A word of explanation. This was written after GK Chesterton was no longer an agnostic, and had lost a good deal of sympathy with the Liberal Party to which he belonged. but long before he joined the Catholic Church. I reprint it here as it has some bearing on some recent articles in this space, and it shed light on the a recurring source of mutual incomprehension I have discovered between Protestants and Catholics which seems the most persistent and most baffling to both sides.
The quote below is from the biography by Maisie Ward:
The Education Bill of 1902, brought in by the Conservatives and giving financial support to Church schools, saw Gilbert in general agreement with the Liberal attacks. He did not yet appreciate the Catholic idea that education must be of one piece and he did not think it fair that the country should support specifically Catholic schools. Parents could give at home the religious instruction they wanted their children to have. But with that fairness of mind which made it so hard for him to be a party man he saw why the Liberal “compromise” of simple Bible teaching for all in the State schools could not be expected to satisfy Catholics. He wrote to the Daily News:
The Bible compromise is certainly in favour of the Protestant view of the Bible. The thing, properly stated, is as plain as the nose on your face. Protestant Christianity believes that there is a Divine record in a book; that everyone ought to have free access to that book; that everyone who gets hold of it can save his soul by it, whether he finds it in a library or picks it of a dustcart. Catholic Christianity believes that there is a Divine army or league upon earth called the Church; that all men should be induced to join it; that any man who joins it can save his soul by it without ever opening any of the old books of the Church at all. The Bible is only one of the institutions of Catholicism, like its rites or its priesthood; it thinks the Bible only efficient when taken as part of the Church. . . . This being so, a child could see that if you have the Bible taught alone, anyhow, by anybody, you do definitely decide in favour of the first view of the Bible and against the second.