Skip to main content

Full text of "What Is the Present Attitude of College Students toward Organized Religion?"

See other formats


STOP 



Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate-jstor/individuals/early- 
journal-content . 



JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 
contact support@jstor.org. 



The Journal of Religion 



Volume I MARCH 1921 Number 2 



WHAT IS THE PRESENT ATTITUDE OF COL- 
LEGE STUDENTS TOWARD ORGANIZED 
RELIGION? 



ALBERT PARKER FITCH 
Amherst College 



I 

It is not easy to give any answer to this question which will 
be sufficiently accurate to be illuminating. It is never a simple 
matter to discern what youth is thinking or feeling, either on 
those matters which it believes to be important to itself or 
those which it is aware we propose or desire it should regard 
as such. There is always a gulf fixed between middle age and 
youth though for the most part age only dimly comprehends 
it. We who have grown up remember our childhood with 
sufficient and rather sentimental clearness and we have a 
vivid realization alike of the trials, the responsibilities, and 
the privileges of age. But the years of our adolescence tend 
to fade from our memory. Those days of swift transition, 
of continuous experimentation, of unrelated, irresponsible, 
and ephemeral expansions left no enduring marks upon the 
tablets of the mind. For the most part we have so far for- 
gotten their significance that we do not even realize they have 
passed out of our recorded consciousness. 

This largely accounts, I think, for the characteristic impa- 
tience of our self-protective prudence with the gay and careless 
destructiveness of newly awakened life. This is why age 

"3 



114 TH E JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

has more of jealousy than sympathy for youth and why it is 
more prone to expect adolescence to understand and pay 
tribute to what appear to it the self-evident standards of 
maturity, than to remember the need and difficulty of thinking 
itself back into the morning of life. Few older men can deal 
with youth imaginatively. Hence professor and student 
live side by side in outer decorum and superficial companion- 
ship, but the real springs of action and the scales of value by 
which youth builds its life are often carefully concealed. 

This is particularly true when the discussion deals with 
matters of faith and conduct. The sense of the maladjust- 
ment between an older and a younger generation is strongest 
here. Youth does not understand its own attitude toward 
religion any too well. It is both self-conscious and self- 
exacting and these traits increase the inhibitions induced by 
the sense of the obtuseness and remoteness of older lives. 
Moreover, youth is not unaware that the reasons age brings 
forward in the support of established institutions are often 
more ostensible than real, that it is not so much the intrinsic 
worth of organized religion as it is its by-product of stability, 
comfort, and professional security which endears it to its 
defenders. The Profits of Religion is a grotesquely unfair and 
one-sided book but there is truth in it and just the kind of 
truth that youth can perceive. Youth thinks that age 
demands more of it in the way of intellectual and moral 
docility than it, itself, is prepared to give. 

In short, a community of young people strives on the whole 
toward higher standards of thought and conduct than does the 
armored and respectable middle age around it. However 
fantastic and perverse some of its contemporary expressions 
may seem, nevertheless it is generally distinguished by ethical 
insight and moral sensitiveness. Youth sometimes fails 
dreadfully but it is more honest with itself regarding its 
failures, realizes their nature more keenly, and takes them 
more seriously than does the older life about it. Hence the 



COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ORGANIZED RELIGION 115 

spiritual atmosphere of a college or a parish, which offers the 
only medium for the exchange of real thought and emotion, is 
clouded by false values. The young idealists in it are tongue- 
tied and uncertain except when talking among themselves; 
the older formalists are too exacting, especially of other 
people, and too expressive, at least in public. Hence the 
initial suspicion with which youth regards both professional 
advocates and conventional forms of religion; hence the 
voluntary expression of religion among the better under- 
graduates is meager, reticent, not easily analyzed. Quite 
aside from any other reasons there is something inherent in 
the nature of the relationship and the different status of the 
lives composing it in a college community which makes a 
just and accurate common understanding difficult. 

The first thing, then, to remember about such a discussion 
as this is the peril of quick answers. We are hearing a good 
deal at present about the godlessness of modern youth and 
the immorality of the present generation. But easy summa- 
tions of undergraduate attitudes, either by way of censorious 
condemnation or sentimental praise, are all likely to go wide 
of the mark. We should understand youth better if we 
were more confident of it, more critical of ourselves; if we 
approached it with a mixture of disinterested and expectant 
observation and some personal humility. There is some- 
thing truly ironical in the apparent simplicity of academic 
relationships, something almost fatuous in the bland accept- 
ance on the part of older men and women of the mere appear- 
ances in youth of virtue or vice, piety or irreligion. There is 
something, too, profoundly unjust in the easy generalizations, 
the all but absolute judgments by which an established order 
betrays its resentment at the critical scrutiny or frank hostility 
of young life. 

II 

Let us attempt then a dispassionate analysis, from the 
point of view of the churches, of the undergraduate community. 



u6 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

We shall discern at once three conventional attitudes toward 
organized religion on the part of college students. They are 
all of them classic; they illustrate, in the realm of the religious 
interests, corresponding reactions having the same character- 
istic emphases and approaches which may be found in the 
economic and social and political life of the time. First: 
there is the natural conformist. He is the boy who is tempera- 
mentally "good," who identifies religious faith with external 
moral practices. He issues from average, middle-class Ameri- 
can life, the son of a thrifty, practical, unimaginative house- 
hold. He has had a sober and careful bringing up. He has 
been taught to read the Scriptures, to say his prayers, to 
attend church. There is often a frank and naive strain of 
commercialism in his piety; he has been schooled to remember 
that social disgrace or academic failure, or material ruin, are 
the punishments of irreligion and immorality. He largely 
conceives of religion in the terms of group respectability; 
assumes that the content of the moral law is practically un- 
changing from generation to generation. Wrong and right 
are simple and self-evident; they are mutually exclusive 
territories, separated by clear boundary lines. Faith and 
character are achieved by remaining in the right territory. 

Boys of this group often have substantial sanity, a rather 
shrewd and sensible scale of values. But their imaginative 
deficiencies, their narrow range of desires and interests, 
with the accompanying intolerance and complacency make 
them unlovable and relatively negligible figures among their 
peers. This group has sent many recruits into the ministry 
in the past. Some of them have become saints and have 
deepened and enriched the life of the profession. But on 
the whole they have not strengthened it. They have not had 
enough creative ability to be great preachers. They have 
approached the ministry with a too simple notion of its duties; 
it has been strangely mechanicalized in their minds. It has 
appeared to consist of preaching pleasantly an accepted mes- 



COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ORGANIZED RELIGION 117 

sage furnished ready to their hands, of making routine calls, 
of gently perpetuating existing organizations — even if with 
a slowly diminishing momentum! Instinctively they have 
expected the institution to carry them; the office to make the 
man, not the man the office. It was such innocuous, if com- 
placent conformity which the late William E. Godkin had in 
mind, when, referring to a distinguished foreign university, 
he observed that it was an ideal place for those youth who 
were chiefly interested "in lawn tennis, gardening, and true 
religion." 

The numbers of these men, however, are diminishing in the 
college just as middle-class religion, with its passion for 
respectability and its identification of faith with conventional 
conduct is, in proportion to the growth of the population, 
everywhere diminishing as well. 

Second: there is the group of the young institutionalists. 
They are a more characteristic product of our present society 
and therefore more significant to our discussion. They 
come from a richer and wider environment, are more developed 
personalities, than their conforming comrades. They do 
not share in the moral naivete" of the first class; sometimes 
they do not share its moral scruples either. The boys of this 
group identify religion with a half-romantic, half-mystical 
allegiance to impressive and picturesque institutions. They 
link up this allegiance in their minds with subscription to 
creed, a sort of class allegiance to the formulae promulgated 
by an imperial and established organization. There are 
certain classic statements of the Christian faith. They move 
the imagination, both subdue and elevate the minds of sensi- 
tive and reflective youth, partly by their aesthetic and mystical 
appeal, partly by the very prestige of their antiquity. They 
are the confessions of faith of a splendid and imperial standing 
order. They appeal to the best in the aristocratic impulse, 
its sense of the continuity of life, its perception that you must 
not divorce the present from the past, its understanding of 



n8 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

the slowly refining, carefully garnered deposit which makes up 
all that is best in human experience. 

These youth are not moved by any terrific moral struggle 
or by the evangelical passion for soul-saving. The prophetic 
note in them is absent. They are Churchmen; social and 
religious Conservatives. Sometimes when they grow older 
they, like John Neville Figgis, carry side by side with medieval 
forms of religion quite radical views in political economy and 
social science. But essentially religion is to them a perpetua- 
tion of an established and authoritative order. 

When these men enter the ministry, they become not so 
much the shepherds of sheep as spiritual governors of parishes. 
The world regards with something of reluctant admiration, 
something more of covert hostility and distrust, their amalgam 
of the urbane manners and self-assurance of this world, with 
the offices of priest and preacher. Boys whose religious 
instinct expresses itself in these ways are increasing among 
us and they are turning naturally to the Roman and Anglican 
communions. The main current of our age flows steadily and 
relentlessly against the institutionalist and his type of religion. 
But there are many cross-currents in any generation and a new 
exaltation of institutional religion is one of them which is 
discernible at this moment. As the American home becomes 
more and more sophisticated and society becomes older, 
more highly developed and rigid in its customs, allegiance to 
all established institutions grows among us. It represents 
the determined effort of a relatively completed and well 
adjusted social order to defend itself, its achievements no 
less than its privileges, from the crudeness and destructiveness 
of the new forces now struggling upward in society. Most 
men who have gained anything of permanence hate and 
fear change. They identify the accompaniments of a new 
order, its bohemian living, its flippant and reckless iconoclasm, 
its attacks upon special privilege with the order itself. This, 



COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ORGANIZED RELIGION 119 

they think, is all there is to it. So they withdraw into the cita- 
del of institutional orthodoxies. 

A fair number of college men who are now entering the 
ministry are of this group. It does not matter much what 
learning they receive in college which seems to vitiate either 
the historic pretensions or the intellectual statements of their 
faith. They have already cast in their lot with the older 
order, they are not inquirers so much as they are partisans. 
They will by no means be a negligible force in the coming 
generation. By no perceivable possibility can they become the 
leaders of the age into which we are now advancing. But they 
will skilfully and resolutely oppose it; they are far more formi- 
dable opponents than their simpler brethren of the first group, 
and they will have considerable influence. 

Third: there is the young humanitarian. He is a common 
and obvious type of undergraduate, more in evidence a decade 
ago than now, the boy who expresses his religion through its 
substitutes, who meets his spiritual problem by evading it. 
He puts effects in the place of causes; practical efficiency 
takes the place of spiritual insight. The ardent if superficial 
humanism of recent years has produced the youth who identi- 
fies religion with social reform, piety with organized benevo- 
lence, and spiritual leadership with administrative efficiency. 
To work is to pray, social service is character, a rarefied 
amiability is faith. 

Such a lad is a past master at planning a missionary cam- 
paign, engineering a student conference, and "promoting" a 
Bible class. He knows how to "swing it right." He sees 
nothing incongruous in organizing a risque" undergraduate 
vaudeville show to raise money for the support of a settlement 
house. He will be found teaching at a down-town mission, or 
acting as scoutmaster for local gamins, or installed as a reli- 
gious work director. He is a wholesome and aggressive 
youth, friendly, rather too approachable, amazingly able and 



120 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

resourceful in practical affairs. He has character, is not imagi- 
native, is terribly at ease in Zion. It is largely from this group 
that the ever-to-be replenished ranks of student Christian 
association secretaries, graduate secretaries, student-volunteer 
leaders, are recruited. 

These men, for the most part, accept the essentials of the 
present order. They do not scrutinize the intellectual and 
emotional sources of our present religious and economic 
structure. They would rather mitigate its abuses than reform 
its principles. They are natural if unconscious pragmatists. 
Their passion is for action; they want always to be "doing 
things." The goal of social service, which is ever before their 
eyes and their passion for "results" makes them superficial 
leaders. They take refuge from the difficulties of thought in 
the opportunities of action. 

A few of these men, not many, go into the ministry. Gen- 
erally speaking, it repels them by its emphasis upon religious 
passion and spiritual insight. Also, they are contemptuous 
of what seem to be the lax business methods and practical 
inefficiency of the average church. They are not so large 
a group in the college as they were before the war, for its 
brutal dislocations shook this type of youth out of his notion 
of salvation by expansion and reformation by machinery. 

Ill 

Probably all the men of these three groups which we have 
been discussing represent when combined decidedly less than 
half the undergraduate body. The remainder of it, which is 
a substantial majority of the whole number, forms the group 
which is most significant to our purpose. It can be classified 
under two heads. First: there are the modern pagans. A 
large number of contemporary undergraduates are not irreli- 
gious today, they are non-religious. They are neither hostile 
nor contemptuous as regards religion; they are indifferent 
to it, they know nothing about it, they are relatively incapable 



COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ORGANIZED RELIGION 121 

of experiencing it. There is much truth in the neglected 
Calvinistic doctrines of election and predestination. Prob- 
ably all men cannot be saved; some of them are antecedently 
incapable of salvation. Such boys as I am describing are the 
natural product of the materialism and commercialism which 
represents one-half of the American character of the moment; 
they are neither very much better nor worse than the homes 
from which they issue. But this group of obtuse and unawak- 
ened lads is one of the most significant factors in undergraduate 
life, more characteristic of the immediate problem which con- 
fronts the college and the nation than any one of the other 
groups we have as yet mentioned. The grosser forms of immo- 
rality are not common among them, they are more vulgar than 
vicious, hopelessly secular, but not bad. Their language is 
callously profane and has a sort of a-moral coarseness about it. 
Their literature is principally Snappy Stories, the Saturday 
Evening Post, and the sporting pages of the daily prints. Their 
most natural occupations appear to be striving for some club, 
indulging in college gossip, or indefinite discussion of athletic 
events in which they themselves took no part, and alternating 
between the "movies" and innumerable dances. 

In short, they are men in whom the aesthetic, intellectual, 
and spiritual interests are almost wholly undeveloped and to 
whom organized religion makes no contribution and for which 
they feel no slightest need. Religion in general would seem 
to have no quid pro quo to offer them. The number of these 
men has very largely increased in the American college. They 
are changing its habits of thought and conduct, its scale of 
values as regards courses, the whole aesthetic and emotional 
level of the group. They undertake their four years of college 
life mostly for social or practical reasons and they leave college 
nearly always for business or for law. 

If organized religion wants to test out how much of a power 
it still is in the college, let it see if it can evangelize this group. 
Success or failure with them would be an actual measure of its 



122 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

vitality, a real snatching of brands from the burning. The 
other groups we have discussed are temperamentally disposed 
toward some sort of acceptance of the churches. This group 
is one of the two for whose salvation the churches specifically 
exist. We should never draw many leaders from its numbers; 
can we recruit the laity from it? It is significant that at 
present this group remains almost wholly untouched either by 
college preaching or by the Y.M.C.A. activities of the under- 
graduate body. 

Finally, there are the intellectual and aesthetic radicals. 
This group probably comprehends by far the largest number 
of valuable men in the college community. It is composed of 
the boys who have both intellectual and emotional equipment 
and along with then brains and their heart, they have the 
accompanying spirit of the adventurer. Such youth are 
natural come-outers. They are possessed of character as well 
as intellect. Their moral code is often not that of their 
elders and they are sometimes rather brutal in their disdain 
of inherited prohibitions. But they have a code of their own, 
they govern their fives, keep their appetites within reasonable 
bounds, respect themselves. They have a passion for intel- 
lectual integrity and for accurate appreciations and judgments. 
They are unsentimental by nature, and dislike, as they dislike 
few other things, the boy who is only temperamentally or 
emotionally religious. They have a disconcerting habit of 
ignoring the considerations of expediency or the sensitiveness 
of their interlocutors when scrutinizing a conviction or analyz- 
ing an institution. 

Now the most significant fact we have yet touched upon is 
that these men also are almost wholly outside the influence of 
organized religion. The first reason for this is either the lack of 
any religious training in their homes or church in their earlier 
youth or, as is more often the case, their having received a 
training which has been both mistaken and inadequate in con- 
tent. Neither Sunday school nor minister ever pointed out 



COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ORGANIZED RELIGION 123 

to them the difference between scientific and religious truth. 
Scientific truth is the exact agreement of observation and 
judgment with fact. It is an affair of the intellect, it calls for 
mental accuracy, is capable of precise demonstration. Ethical 
truth is the harmonious adjustment of conduct to the moral 
and social constitution of man. Insight into the nature of this 
adjustment is as much, if not more, an affair of the imagination 
than of the mind; the allegiance to ethical truth might be 
called more of a practical than an intellectual experience. 
Moral truth is not capable of mathematical demonstration, 
but only of a gradual and relative verification in experience. 
Religious truth again is the perception of the right relations 
between man and the universe as a whole. Such truth is 
generally presented to mankind in the form of personalities, 
it comes in the guise of personages who by their imaginative 
insight, their spiritual intuitiveness, have worked out or 
grasped an attitude both toward men and God which satisfies 
and interprets the lives and consciences of those who behold 
it. There are speculative, mystical, and aesthetic values in 
religious truth which do not enter into scientific observation 
of fact. The imagination plays a part here which it does not 
play with the natural investigator. 

