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´╗┐Title: Atheism Among the People
Author: Lamartine, Alphonse de, 1790-1869
Language: English
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     LAMARTINE ON ATHEISM.


            ATHEISM
             AMONG
           THE PEOPLE


               BY

     ALPHONSE DE LAMARTINE.


            BOSTON:
 PHILLIPS, SAMPSON AND COMPANY,
     110 WASHINGTON STREET.
             1850.



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850,
BY PHILLIPS, SAMPSON AND COMPANY,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.


STEREOTYPED BY
CHARLES W. COLTON,
No. 2 Water Street.



ADVERTISEMENT.


Through the past year, M. de Lamartine has published a monthly journal,
called The People's Counsellor, "_Le Conseiller du Peuple_." Each
number of this journal contains an Essay, by him, on some specific
subject, of pressing interest to the French people,--generally, some
political subject.

As a companion to one of these numbers, he published the Essay which
we here translate. We have thought that its interest and merit are by
no means local; but, that it will be read with as much interest in
America, as in France.

                              EDWARD E. HALE,
                              FRANCIS LE BARON.

  _Worcester, Mass. March 7, 1850._



ATHEISM AMONG THE PEOPLE.



I.


I have often asked myself, "Why am I a Republican?--Why am I the
partizan of equitable Democracy, organized and established as a good
and strong Government?--Why have I a real love of the People--a love
always serious, and sometimes even tender?--What has the People done
for me? I was not born in the ranks of the People. I was born between
the high Aristocracy and what was then called _the inferior classes_,
in the days when there were classes, where are now equal citizens in
various callings. I never starved in the People's famine; I never
groaned, personally, in the People's miseries; I never sweat with its
sweat; I was never benumbed with its cold. Why then, I repeat it, do I
hunger in its hunger, thirst with its thirst, warm under its sun,
freeze under its cold, grieve under its sorrows? Why should I not care
for it as little as for that which passes at the antipodes?--turn away
my eyes, close my ears, think of other things, and wrap myself up in
that soft, thick garment of indifference and egotism, in which I can
shelter myself, and indulge my separate personal tastes, without
asking whether, below me,--in street, garret, or cottage, there is a
rich People, or a beggar People; a religious People, or an atheistic
People; a People of idlers, or of workers; a People of Helots, or of
citizens?"

And whenever I have thus questioned myself, I have thus answered
myself:--"I love the people because I believe in God. For, if I did
not believe in God, what would the people be to me? I should enjoy at
ease that lucky throw of the dice, which chance had turned up for me,
the day of my birth; and, with a secret, savage joy, I should say,
'So much the worse for the losers!--the world is a lottery. Woe to
the conquered!'" I cannot, indeed, say this without shame and
cruelty,--for, I repeat it, _I believe in God_.



II.


"And what is there in common," you will say to me, "between your
belief in God and your love for the People?" I answer: My belief in
God is not that vague, confused, indefinite, shadowy sentiment which
compels one to suppose a principle because he sees consequences,--a
cause where he contemplates effects, a source where he sees the rush
of the inexhaustible river of life, of forms, of substances, absorbed
for ever in the ocean, and renewed unceasingly from creation. The
belief in God, which is thus perceived and conceived, is, so to
speak, only a mechanical sensation of the interior eye,--an instinct
of intelligence, in some sort forced and brutal,--an evidence, not
reasonable, not religious, not perfect, not meritorious; but like the
material evidence of light, which enters our eyes when we open them
to the day; like the evidence of sound which we hear when we listen
to any noise; like the evidence of touch when we plunge our limbs in
the waves of the sea, and shiver at the contact. This elementary,
gross, instinctive, involuntary belief in God, is not the living,
intelligent, active, and legislative faith of humanity. It is almost
animal. I am persuaded that if the brutes even,--if the dog, the
horse, the ox, the elephant, the bird, could speak, they would
confess, that, at the bottom of their nature, their instincts, their
sensations, their obtuse intelligence, assisted by organs less
perfect than ours, there is a clouded, secret sentiment of this
existence of a superior and primordial Being, from whom all emanates,
and to whom all returns,--a shadow of the divinity upon their being,
a distant approach to the conception of that idea, which fills the
worlds, and for which alone the worlds have been made,--the idea of
God!

       *       *       *       *       *

This may be a bold, but it is not an impious supposition. For God,
having made all things for himself alone, must have placed, upon all
that he made, an impress of himself; more or less clear, more or less
luminous, more or less profound, a presentiment or a remembrance of a
Creator. But this faith, when it stops here, is not worthy of the
name. It is a species of _Pantheism_, that is to say, a confused
"visibility," a physical working together into indissoluble union of
something impersonal, something blind, something fatal, and something
divine, which, in the elements composing the universe, we may call
GOD. But this "visibility" can give to man no moral decision,--can
give to God no worship. The Pantheism of which I am accused as a
philosopher and poet, that Pantheism which I have always scorned as a
contradiction and as a blasphemy, resembles entirely the reasoning of
the man who should say, "I see an innumerable multitude of rays,
therefore there is no sun."



III.


