This I Believe

Beveridge, William Henry; Beveridge, Baron

  • Lord Beveridge states his belief in "vicarious immortality" and in the value both in leaving a legacy of virtue and in following the legacy left by Christ the man.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Lord Beveridge is a Scotsman, author of the world-famous Beveridge Report: On Social Insurance from the Cradle to the Grave. Born in Bengal, India, William Henry Beveridge attained a triple first at Oxford, became a lawyer, and then a journalist. He entered the government, serving in the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Munitions, and later, at the Ministry of Food, where he drew up the basis for Britain's food rationing plan. Between the wars, he was director of the London School of Economics. A former Liberal member of Parliament, chairman of a new development scheme in Durham, he is outstanding among economists and social reformers. Here now is Lord Beveridge.
I was brought up as an agnostic, without acceptance of any Christian dogma. Thus, the doctrine of personal immortality, perhaps the most pervasive of all Christian beliefs, has meant and means little to me. But belief in the impossibility of escaping from what Samuel Butler, of Erewhon, described as "vicarious immortality," has seemed to me important ever since I read the doctrine set out in one of Butler's sonnets:
Not on sad Stygian shore, nor in clear sheen
Of far Elysian plain shall we meet those
Among the dead whose pupils we have been
Nor those great shades whom we have held as foes.
We shall not argue saying 'twas thus or thus.
Our argument's whole drift we shall forget.
Who's right, who's wrong 'twill be all one to us.
We shall not even know that we have met.
Yet meet we shall, and part, and meet again,
Where dead men meet on lips of living men.
Belief in vicarious immortality seems to me, if one can stick to it, a strongly moralizing doctrine. It discourages selfishness, idleness, arrogance, vulgar ambition, cruelty.
If we want our successors to think kindly of us when we are dead, we must act kindly in our lives. But though Christian dogma has never meant anything to me, the personality and spirit of Christ have meant much.Towards the end of my undergraduate time at Oxford, the Master of my college, Edward Caird, told me of a sum of money which the college had at their disposal to promote serious study of Christianity and asked if I would like to be endowed for this purpose. I didn't accept the invitation, but Caird's suggestion led me to make for myself a study of the life and character of Christ as shown in the Synoptic Gospels. I came to feel that here was one of the greatest personalities in human history, with a greatness all the more impressive because it had to be seen through the minds of very ordinary men.
When soon after I happened from Monte Monteroni in the Italian Lakes, to see Monte Rosa twenty-five miles away shining through drifting mists, and looking all the larger and more overwhelming because of the mists, I made for myself a simile: Christ was all the more superhuman if ever any man was by the way that He shone through present minds. And today, there's no one thing that by itself would do more to save humanity from the sea of miseries, hates, and cruelties in which it wallows: the spreading to all men not of Christian dogma but of the spirit of Christ, making all men see themselves at last as brothers.
Those were the beliefs of Lord Beveridge, world-famous British proponent of social insurance.