Now such fundamental distinctions are primary elements 
in religious growth and education. But for the most part 
they are not given by churches or parents. Able youth are 
sent to college believing that the truth of religion stands or 
falls with historical accuracy of the gospel narrative or with 
the correctness of inherited systems of opinion. They have 
been encouraged to identify religious truth either with theo- 
logical beliefs or with faith in some inerrant writings or 
with the concept of an omniscient Christ. When the 
church says that Jesus is the truth, it is talking of truth 
as a form of personality, as a system of relations, and 
of the Lord Jesus as being, by the common consent of human 
experience and observation, all that a man ought to be in 



124 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

these relations. He is truth in its final form, a true person. 
All this, these men have not been taught; they suppose that 
what the church asserts is "true," is some particular brand of 
theological or ecclesiastical orthodoxy. Thus, their teaching 
before ever they come to college has given them no preparation 
for what they will find there; it not only has been deficient but 
it has been positively false. 

Tbe inevitable of course happens when these boys of 
potential intellectual and aesthetic power are introduced to the 
free intellectual processes and stimulated by the sudden 
expansion of scientific knowledge which come to them as 
undergraduates. They quickly perceive how far the thought 
and feeling and knowledge of their day have outstripped the 
creed and practice of ecclesiastical, as of other contemporary, 
organizations. They perceive that to some real degree the 
churches are outmoded in conduct and reactionary in belief. 
They are aware how far contemporary psychological and social 
science has advanced beyond the consciousness of most 
preachers and how dreadfully it discredits their usual concepts 
regarding nature and human life. They have an acute and 
somewhat exaggerated perception of how discarded is the 
philosophic view of the world which lies behind classic systems 
of theology and they see how inconsistent with the ethics of 
Jesus is both the theory and the practice of our imperialistic 
and ruthlessly competitive society. They are aware that 
consciously or unconsciously the laity support the churches 
quite as much for social and economic as for religious reasons. 
In short, they perceive that their inherited ethical, theological, 
and ecclesiastical orthodoxies will not stand the test of scientific 
investigations and they think these are to be identified with 
religion. Hence, not understanding the nature of religious 
truth they soon lose any sense of the value of it. In the 
beginning, they look with scorn upon the minister as the 
official of an order of ideas which he must know is no longer 
defensible and they regard the church as a drag upon society. 



COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ORGANIZED RELIGION 125 

Now these are able boys. And before they are through 
their Senior year they have become more or less aware of the 
difference between religion and theology, an art and its science, 
the self-verifying moral and spiritual experience of the Lord 
Jesus and any particular philosophic or practical implications 
with which men have clothed it. They have come to perceive 
the difference between religious and scientific truths. But it is 
then, for the most part, too late to reclaim them, because 
their active lives have already gotten substitutes for the faith 
which they discarded. They are absorbed in intellectual 
pursuits. Just as we are told of Darwin that his early and 
vivid delight in music became entirely atrophied through 
long absorption in purely scientific pursuits so the interest of 
these youths in the distinctively religious expression of their 
ethical and imaginative life has perished. They give them- 
selves to philosophy or economics or political science; they 
are still devoted men but their devotion is to wisdom, they 
worship truth, not the God of truth. They are young men of 
character, but it is respect for themselves and humanity, not 
awe and loyalty in the presence of a holy being, which is alike 
the motive and the sanction of their conduct. Some of them 
give a genuine discipleship to the old classic ideals of beauty 
and of justice. They prefer this to the personalized and too 
often the timid and obscurantist religion of the churches. 

Other men in this group, not possessing as great intellectual 
power or as keen scientific interests, hold aloof from organized 
religion for aesthetic reasons. They are sensitive to the 
various aspects of beauty. Indeed, boys who understand the 
significance and value of the aesthetic world are rapidly on 
the increase in this group. To them the stenciled walls and 
carpeted floors, the anomalous furnishings and frock-coated 
officials, the popular romantic and quite irreligious music of 
the average Protestant sanctuary are both ludicrous and 
repellent. With all the joyous cruelty of youth they pitilessly 
analyze and condemn it. 



126 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

More and more the college is training these abler youth to 
a critical appreciation of the intimate and significant relation- 
ship between sublime ideas and deep emotions and a restrained 
and beautiful, an austere and reverent, expression of them. 
The very age itself, with its immensely increased interest in 
the dramatic and plastic and descriptive arts, tends more and 
more to feed their imaginative life and to make the standards 
of that life more consciously exacting. But our average non- 
liturgical service has not much to offer their critically trained 
perceptions. They find little of beauty or of awe in the Sunday 
morning service. Indeed our church habits are pretty largely 
the transfer into the sanctuary of the hearty conventions of 
middle-class family life. The expressions and attitudes of 
life which are precious to such youth, the subtle and precise 
and mystical ones get small recognition here. They feel 
like uncomfortable outsiders or truculent misfits in the Sunday 
morning congregation. Therefore, partly for reasons of intel- 
lectual integrity and partly for reasons of a genuine and 
aesthetic distaste and partly because organized religion has 
been crowded out by other interests which also feed mind and 
spirit they avoid the Christian church. It does not seem to 
move in their world. They are quite aware that it tries to 
stand for, and once did stand for, real values. They, too, 
think those values are real but that they are no longer within 
its custody. 

