Economic Sophisms/131

<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"I shall pass briefly in review some specimens of spoliation which are due to craft exercised on a very extensive scale.

The first which presents itself is spoliation by priestcraft [ruse théocratique].

What is the object in view? The object is to procure provisions, vestments, luxury, consideration, influence, power, by exchanging fictitious for real services.

If I tell a man, "I am going to render you great and immediate services," I must keep my word, or this man will soon be in a situation to detect the imposture, and my artifice will be instantly unmasked.

But if I say to him, "In exchange for your services I am going to render you immense service, not in this world, but in another; for after this life is ended, your being eternally happy or miserable depends upon me. I am an intermediate being between God and His creature, and I can, at my will, open the gates of heaven or of hell." If this man only believes me, I have him in my power.

This species of imposture has been practised wholesale since the beginning of the world, and we know what plenitude of power was exercised by the Egyptian priests.

It is easy to discover how these impostors proceed. We have only to ask ourselves what we should do were we in their place.

If I arrived among an ignorant tribe with views of this sort, and succeeded by some extraordinary and marvellous act to pass myself off for a supernatural being, I should give myself out for an envoy of God, and as possessing absolute control over the future destinies of man.

Then I should strictly forbid any inquiry into the validity of my titles and pretensions. I should do more. As reason would be my most dangerous antagonist, I should forbid the use of reason itself, unless applied to this formidable subject. In the language of the savages, I should taboo this question and everything relating to it. To handle it, or even think of it, should be declared an unpardonable sin.

It would be the very triumph of my art to guard with a taboo barrier every intellectual avenue which could possibly lead to a discovery of my imposture ; and what better security than to declare even doubt to be sacrilege?