for his efforts in trying to compress the treatment of so great a theme into so small a compass.


January, 1908.

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