2 JULY 1910, Page 20




Sts,—The Spectator has developed during the past few weeks an extraordinary facility in the art of failing to understand the points of view of those who differ from it. Your article on the proposed religions Census in last week's issue is the latest case in point. Of course we should all like to know bow religious opinion is divided in this country. It would, perhaps, only be less interesting than to know the precise economic, political, and ethical views of our country men and women. But could we get a Census worth a moment's con- sideration when completed P The " occupier " of each house is responsible for the information given in the return. Assume a household of, say, two parents, five children, and three servants. Possibly the religious opinions of the parents differ, though for convenience and domestic harmony one religious place of worship is used by both. It is quite likely that the more deeply religious nature of the two has sacrificed itself (outwardly) to the more superficiaL Inaccuracy No. 1, therefore, is that "occupier" returns (say) his wife as " Church of England." Then come three grown-up daughters. It is probable that these, if well educated, have formed inde- pendent and different views from either parent. But they do not expect to be under the parental roof for ever, and mean- while affection prevents discussion of theological differences which for occult reasons cause pain to ill-read parents. Inaccuracy No. 2 is that " occupier " returns three daughters as " Church of England?' Two sons follow. They will probably develop into normal Englishmen with conventional views on everything, but they may happen to be just of that age when they think for themselves. This period is brief, but assume it covers April 2nd, 1911. If the sons' opinions are known to "occupier," they are probably treated with mild disapproval and contempt. Anyhow, " occupier " would regard the (true) description of them as "indifferentist" as an insult to himself. They are returned as " Church of England,"—inaccuracy No. 3. Then come the servants. Do we not all know the newspapers where the parson's wife (or her husband) and others advertise for " Housemaid. Must be Churchwoman " P Assume that one of our modern barbarians has secured his three servants in this way. We can be sure they will be returned by " occupier" as " Church of England" (inaccuracy No. 4), though here again outward compliance will be the sole evidence of religions opinion, which in all three cases may be opposed to the creed on which wages are made to depend. Net result of Census return : in a household of ten persons all are returned as Church of England. Actual truth : Church of England, one ; other creeds, nine. It would be easy to give examples favouring other creeds in an equal degree. But bow utterly worthless your religions Census [We have dealt with this argument in our note to Mr. Morgan's letter, but may add that even if Mr. Rendall's highly coloured description of what would happen is true, it certainly would not be confined to the houses of Churchmen. Nonconformist parents with church-going sons and daughters who do not like to hurt their parents' feelings are not unknown, we imagine. But, in truth, all these arguments are excuses. The opponents of the religious Census, as of the Referendum, do not want the will of the people to prevail,-. unless it is also their will.—ED. Spectator.]