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Probably the most glaring instance of crass ignorance on the part of the individuals who are “judging” conscience is the fact that the great majority of them appear to have not the remotest idea of the meaning of the word. From all over the country we hear of cases where conscientious objectors, in replay to the usual question, “What is your religion?” declare that they have no particular religion; their claims are based on moral grounds. In ninety per cent of the cases the retort comes triumphantly from the tribunal, “Then you can’t have a conscience!”
For instance, on March 16th, before the Birmingham Tribunal, a conscientious objector described himself as an Agnostic. The military representative at once asked the applicant whether, considering his Agnostic views, he could have a conscience? When the applicant replied that he considered such a questions impertinent, the military representative defined conscience as “something connected with religion.”
We could fill columns with similar instances. If you do not belong to any particular denomination you cannot have a conscience; if you do happen to claim allegiance to any system of faith, you are immediately informed that thousands of individuals professing the same faith are already fighting: therefore your claim cannot be allowed!
We suggest to the L.G.B. that a cheap dictionary be sent to every tribunal, with the following definitions clearly marked:
CONSCIENCE: INTERNAL OR SELF-KNOWLEDGE; MORAL JUDGEMENT; SENSE OF DUTY.
RELIGION: A SYSTEM OF FAITH AND WORSHIP; PIOUS PRACTICE.
March 23 1916