It is conceded that very few of the abler men in college 
today, either the students of distinguished intellectual or 
creative capacity, are turning toward the Christian ministry. 
It does not seem to me difficult in the light of what we have 
been saying to understand why. It is not because these men 
are devoid of religious capacity or of ethical loyalties. Quite 
the contrary; they are the men who are going to be the leaders 
of the higher life of their generation. But modern life offers 
many new professions and occupations into which imaginative 
spirits and keen minds may enter. The new engineering pro- 



COLLEGE STUDENTS AND ORGANIZED RELIGION 127 

fessions, the opportunities of big business, give scope for the 
work of the constructive imagination and the analysis of the 
keen mind, which an earlier and simpler age denied. Political 
and economic reform calls for the highest moral and mental 
qualities. Hence it is not altogether consonant with the 
genius of our day that it should produce such conventionally 
religious spirits as medieval civilization gave birth to. Never- 
theless, the general defection of this group upon the Christian 
ministry and the churches is gravely significant as to the prob- 
able immediate future of organized religion. For if we have 
lost our hold on men of this sort, then, whether or not we 
win the battle at any other point of the line, our real success in 
controlling the thought and feeling of society is problematic 
indeed. If we have lost these men as both laymen and leaders 
in the churches, all other gains are gravely diminished thereby. 
It would not be true, I suppose, of this group, that they 
would say that the ministry is not a "man-sized" job. They 
began, in the first flush of intellectual activity in their Sopho- 
more year, by saying that, but now they would be quite aware 
that religious and moral leadership of this generation offers a 
herculean task. But they have become indifferent to it 
and are rather of the conviction that the churches are neither 
able nor indeed anxious to really undertake it. There is 
plenty of dormant religious capacity in this group, much 
unexpressed spiritual ability. But it regards the only ministry 
possible for it in this generation, because the only one com- 
patible with clear thinking and fine feeling, as one outside of 
the ecclesiastical institution. This is obviously a half-truth, by 
no means a perfectly just attitude. But then all human con- 
victions are combinations of half-truths; vague hearsay, blank 
prejudice, fond fancy, are component parts of all our thinking 
and feeling. We shall never gain the men of this group by 
railing at them or by pitying ourselves for their unsympa- 
thetic attitude or by denying the large measure of justification 
that lies beneath it. If we ever do win back their allegiance 



128 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

it will be by a generous and frank appreciation of those very 
gifts of intellect and character which have turned them away. 
And we shall make a grave mistake if we suppose that in any 
age of the world keen minds and tempered spirits have been 
shut up to our expression of the higher life. 

My general attitude must be clear from the foregoing 
observations. The attitude of college students toward organ- 
ized religion is very far from what we should like it to be, but 
the trouble is not so much with these young men as with our 
own organization. Able and sensitive youth are naturally 
religious. They are also naturally scrupulous that whatever 
of religion they bring themselves to openly espouse, shall 
be candid in spirit, intelligent in content, beautiful and digni- 
fied in expression. If there is to be again a warm and confident 
alliance between academic and ecclesiastical life and if the 
ablest youths are again to enter the ministry, the churches 
will have to change more than the colleges. In so far as reli- 
gious institutions adapt their interpretations of religious experi- 
ence to the world-view of today, according as they promulgate 
a moral code not formed to meet the problems of a vanished 
and simpler order of society but adapted to the new and urgent 
problems of an urban and industrial civilization, and in so far 
as they can recognize that the beautiful has as much place 
in life as the holy and the good, they will interest and attract 
undergraduate life. There is an infinite pathos in the wistful- 
ness with which many idealistic boys regard the church today 
as an organization hostile to mental freedom, indifferent to 
beauty, and insistent on a procrustean morality; there is 
something deeper than pathos in the indifference and almost 
contempt which exists between so many youth in the coming 
generation and the Christian church. In their heart of 
hearts these boys would like to worship, to believe, to openly 
espouse a holy and a sacrificial life. If that be true, what is 
the reason the church can do so little with them ?