Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. In general, only individuals of exceptional endowments, and exceptionally high-minded communities, rise to any considerable extent above this level. But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.
During the last century, and part of the one before, it was widely held that there was an unreconcilable conflict between knowledge and belief. The opinion prevailed amoung advanced minds that it was time that belief should be replaced increasingly by knowledge; belief that did not itself rest on knowledge was superstition, and as such had to be opposed. According to this conception, the sole function of education was to open the way to thinking and knowing, and the school, as the outstanding organ for the people’s education, must serve that end exclusively.
I am not a positivist. Positivism states that what cannot be observed does not exist. This conception is scientifically indefensible, for it is impossible to make valid affirmations of what people ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ observe. One would have to say ‘only what we observe exists,’ which is obviously false.
It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing - a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind. Furthermore, the equation E = mc², in which energy is put equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa.
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It is very difficult to explain this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it. The individual feels the nothingness of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in Nature and in the world of though. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole.
The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes; the God who, according to the limits of the believer’s outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even of life itself; the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing; he who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.
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The scientific theorist is not to be envied. For Nature, or more precisely experiment, is an exorable and not very friendly judge of his work. It never says “yes” to a theory. In the most favorable cases it says “Maybe,” and in the great majority of cases simply “No.” If an experiment agrees with a theory it means for the latter “Maybe,” and if it does not agree it means “No.” Probably every theory will some day experience its “No” - most theories, soon after conception.