Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Four - The Church of the Slaves

Face of Caesar

The thesis of this book is the effect of fixed dogma in producing mental paralysis, and the use of this mental paralysis by Economic Exploitation. From that standpoint the various Protestant sects are better than the Catholic, but not much better. The Catholics stand upon Tradition, the Protestants upon an inspired Word; but since this Word is the entire literary product, history and biography, science and legislation, poetry, drama and fiction of a whole people for something like 1,000 years, it is possible by judicious selection of texts to prove anything you wish to prove and to justify anything you wish to do. The "Holy Book" being full of polygamy, slavery, rape and wholesale murder, committed by priests and rulers under the direct orders of God, it was a very simple matter for the Protestant Slavers to construct a Bible defense of their system.

They get poor Jesus because he was given to irony, that most dangerous form of utterance. If he could come back to life, and see what men have done with his little joke about the face of Caesar on the Roman coin, I think he would drop dead. As for Paul, he was a Roman bureaucrat, with no nonsense in his make-up; when he ordered, "Servants obey your masters," he meant exactly what he said. The Roman official stamp which he put upon the gospel of Jesus has been the salvation of the Slavers from the Reformation on.

In the time of Martin Luther, the peasants of Germany were suffering the most atrocious and awful misery; Luther himself knew about it, he denounced the princely robbers and the priestly land-exploiters with that picturesque violence of which he was a master. But nothing had been done about it, nothing ever is done about it - until at last the miserable peasants attempted to organize and win their own rights. Their demands do not seem to us so very criminal as we read them today; the privilege of electing their own pastors, the abolition of villeinage, the right to hunt and fish and cut wood in the forest, the reduction of exorbitant rents, extra payment for extra labor, and - that universal cry of peasant communes whether in Russia, England, Mexico or 16th century Germany - the restoration to the village of lands taken by fraud. But Luther would hear nothing of slaves asserting their own rights, and took refuge in the Pauline sociology: If they really wished to follow Christ, they would drop the sword and resort to prayer; the gospel has to do with spiritual, not temporal, affairs; earthly society cannot exist without inequalities, etc.

And when the peasants went on in spite of this, he turned upon them and denounced them to the princes; he issued proclamations which might have been the instructions of Mr. John Wanamaker to the police-force of his "City of Brotherly Love": "One cannot answer a rebel with reason, but the best answer is to hit him with the fist until blood flows from the nose." He issued a letter: "Against the Murderous and Thieving Mob of Peasants," which might have come from the Reverend Woelfkin, Fifth Avenue Pastor of Standard Oil: "The ass needs to be beaten, and the populace needs to be controlled with a strong hand. God knew this well, and therefore he gave the rulers, not a fox's tail, but a sword." He implored these rulers, after the fashion of Methodist Chancellor Day of the University of Syracuse: "Do not be troubled about the severity of their repression, for it will save many souls." With such pious exhortations in their ears the princes set to work, and slaughtered a hundred thousand of the miserable wretches; they completely aborted the social hopes of the Reformation, and cast humanity into the pit of wage-slavery and militarism for four centuries. As a church scholar, Prof. Rauschenbusch, puts it:

The glorious years of the Lutheran Reformation were from 1517 to 1525, when the whole nation was in commotion, and a great revolutionary tidal wave seemed to be sweeping every class and every higher interest one step nearer to its ideal of life. ... The Lutheran Reformation had been most truly religious and creative when it embraced the whole of human life and enlisted the enthusiasm of all ideal men and movements. When it became "religious" in the narrow sense, it grew scholastic and spiny, quarrelsome, and impotent to awaken high enthusiasm and noble life.

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