Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Three - The Church of the Servant-Girls

"Holy History"

And if you think this tax-exemption privilege should be taken away from the church grafters, let me suggest a course of procedure. Write a letter about it to your daily newspaper; and if the letter is not published, go and see the editor and ask why; so you will learn something about the partnership between Superstition and Big Business!

It is not too much to say that today no daily newspaper in any large American city dares to attack the emoluments of the Catholic Church, or to advocate restrictions upon the ecclesiastical machine. As I write, they are making a new Catholic bishop in Los Angeles, and all the newspapers of that graft-ridden city herald it as an important social event. Each paper has the picture of the new prelate, with his shepherd's crook upraised, his empty face crowned with a rhomboidal fool's cap and enough upholstery on him to outfit a grand opera company. The Los Angeles "Examiner," the only paper in the city with a pretence to radicalism, terns loose its star-writer - one of those journalist virtuosos who will describe you a Wild West "rodeo" one day, and a society elopement the next, and a G.O.P. convention the next; and always with his picture, one inch square, at the head of his effusion. He takes in the Catholic festivity; and does it faze him? It does not! He is a newspaper man, and if his city editor sent him to hell, he would take the assignment and write like the devil. To read him now you might think be had been reared in a convent; his soul is uplifted, and he bursts forth in pure spontaneous ecstacy:

Solemnly magnificent, every brilliant detail symbolically picturing the holy history of the Roman Catholic Church in the inexorable progress of its immense structure, which rises from the rock of Peter, with its beacons of faith and devotion piercing the fog of doubt and fear which surrounds the world and the worldly, was the ceremony yesterday at the Cathedral of St. Vibiana, whereby Bishop John J. Cantwell was installed in his diocese of Monterey and Los Angeles.

And then a month later, comes another occasion of state - the Twenty-third Annual Banquet of the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association of Los Angeles. I should have to write a little essay to make clear the sociological significance of that function; explaining first a nation-wide organization which has been proven by congressional investigation and by the publication of its secret documents to be a machine for the corruption of our political life; and then exhibiting our "City of the Angels," from which all Angels have long since fled; a city in the first crude stage of land speculation, without order, dignity or charm; a city of real estate agents, who exist by selling climate to new arrivals from the East, a city whose intellectual life is "boosting," whose standards of truth are those of the horse-trade. Its newspapers publish a table of temperatures, showing the daily contrast between Southern California and the East. This device is effective in the winter- time; but last June, when for five days the temperature went to over 110, and several times 114 - the Los Angeles space was left empty!

In the same way, there is a rule that our earthquake shocks are never mentioned, unless they destroy whole towns. On the afternoon of January 26, 1918, a cyclone hit Pasadena, of violence sufficient to lift a barn over a church-steeple and deposit if in the pastor's front yard. That evening a friend of mine in Los Angeles called up the office of the "Times" to make inquiry; and although they are only 13 miles away, and have a branch office and a special correspondent in Pasadena, the answer was that they had heard nothing about the cyclone! And next morning I made a careful search of their columns. On the front page I read: "Fourth Blizzard of Season Raging in East"; also: "Another Earthquake in Guatemala." But not a line about the Pasadena cyclone. That there was plenty of space in that issue, you may judge from the fact that there were 20 headlines like the following - many of them representing full page and half page illustrated "write-ups":

Where Spring is January; Wealth Waits in California; The Bright Side of Sunshine Land; Come to California; Southland's Arms Outstretched in Cordial Invitation to the East; Flower Stands Make Gay City Streets; Southland Climate Big Manufacturing Factor; Joy of Life Demonstrated in Los Angeles' Beautiful Homes; Nymphs Knit and Bathe at Ocean's Sunny Beach; etc.

Now we are in the War and our business is booming, we are making money hand over fist. It is all the more delightful, because we are putting our souls into it, we are lending our money to the government and saving the world for Democracy! Our labor unionists have been driven to other cities, and our Mexican agitators and I.W.W's are in jail, so in the gilt ball-room of our palatial six-dollar-a-day hotel the 400 masters of our prosperity meet to pat themselves on the back, and they invite the new Catholic bishop to come and confer the grace of God upon their eating.

The Bishop comes; and I take up the "Times" - the labor- hating, labor-baiting, fire-and-slaughter-breathing "Times" - and here is the episcopal picture on the front page, the arms stretched four columns wide in oratorical beneficence. How the shepherd of Jesus does love the Merchants and Manufacturers! How his eloquence is poured out upon them! "You represent, gentlemen, the largest and the most civilizing secular body in the country. You, are the pioneers of American civilization. ... I am glad to be among you; glad that my lines have fallen in this glorious land by the sunset sea, and honored to meet in intimate acquaintance the big men who have raised here in a few years a city of metropolitan proportions."

And then, bearing in mind his responsibilities as guardian of Exploitation, the Bishop goes on to tell them about the coming class-war. "On the one side a statesman preaching patience and respect for vested rights, strict observance of public faith; on the other a demagogue speaking about the tyranny of capitalists and usurers." And then, of course, the inevitable religious tag: "How will men obey you, if they believe not in God, who is the author of all authority?" At which, according to the "Times," "prolonged applause and cheers" from the Merchants and Manufacturers! The editor of the "Times" goes back to his office, and inspired by this episcopal eloquence writes a "leader" with the statement that: "We have no proletariat in America!"

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