Faith, or reasonable and effective belief in God, proceeds, undoubtedly,
from this first instinct; but in proportion as intelligence develops
itself, and human thought expands, it goes from knowledge to knowledge,
from conclusion to conclusion, from light to light, from sentiment to
sentiment, infinitely farther and higher, in the idea of God. It does
not see him with the eyes of the body, because the Infinite is not
visible by a narrow window of flesh, pierced in the frontal bone of an
insect called Man; but it sees Him, with a thousand times more
certainty, by the spirit, that immaterial eye of the soul, which nothing
blinds; and after having seen him with evidence, it reasons upon the
consequences of his existence, upon the divine aims of His creation,
upon the terrestrial as well as eternal destinies of His creatures, upon
the nature of the homage and adoration that God expects, upon his moral
laws, upon the public and private duties which he imposes on his
creatures by their consciences, upon the liberty He leaves them; so that
with the sufferings of conflict He may give to them the merits and the
prize of virtue. Thus in man does the instinct of God become Faith. Thus
man can speak the greatest word that has ever been spoken upon the earth
or in the stars, the word which fills the worlds by itself alone, the
word which commenced with them, and which can only end with them;--

"I believe in God!"



IV.


It is in this sense, my friends, that I say to you, "I believe in
God."

But, once having said this word with the universe of beings and of
worlds, and blessed this invisible God for having rendered himself
visible, sensible, evident, palpable, adorable in the mirror of weak
human intelligence, made gradually more and more pure, I reason with
myself on the best worship to be rendered Him in thought and action.
Let me show how, by this reasoning, I am forcibly drawn to the love of
the People.

I say to myself, then, "Who is this God? Is he a vain _notion_, which
has no effect on the thoughts and acts of man, his creature; who
inspires nothing in him; who gives him no commands; who imposes nothing
upon him; who does not reward, and who does not punish?--No! God is
not a mere _notion_, an idea, an evidence;--God is a _law_,--the living
law, the supreme law, the universal law, the eternal law. Because God
is a law on high, he is a duty on the earth; and when man says, 'I
believe in God,' he says, at the same time, 'I believe in my duty
towards God,--I believe in my duty towards man.' God is a government!"

And what are these duties? They are of three sorts:--

_Duty towards God_,--that is to say, the duty of developing, as much
as possible, my intelligence and my reason, to arrive at the purest
idea and the highest worship of the Supreme Being, by whom and for
whom all is, all exists:--_Religion_.

_Private Duties_,--that is to say, the exact and tender discharge of
all sentiments to which form has been given, either in written or
unwritten laws, which bind me to those, to whom, in the order of
nature, I hold most closely,--the nearest to myself in the human
group--father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife, children, friends,
neighbors:--_the Family_.

_Collective Duties_,--that is to say, devotions, even to the sacrifice
of myself, even to death, to the progress, the well-being, the
preservation, the amelioration of this great human family, of which my
family, and my country, are only parts; and of which I myself am only
a miserable and vanishing fraction, a leaf of a summer, which
vegetates and withers on a branch of the immense trunk of the human
race:--_Society_.

Let us speak to-day only of these last duties,--because, now we are
occupied with politics alone.



V.


God, when one believes in Him as you and I do, imposes then on man a
duty towards the society of which he makes a part. You admit it, do
you not?

Then follow, and analyze with me this society. Of whom, and how, is it
composed?

It is composed, at the same time, of strong and weak, conquerors and
conquered, victors and vanquished, oppressors and oppressed, masters
and slaves, nobles and serfs, of citizens and bondmen or subjects
disinherited and enslaved, considered as living furniture, as tools
and laughing-stocks to their fellow-men, as were the Blacks in our
colonies before the Republic.

Thanks to the increase of general reason, to the light of philosophy,
to the inspiration of Christianity, to the progress of the idea of
justice, of charity, and of fraternity, in laws, manners, and
religion, society in America, in Europe, and in France, especially
since the Revolution, has broken down all these barriers, all these
denominations of caste, all these injurious distinctions among men.
Society is composed only of various conditions, professions,
functions, and ways of life, among those who form what we call a
Nation; of proprietors of the soil, and proprietors of houses; of
investments, of handicrafts, of merchants, of manufacturers, of
farmers; of day-laborers becoming farmers, manufacturers, merchants,
or possessors of houses or capital, in their turn; of the rich, of
those in easy circumstances, of the poor, of workmen with their
hands, workmen with their minds; of day-laborers, of those in need, of
a small number of men enjoying considerable acquired or inherited
wealth, of others of a smaller fortune painfully increased and
improved, of others with property only sufficient for their needs;
there are some, finally, without any personal possession but their
hands, and gleaning for themselves and for their families, in the
workshop, or the field, and at the threshold of the homes of others on
the earth, the asylum, the wages, the bread, the instruction, the
tools, the daily pay, all those means of existence which they have
neither inherited, saved, nor acquired. These last are what have been
improperly called _the People_. This name is extended now; it embraces
really all the People; but still it is used as the name of the
indigent and suffering part of the People.

It is more especially of this class that I intend to speak, in saying
to you, "To love the People, it is necessary to believe in God."



VI.


The love of the People, the conscience of the citizen, the sentiment
which induces the individual to lose himself in the mass, to submit
himself to the community, to sacrifice himself to its needs,--his
interest, his individuality, his egotism, his ambition, his pride, his
fortune, his blood, his life, his reputation even, sometimes, to the
safety of his country, to the happiness of the People, to the good of
humanity, of which he is a member in the sight of God,--in one word,
all these virtues, necessary under every form of government,--useful
under a monarchy, indispensable under a republic,--never have been
derived, and never can be derived, from any thing but that single
sentence, pronounced with religious faith, at the commencement, in the
middle, at the end of all our patriotic acts:--"I believe in God!"

