What is reverence?
It is the feeling produced when we stand in the presence of our ideal, or of that which most nearly approaches it – that which is produced by what we consider the highest degree of excellence.
The highest is reverenced, praised, and admired without qualification.
Each man reverences according to his nature, his experience, his intellectual development. He may reverence Nero or Marcus Aurelius, Jehovah or Buddha, the author of Leviticus or Shakespeare. Thousands of men reverence John Calvin, Torquemada, and the Puritan fathers; and some have greater respect for Jonathan Edwards than for Captain Kidd.
A vast number of people have great reverence for anything that is covered by mold, or moss, or mildew. They bow low before rot and rust, and adore the worthless things that have been saved by the negligence of oblivion.
They are enchanted with the dull and fading daubs of the old masters, and hold in contempt those miracles of art, the paintings of today.
They worship the ancient, the shadowy, the mysterious, the wonderful. They doubt the value of anything that they understand.
The creed of Christendom is the enemy of morality. It teaches that the innocent can justly suffer for the guilty, that consequences can be avoided by repentance, and that in the world of mind the great fact known as cause and effect does not apply.
It is the enemy of spirituality, because it teaches that credulity is of more value than conduct, and because it pours contempt upon human love by raising far above it the adoration of a phantom.
It is the enemy of reverence. It makes ignorance the foundation of virtue. It belittles the useful, and cheapens the noblest of the virtues. It teaches man to live on mental alms, and glorifies the intellectual pauper. It holds candor in contempt, and is the malignant foe of mental manhood.