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Old 15-10-15, 09:05 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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I therefore determined to bring matters to a crisis, There was a rule in Cambridge that man should attend College Chapel at least five times a week. I gave up attending Chapel, and I was sent for by the Dean of the College. I believe his name was Dean Maitland - a liberal minded, tolerant and sympathetic man. I had an hour's talk with him. The following is the purport of his conversation:

"Good morning"!

"Good morning Sir".

"I hope you will be more regular at Chapel in future. Good morning!"

And with this he was going to dismiss me, as other men who cut Chapel were waiting to see the Dean. But I was determined to continue the interview.

"If you please Sir, I wish to talk with you about Chapel".

"Yes, what is it. Sit down".

I took a set.

"I don't like to attend compulsory Chapel. It dose me no good".

"Very well, I excuse you in future from doing so".

Having obtained leave keep away from chapel, on the ground that compulsory attendance at a Christian worship did me no good, I was willing to terminate the interview.

Not so the good Dean, who next addressed me not as Dean, exercising disciplinary authority over a college student, but a minister of Christ's church sympathetically endeavouring to guide back into the fold sheep which, in his view, was wondering astray.

"Now tell me if you have any further reasons why you do not wish to attend chapel".

"I would gladly speak out my mind, if in my position at College I would not suffer thereby".

"No I assure you that whatever you say will not go beyond me".

"Then Sir, I do not wish to shock your mind with my infidel and agnostic views".

"However much it may grieve me, it is my duty to hear your doubts, and try to set them at rest. In the course of a Clergymen's life, he has to meet with men with varying opinions, and it is his duty to guide them aright to God".

"I do not believe in everything written in the Bible, I do not believe in an eternal damnation in Hell and most of all I can not believe in a Creator".

"You have been reading Huxley and Bradlaugh?"

"Yes Sir, and I no longer believe in the Inspirations of the Bible, nor the Immaculate Conception, nor in the vicarious atonement nor even in the Divinity of Christ".

"I am grieved to hear this, Have you tried Prayer? God helps those who pray to him with faith and sincerity".

"Yes, I have been earnestly praying, but for sometime since my belief in God is lost, reason mocks at my faith and says that prayer in a non existent Creator is useless".

"Then I would ask you to consider the Christian family, what peace, what happiness is in the Christian Home! Have you not looked at it in the light?"

"Yes Sir, I can quite conceive that there is happiness in the Christian Home, where the moral teachings of Christ are followed. But I come from a Buddhist country, where Buddhist home would be just as happy, if the moral precepts of Buddha were observed. It would be same in a Hindu or Mohammedan Home, if the believers in those faiths followed the rules of their religion".

The above was, as far as I remember the gist of our conversation. The kind Dean talked with me for nearly an hour and at the end gave me book by Dr. Wace to read over carefully and to come to him again. I read the book, but it was unsatisfactory, for it started with the assumption of an Omniscient Creative God - which was just the very difficulty I felt of conception. In returning the book I stated that it did not meet my case, and so that matter dropped.

Henceforth I was an avowed Agnostic. But this made no difference to me socially in England, and though I had some agnostic friends especially among the Moral Nature Science men, yet the theological men who, knew my infidel views, did not "cut" me, and some of my best friends are now clergymen of the Church of England.

An amusing incident followed when it got about that the Dean excused me from chapel in future. A man of another college went up to the Dean and asked leave to keep away from chapel, because he did not believe in God. Said the Dean: "I will give you 24 hours either to find your God, or to find another college".

In common with a large number of Christians in Ceylon, I had been brought up in the belief that wickedness and crimes prevailed only, or especially, among the Buddhist or other "heathens", but that in Christian England crime was comparatively absent.

This was an argument from the practical aspect to Christianity. I do not know whether this impression prevalent in Ceylon was created by Missionaries, but I saw practical effects of Christianity among Christians in Christian lands.

I need not dilate the extreme wealth side by side with the grovelling debasement, poverty and misery with the East end of London. The object lesson of nighly dgbaucheries of hopeless drunkenness in the gin places, of the homeless and starving thousands, of the piteous cries of government, and the public demonstrations of dissatisfied socialists, all this was a picture I shall never forget.

Thousands of men, women and children have been huddled together at night, homeless, roofless, making their beds on the bare, grass-less snow-covered ground, with non to help them.

Could such things be in Christian England? The Bible says, "Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor". But amidst the squalor, misery and poverty of the Christian fellowmen, I saw the great body of the Christian Bishops and clergy complacently enjoying the luxuries of life.

Immense wealth was also spent upon grand churches, like the Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's, while there was no money to feed starving poor. I witnessed the public send off young, zealous and enthusiastic preachers of the Gospel to China, to Africa and to India, in the midst of the plaudits and prayers of righteous Christian assemblies convoked by the Missionary Societies.

It seemed to me that practical Christianity was a mockery, for with the export of missionaries and Bibles, there was a far larger export of bottles and bullets, the one to kill the mind, the other the body. And all this from a town where, more than in any other place in the world, thousands of Christian women nightly sold themselves in open street prostitution.

I remember one occasion, when one of our leading Ceylon's lawyers, then on a visit to the modern Babylon, could scarcely believe his eyes when he first saw the stream of well dressed streetwalkers opposite the theatre at midnight. He wept to find that such things could be in Christian England.

The social evil is not confined to London alone, but is rampant and shows no signs of abatement in all larger Christian towns, notably at Liverpool, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and New Yolk. Universal love, friendliness, loving kindness, or however we choose to call it, is a firm ethical basis for human life beyond the confines of any religion, though

Just as a misunderstanding prevails in the East as to the vileness of man in ''heathen'' lands alone, and his virtue in Christian countries of the west, so is there a misunderstanding in the West as to the trials and troubles of missionaries sent to the ''heathen''.

I had to frequently assure educated and intelligent people in English that it was not considered a delicacy here when a roast missionary was served at dinner!

There were people still who believed that Ceylon was a cannibal island, and that missionaries have hard time from tigers, elephants, crocodiles and snakes. Evidently these stories were circulated to magnify the self-sacrifice of missionaries and help to fill the coffers of the Gospel Societies.

I pass on now to the time of my return to Ceylon. I had not been to a church for two hears for devotional purposes. The University Sermons I occasionally listened to, when preachers of note came to Cambridge, and their discourses were eloquent and interesting, and being unaccompanied by ceremonial ritual were attended by men of all shades of Ceylonese. For two years I had not attended a church except some in Holland and the Notre Dame in Paris for architectural beauty. Therefore when a few Sundays had passed in Matara without my accompanying my brothers and sisters to church, my mother enquired the reason of ungodliness in thus keeping away from the House of God.

I replied that the whole world was the house of God, and not only a particular building with four walls and roof. I was then looked upon as peculiar and strange, and she judged that something was evidently wrong with my upper storey, a doctor should be sent for to cure me - not as a medical doctor - but a doctor of divinity.
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