Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Two - The Church of Good Society

The Babylonian Fire-God

So we come to the most important of the functions of the tribal god, as an ally in war, an inspirer to martial valour. When in ancient Babylonia you wished to overcome your enemies, you went to the shrine of the Fire-god, and with awful rites the priest pronounced incantations, which have been preserved on bricks and handed down for the use of modern Churches. "Pronounce in a whisper, and have a bronze image therewith," commands the ancient text, and runs on for many strophes in this fashion:

Let them die, but let me live!
Let them be put under a bin, but let me prosper!
Let them perish, but let me increase!
Let them become weak, but let me wax strong!
O, fire-god, mighty, exalted among the gods,
Thou art the god, thou art my lord, etc.

This was in heathen Babylon, some three thousand years ago. Since then, the world has moved on -

Three thousand years of war and peace and glory,
Of hope and work and deeds and golden schemes,
Of mighty voices raised in song and story,
Of huge inventions and of splendid dreams -

And in one of the world's leading nations the people stand up and bare their heads, and sing to their god to save their king and punish those who oppose him, -

O Lord our God, arise,
Scatter his enemies,
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On him our hopes we fix,
God save us all.

Recently, I understand, it has become the custom to omit this stanza from the English national anthem; but it is clear that this is because of its crudity of expression, not because of objection to the idea of praying to a god to assist one nation and injure others; for the same sentiment is expressed again and again in the most carefully edited of prayer-books:

Abate their pride, assuage their malice, and counfound their devices. Defend us, Thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies. Strengthen him (the King) that he may vanquish and overcome all his enemies.

There is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O God.

Prayers such as these are pronounced in every so-called civilized nation today. Behind every battle-line in Europe you may see the priests of the Babylonian Fire-god with their bronze images and their ancient incantations; you may see magic spells being wrought, magic standards sanctified, magic bread eaten and magic wine drunk, fetishes blessed and hoodoos lifted, eternity ransacked to find means of inciting soldiers to the mood where they will "go in." Throughout all civilization, the phobias and manias of war have thrown the people back into the toils of the priests, and that church which forced Galileo to recant under threat of torture, and had Ferrer shot beneath the walls of the fortress of Montjuich, is rejoicing in a "rebirth of religion."

back Contents next page
Raven's Bookshelf at www.corax.com