Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Five - The Church of the Merchants

"Herr Beeble"

The business of the Clerical Department of the Merchants' and Manufacturer Association is to justify the processes of trade, and to preach to clerks and employees the slave-virtues of frugality, humility, and loyalty to the profit system. The depths of sociological depravity to which some of the agents of this Association have sunk is difficult of belief. Twelve years ago I was invited to address the book-sellers of New York, in company with a well-known clergyman of the city, the Reverend Madison C. Peters. This gentleman's address made such an impression upon me that I recall it even at this 'distance: a string of jokes spoken with an effect of rapid-fire smartness, and simply reeking with commercialism. I could not describe it better than to say that it was on the ethical level of the "Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son." Again, I attended a debate on Socialism, in which the capitalist end was taken by another famous clergyman, pastor of the Metropolitan Temple, the Rev. J. Wesley Hill. He was so ignorant that when he wished to prove that Socialism means free love, he quoted a writer by the name of "Herr Beeble"; he was so dishonest that he garbed the i in s of this "Herr Beeble," making him say something quite different from what he had meant to say. I could name several clergymen of various denominations who have stooped to that device against the Socialists; including the Catholic Father Belford, who says that we are mad dogs and should be stopped with bullets.

Or consider the Reverend Thomas Dixon. This gentleman's pulpit-slang used to be the talk of New York when I was a boy; and when I grew up, and came into the Socialist movement - behold, here he was, chief inquisitor of the capitalist Holy Office. I had a friend, a man who saved my life at a time when I was practically starving, and to whom therefore I owe my survival as a writer; this friend had been a clergyman in a Middle Western state, and had preached Jesus as he really was, and so was hated and feared like Jesus. It happened that he was unhappily married, and permitted his wife to divorce him so that he might marry the woman he loved; for which unheard of crime the organized hypocrisy of America fell upon him like a thousand devils with poisoned whips. The Reverend Dixon's holy rage was fired; he applied his imagination to my friend's story, producing a novel under the title of "The One Woman"; and it is as if you were reading the story of Jesus and the Magdalene transmitted through the personality of a he-goat. Of late years this clerical author has turned his energies to necrophobia and militarism, making millions out of motion-picture incitements to hatred and terror. The pictures were made here in Southern California, and friends in the business have described to me the pious propagandist in the position of St. Anthony surrounded by swarms of cute and playful little movie-girls.

Or take the Rev. James Roscoe Day, D.D., S.T.D., LL.D., D.C.L., L.H.D., a leading light of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who offers himself as comic relief in our Clerical Vaudeville. Dr. Day is Chancellor of Syracuse University, a branch of the Mental Munitions Department of the Standard Oil Company; his function being to manufacture intellectual weapons and explosives to be used in defense of the Rockefeller fortune. It is generally not expected that the makers of ruling-class munitions should face the dirty and perilous work of the trenches; but 10 years ago, during a raid by an active squad of muckrake-men, Chancellor Day astonished the world by rushing to the front with both arms full of star-shells and bombs. He afterwards put the history of this gallant action into a volume, "The Raid on Prosperity"; and if you want the real thrill of the class-war, here is where to get it!

The Chancellor is a quaint and touching figure; an enthusiast and dreamer, idealist and martyr, in whom the ordinary human virtues have been fused absorbed, transformed and sublimated into a new supreme virtue of loyalty to Exploitation, patriotism for Profiteering. He began life as a working-man, he tells us, in the good old American fashion of hustle for yourself; but he differed from other Americans in that he had an instant, intuitive recognition of the intellectual and moral excellence of Plutocracy. The first time he met a rich man, he quivered with rapture, he burst into a hymn of appreciation. So very quickly he was recognized as a proper person to have charge of a Mental Munitions Works; and the ruling classes proceeded to pin medals upon the bosom of his academic robes - D.D., S.T.D., LL.D., D.C.L., L.H.D.

The Chancellor knows the masters of our Profit System, those "consummate geniuses of manufacture and trade by which the earth has yielded up her infinite treasures." And having been at the same time in intimate daily communion with the Almighty, he can tell us the Almighty's attitude towards these prodigies. "God has made the rich of this world to serve Him. ... He has shown them a way to have this world's goods and to be rich towards God. ... God wants the rich men. ... Christ's doctrines have made the world rich, and provide adequate uses for its riches." Also the Chancellor knows our great corporations, and gives us the Almighty's views about them; they mean that "the forces with which God built the universe have been put into the hands of man." Likewise by divine authority we learn that "the sympathy given to Socialism is appalling. It is insanity." We learn that the income tax is "a doctrine suited to the Dark Ages, only no age ever has been dark enough." Somebody raises the issue of "tainted money," and the Chancellor disposes of this matter also. As a Deputy of Divinity, he settles it by Holy Writ: "Paul permitted meat offered to idols to be eaten in the fear of God." And then, to make assurances doubly sure, he settles it with plain human logic; and you are astonished to see how simple under his handling, the complex problem becomes - how clear and clean- cut is the distinction he draws for you:

Every boy knows that one cannot take stolen good without being a partaker with the thief. But the proceeds of recognized business are quite a different thing.

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