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f THE WELSH EDUCATION CONFERENCE ANIf THE RELIGIOUS DIFFICULTY. The Aberystwyth Conference has thrown some fresh light upon the religious difficulty" in connection with national education. It will strike everyone at once as remarkable, that perhaps the most religious" body of men in the world-using the word "religious" in its ordinary acceptationâhave not only declared unhesitat- ingly against anything like denominational education, but almost turned the scale in favour of the absolute exclusion of the Bible from the national schools of the future. According to one account of the Conference, it was the voice of the Dissenting Ministers which decided that the Scriptures should not be used, and an accession of the local lay element which subsequently modified that deci- sion. However this may be, it is certain that the vote of the Dissenting Ministers of Wales has been given in favour of what is ordinarily called secular education. One of the conclusions arrived at by the Conference was adverse even to the proposal of the Birmingham League, to allow the use of school buildings for religious purposes out of school hours; and with regard to the reading of the Bible, the resolution eventually carried neither imposed nor forbade it. It is vain to hope that we shall hear no more nonsense talked about godless" opposition to religious education, because, unfortunately, no men are more given to the use of hard names, however undeserved, than those who imagine themselves to be particularly zealous in defence of Christianity. But the advocates of a purely secular system can, at any rate, afford to treat such easy arguments with profound complacency for the future, since the Welsh preachers, who are charged with many imaginary offences, but can never be accused by their most unscrupulous enemies of a want of religious zeal, have ranged themselves on the same side. The question which was argued, to some extent, at Aberyst- wyth, was, whether what is called "religious education" tends to promote religion, or to produce a very different result; and on this point two forcible arguments were employed by the advocates of a secular system. It was urged that unless religious teaching can be made entirely unsectarianâa somewhat difficult matter-it does an immense amount of injury by encouraging those unchar- itable feelings which separate the members of various denominations from one another, and are the scandal and the curse of the Christian Church. If that is true, there can be little doubt, we imagine, in the mind of any careful observer, that "religious education" does more harm than good. Sectarianism is the curse of our religious life in England, and it is intolerable that children should be educated by the State into bigoted churchmen or bigoted dissenters. In another column we quote the opinion of the Rev. R. TEMPLE on the'' religious question," and as' we have to refer to it to illustrate another point, it is onlyright to say here that Mr TEMPLE doubts whether it ever enters into the head of any child to think that because it has been at a church day school it ought to grow up a churchman." Of course the rev. gentleman has indefinitely better opportunities of judging than we have, and his opinion is entitled to very great weight, because it is the opinion not only of an exceedingly sensible but also of a thoroughly impartial mind. But then Mr TEMPLE also believes that religious teaching" is not likely to benefit the children permanently, because the necessarily hard way in which a [subject comes to be regarded by those who have been lectured and examined in it for years makes such a training by no means the best preparation for teaching young children to be God-fearing and good." This brings us into the second argument employed at Aberystwyth but before we leave the first it should be observed that Mr TEMPLE'S opinion of the sectarian result of "religious teaching" only goes as far as this, that, as a rule, there is no permanent result of a positive kind. If that is true, of course the religious difficulty would be solved at once by a very summary process; and if it is untrue, we must believe that the denominational system is answerable for a vast amount of the bigotry and narrowness of the "religious" world. It is difficult, indeed, what- ever the "religious" result may be, to resist the conclusion that as long as church boys" are educated by themselves, and "dissenting boys" by themselves, when they grow to be men the results of this mischievous separation will be only too apparent in the broad line of demarcation which separates churchmen from dissenters. But the second argument is the one which strikes most directly at the root of religious teaching," because, with regard to the first, it may be argued that such teaching can be made unsectarian. To the second argument, if it is founded in fact, there is no reply. Mr TEMPLE, in the passage which we have quoted, was only saying in other words what was subsequently said, perhaps in stronger terms, at Aberystwyth. Religious teaching,, it was urged at the Conference, iustead of promoting religion, positively tends to deaden the mind to those sacred impressions which might otherwise be produced by different agencies. Looking at the matter in one light, there is something almost repulsive, as well as absurd, in the idea of teaching religion, like grammar and geo- graphy, or drilling it into children like order and method. Religion, it cannot too often be repeated, is not what many people suppose, a thing apart from daily. life. It is, or ought to be, mixed up with every part of life, from child- hood to the grave, and when it is separated from that it becomes a mere superstition. But still, religion is so sacred a thing that ordinary teaching and drilling, unin- spired, as they too often must be, by anything like the enthusiasm of humanity," are far more likely to drive it away than encourage it in the mind of the pupil. Another question arises, howeverâwhether, putting all thought of religion aside, the Bible should not be read as part of any complete secular system of primary education. And admitting the religious element again, for a moment, and looking at the matter as a whole, to select the Bible for exclusion, though there are many good reasons for doing so, is a measure which naturally gives rise to grave mis- giving, especially when it is remembered that a certain proportion of the children who would be compelled to attend a day school might come under no other educational influ- ence. The subject is surrounded by so many difficulties of various kinds, that we cannot wonder at the uncertainty which characterized the proceedings of the Conference on this point, or the apparent inconsistency of its conclusions. We have purposely referred in these remarks only to the somewhat novel aspects in which the religious question was placed at Aberystwyth, and omitted all reference to other and more prominent difficulties that are commonly urgedâsuch as the argument that some ratepayers would object to the reading of the Bible, which is not a very strong reason, we imagine, for giving it up. It must not be supposed, either, that we are insensible to the force of the arguments which the advocates of "religious education" have to urge. Those arguments, and tha motives which generally give rise to them, should be treated with the greatest respect, and cannot be met as easily as some people appear to suppose; but it seems to us that the weight of advantage is decidedly in favour of secular education, with some element of doubt admitted as to the desirability of permitting the simple reading of the Bible. This, it should be added, was really the only matter in dispute at the large and truly representative Welsh Conference. The principle of compulsion, we are glad to say, was adopted with almost perfect unanimity, and of course denominationalism was entirely condemned. It is to be regretted, as a waste of power, that the Conference was unable to agree at once to work with the Birmingham League. The proposals of the League, drawn up with the view of meeting, as far as possible, the opinions of dif- ferent parties, were not radical enough for the Welsh edu- cationalists, who, though they certainly seem to have detected the weak points of the programme. Derhans make the mistake of supposing that a larger measure of reform can be carried than is feasible under present circumstances. In as far as the League gives place to the evil spirit of denominationalism, it is undoubtedly in the wrong but possibly that spirit cannot be exorcised all at once; and we hope our Welsh friends will remember that in great movements like this a considerable surrender of opinion is often necessary, in order that as large a force as possible may be arrayed against the common foe. The foe in this instance is ignorance, with its long train of attendant evils, and to vanquish it is an object worth all the sacrifice and self-surrender of which the best of men are capable. -Oswestry Advertiser,