Sunday, September 7, 2008

Reminiscences of an Active Life #9 -- September 7, 2008

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde was born in Nymegen, Holland in 1813. He went on to live a remarkable life of achievement in the sciences and the arts. He died in America in 1895.

While serving as editor of Manufacturer and Builder Magazine, he wrote many articles, including the ones which gave this blog its name. In 1893 and 1894, he published a 23-part (!) memoir in the same periodical. Here is the eighth part. He begins to discuss his training in theology.

Disputes between science and fundamentalist religion have been going on for a long time.

The image comes from the first installment, in the February, 1893 issue.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Reminiscences of an Active Life.


From Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 25, Issue 10, October 1893

(Continued from page 205.)

6th. Career as a Theological Student. The tendency toward ultra-orthodoxy appears to be in the inverse ratio of the amount of information in regard to the nature of things surrounding us. Thus, for instance, in isolated farmhouses, or in out-of-the-way places, where the school instruction is entirely confined to the three R's -- reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic -- the tendency to accept as uncontrovertible truths the theories taught by ultra-orthodox Christian instructors, are adopted without the least hesitation, and this even in utter disregard of the fact that they often are in utter contradiction with well-established natural laws, based on incontrovertible mathematical truths, and verified by the experience of every thinking being.

On the other hand, observation proves that in large cities with a numerous population, and the consequent mutual intercourse and interchange of diverse opinions, a totally different condition of mind prevails, especially when there are also schools where various branches of knowledge are taught, such as geography, physical as well as descriptive; also the products of the earth -- mineral, vegetable and animal (usually known under the name of natural history); when, inaddition to all this, there are also higher schools, where instructionis given in the events through which the principal races of mankind have passed in the course of ages, we find always a tendency to discard ultra-orthodox views, and the most intelligent of the inhabitants show not only toleration of diverse opinions, but also a tendency to contribute their share to the intellectual advancement of the human race.

I had the good fortune to live for some years (1833 to 1839) in a locality where the inhabitants, were divided in the two opposite opinions described above, until at last an open warfare broke out. Of course the war was not physical, but exclusively intellectual; however, it rose at last so high, that the general government of the United Netherlands had to interfere and compel the opposite parties to obey the law and preserve order.

It may surprise American citizens who know that in the Netherlands, where perfect freedom of religious opinion prevails, the government was obliged to take sides, and had the legal power to do so. For this reason, it will be necessary to go back to the beginning of this century, when the basis of the peculiar system now prevailing there was laid. This system is that the clergymen of all denominations -- Christians and Jews, Protestants and Roman Catholics -- are independent of the membersof their church, as they all receive their salaries from the general government and not from the members of the congregations. This system originated in the acts of the first Napoleon, who, in the beginning of this century, confiscated all church property, and sold much of it at public auction, so as to provide funds for his large armies and continue his warfare against such European governments as were not under his control. He pacified the clergymen with the promise that the same salaries would be continued at the same rate as they had been enjoying.

When all the church property and the cash value received had been placed under the control of a newly-created department, that of Public Worship, to which Napoleon (with the sagacity which even his bitterest enemies admire) appointed the most suitable men, it turned out that a great saving was accomplished, as it was proved that the income of the property, sold or unsold, was far more than the salaries to be paid. The only losers by the new system were the different persons who in each church had the control of the funds and made the payments to the clergymen.

(To be Continued).

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