The prospects of Liberalism are precisely the same as the prospects of civilization – that is to say, of progress. Bigotry is the provincialism of the mind. Men are bigoted who are not acquainted with the thoughts of others. They have been taught one thing, and have been made to believe that their little mental horizon is the circumference of all knowledge. The bigot lives in an ignorant village, surrounded by ignorant neighbors. This is the honest bigot. The dishonest bigot may know better, but he remains a bigot because his salary depends upon it. A bigot is like a country that has had no commerce with any other. He imagines that in his little head there is everything of value.
When a man becomes an intellectual explorer, an intellectual traveler, he begins to widen, to grow liberal. He finds that the ideas of others are as good as and often better than his own. The habits and customs of other people throw light on his own, and by this light he is enabled to discover at least some of his own mistakes.
Now the world has become acquainted. A few years ago, a man knew something of the doctrines of his own church. Now he knows the creeds of others, and not only so, but he has examined to some extent the religions of other nations. He finds in other creeds all the excellencies that are in his own, and most of the mistakes. In this way he learns that all creeds have been produced by men, and that their differences have been accounted for by race, climate, heredity – that is to say, by a difference in circumstances. So we now know that the cause of Liberalism is the cause of civilization. Unless the race is to be a failure, the cause of Liberalism must succeed. Consequently, I have the same faith in that cause that I have in the human race.