The People who do not believe strongly, efficaciously in this first
principle, in this supreme original, in this last end of all
existence, cannot have a faith superior to their individual
selfishness.

The People who cannot have a principle superior to their individual
selfishness, in their acts as citizens, cannot have national virtue.

The People who cannot have national virtue cannot be free; for they
can have neither the courage which enables them to defend their own
liberty, nor the conscience which forces them to respect the liberty
of others, and to obey the laws, not as an outward force, but as a
second conscience.

The People who can neither defend their liberty, nor restrain it, may
be, by turns, slaves or tyrants, but they can never be republicans.

Therefore, Atheism in the People is the most invincible obstacle to
the establishment and consolidation of that sublime form of
government, the idol of all ages, the tendency of all perfect
civilization, the dream of every sage, the model of all great
souls,--the government of the entire People by the reason and
conscience of each citizen,--otherwise called the REPUBLIC.



VII.


Must I demonstrate to you so simple a truth? Can you not comprehend,
without explanation of mine, that a nation, where each citizen thinks
only of his own private well-being here below, and sacrifices
constantly the general good to his personal and narrow interest;--where
the powerful man wishes to preserve all the power for himself alone,
without making an equitable and proportional division to the
weak;--where the weak wishes to conquer at any price, that he may
tyrannize in his turn;--where the rich wishes to acquire and
concentrate the greatest possible amount of wealth, to enjoy it alone,
and even without circulating it in work, in wages, in assistance, in
benevolence, in good deeds to his brothers;--where the poor wishes to
dispossess violently and unjustly those who possess more than himself,
instead of recognizing that diversity of chances, of conditions, of
professions, of fortunes, of which human life is composed,--instead of
acquiring prosperity for his family, in his turn and degree, by effort,
by order, by labor, by economy, by the assistance of borrowed capital,
by the law of inheritance, by the free transfer of real estate, by free
entrance into different callings and trades, by free competition in the
money market;--where each class of citizens declares itself an enemy to
every other, and heaps upon each other all manner of evil, instead of
doing all the good in its power, and uniting in the holy harmony of
social unity;--where each individual draws around him, for himself
alone, the common mantle, willing to tear it in pieces for himself,
and thus leave the whole world naked,--do you not understand, I say,
that such a People, having no God but its selfishness, no judge but
interest, no conscience but cupidity, will fall, in a short time, into
complete destruction, and, being incapable of a Republican government,
because it casts aside the government of God himself, will rush
headlong into the government of the brute: the government of the
strongest, the despotism of the sword, the divinity of the
cannon,--that last resort of anarchy, which is at once the remedy and
the death of nations without God!

Now has not this weakening of the sentiment of God in the soul of the
People been, from year to year, from century to century, indeed, I
might say, the most discouraging and threatening symptom, in the eyes
of those who desire the progress of their race, who aspire to the
moral perfection of the human spirit, who hope in Republican
institutions, who love the People, who wish to cultivate their reason,
who desire that the People should understand themselves, respect
themselves, and, finally, by their enlightenment, their
conscientiousness, their moderation and virtue, give the lie to those
who declare them in a state of perpetual infancy, perpetual madness,
or perpetual weakness?

Yes, this is but too true: men have been blotting out God, for a
century past, from the souls of the People, and more especially in
latter years. The masses have been driven to Atheism, they have been
driven on every side and by every hand.

Sometimes, by blasphemies, such as were never heard upon the earth,
until an insult to the Creator became a means of popularity among His
creatures; blasphemies which would have darkened the sun and
extinguished the stars, if God had not commanded His creation to pass
unnoticed the revolt of a blind and foolish insect against Infinity,
and refused Himself to sink to the foolishness of avenging impiety!
Read those lines which I dare not write, those lines where an apostle
of Atheism effaces the name of God from the beautiful creation and
endeavors to substitute his own! * * *



VIII.


Sometimes the masses have been driven to Atheism by science. There are
some geometers great in paradox, men who, of all the senses that the
Creator has given to his creatures, have cultivated only one, the
sense of touch,--leaving out entirely that chief sense, which connects
and confirms all others,--_the sense of the invisible_, the _moral
sense_. These _savans_, geometers, physicians, arithmeticians,
mathematicians, chemists, astronomers, measurers of distances,
calculators of numbers, have early acquired the habit of believing
only in the _tangible_. These are the beings who, so to speak, live
and think in the dark; all, which is not palpable, does not exist for
them. They measure the earth, and say, "We have not met God in any
league of its surface!" They heat the alembic, and say, "We have not
perceived God in the smoke of any of our experiments!" They dissect
dead bodies, and say, "We have not found God, or thought, in any
bundle of muscles or nerves in our dissection!" They calculate columns
of figures, long as the firmament, and say, "We have not seen God in
the sum of any of our additions!" They pierce, with eye and glass,
into the dazzling mysteries of night, to discover, across thousands
and thousands of leagues, the groups and the evolutions of the
celestial worlds, and say, "We have not discovered God at the end of
our telescopes! The existence of God does not concern us; it is no
affair of ours!"--Madmen! They do not suspect that the knowledge and
adoration of God are, at bottom, the only business of the creature;
and that all these distances, these globes, these numbers, these
mysteries of the living being, this dissected mechanism of the dead,
these compositions and decompositions of combined elements, these
hosts of stars, and these eternal evolutions of suns around the divine
hand which guides them, have no other reason for existence, for
movement, and for duration, than to compel the acknowledgment, fear,
admiration, and adoration of God, by that supreme sense, that sense
superior to all other senses, that sense imponderable and impalpable,
invisible yet beholding all things,--that sense which we call
_intelligence_!

Alas! it is not that God has denied this sense to these men of
figures, of science, and calculation; but they have blinded
themselves, they have cultivated the other senses so much, that they
have weakened this. They have believed too much in matter, and so they
have lost the eye of the spirit. These men, we are told, have made
great progress in experimental science, but they have made good, evil,
to the People, by saying to them, "We, who are so high, we cannot see
God!--blind men! what do you see, then?"



IX.


Besides these men, there is still another class,--inventors of another
science, which they call "_Political Economy_." This is the class of
_Economists_. I do not, indeed, speak of all of them: there are among
them some who are as spiritual as Fenelon, and these are, perhaps, at
this day, the greater number. I speak only of those who, considering
this world alone, have been driven, voluntarily or involuntarily, to
Atheism in another way. Leaving the eternal and fastidious metaphysical
and religions disputes in which the theologians of past centuries
wasted the time, the good sense, and the blood of men, to honor their
pretended God by immolating to Him the enemies of their faith, these
_false economists_ have said to governments and people, "Leave all
this; there is only one science which is good for any thing: it is the
science of Wealth. All else is vanity and vexation of spirit." This is
the famous cry, the cry of a materialistic society:--"_Grow rich!_" The
economists of this school, now highly enlightened, legitimate children
of the materialists of the Eighteenth Century, see in humanity, only
matter and the things that belong to matter; in men, only consumers and
producers; in the social functions, only labor of the hands:--to labor,
to sow, to reap, to hew, to build, to forge, to weave, to barter, to
exchange, to sell, to buy, to acquire, to beget,--this is, according to
these disciples of Malthus, the whole of man! These are the Lycurguses
and the Moseses, the legislators of a trading People: the moral,
intellectual, spiritual, religious man does not exist for them. They
love liberty, not because it ennobles human nature; exercises free
will, the most sublime of man's vital functions; cultivates his highest
faculty,--conscience; purifies religion, the fundamental idea of
mankind, from the superstitions that debase and dishonor it; sanctifies
human society, by leading it to the knowledge and worship of God;--they
love it because it abolishes Custom House duties! All legislation, all
civilization, all religion, is reduced by them to a well-balanced
account! _To have_ and _to owe_, these are the only two words in their
language! What matter to them the spirit, the soul, virtue,
sentiment?--What the moral and consoling beliefs, the divine hopes, the
supernatural certainties, revealed or proved, or the immortal destiny,
of man?--What the present intellectual life, and the future immaterial
life of these harvests of human generations, which God sows that they
may bear fruit in his name, may adore his grandeur,--which Death cuts
down to bear them, ripe in faith and virtue, up to Heaven? All this can
neither be bought nor sold; all this has neither stated price nor net
revenue; all this is not current on the Exchange,--therefore it is
nothing!

Thus these men count for nothing the forms of worship and the forms of
government. They are neither followers of Brama, of Confucius, of
Mahomet, of Plato, or of Rousseau; neither absolute monarchists,
constitutional royalists, nor republicans. They are of the politics,
and of the religion, in which they can manufacture most, buy and sell
easiest, trade the best, multiply fastest! Their civilization is
traffic; their God is the dollar! This sect, useful in administering
intelligently the affairs of commerce, has been a shadow over
intellectual civilization; for it has forgotten heavenly things, and,
in forgetting them, has contributed to make the People also forget
them.



X.


But that People which forgets God, forgets itself. What right has it
to be a People, if it have not its origin and hope in Him? How can the
men of any nation expect tyrants to remember and respect its destiny,
if they themselves debase this destiny to that of a machine with ten
fingers, destined to weave the greatest possible number of yards of
cloth in seventy years, to people as many hundred acres as possible
with creatures as much to be pitied and as miserable as themselves,
and to serve, from generation to generation, as human manure for the
land, to fertilize the soil of their birth, their life, and their
graves? How can the moral spiritualism of a People long resist such
theories? Where can they find God in this workshop of matter?



XI.


But even this is nothing. The French Revolution came in 1789. It came
to put an end to a double philosophy,--the spiritual philosophy of
Rousseau's school, founded in reason and religion, the material
philosophy of the school of Helvetius, Diderot, and their disciples,
atheistic and cynical. The thought of the first of these philosophies
was religious at bottom. It consisted merely in freeing the luminous
idea of God from the shadows by which ignorance, intolerance, the
inquisition of temporal dynasties and times of barbarism had falsified
it,--in freeing this idea, debased as it was,--obscured, and enchained
to thrones,--so as to restore reason to its liberty, to inquiry, to
the free conscience of every worship and of every soul; to revive it
in the eyes of the People, by leading them to the broad light of day,
the evidence of nature, the dignity and efficacy of free worship.

But, for this, it was necessary to dispossess the Middle Ages of their
temporal power, of their _mort-main_ possessions, of their civil
jurisdictions, of their exclusive privileges, of their legal
intolerance against all other divine thoughts, and all other individual
or national faith, all other forms of adoration and worship than what
were imposed by the exclusive and established religion. To rally the
people to this work, a work legitimate in itself, a work which the
abuses of a crafty priesthood had made necessary, seven times, and
whose accomplishment they had seven times partially and gradually
undertaken, since the time of Charlemagne,--the philosophers of the
second school, the irreligious school, the atheistic school, of Diderot
and Helvetius, drove the masses from stupidity even to impiety, and the
demagogues of '93 forced them from impiety to Atheism, and from Atheism
to blood. Demagogues, those poisoners of liberty, corrupt every
revolution in which they mingle; they defile every thing that they
touch; they dishonor every truth which they profess, by polluting or
perverting it. The age and philosophy, Heaven and earth, desire what
we too desire,--freedom of conscience, voluntary worship,--liberty of
the human mind in matters of faith,--the fraternity of altars,
invoking, each in its own language, that God whom the whole earth is
spelling out, and who reveals, from age to age, still another letter of
His divine name.

Instead of this, Atheists and demagogues united to persecute religion,
to revenge themselves for the old persecutions of the priesthood. They
profaned the temples, violated conscience, blasphemed the God of the
faithful, parodied the ceremonies, cast to the winds the pious symbols
of worship, and persecuted the ministers of religion.

In the name of the Revolution, and under the menace of terror, they
dragged the People to these Saturnalia. They corrupted the eyes, the
hands, the minds, the souls of the populace. These violences to the
altar were cast back on the religious idea itself. The People, seeing
the temple fall, believed that Heaven itself crumbled; and that,
following the profaned image of a vanishing worship, God himself would
vanish from the world, with conscience, the supernatural law, the
unwritten moral law, the soul and the immortality of the human race!

When the ignorant People no longer saw God between them and
annihilation, they plunged into the boundless and bottomless abyss of
Atheism, they lost their divine sense, they became brutal as the
animal, who sees in the earth only a pasture ground, instead of the
footstool of Jehovah.

But these irreligious abominations, and these Saturnalia of Atheism,
however much injury they inflicted on the religious spirit of the
People, did not effect so much, perhaps, as the reign which followed
this anarchy, the reign of Bonaparte, the so-called restorer of
worship. And how?



XII.


The Republic had passed its paroxysm of fever, of demagoguical
madness, of persecution. The Directory had finally concentrated and
regulated the republican power. This government was composed of men,
naturally moderate and tolerant, or made so by the experience and the
lassitude of anarchy; the moderate principles of the Revolution of
1789, and of the constituted Assembly, regained their level, thanks to
a natural reaction, limited by good sense, as happens after every
revolution that overshoots its mark. The priests officiated, without
obstacle, in the temples restored by the municipalities to the
faithful, religion was entirely free, even favored by public respect,
and by that care for good morals which all serious governments feel.
Faith, taking refuge in men's consciences, was, moreover, more sincere
and more active, because it was neither constrained, nor favored, nor
altered, nor profaned by the hand of government.

This was, perhaps, the moment when there was the most religion in
France,--for this was the moment when, after having had its martyrs,
the religious sentiment had a life in itself, and owed nothing to the
partial and interested protection of the powers of the State. For, the
less the State imposes upon you a God of its own fashion, or its own
choice, the more does your conscience rise, and the more does it
attach itself to the God of your own reason, or your own faith!

Bonaparte, whose genius was entirely military, but who, in affairs of
moral, civil, and religious government, made it a matter of policy to
contradict and extinguish all the truths of the Revolution, hastened
to change all this. He wished to parody Charlemagne.

Charlemagne had been the philosopher and revolutionary organizer of
his time; Charlemagne had bound together the spiritual and temporal,
crowning the Pontiff that he might be crowned by him in turn.
Bonaparte desired a State religion, an agreement in which religion and
the empire should mutually engage and mutually check each other; a
Pope to subdue, to caress, to drive away, to recall, to persecute, by
turns; a coronation by the hand of an enslaved Church; then a Church
to chastise, when it did not obey;--in one word, all that shameful and
scandalous _simony_ of ancient times, when the temporal power played,
in the sight of the nations, with the idea and name of God, in a
manner as contemptuous as it was odious.

The People, who saw clearly through this intrigue of an indifferent
sovereign,--an Atheist at Toulon, a crafty politician at Marengo, a
Mussulman in Egypt, a persecutor at Rome, an oppressor at Savona, a
schismatic at Fontainbleau, a saint at Notre Dame de Paris,--protector
of religion and profaner of consciences by turns,--felt their belief
shaken anew. They asked themselves, "What then is God for us, poor
souls, since God is such an instrument of power for great men, and
such a police machine for governments?" Scorn threw them back into
Atheism. This was natural.



XIII.


This system was continued, with more sincerity on the part of
government, under the dynasty of the Restoration. But the interested
favors of the Court, for the higher clergy of a particular worship,
irritated the minds of the populace against the priesthood.

The more it lavished power and human dignities upon priestly
superiors, the more the mind of the People turned from the religious
sentiment. Each favor of royal authority to the privileged Church cast
thousands of souls into Atheism.

