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Charles Potter Message To America

A Message To America

Broadcast in the World Of Religion Programme June 25, 1933 by the National Broadcasting Company

by Charles Francis Potter

Founder and Leader of The First Humanist Society of New York

We people of America have passed through a period of great stress. We need fresh courage and faith for the adventurous years now looming before us. Although there are streaks of dawn on the horizon, millions of our people are still unemployed and millions more are still staggering from fhe blows dealt not only to our pocketbooks, but also to our pride and self-respect and to our feeling of confidence and security.

Let us beware of placing all the responsibility for recovery on any one man or any particular group of men. There are in Washington and London men of the highest calibre and ability laboring valiantly fo create order out of the world’s economic chaos.

But recovery is in the last analysis a thing that is up to us. Upon the common man and the average citizen depends the stability of the future. The real hope of a fairer world resides not on Pennsylvania Avenue. not on Wall Street, but upon Main Streef. Salvation will not come floating down from fhe skies on angels’ wings: it will come marching in on feet, — your feet.

And recovery is not primarily an economic matter. Gold standard or not, tariff or nof, — however important these economic and political matters may be, the recovery of the morale of the world is, after all, a psychological and spiritual matter. Recovery from depression is really a matter of faith. In the broad sense, it is a religious thing.

If every man and woman in the country should have money and leisure in plenty beyond the fondest dreams of our Utopians, what really matters is how he spends that money and how he uses that leisure. “What doth if profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”

This old world is hungry for fresh faith. Our souls have been made sick unfo death trying to exist on a liquid diet of sentimentalify and wishful thinking. We turned from that to the dry husks of mechanistic materialism. That was even worse. We need a fresh supply of vitamins in our spiritual food. We need to tap new sources of the stuff which makes character. We must build a new house of faith on the rock-ribbed ledges of the eternal verities of life, a house with its windows open wide to the sunrise of hope and gladness and open to the fresh breezes which will blow away our ancient fears and prejudices. The only way to overcome fear, our present malady, is by faith.

Believe me, friends, we need faith, fresh faith, a bigger faith for a beffer world, a new deal in religion.

Where shall we find this fresh faith? We shall find it where man has always found new sfrengfh to meet the crises of life, — within. The history of the progress of fhe human race has been the record of fhe increasing development of previously unused and frequently unsuspected resources and powers within man himself.

The resources of human personality are still largely undeveloped. Experts on brain andtomy tell us that our present human brain with its countless quintillions of telephone lines is in an intermediate stage between what we have been and what we may become. It has grown as we have used it. Thinking is the way evolution is going on through us. Let us not hender evolution.

And let us frequenfly remind ourselves, especially in moments of doubt, that there are more than enough spiritual reserves within us to meet any emergency demand.

If has been Said thdt South Americd is the continent of opportunify. That is true, but there is a greater. The continent of opportunity, as yet unexplored and undeveloped, is human personality. We have only skirted the coast. A few brave explorers have ventured a little way up the larger rivers and have glimpsed the great mountain ranges of the interior, but the great riches of the inrerior are still to be tapped.

What we need to do right now is to quit our doubts and hesitancies and despairs and dare to believe in ourselves. Faith in man, — faith in the supreme value of human personality, — faith in the self-improvabilify of man, — this is the faith we need.

With the poet we cry. —


“O, doubters of democracy,

Undo your mean contemptuous art!”


The cures for the ills of democracy are in democracy itself, but it musf be an alerf and intelligent democracy with faith in itself and in all mankind.

And you must begin at home, with faith in yourself, personarly. Dare to rise from all despairs and impotencies, all doubfs of your own possibilities, all fears of failure.

Much of our sense of inadequacy is due to the failure to recognize how much power and momentum we have. The whole dynamic of evolution is behind us. If we harness and direct it. we can reshape our world.

Remember that in you is visible, in your very body and mind is written with indelible characters the whole history of life itself.

Your very consciousness, your ability to recognize yourself as a separate self, testifies to your superiority to the animal and the clod. if, as one has said, “Life was sleeping in matter, dreaming in animals, and waked in man, then the awakened man, conscious, alert, aware of his powers, is himself a culmination of all that came before him in the evolutionary process.

There is dawning on man the startling recognition that he himself is the evolving cosmic energy in the very process of taking on consciousness. The universe is becoming conscious in him!

In proportion, then, as he becomes more conscious and self- recognizing, he promotes the development of the life-force itself. In him the struggle of life proceeds, reverting only too frequently to animal and even vegetable stages, but ever reaching upward again to higher and better states of consciousness. He is the crucial point of the higher evolution, the topmost bud-tip of the tree of life.

Man has become conscious enough to direct to some extent the progress of the eternal energy within himself and outside himself. He partakes in creative evolution. The energy which is outside himself he must lay hold on and approprate for the betterment of mankind. The transfer of energy to serve the ends of higher personality is the greatest task of civilization.

Humanistic religion deals with the relation of the individual to this power or energy resident in himself and in the universe. and concerns itself particularly with the growth of fhe higher consciousness or personalify of man, socally and individually, believing that man is potentially able by his own efforts to attain to the complete and perfected personality to which all religion aspires.

If anyone questions the ability of man to direct the cosmic energy for the betterment of mankind, let him note that man has already accomplished wonders beside which the alleged miracles of the past seem simple things indeed. We can smile at Elijah and his chariot of fire now that we can fly from one coast of this vast continent to the other in the light of a single day. Man’s hand, which, not so long ago, held a smoking pine torch, now, by the mere pressing of a button, floods a whole house or a whole city with light.

And man’s mechanical progress has been paralleled by social and economic, yes, even by spirifual progress. The Golden Age is not in the past but in the future. Man has still a long way to go, but he has also come a long way. He can look back with pride at his progress, and therefore may look ahead with courage and equanimity.

There are false prophets who glibly say that it is useless to struggle, for human nature never changes. But, as Dr. Hocking of Harvard said, the fact is that it is human nature to change.

There is an eternal must in us, the product of the strivings of the life force through endless ages of upthrust. We cannot remain satisfied with our partial achievements. Our own personalities demand their own self-improvement. Unless man stifles the cosmic urge within him, his self-development proceeds throughout his life. The scattered parts of his personality swing into place and become integrated as he gradually subordinates the lower to the higher within himself. Of such improved men are great civilizations made, and some of us dare to believe that we are witnessing the birth of a great new era.

America is already great, but it will become greater in proportion as we improve ourselves individually and socially. Let us remember that “self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control: these three alone lead life to sovereign power.” If we “sit not with folded hands calling on Hercules,” but ever do our personal and civic duty, calling on the reserves of our own personalities, then perhaps our salvation will be nearer than we have believed.

FAITH IN MAN, that is my creed, in three words. And that, my friends, is the very core of the new religion called) Humanism.


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