Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion
Book One - The Church of the Conquerors
The Great Fear
It was not the fault of primitive man that he was ignorant, nor that his ignorance made him a prey to dread. The traces of his mental suffering will inspire in us only pity and sympathy; for Nature is a grim school-mistress, and not all her lessons have yet been learned. We have a right to scorn and anger only when we see this dread being diverted from its true function, a stimulus to a Search for knowledge, and made into a means of clamping down ignorance upon the mind of the race. That this has been the deliberate policy of institutionalized Religion no candid student can deny.
The first thing brought forth by the study of any religion, ancient or modern, is that it is based upon Fear, born of it, fed by it - and that it cultivates the source from which its nourishment is derived. "The fear of divine anger," says Prof. Jastrow, "runs as an undercurrent through the entire religious literature of Babylonia and Assyria." In the words of Tabi-utul- Enlil, King of ancient Nippur:
Who is there that can grasp the will of the gods in heaven? The plan of a god is full of mystery - who can understand it? He who is still alive at evening is dead the next morning. In an instant he is cast into grief, in a moment he is crushed.
And that cry might be duplicated from almost any page of the Hebrew scriptures: the only difference being that the Hebrews combined all their fears into one Great Fear. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," we are told by Solomon of the thousand wives; and the Psalmist repeats it. "Dominion and fear are with Him," cries Job. "How then can any man be just before God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold, even the moon hath no brightness, and the stars are not pure in His sight: How much less man, that is a worm? And the son of man, which is a worm?" He goes on, in his lyrical rapture, "Sheol is naked before Him, and Destruction bath no covering. ... The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at His rebuke. ... The thunder of His power who can understand?" That all this is some of the world's great poetry does not in the least alter the fact that it is an abasement of the soul, an hysterical perversion of the facts of life, and a preparation of the mind for the seeds of Priestcraft.
The Book of Job has been called a "Wisdom-drama": and what is the denouncement of this drama, what is ancient Hebrew wisdom's last word about life? "Wherefore I abbor myself," says Job, "and repent in dust and ashes." The poor fellow has done nothing; we have been told at the beginning that he "was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil." But the Sabeans and the Chaldeans rob him, and "the fire of God" falls from heaven and burns up his sheep and his servants, and "a great wind from the wilderness" kills his sons and daughters, and then his body becomes covered with boils - a phenomenon caused in part by worry, and the consequent nervous indigestion, but mainly by excess of starch and deficiency of mineral salts in the diet. Job, however, has never heard of the fasting cure for disease, and so he takes him a potsherd to scrape himself withal, and he sits among the ashes - a highly unsanitary procedure enforced by his religious ritual. So naturally he feels like a worm, and abhors himself, and cries out: "I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be restrained." By which utter, unreasoning humility he succeeds in appeasing the Great Fear and his friends make a sacrifice of seven bullocks and seven rams - a feast for a whole temple-ful of priests - and then "the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had 'before. ... And after this Job lived an hundred and forty-years, and saw his sons and his sons' sons, even four generations."
You do not have to look very deeply into this "Wisdom-drama" to find out whose wisdom it is. Confess your own ignorance and your own impotence, abandon yourself utterly, and then we, the sacred Caste, 'the Keepers of the Holy Secrets, will secure you pardon and respite - in exchange for fresh meat. Here are verses from a psalm of the ancient Babylonians, which "heathen" chant is identical in spirit and purpose with the utterances of Job:
The Sin that I have wrought, I know not;
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