Putting aside such minor considerations as the personal annoyance caused the students, and the danger of attending services held in a cold chapel, we deny the moral right of the authorities of a college to whip men into chapel when they are unwilling to attend. Men do not come to college to learn how to pray: as a rule, we think, they are quite capable of attending to their private devotions without any assistance. Students who are old enough for voluntary recitations are fully capable of responsibility on matters of religion. This, too, is generally recognized. The sole reason we have compulsory attendance at prayers, at present, is apparently because it is an old custom. Public sentiment is against it; the college is a unit against it; and yet not a move is made to put this bugbear down.
But we can go much further than merely to deny the moral right of forcing men into chapel. We ascribe to this very cause much of that infidelity for which Harvard has become notorious. The impression is current in the outside world that it is equivalent to sacrificing a man's religious belief to send him to Cambridge; and it is with a bitter sense of humiliation that we confess this impression to be partially founded on fact. Not that there is any great amount of open infidelity here; not that a large proportion of men lose their faith. But that a freethinking tendency exists here, stronger than in any other college, is painfully evident. There is no time in a man's life when he is so open to doubt as the years spent at college, and it would seem only right that as much regard should be paid to his religious belief as is possible. As a matter of fact, the only regard paid to it is to weaken it. A man enters chapel, and a monitor marks on a slip of paper that he has worshipped God according to the rules and regulation of Harvard college. It is not necessary that he should pray every day. By some unknown power the authorities have come to the decision that it is only necessary to worship God four times a week. In case a man fails to attend the prescribed number of times in a year, he is compelled to make up his absences the following year. Four times a week is the minimum amount for salvation and a degree. But, we ask, chapel used to be held every morning, and now it is only four times a week. Has the would grown so much better that the latter amount of prayers is sufficient? Is there an evolution towards no prayers at all? Will two prayers a week be enough in the years to come? Are our authorities to determine the exact minimum amount of prayers that the student needs? What wonder that infidelity is ripe when such questions as these become pertinent ones.
The position that the college has taken is due 8 to its patchwork condition. We are in a period of change. But the college takes no attitude so foolish as that on the prayer question. Here it is at once conceded that attendance at chapel ought to be voluntary, and at once desired. If the position taken were only foolish, we should not mind so much, -we are used to it; -but when there is a contradiction between theory and practice from every point of view, then objection mist be raised. Of all things, we have a right to demand that, if the motto of the college, Christo et Ecclesiae, mean anything, it should not come to be the common scoff and fun if has been made. It can be only a mockery when it looks down from the stained-glass windows of the chapel, on men who have been forced into prayers against their will.