The Revolution of July suppressed the religion of the State: it was a
progress towards the religion of conscience. But it favored the
religion of the majority; it still leaned towards the supremacy of
numbers in matters of faith. However, from the moment the State
religion was suppressed, the religion of conscience gained ground in
men's hearts. From 1830 to this day, every intelligent observer gladly
acknowledges an immense progress in the religious sentiment in
France.--Why? Because the suppression of the official religion of the
State was a progress in the liberty of conscience, and all progress in
liberty of conscience is a progress of human thought toward the idea
of God. Go farther still, and complete liberty will destroy Atheism in
the People!

But the evil done was immense. The cynicism of Diderot, materialism,
scepticism, revolutionary impiety, the false and hypocritical piety
of the empire, the concordat, the restoration of an imperial religion,
and of an official and dynastic God by Napoleon, the tendency of the
two Bourbon reigns to reconstruct a political church, everlastingly
endowed with a monopoly of goods and of souls,--and, finally, the
industrialism of the reign of Louis Philippe, turning every thought to
trade, to manual labor, to worldly wealth, and making gold the true
and only God of the century;--all this has borne its fruits.

Look at these fruits at the present day, and say, if practical Atheism
does not devour the souls of this People. But let us proceed.



XIV.


For eighteen years, new sects, or, rather, posthumous sects, have
disputed for the soul of the People, under the names of Fourierism, of
Pantheism, of Communism, of Industrialism, of Economism, and, finally,
of Terrorism. Look at them, listen to them, read them, analyze them,
sift them, handle them; and say, if, with the exception of a vague
deifying of every thing,--that is to say, of nothing, by the
Fourierites,--there is a single one of these philosophical, social, or
political sects, which is not founded on the most evident practical
Atheism; which has not matter for a God; material enjoyments for
morality; exclusive satisfaction of the senses for an end; purely
sensual gratifications for a paradise; this world for the sole scene
of existence; the body for the only condition of being; the
prolonging of life a few more years for its only hope; a sharpening of
the senses to material appetites for a perspective; death for the end
of all things; after death, an assimilation with the dust of the earth
for a future; annihilation for justice, for reward, and for
immortality!

No, there has not been since 1830, there has not been since the
Revolution, there is not at this moment, one of these schools of
pretended apostles, prophets of the future, and saviors of the
present, which is not Materialism in action. It is the deadly seed of
the century of Helvetius, producing its poisons in the dregs of
another century. It is man, deprived of his spiritual and immortal
sense, reduced to a solid measure of organized matter, and seeking,
not virtue, that key to his future destiny, in his soul; but, in his
senses, mere enjoyment, that end of the brute, who only believes in
what he can eat and drink.



XV.


Analyze with me, if you are not overwhelmed with humiliation, the five
or six Revelations of the latter days; and ask yourselves, as I have
often asked myself, while listening to them, if these revealers of
pretended human felicity do indeed address themselves to men, or to
herds of fatted cattle! And are they astonished that the intellectual
world resists them? Do they complain that the ignorant are their only
disciples? Are they indignant that the ideas they attempt to spread,
creep, like fetid mists, along the abysses of society, and excite,
instead of enthusiasm, only the fanaticism of hunger and thirst? I
can well believe it! What People is there who would become fanatics,
only for their own destruction; renounce their moral nature, their
divine souls, their immortal destinies, only for a morsel of more
savory bread upon their table, for a larger portion of earth under
their feet? No! no! enthusiasm soars aloft, it does not fall to earth.
Bear me up to Heaven, if you wish to dazzle my eyes; promise me
immortality, if you would offer to my soul a motive worthy of its
nature, an aim worthy of its efforts, a price worthy of its virtue!
But what do your systems of atheistic society show us in perspective?
What do they promise us in compensation for our griefs? What do they
give us in exchange for our souls? You know,--we will not speak of it.

But, indeed, if these sects survive the month which sees and which
produces them; and, if these questions which they debate, and these
systems which they bring before the astonished People, are destined to
serve as enigmas to posterity; what will the future say of us? It will
only explain the Materialism, Atheism, and brutality of the doctrines
and sects by which we have been disturbed for ten or twelve years, as
the nightmare of a starving People, whose dreams have, for an object,
only a frantic satisfaction of the senses. All these philosophies, or
all these deliriums, are the deliriums or philosophies of the stomach!
"All this epoch," future historians will say, "the French must have
been a nation distressed by a terrible famine, to have forgotten, in
so total an eclipse of the intellectual nature, the great and immortal
ideas which have alone inspired even these, the human race, and
rendered the revolutions of the People worthy of the regard of
posterity, and of the blood of man. The Eighteenth Century must have
been a time when avaricious Nature shut up her bosom, and the earth
brought forth neither fruit nor harvests, that this great intellectual
People, formerly called the French People, should have forgotten their
souls for a morsel of bread, their immortality for an income, and
their God for a dollar! Let us turn away our eyes and weep over that
age."



XVI.


See where we were when the Republic arose: happy was it that the
People had at bottom more of the true sentiment of God than these
masters and heads of sects. For, what would have become of us, if, in
that total eclipse of government, of armed force, and of law, which
followed the 24th of February, the People, masters of all, of the
fortunes and lives of the citizens, of Heaven and earth, had been a
People of Materialists, of Terrorists, and of Atheists? The Revolution
would have been a pillage, the Republic a scaffold, the dynasty of the
People a deluge of blood. But there was no such thing. God was there.
He revealed Himself in the multitude; Materialism disappeared in
enthusiasm, which always exhibits the divinity of the human heart.

