In a late essay, Arnold argued that the prayer book “has created sentiments deeper than we can see or measure. Our feeling does not connect itself with any language about righteousness and religion, but with that language.” But this does not mean that we believe the prayer book’s teachings in any traditional way: “Of course, those who can take them literally will still continue to use them. But for us also, who can no longer put the literal meaning on them which others do, and which we ourselves once did, they retain a power, and something in us vibrates to them.” Arnold thinks this appropriate, since “these old forms of expression were men’s sincere attempt to set forth with due honour what we honour also”; therefore “we can feel” the doctrines of the prayer book, “even when we no longer take them literally.”

It’s an old, and sad, story: the deep desire to hold on to whatever vaporous comforts remain in religious rites or words after belief has departed. It reminds me of a scene from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets