Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Seven - The Church of the Social Revolution


I have come to the end of my task; but one question troubles me. I think of the "young men and maidens meek" who will read this book, and I wonder what they will make of it. We have had a lark together; we have gone romping down the vista of the ages, swatting every venerable head that showed itself, beating the dust out of ancient delusions. You would like all your life to be that kind of lark; but you may not find it so, and perhaps you will suffer disillusionment and vexation.

I have known hundreds of young radicals in my life; they have nearly all been gallant and honest, but they have not all been wise, and therefore not so happy as they might have been. In the course of time I have formulated to myself the peril to which young radicals are exposed. We see so much that is wrong in ancient things, it gets to be a habit with us to reject them. We have only to know that a thing is old to feel an impulse to impatient scorn; on the other hand, we are tempted to welcome anything which can prove itself to be unprecedented. There is a common type of radical whose aim in life is to be several jumps ahead of mankind; whose criterion of conduct is that it shocks the bourgeois. If you do not know that type, you may find him - and her - in the newest of the Bohemian cafes, drinking the newest red chemicals, smoking the newest brand of cigarettes, and discussing the newest form of 'psycopathia sexualis.' After you have watched them a while, you realize that these ultra-new people have fallen victim to the oldest form of logical fallacy, the non sequitur, and likewise to the oldest form of slavery, which is self-indulgence.

If it is true that much in the old moral codes is based upon ignorance, and cultivated by greed, it is also true that much in the old moral codes is based upon facts which will not change so long as man is what he is - a creature of impulses, good and bad, wise and foolish, selfish and generous, and compelled to make choice between these impulses; so long as he is a material body and a personal consciousness, obliged to live in society and adjust himself to the rights of others. What I would like to say to young radicals - if there is any way to say it without seeming a prig - is that in choosing their own path through life, they will need not merely enthusiasm and radical fervor, but wisdom and judgement and hard study.

It is our fundamental demand that society shall cease to repeat over and over the blunders of the past, the blunders of tyranny and slavery, of luxury and poverty, which wrecked the ancient societies; and surely it is a poor way to begin by repeating in our own persons the most ancient blunders of the moral life. To light the fires of lust in our hearts, and let them smoulder there, and imagine we are trying new experiments in psychology! Who does not know the radical woman who demonstrates her emancipation from convention by destroying her nerves with nicotine? Who does not know the genius of revolt who demonstrates his repudiation of private property by permitting his lady loves to support him? Who does not know the man who finds in the phrases of revolution the most effective devices for the seducing of young girls?

You will have read this book to ill purpose if you draw the conclusion that there is anything in it to spare you the duty of getting yourself moral standards and holding yourself to them. On the contrary, because your task is the highest and hardest that man has yet undertaken - for this reason you will need standards the most exacting ever formulated. Let me quote some words from a teacher you will not accuse of holding to the slave-moralities:

Free dost thou call thyself? Thy ruling thoughts will I hear, and not that thou hast escaped a yoke.

Art thou such a one that can escape a yoke?

Free from what? What is that to Zarathustra! Clear shall your eye tell me: free to what?

Canst thou give to thyself thy good and thine evil, and hang thy will above thee as thy law? Canst thou be thine own judgie, and avenger of thy law?

Fearful it is to be alone with the judge and the avenger of thy law. So is a stone flung out into empty space and into the Icy breath of isolation.

Out of the pit of ignorance and despair we emerge into the sunlight of knowledge, to take control of a world, and to make it over, not according to the will of any gods, but according to the law in our own hearts. For that task we have need of all the resources of our being; of courage and high devotion, of faith in ourselves and our comrades, of clean, straight thinking, of discipline both of body and mind. We go to this task with a knowledge as old as the first moral impulse of mankind - the knowledge that our actions determine the future of life, not merely for ourselves but for all the race. For this is one of the laws of the ancient Hebrews which modern science has not repealed, but on the contrary has reinforced with a thousand confirmations - that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations.

I get letters from the readers of my books; nearly always they are young people, so I feel like the father of a large family. I gather them now about my knee, and pronounce upon them a benediction in the ancient patriarchal style. Children and grandchildren of my hopes, for ages men suffered and fought, so that the world might be turned over to you. Now the day is coming, the glad new day which blinds us with the shinning of its wings; it is coming so swiftly that I am afraid of it. I thought we should have more time to get ready for the taking over of the world! But the old managers of it went insane, they took to tearing each other's eyes out, and now they lie dead about us. So, whether we will or not, we have to take charge of the world; we have to decide what to do with it, even while we are doing it. Let us not fail, young comrades; let us not write on the scroll of history that mankind had to go through yet new generations of wars and tumults and enslavements, because the youth of the international revolution could not lift themselves above those ancient personal vices which wrecked the fair hopes of their fathers - bigotry and intolerance, vindictiveness and vanity, and malice and all uncharitableness!

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