We heard but one cry,--"Honor to God! Respect for the altars! Liberty
to their ministers! Self-denial, harmony, protection to the weak,
inviolability of property, assistance to the miserable!" Yes,--on the
first day, and during the whole time that the People was alone and
burning with excitement, it was religious! It was not until after the
cooling of this enthusiasm that the materialistic sects, who waited
their opportunity afar off, and who now torment the People, dared to
offer their sensual symbols, and to set up Capital and Interest, the
organization of labor, the increase of wages, and equality of
conditions in this human manger, as the sole Divinities,--dared to
infuse envy against the happy, the breath of hatred as the only
consolation to the hearts of the miserable, lightning vengeance
against the wrongs of Providence, imprecations against society,
blasphemies against the existence of God, the enjoyments and
bestialities of the corporeal nature, purchased by complete
forgetfulness of the moral nature, and enjoyed in a debauch of ideas,
and in a deification of matter.

This cannot last; the People will not allow themselves to be changed
into hogs by the Circes of Atheism. Their souls will flash indignation
against their transformers. A day will come when they will see that
they are impoverished under the pretext of being enriched; that, when
they are robbed of their souls and of God, both their titles to
liberty are stolen from them. Atheism and Republicanism are two words
which exclude each other. Absolutism may thrive without a God, for it
needs only slaves. Republicanism cannot exist without a God, for it
must have citizens. And what is it that makes citizens? Two
things,--the sentiment of their rights, and the sentiment of their
duties as a republican People. Where are your rights, if you have not
a common Father in Heaven? Where are your duties, if you have not a
Judge between your brothers and you? Republicanism draws you in both
these ways to God.



XVII.


Thus, look at every free People, from the mountains of Helvetia to the
forests of America; see even the free British nation, where the
Aristocracy is only the head of liberty, where the Aristocracy and
Democracy mutually respect each other, and balance each other by an
exchange of kindnesses and services which sanctify society while
fortifying it. Atheism has fled before liberty: in proportion as
despotism has receded, the divine idea has advanced in the souls of
men. Liberty lives by morality. What is morality without a God? What
is a law without a lawgiver?

I know well, and I shall give you the reason hereafter; I know well,
and I mourn to think of it, that, even up to the present time, the
French People have been the least religious People in Europe.

Is this because the intelligence of France has not that force, and
that severity, which are needed to carry long enough and far enough
the idea of God,--the greatest idea of the human soul;--that idea, as
it comes from all the evidences of nature, and all the depths of
reflection, being the most powerful and the most grave of human
intelligence,--and the intelligence of France being the most
superficial, the most light, and the least reflecting of the European
races?

Is it because our governments have always been charged with thinking,
believing, and praying, for us?

Is it that they have always given us gods of the Court, worship
according to Etiquette, and religions of State, instead of letting us
form, make, and practise our faith for ourselves, by reason, by
free-will, by voluntary piety, by association, by tradition, by the
sympathies of the community, of worship, and of the family?

Is it because we are, and always have been, a military People, a
nation of soldiers and adventurers, led by kings, heroes, ambitious
men, from battle-field to battle-field, making conquests and not
keeping them, ravaging, dazzling, charming, and corrupting Europe, and
bearing the manners, vices, bravado, lightness, and impiety of the
camp into the homes of the People?

I do not know; but it is certain that the nation has an immense
progress to make in serious thought, if it wishes to maintain its
liberty. If we look at the comparative character, in matters of
religious sentiment, of the great nations of Europe, America, and even
Asia, the advantage is not on our side. While the great men of other
nations live and die upon the scene of history, looking towards
heaven, our great men seem to live and die in entire forgetfulness of
the only idea for which life or death is worth any thing; they live
and die looking at the spectators, or, at most, towards posterity.

Thus, even at the present time, while we have had the greatest men,
other nations have had the greatest citizens. It is great citizens
that a Republic needs!



XVIII.


Open the history of America, the history of England, and the history
of France; read the great lives, the great deaths, the great
sufferings, the sublime words, when the ruling passion of life reveals
itself in the last moments of the dying,--and compare them!

Washington and Franklin fought, spoke, suffered; rose and fell, in
their political life, from popularity to ingratitude, from glory to
bitter scorn of their citizens,--always in the name of God, for whom
they acted; and the liberator of America died, committing to the
Divine protection, first, the liberty of his People,--and, afterwards,
his own soul to His indulgent judgment.

Strafford, dying for the constitution of his country, wrote to Charles
I., to entreat his consent to his punishment, that he might spare
trouble to the State: "Put not your trust," wrote he, after this
consent was obtained, "put not your trust in princes, or in the son
of man, because salvation is not in them, but from on high." While
walking to the scaffold, he stopped under the windows of his friend,
the Bishop of London; he raised his head towards him, and asked, in a
loud voice, the assistance of his prayers in the terrible moment to
which he had come. The primate, bowed with age, and bathed in tears,
gave, in a stifled voice, his tender benedictions to his unhappy
friend, and fell, without consciousness, into the arms of his
attendants. Strafford continued his way, sustained by the Divine
force, descending from this invocation upon him: he spoke with
resignation to the People assembled to see him die. "I fear only one
thing," said he, "and that is, that this effusion of innocent blood is
a bad presage for the liberty of my country!" (Alas! why did not the
Convention recall these words among us, in '93?) Stafford
continued:--"Now," said he, "I draw near my end. One blow will make my
wife a widow, my children orphans, deprive my poor servants of an
affectionate master, and separate me from my dear brother, and my
friends. May God be all of these!" He disrobed himself, and placed his
head on the block. "I give thanks," said he, "to my heavenly Master
for helping me to await this blow without fear; for not permitting me
to be cast down for a single instant by terror. I repose my head as
willingly on this block as I ever laid it down to sleep." This is
faith in Patriotism! See Charles I., in his turn,--that model of a
kingly death. At the moment that he was to receive the blow of the
axe, the edge of which he had coolly examined and touched, he raised
his head, and addressed the clergyman who was present:--"Remember!"
said he; as if he had said, "Remember to advise my sons never to
revenge their father!"

