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?

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

One thought on “Atheism among the people pt 2

  1. emmylgant says:

    Yes, I definitely believe that is an early work and I am not convinced that the translation is altogether accurate. I question the use of the word “communism”. It cannot have the same definition as it took on later, in view of the chronolgy.
    As I said earlier, the trauma of 1789-1792 ( regicide, terror, the Great Fear etc), caused a push back to the old ways ( Restoration). A return to a legitimate monarchy had to include the support of a divine will. Anyway, for an easy read on the mood of the times, and the sequels of the French Revolution, I recommend “Citizen” by Simon Schama. My two cents worth. 🙂

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