Page images

that religion is man's belief in a being or beings mightier than himself, and inaccessible to his senses, but not indifferent to his sentiments and actions, with the feelings and practices which flow from such belief, we have a definition of the kind required - one excluding nothing which can be called religion, and including nothing which is only partially present in religion. It is in this its widest sense that we have to understand religion when we discuss whether or not there are peoples destitute of religion.

Of the recent writers who have undertaken to show that there are peoples wholly without religious ideas, feelings, or practices, Sir John Lubbock is, so far as I am aware, entitled to the credit of having bestowed most care on the argument. He has certainly written with more knowledge and in a more scientific spirit than Büchner, Pouchet, O. Schmidt, or Moritz Wagner. He has brought together a much larger number of apparent facts than any one else on the same side has done. He has presented them in a manner to which, so far as tone and temper are concerned, no objection can be fairly taken. If he err, as I think he does, it is only his science which is at fault. I shall follow, therefore, his statement of the argument against the universality of religion, as presented in the last edition of his 'Prehistoric Times,' and examine it paragraph by paragraph, as there seems to be no other way of satisfactorily deal. ing with it.

Sir John Lubbock writes, then, thus: “According to Spix and Martius, Bates, and Wallace, some of the Brazilian Indians were entirely without religion. Burmeister confirms this statement, and in the list of the principal tribes of the valley of the Amazons, published by the Hakluyt Society, the Chuncos are stated to have no religion whatever,' and we are told that the Curetus ‘have no idea of a Supreme Being. The Toupinambas of Brazil had no religion. The South American Indians of the Gran Chaco are said by the niissionaries to have ‘no religious or idolatrous belief or worship whatever; neither do they possess any idea of a God, or of a Supreme Being. They make no distinction between right and wrong, and have therefore neither fear nor hope of any present or future punishment or reward, nor any mysterious terror of some supernatural power, whom they might seek to assuage by sacrifices or superstitious rites.' Bates tells us that some of the Indian tribes on the Upper Amazons have no idea of a Supreme Being, and consequently have no word to express it in their own languages.' Azara also makes the same statement as regards many of the South American tribes visited by him.”

These are Sir John Lubbock's instances from South American tribes. But I find that they are. all either erroneous or insufficiently established. Gerland (" Anthropologische Beiträge,' i. 283) has correctly pointed out that the passage of Spix and Martius to which Sir J. Lubbock refers, instead of saying that the Brazilian Indians were entirely without religion, tells us that, although engrossed in the present, they had a certain reverence for the moon and particular stars, believed in a Principle of Evil, had priests who professed to have intercourse with demons, and highly honoured certain animals which they supposed to be messengers from the dead. This is a very different story indeed. I do not doubt that, “in the list of the principal tribes of the valley of the Amazons, published by the Hakluyt Society, the Chuncos are stated 'to have no religion whatever,' and we are told that the Curetus have no idea of a Supreme Being ;'" but what proof is there that these statements are not unwarranted ? It will never do to believe such statements—sweeping negativesmerely because they happen to be printed. The assertion that the Tupinambas of Brazil had no religion is not to be received. It is unsupported by any positive evidence; contradicted by the testimony of Stade, for example, who was nine months a prisoner among them; and inconsistent with the fact that several later writers have described the religion of the Tupi race. Tupan, the thunder-god, was the chief deity. The missionaries cited by Lubbock have obviously painted the Indians of the Gran Chaco in too sombre colours. Instead of making no distinction between right and wrong, the Indians of the Gran Chaco appear to be among the best of the American tribes. For example, they do not torture the prisoners whom they take in war, and treat kindly the captive women and children. About their mental life little is known, however, as they are irreconcilably hostile to their civilised neighbours, have no villages, and live very much on horseback. As to the assertion of Mr Bates, it rests on too narrow a conception of what religion is, which, as I have already said, must not be identified with belief in one Supreme Being, or in a Creator properly so called. Further, it greatly needs confirmation, being contrary to the facts and testimonies collected by J. G. Müller and by Waitz. It is inexplicable that Sir John Lubbock should have ignored as he does researches so well known and highly appreciated by students of the natural history of man. Then we should not only have been told that Don Felix de Azara denies religion to many of the American tribes visited by him, but also that he describes the religious beliefs and practices of the very tribes which he denies to have religion. This must strike every one who reads his work; and Valckenaer, D’Orbigny, and Tylor have called attention to it. His statement that the tribes he visited had no religion needs no other contradiction than his own. I am glad to perceive that Lubbock does not include, as Locke and various writers have done, the Caribs among peoples without a religion, for they are known to have worshipped a god of the moon, of the sun, of the wind, of the sea, and a number of evil spirits, with Mabocha as their chief. But I think he might have told us that Humboldt, whose travels in South America were so extensive, whose explorations were so varied, scientific, and successful, and who was certainly uninfluenced by traditional theological beliefs, found no tribes and peoples without a religion; and that Prince Max von Neuwied, in all his many and wide wanderings in Brazil, tells us that he had found no tribes of which the members did not give manifest signs of religious feelings.1

Sir J. Lubbock thus proceeds: “Father Baegert, who lived as a missionary among the Indians of California for seventeen years, affirms that 'idols, temples, religious worship or ceremonies, were unknown to them, and that they neither believed in the true and only God, nor adored false deities ;' and M. de Perouse also says that 'they had no knowledge of a God or of a future state.' Colden, who had ample means of judging, assures us that the celebrated 'five nations of

1 See Appendix XXVI. .


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »