Atheism among the people pt 2

by Alphonse De Lamartine

I want to continue to show that the author of this book is misguided on his understanding of atheism and atheists.

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.

I have not read the writings of Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire who are among those very active at the height of the French Revolution among others but I have read Thomas Paine who writes about the French Revolution in the Age of Reason and Rights of Man and I can say without a shred of doubt that they asked the populace to profane the temples. Someone will have to show me that this was the work of atheists and not the peasants who were tired of the despondency of the priestly class.

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.

Can this responsibility be put at the court of atheism. In the Rights of Man, Thomas Paine, asks the people to spare the life of the king but kill the position. He pleads that the man’s life be spared. It is not atheism at fault, but the system hitherto that bred so much hate in the people who ought to take responsibility. We can’t shift blame.

…… under the names of Fourierism, of Pantheism, of Communism, of Industrialism, of Economism, and, finally, of Terrorism.[….],–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!

I don’t know if there is evidence for another world apart from this one here, if there is evidence for anything separate from matter and where death isn’t the end of life. I may entertain the thought that I would see my adorable late mother again, but I just don’t think this is true. I don’t know why someone should have a problem when people are told there is no evidence they will exist beyond the grave since there is no evidence they existed before they were born.

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.

We show you there is no need to be deluded. We promise no false hope. We ask that we live our life here to the fullest, and go on to say should there be heaven we will learn to live there as we did here. We never were prepared for life here, we were born ignorant of everything around us. The only thing I think we could do from the moment we were born was to cry to show our distress. Everything else we learn through very painful moments and sometimes through fun moments. This is all we offer and it, I think, is more realistic and honest.

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.

Here duties refers to duty to god. Is it true that sans god we have no rights? Aren’t we then slaves to this heavenly being or is there something I don’t understand?

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?

Had he read the Rights of Man he would not have used the monarchy in Britain as an example of just government. He lived too early, he would have had to show us who gives god law or why god should be exempt from being given law. He presents the same argument advanced by WLC that there can be no objective morality without god. Is there objective morality to begin with?

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.

The great men of France to me died a noble death.

Now let us compare the deaths he lists

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.”

with this

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.

and this

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!

then tell me which you think is the most beautiful way to die given the circumstances?

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.

I need education on the relationship between communism and atheism.

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?”

Give me this epitaph any day and I will rejoice in my grave.

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.”

I don’t want! We can either serve god or humanity and not both. Look at the good book of what it says concerning having two masters!

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!

What stops god from making this any easy by just showing up. Is it too hard for him/it/she to just appear to put the matter of his existence or non-existence to rest?

Atheism among the people

by Alphonse De Lamartine

I have finished reading this short book and I disagree with it in its entirety. I will show why I disagree and since it is a big topic we will have it in sections to ensure the length of each post is not too long.

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.

Do we need to believe that there is a sky-daddy watching over us to care for others? Is love, for whatever it’s worth, only conceivable when we include of an imaginary daddy? Are we not capable of just loving one another knowing we are all human, children of accident and soon or later, for those who are lucky, we will be gone?

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!

Here I agree with those philosophers like Nietzsche and novelists like M. Twain that animals look at man and wonder how far he removed himself from his nature how he suffers to the extent that he created a god to worship!

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

Isn’t this a contradiction. To talk about faith and reasonable in the same sentence. I think as human thought expands so does the desire to believe decrease. The idea of god becomes more vague as our knowledge increase and as we learn about the evolution of gods.

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!”

This is indeed new! To consider the idea of god as a law and a government. I will wait for the god believers to explain what this law is, there never seem to agree on many of its aspects.

The love of the People, the conscience of the citizen,[ ……..], 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!”

I refuse to accept that we can only love brother if we love god. In fact I contend we don’t love our brother enough when we love god, when we see love as a duty to god and not to our fellow-man whom we can injure.

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.

To claim that atheists can’t love, can’t fight for social justice, can’t defend human rights is an insult to all atheists. Everywhere atheists are saying we deserve to treat each with kindness. Atheists are the number one humanists world over. We say and write that you are free to worship, to believe as you do as long you don’t make it public policy. It is in the mostly religious states where basic freedoms are denied, where LGBT rights are not guaranteed and so many other ills that can only be tied to religion.

Must I demonstrate to you so simple a truth? Can you not comprehend, without explanation of mine, that a nation[…..]–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!

If this were the case, then Scandinavian Europe where the god idea is receding much farther from the public life would have collapsed. It is however interesting to note that it is in the very religious countries where there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor. In the church the pastor lives well while the parishioners support his bad habits.

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?”

Here he argues against atheistic scientists. He does not show that something besides matter exists. Just goes on to repeat the same line I hear everyday, that we lovers of science are blind. I contend if his god is so powerful, who is at fault here? The scientist who hasn’t been able to find a reason to keep holding the god idea or the powerful god who has failed to convince the scientist? Be the judge.

Thus these men count for nothing the forms of worship and the forms of government. They are neither followers of Brahma, 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.

Please show me a pastor who is not concerned with growing his flock to increase the dollar and I will show you a fool. I can’t speak for everyone, what am certain of is my god if I were to have any is not the dollar.