Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Seven - The Church of the Social Revolution

The Church Machine

The Catholic of His time came to Jesus and said, "Master, we would have a sign of Thee" - meaning that they wanted him to do some magic, to prove to their vulgar minds that his power came from God. He answered by calling them an evil and adulterous generation - which is exactly what I have said about the Papal machine. The Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians and other book-worshipers of his time accused him of violating the sacred commands so definitely set down in their ancient texts, and to them he answered that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath; he called them hypocrites, and quoted Karl Marx at them - "This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." Because he despised the company of the respectables, and went among the humble and human folk of his own class in the places where they gathered - the public houses - the churchly scandal-mangers called him "a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber, a friend, of publicans and sinners" - precisely as in the old days they used to sneer at the Socialists for having their meetings in the back-rooms of saloons, and precisely as they still denounce us as free-lovers and Atheists.

But the longing for justice between man and man, which is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, is the deepest instinct of the human heart, and the voice of the carpenter cannot be confined within the thickest church-walls, nor drowned by all the pealing organs in Christendom. Even in these days, when the power of Mammon is more widespread, more concentrated and more systematized than ever before in history - even in these days of Morgan and Rockefeller, there are Christian clergymen who dare to preach as Jesus preached. One by one they are cast out of the Church - Father McGlynn, George D. Herron, Alexander Irvine, J. Stitt Wilson, Austin Adams, Algernon Crapsey, Bouck White; but their voices are not silenced, they are like the leaven, to which Jesus compared the kingdom of God - a woman took it and hid it in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened. The Young theological students read, and some of them understand; I know three brothers in one family who have just gone into the Church, and are preaching straight social revolution - and the scribes and the pharisees have not yet dared to cast them out.

In this book I have portrayed the Christian Church as the servant and henchman of Big Business, a part of the system of Mammon. Every church is necessarily a money machine, holding and administering property. And it is not alone the Catholic Church which is in politics, seeking favors from the state - the exemption of church property from taxation, exemption of ministers from military service, free transportation for them and their families on the railroads, the control of charity and education, laws to deprive people of amusements on Sunday - so on through a long list. As the churches have to be built with money, you find that in them the rich possess the control and demand the deference, while the poor are humble, and in their secret hearts jealous and bitter,' in other words, the class struggle is in the churches as everywhere else in the world, and the social revolution is coming in the churches, just as it is coming in industry.

It is a fact of deep significance that the majority of ministers are proletarians eking out their existence upon a miserable salary, and beholden in all their comings and goings to the wealthy holders of privilege. Even in the Roman Catholic Church that is true. The ordinary priest is a man of the working class, and knows what working people suffer and feel. So in the Catholic Church there are proletarian rebellions; there is many a priest who does not carry out the political orders of his superiors, but goes to the polls and votes for his class instead of for his Pope. In Ireland, as I write, the young priests are defying their bishops and joining the Sinn Fein, a non-religious movement for an Irish Republic.

What is it that keeps the average workingman in subjection to the exploiter? Simply terror, the terror of losing his job. And if you could get into the inmost soul of Christian ministers, you would find that precisely the same force is keeping many of them slaves to Tradition. They are educated men, and thousands of them must resent the dilemma which compels them to be either fools or hypocrites, They have caught enough of the spirit of their time not to enjoy having to pose as miracle-mongers, rain- makers and Witch-doctors; they would like to say frankly that they do not believe that Jonah ever swallowed the whale, and even that they are dubious about Hercules and Achilles and other demigods. But they are part of a machine, and the old men and the rich men who run the machine have laid down the law. Those who find themselves tempted to think, remember suddenly that they have wives and children; they have only one profession, they have been unfitted for any other by a life-time of study of dead things, as well as by the practice of altruism.

But now the Social Revolution is coming; coming upon swift wings - it may be here before this book sees the light. And who knows but then we may see in America that wonderful sight which we saw in Russia, when Christian monks assembled and burned their holy books, and petitioned the state to take them in as citizens and human beings? It is my belief that when the power of exploitation is broken, we shall see the Dead Hand crumble into dust, as a mummy crumbles when it is exposed to the air. All those men who stay in the Church and pretend to believe nonsense, because it affords an easy way to earn a living, will suddenly realize that it is possible to earn a living outside; that any man can go into a factory, clean and well-ventilated and humanly run, and by four hours work can earn the purchasing power of $10 or $15. Do you not think that there may be some who will choose freedom and self-respect on those terms?

And what of those thousands and tens of thousands who Join the church because it is a part of the regime of respectability, a way to make the acquaintance of the rich, to curry favor and obtain promotion, to get customers if you are a tradesman, to extend your practice if you are a professional man? And what about the millions who go to church because they are poor, and because life is a desperate struggle, and this is one way to keep the favor of the boss, to get a little better chance for the children, to get charity if you fall into need; in short, to acquire influence with the well-to-do and powerful, who stand together, and like to see the poor humble and reverent, contented in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call them?

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