And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Viscount Hailsham succeeded his father in the British Peerage two years ago. He now sits in the House of Lords. The accident of inheritance automatically removed him from a most promising career in the House of Commons. He was then known as Quintin Hogg. Now rebel within the ranks of the Tory Party, he is the founder of the Tory Reform Committee. Here now is Lord Hailsham.
No one knows how he came to be born, nor what’ll happen when he dies. The wisest must live by faith, or the want of it. So I feel there’s no shame in admitting that we live by faith. The only
question is, what faith? Are we to believe that the things we see and feel are the only things that are, and that man himself—his fears, his loves, his hates, his sense of sin and longing for beauty—differs only in degree and not in kind from the animals; the gotten and born, dying and finally dissolved, all his consciousness no less material than the bloom on a peach or the whistle of a distant railway train? This is materialism, and I don’t think that anyone can really be satisfied with it. It can’t satisfy the heart, and it can’t satisfy the head, in the end.
We know enough of ourselves to feel certain that there is a sphere of reality, to which we’re native born, of a different order to the inanimate world about us. Its nature is obscure. Even its existence
eludes us. But the knower is no mere thing to be known. However conditioned the mind or limited the choice, there is, I believe, a point at which every human being knows himself to be a first cause, operating on his surroundings within bounds, however narrow, inhabiting a region where mind and spirit are the ultimate, and body and matter are only the secondary, reality.
In this region, the real things are the eternal values, things like beauty, ugliness, truth, and falsehood, right and wrong, mercy and cruelty; and above all, those sentient beings who were at once the subjects, the vehicles, and the objects of these things. How could I possibly visualize a universe, so constructed, as purely fortuitous? How can such a universe be brought to a full stop by the
explosion of an atomic bomb? A universe like this must have a center, and that center a person, not merely a thing. As I see it, the center of this universe is God. Is it something that I know or something that I believe? Of course something I believe, but something I believe by reason and experience.
In our pilgrimage, there comes a time when we realize we aren’t alone. To each, his own experience is complete and incommunicable. We put out our hands and feel a hand in ours. We see a light in the darkness, not waywardly, like the will o’ the wisp, but in an ordered sequence, and we know that a friend is near. But what a friend? His presence is as terrible as the lightning, his absence more
fearful, still. If man were perfectly happy or perfectly good, he wouldn’t have any need of a redeemer. But there are no more certain facts in the world than suffering and sin. Man has the capacity to generate his own misfortunes, as certain as a child to muddy his face and break his toys. We can’t understand why this should be so—at least, I can’t—but it is, and the knowledge of it, which is nothing less than the knowledge of our own nature is unbearable.
Only a God who has suffered as a man can help us to bear the knowledge and overrule the fact. Only a man who has truly born God’s image on his personality can give us courage to worship where our instinct is to flee. He must be a real man, and he must be real God. No fairy prince, no imaginary redeemer, can
work the miracle. Only a figure of history will serve. A real stone, rolled away from a real tomb, in a real garden, at a real moment of time when we were free.
That was Viscount Hailsham, a lawyer, statesman and the author of The Case for Conservatism. A man of quick temper but deliberate courage, he has brought some virile young ideas to Britain’s Tory Party.