Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion
Book Six - The Church of the Quacks
This is the other side of the fair shield of religious faith. Why, if there be a power which loves and can be persuaded to aid us, may there not also be a power which hates, and can be persuaded to destroy? No religion has ever been able to answer this, and therefore none has ever been able to escape from devil- terrors. Even Jesus was pursued by Satan, and the Holy Catholic Church has its ceremonies for the exorcising of demons, and a most frightful formula for cursing. And here are our friends the Christian Scientists, proclaiming the unreality of all evil, their ability to banish disease by convincing themselves that they are perfect in God - yet tormented by a squalid phobia called "Mental Malpractice," or "Malicious Animal Magnetism."
Christian Science is the most characteristic of American religious contributions. Just as Billy Sunday is the price we pay for failing to educate our baseball players, so Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy is the price we pay for failing to educate our farmer's daughters.
That she had a power to cure disease I do not doubt, because I have a little of it myself. At first my opinion was that her "Science" made its way by curing the imaginary ailments of the idle rich. If a person has nothing to do but think that he is sick, you can work easy miracles by persuading him to think that he is well; and if he has nothing to do but think that he is well, he will help you to build marble churches and maintain propaganda societies. But recently I have experimented with mental healing - enough to satisfy myself that the subconscious mind which controls our physical functions can be powerfully influenced by the will.
I told the story of some of these experiments in Hearst's Magazine for April, 1914. Suffice it here to say that if you will lay your hands upon a sick person, forming a vivid mental picture of the bodily changes you desire, and concentrating the power of your will upon them, you may be surprised by the results, especially if you possess anything in the way of psychic gifts. You do not have to adopt any theories, you do not have to do it in the name of any divinity, ancient or modern; the only bearing of such ideas is that they serve to persuade people to make the experiment, and to make it with persistence and intensity. So it has come about that "Meracles" of healing are associated with "faith", and so it comes about that scientists are apt to flaunt the subject. But read of the work of Janet and Charcot and their followers at the 'salpetriere;' they have proven that all kinds of seeming-organic ailments may be entirely hysterical in nature, and may be cured by the simplest form of suggestion. Understanding this, you may find it more easy to credit the fact that cripples do sometimes throw away their crutches in the grotto of Lourdes. For my part, I can believe that Jesus performed all the miracles of healing attributed to him - including the raising up of people pronounced to be dead by the ignorance of that time. I am convinced that in the new science of psychoanalysis we have a universe as vast as the universe of the atom or of the stars.
The Christian Scientists have got hold of this power; they have mixed it up with metaphysics and divinity, and built some four or five hundred churches, and printed the Mother Church alone knows how many million pamphlets and books. I once invested three of my hard-earned dollars for a copy of the Eddy Bible, and let myself be stunned and blinded by the flapping of metaphysical wings. With the passing of the years I have come to understand the use of mystical words as a form of suggestion, often highly potent. But what interests us in this Book is not the technique of mental healing, but the use of this, and all other secrets of life, for the buttressing of privilege. Christian Science is a Yankee religion, and practical; it will remove your hang-nail down your floating kidney, and enable you to hustle and make money. We saw in our politics the growth of a Party of the Full Dinner-Pail; contemporaneous therewith, and corresponding thereto, we see in our religious life the development of a 'Church of the Full Pocket-Book.
The rank and file of practitioners are sincere, hard-working devotees; but they are controlled by big businessmen in Boston. This church machine does not issue cheap editions of "Science and Health, With Key to the Scriptures," to relieve the suffering of the proletariat; no - the work is copyrighted, in all its varying and contradictory editions, and the price is from three to seven-fifty, according to binding. The poor use the churches but the rich run them. And we have no nonsense about charity, we don't worry about the poor who fester in our city slums; because poverty is a product of Mortal Mind, and we offer to all men a way to get rich. You may come to our marble churches and hear people testify how through the power of Divine Mind they were enabled to anticipate a rise in the stock-market. If you don't avail yourself of the opportunity, the fault is yours, and yours also the punishment.
As to the management of the Church, the Roman Catholic hierarchy is a Bolshevik democracy in comparison. The Church is controlled by an absolutely irresponsible self-perpetuating body of five men, who alone dictate its policy. I have in my hand a letter from a Christian Science healer who was listed as an "authorized practitioner," and who withdrew from the Church because of its attitude on public questions. He sends me a copy of his correspondence with the editors of the "Christian Science Monitor," containing a detailed analysis of the position of that paper on such issues as the Ballinger land-frauds. He writes:
I am thoroughly convinced now that the policy of the Church is consciously plutocratic. The only recommendation I have heard of the latest appointee to the Board of Directors is that he is one of the richest men in the movement.
After the Titanic disaster, Senator La Follette brought in a carefully drawn bill to compel steamship companies to provide life-boats and trained crews. The "Christian Science Monitor" opposed this bill; and when my correspondent cited the fact, he brought out a quaint bit of metaphysical logic, as follows:
One would prefer to travel on a vessel without a single boat, rather than on some other vessels which were loaded down with life-boats, where the government of Mind was not understood!
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