Sidney, the young martyr of a patriotism, guilty, because too hasty,
died to expiate the dream of the freedom of his country. He said to
the jailer, "May my blood purify my soul! I rejoice that I die
innocent toward the king, but a victim resigned to the King of Heaven,
to whom we owe all life."

The republicans of Cromwell sought only the way of God, even in the
blood of battles. Their politics is nothing but faith; their
government, a prayer; their death, a holy hymn;--they sang, like the
Templars, on their funeral-pile. We see, we feel, we hear God, above
all, in these revolutions, in these great popular movements, and in
the souls of the great citizens of these nations.

But recross the Atlantic, traverse the Channel, approach our own
time, open our annals; and listen to the great political actors in the
drama of our liberty. It would seem as if God was hidden from the
souls of men; as if his name had never been written in the language.
History will have the air of being atheistic, while recounting to
posterity these _annihilations_, rather than _deaths_, of the
celebrated men of the greatest years of France. The victims alone have
a God; the tribunes and lictors have none.

See Mirabeau on his death-bed. "Crown me with flowers," said he,
"intoxicate me with perfumes, let me die with the sound of delicious
music." Not one word of God, or of his soul! A sensual philosopher, he
asks of death only a supreme sensualism; he desires to give a last
pleasure even to agony.

Look at Madam Roland, that strong woman of the Revolution,--upon the
car that carries her to death. She looks with scorn upon the stupid
People, who kill their prophets and their sibyls. Not one glance to
Heaven; only an exclamation for the earth she leaves:--"O, Liberty!"

Approach the prison door of the Girondines: their last night is a
banquet, and their last hymn is the _Marseillaise_!

Follow Camille Desmoulins to punishment:--a cold and indecent
pleasantry at the tribunal; one long imprecation on the road to the
guillotine;--those are the last thoughts of this dying man, about to
appear on high!

Listen to Danton, upon the platform of the scaffold, one step from God
and immortality:--"I have enjoyed much; let me go to sleep," he
says;--then, to the executioner, "You will show my head to the
People; it is worth while!" Annihilation for a confession of faith;
vanity for his last sigh: such is the Frenchman of these latter days!

What do you think of the religious sentiment of a free People, whose
great characters seem to walk thus in procession to annihilation; and
die, without even death, that terrible minister, recalling to their
minds the fear or the promises of God?

Thus the Republic,--which had no future,--reared by these men, and
mere parties, was quickly overthrown in blood. Liberty, achieved by so
much heroism and genius, did not find in France a conscience to
shelter it, a God to avenge it, a People to defend it, against that
other Atheism called Glory! All was finished by a soldier, and by the
apostacy of republicans travestied into courtiers! And what could you
expect? Republican Atheism has no reason to be heroic. If it is
terrified, it yields. Would one buy it, it sells itself; it would be
most foolish to sacrifice itself. Who would mourn for it?--the People
are ungrateful, and God does not exist.

Thus end atheistic revolutions!



XIX.


If you wish that this revolution should not have the same end, beware
of abject Materialism, degrading Sensualism, gross Socialism, of
besotted Communism; of all these doctrines of flesh and blood, of meat
and drink, of hunger and thirst, of wages and traffic, which these
corruptors of the soul of the People preach to you, exclusively, as
the sole thought, the sole hope, as the only duty, and only end of
man! They will soon make you slaves of ease, serfs of your desires.

Are you willing to have inscribed on the tomb of our French race, as
on that of the _Sybarites_, this epitaph: "This People ate and drank
well, while they browsed upon the earth?" No! You desire that History
should write thus: "This People worshipped well, served God and
humanity well,--in thought, in philosophy, in religion, in literature,
in arts, in arms, in labor, in liberty, in their Aristocracies, in
their Democracies, in their Monarchies, and their Republics! This
nation was the spiritual laborer, the conqueror of truth; the disciple
of the highest God, in all the ways of civilization,--and, to approach
nearer to him, it invented the Republic, that government of duties and
of rights, that rule of spiritualism, which finds in _ideas_ its only
sovereignty."

Seek God, then. This is your nature and your grandeur. And do not
seek Him in these Materialisms! For God is not below,--he is on high!

                              LAMARTINE,

                   _Representative of the People_.


THE END.



Transcriber's Note

This text uses some variant spelling--for example, partizan,
demagoguical, apostacy, corruptors. This has been preserved as
printed.

The ellipsis in this text uses asterisks rather than dots.

On page 62, the semicolon following 'rose' has been moved to follow
'suffered'--"... fought, spoke, suffered; rose and fell ..."

A repetition of the book title has been deleted.





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