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Exerpts From Causes of Oppression


Nature of Religion

3. Religion is immovable

I call religion an instinctive, symbolic, and succinct expression by an emerging society, which manifests this society's opinion on the universal order.

In other words, religion is, in sum, the connections that a man, in the cradle of civilization, imagines to exist between himself and the Universe of God, the supreme officer.

From a less general point of view, religion is in all things the premonition of a truth.

The principle of all religion is feeling; its essential character, spontaneity; its evidence, visions and miracles; its method, faith.

It follows that religion is of an immovable nature, dreamy, intolerant, antagonistic toward research and studies; that it is horrified with science, like novelties and progress. Because to doubt or to philosophize in the eyes of religion, is to voluntarily place oneself in a position to believe no more.

4. Religious symbolism

Religion, in a manner of attempting to rationalize, expresses itself in symbols and allegories, supported by the lively imagination of young company, produced the origin of vast cosmogonic epics, and a world of ghosts. Incapable of observing and defining, it seeks refuge in symbolism. Or what is this symbol? The materialization of an idea, a sort of hieroglyph that takes the place of formula. What proves it? The impotence of generalization and abstraction, the oppression of the spirit by the fact of substance.

Whether it contains the profound and the divine, religion does not know: and why? Always because it is contained in the symbol, in the literal sense, and it cannot pass from the concrete to the abstract. (p. 50)

Religion, by nature, does not discuss. It does not establish itself as judge and interpret questions. It does not repeat problems, it is itself a problem. Religion is so prejudiced that it presents itself, of the routine such that exists, and is created of allegories, shaping them by rights as if religion would only want to grease its squeaking springs, but doesn't know it.

The base of religion doesn't change: like spirituality therefore, it is an expression; it is immutable. But if there is something which, under and despite religion itself, progresses and changes, it is humanity. A day will come when humanity, reasoning its own progress, will raise doubts on the same hypothesis that has hitherto served as its basis and the motive of its faith.

5. Religion has no natural power

Incapable of penetrating the reason of things, religion is still more impotent when it fulfills its position in society. Humanity, attached to the cradle by religion, has grown and developed itself without its wings; but with the progress of its intelligence, the development of its mores and the improvement of its fate, man has no right to his nurse; no part of religion speaks to reason.

Wherever religion appears, it is not by principle a organizer, but rather like a type of master of wills. Indifferent to the form of government, that is to say the political order, religion devotes what the legislator asks it to devote; cursed is that which it is prescribed to curse; the reason of the State creates its law, religion sanctions this law, imprints respect and terror, commands obedience.

The spiritual is incapable of giving rules of conduct for the worldly: this is true that religion has never applied its own maxims. From where comes the Christianity that has never been able to realize its law of charity and brotherhood? If it isn't this, the expression of this law being so mysterious, instead of seeing a principle there that the reflection developed, the faithful ones didn't find a precept divine to which reason would surrender itself. Always, in the religious sphere, the non-division of the idea, the symbolism of the concept, the rude event, and the letter that kills, oppresses thought and prevents analysis.

Far from having itself no evolving and creative force, religion could not live if it did not appropriate unholy policy and civil laws.

  1. Man and God

6. God is contradictory to Man

God, according to the theological concept, is not the only arbiter of the universe, the infallible king and irresponsible of creatures, the intelligible type of man; he is the eternal being, immutable, omnipresent, infinitely wise, infinitely free. Now, I say that these attributes of God are more than an ideal, more than an elevation, to such power that one will want, the corresponding attributes of humanity, I say that they are inconsistent/in contradiction with themselves. God is contradictory to man

That would be an infinite knowledge, an absolute science, determining an equally infinite freedom, like the speculation assumed in God? It would be an understanding not only universal, but intuitive, spontaneous, free of any hesitation like the all-objective, although she embraces at the same time the reality and the possible; a science sure/definite but non-demonstrative; complete, not followed; finally, a science eternal in its formation, that would be stripped of all semblance of progress in the report of its parties.

Psychology collected numerous examples of this way of knowing, in instinctive and divinatory faculties of animals; in a talent spontaneous of certain men born calculators and artists, separate from any education; finally, in the majority of human institutions and primitive monuments, products of a genius unconscious and independent of theories. And the movements so regular, so complicated of celestial bodies; the marvelous combinations of the material: still does it not say that this is all the effect of a particular instinct, inherent of elements?"

Therefore, if God exists, something of him would appear in the universe and in ourselves: but this something is in flagrant opposition with our most authentic tendencies, with our most certain destiny; that something is continually erased of our soul through education, and all our will is to make it disappear.

Thus, we don't live, don't feel, don't think, that by a series of oppositions and shock, by a civil war; our ideal isn't thus infinite, it is a balance; infinity expresses something other than us.

The attributes of man, while infinite in God, are thus unique and specific: it is the nature of infinity to become specialty, essence, by that which the finite exists.

Shall we say that the opposition between man and divine being is illusory, and that it originates from the opposition that exists between the individual man and the full essence of humanity? So it's necessary to maintain that humanity, since it is divine humanity which is neither progressive nor contrasted in reason or sentiment; in a word, it is infinite in all: that which is denied not only by history, but by psychology.

This is not the way we must hear, the humanists cry. To have the ideal of humanity, it's necessary to consider not its historical development, but all its manifestations, as if all the generations of men were to unite in one instant and form a single man, a man infinite and immortal.

We abandon the reality to seize a projection; that the true man is not the real man; to find the genuine man, the ideal human, one must leave time and enter into the eternal, yes? Desert the finite for the infinite, man for God! Humanism of theism is the most perfect.

Man fatally poses God as absolute and infinite in his attributes, while he develops himself in a sense inverse to this ideal; there is discord between the progress of man and that which man conceives as God. On one hand, it appears that man, by the syncretism (attempted reconciliation of opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion) of his constitution and by the perfectibility of his nature, is not God, nor can he become God, of another; it is significant that God, the supreme being, is the antithesis of humanity, the ontological apex which deviates indefinitely. God and man, so to speak, having distributed the faculties antagonistic of being, seem to play a game of which the command of the universe is the price: one of spontaneity, immediacy, infallibility, eternity; another of foresight, deduction, mobility, time. God and man stand in perpetual check and incessantly flee from each other; while working without ever resting in reflection and theory, the first, by his providential incapacity, seems shrunken in his spontaneous nature. Thus there is contradiction within humanity and its ideal, opposition between man and God. (System, I, pp. 389-392.)


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