Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion
Book Five - The Church of the Merchants
Do not imagine that it is only in Geneva that Christian professors realize this peril from the loss of faith. It is never far from the thoughts of any of them - for, of course, no man can look at the present system and not wonder how the poor stand it, and more especially why they stand it. There have been many thinking men who have given up the miracle-business quite cheerfully, but have stood appalled at the idea of letting the lower classes find out the truth. You note that idea continually in the writings of Professor Goldwin Smith, who was a Freethinker, but also a bourgeois publicist, with a deep sense of responsibility to the money-masters of the world. He was about as honest a man as the capitalist system can produce; he was the 'beau ideal' of the New York "Evening Post," which indicates his point of view. He wrote:
It can hardly be doubted that hope of compensation in a future state, for a short measure of happiness here, has materially helped to reconcile the less favored members of the community to the inequalities of the existing order of things.
When I was a student in Columbia University, I took a course called "Practical Ethics," under a professor by the name of Hyslop. The course differed from most of the forty that I tried, in that it gave evidence that the professor was accustomed to read the morning paper. He had learned that American politics were rotten: his idea of "Practical Ethics" was to outline in elaborate detail a complete scheme of constitutional changes which would make it impossible for the "boss" to control the government. I think I must have been born with a charm against bourgeois thought, for the good professor never fooled me an instant; I remember I used to smile at the idea of how quickly the "boss" would brush through his constitutional cobwebs. The reforms required an elaborate campaign of publicity - and of course long before they could be put into practice, the politicians would be ready with devices to make them of no effect.
Soon after this, my ethical professor resigned and went to hunting spooks. I don't want to be unfair to him; I know that he is a determined and courageous man, and it seems possible that he may really have bagged some spooks. All I wish to point out here is the method he uses in seeking to persuade the heedless rich to support the spook-hunting industry. The very same argument as we got from the University of Geneva and the University of Toronto! Says our head spook-hunter:
There has been no belief that exercised so much power upon the poor as that in a future life, The politicians, men of the world, have known this so well as to postpone the day of political judgment by it for many years.
The Church, having lost all its battles with science, and having abandoned a strenuous intellectual defense of its fundamental beliefs, has lost its power over the poor and the laboring classes. ... The spiritual ideal of life has gone out of the masses as well as the classes, and nothing is left but a venture on a struggle with wealth.
And again, more menacingly yet:
The rich will learn in the dangers of a social revolution that the poor will not sacrifice both wealth and immortality.
What is to be done about this? The question answers itself: Step up, ladies and gentlemen, and empty your purses into the Physical Research hat! So that we may accumulate statistics as to the cost of milk and honey in Jerusalem the Golden!
You read what I had to say about Bootstrap-lifters, and the Wholesale Pickpockets' Association making use of their incantations. You admired my ability to sling language, but not my taste; and you certainly did not think that I would back my rhetoric with facts. But what do these quotations mean, unless they mean what I have said? Are not these three professors men of culture? Are they not as "spiritual" as any men of learning you can find in our present-day society?
And now stop for a moment and put yourself in the position of the young student of the working-class, who goes to these books and discovers that truth is not truth, but only a bait for a snare. Who discovers that professors of ethics, practical or impractical, are not interested in justice among men, but only in collecting funds for their specialty; that in order to get funds, they are willing to teach the rich how to paralyze the minds of the poor! Do you wonder that such young students conclude that bourgeois thinkers do not know what honesty is, but are prostitutes, retainers and lackeys, to be kicked out of the temple of truth?
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