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The New Zealand Medical Journal

 Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 26-August-2005, Vol 118 No 1221

Human instincts, normal and pathological: the religious instinct
This extract comes from a speech read at the Annual Meeting in Auckland by Herbert Barraclough, M.B., Auckland, and published in the New Zealand Medical Journal 1905, Volume 4 (16), p211–212.
The Religious Instinct.—This last of all the instincts with which I propose to deal is also the most recent in origin. It has been well said that the two qualities which separate man from brute are the possession of the power of articulate speech and of the religious instinct. Although recent from an evolutionary point of view, it is still immeasurably ancient in its inception. All religions have originally developed from observation of the phenomena of nature.
First, the different powers of nature have been looked upon as gods, and then, out of chaos, benign and malignant gods have been separated. There has appeared a spirit of reverence and love for the good, a spirit of hatred for the evil gods. And above all has come that longing for a future life, that feeling that when the breath, the spirit, the soul separates from the body it does not die, it but enters upon a new phase of existence. These feelings are of the very essence of religion and are independent of dogmas.
The modern world has seen many perversions of the religious instinct, but probably none more absurd and ridiculous than those of recent years. For the initiators of these various mental aberrations we can have no respect: they are mostly rank impostors. But for their deluded victims we must feel considerable sympathy, as their credulity and superstition practically merit the name of insanity. We have Prophet Dowie still with us; Piggott, the new Messiah, of the sect of the Agapemonites, is almost dead; but within the last few days we have heard of members of the sect of Christian Israelites setting out for Denver City to await the end of the world.
This is, indeed, a good American money-making dodge, almost a stroke of genius. Revival services are only a few degrees better, the frothy emotionalism of such meetings being utterly detrimental to proper balance of mind. But beneath these superficial excrescences, it fills one with hope to note an undercurrent of religious feeling which is deep and true. It is a religious sentiment which follows no special creed, but realises its religion in deeds rather than words, which believes that religion is a life to be lived, that it is too sacred to be shouted from the housetops, and that the counterpart of the love of God is love of man.
     
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