Dr. Lefroy on the Moral Tone of India

The Review of Religions (English), June 1903 Issue (Vol. 2, No. 6, pp. 247–248)

The Bishop of Lahore, writing in the East and West, a quarterly missionary magazine, makes some very unjustifiable remarks regarding the moral depravity of India. He says:

“An almost entire absence of faith as a principle of life, a low degraded moral tone, a blunted consciousness of sin, which leaves the individual scarcely capable of shame or honest repentance in any way, except a very intense desire to escape punishment—these are some of the prominent conditions of life, and these, when they have sunk through long centuries into the very blood of the people and sapped their life, will make us scarcely wonder if results of missionary labour do not make themselves seen as immediately or as abundantly as we might wish.”

In these sweeping remarks regarding the moral depravity of India, the Bishop ought in justice to Christianity at least have made an exception in favour of the sweepers, the Pariahs, and several other low classes of the Hindu community, and then perhaps even the Hindus and Muhammadans [Muslims] would not have been pained at this remark of the good Bishop.

As regards the Muslims of India, we intend to discuss the Bishop’s judgment of their faith and morals as well as his attack on the principle of the seclusion of women at length in some subsequent issue, but before doing so we wish to put some plain questions to which we hope to receive definite answers from His Lordship.

The Bishop refers to a “blunted consciousness of sin” in the whole population of India. Will he kindly inform the public if drunkenness is a sin? If so, does it not prevail to a far greater extent in Europe and other Christian countries than in any Muslim country? Is it not true that drunkenness is the root from which every other evil springs? Is it not in fact the only thing which makes men bold in the commission of sin and blunts their consciousness of it? Is the drunkard not quite blind to all social and moral laws? Has drunkenness not wrought the worst development of all the great vices in the Christian countries? Again, we stand in need of hearing the judgment of His Lordship as to prostitution. Is it a sin? If so, is it not true that Christian countries have almost a monopoly of it when compared with the Muslim? Higher church dignitaries than the Bishop of Lahore have held so, and Dr. Lefroy, we hope, would not overlook the fact in answering the questions so necessary for the solution of the problem of India’s moral depravity that nothing excites the lust and sets astir the animal passions to such a high degree as wine. Does His Lordship moreover look upon gambling as a sin or not? If he does, will he kindly point out the country where it prevails most of all? We wish to hear it from His Lordship’s lips. But if the Bishop thinks that drunkenness, prostitution and gambling are not sins, we wish to be informed what sin is. The Bishop may, however, answer that though these are sins for non-Christians, yet the Christian is absolved of them by the blood of Jesus and these are not sins when practised by him. In that case we shall have to keep the same silence as in answer to a follower of the Sakat mat [Goddess Sakat Mata] who holds that incest is legalised by the superior power of his mantras.