Economic Sophisms/133

<pagequality level="3" user="Zoeannl" />style="background: #ececec; text-align: left; padding-left: 0.5em; font-weight: bold;" class="table-rh"the priest is the instrument of religion, or whether religion is not rather the instrument of the priest.

If the priest is the instrument of religion, if his sole care is to spread over the countiy morals and blessings, he will be gentle, tolerant, humble, charitable, full of zeal; his life will be a reflection of his Divine Model; he will preach liberty and equality among men, peace and fraternity between nations; he will repel the seductions of temporal power, desiring no alliance with what of all things in the world most requires to be kept in check; he will be a man of the people, a man of sound counsels, a man of consolation, a man of public opinion, a man of the Gospel.

If, on the contrary, religion is the instrument of the priest, he will treat it as we treat an instrument, which we alter, bend, and twist about in all directions, so as to make it available for the purpose we have in view. He will increase the number of questions which are tabooed; his morals will change with times, men, and circumstances. He will endeavour to impose upon people by gestures and studied attitudes; and will mumble a hundred times a day words, the meaning of which has evaporated, and which have come to be nothing better than a vain conventionalism. He will traffic in sacred things, but in such a way as not to shake men's faith in their sacredness; and he will take care, when he meets with acute, clear-sighted people, not to carry on this traffic so openly or actively as in other circumstances. He will mix himself up with worldly intrigues; and he will take the side of men in power, provided they embrace his side. In a word, in all his actions, we shall discover that his object is not to advance the cause of religion through the clergy, but the cause of the clergy through religion; and as so many efforts must have an object, and as this object, on our hypothesis, can be nothing else than wealth and power, the most incontestable sign of the people having been duped is that the priest has become rich and powerful.

It is quite evident that a true religion may be abused as well as a false religion. The more respectable its authority is, the more is it to be feared that the proofs of that respectability will be pressed too far. But the results will be widely diflerent.

Abuses have a tendency to excite the sound, enlightened, and