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Atheism Among The People by Alphonse de Lamartine

VII. Must I demonstrate to you so simple a truth? Can you not comprehendà

Must I demonstrate to you so simple a truth? Can you not comprehend, without explanation of mine, that a nation, where each citizen thinks only of his own private well-being here below, and sacrifices constantly the general good to his personal and narrow interest; -- where the powerful man wishes to preserve all the power for himself alone, without making an equitable and proportional division to the weak; -- where the weak wishes to conquer at any price, that he may tyrannize in his turn; -- where the rich wishes to acquire and concentrate the greatest possible amount of wealth, to enjoy it alone, and even without circulating it in work, in wages, in assistance, in benevolence, in good deeds to his brothers; -- where the poor wishes to dispossess violently and unjustly those who possess more than himself, instead of recognizing that diversity of chances, of conditions, of professions, of fortunes, of which human life is composed, -- instead of acquiring prosperity for his family, in his turn and degree, by effort, by order, by labor, by economy, by the assistance of borrowed capital, by the law of inheritance, by the free transfer of real estate, by free entrance into different callings and trades, by free competition in the money market; -- where each class of citizens declares itself an enemy to every other, and heaps upon each other all manner of evil, instead of doing all the good in its power, and uniting in the holy harmony of social unity; -- where each individual draws around him, for himself alone, the common mantle, willing to tear it in pieces for himself, and thus leave the whole world naked, -- 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!

Now has not this weakening of the sentiment of God in the soul of the People been, from year to year, from century to century, indeed, I might say, the most discouraging and threatening symptom, in the eyes of those who desire the progress of their race, who aspire to the moral perfection of the human spirit, who hope in Republican institutions, who love the People, who wish to cultivate their reason, who desire that the People should understand themselves, respect themselves, and, finally, by their enlightenment, their conscientiousness, their moderation and virtue, give the lie to those who declare them in a state of perpetual infancy, perpetual madness, or perpetual weakness?

Yes, this is but too true: men have been blotting out God, for a century past, from the souls of the People, and more especially in latter years. The masses have been driven to Atheism, they have been driven on every side and by every hand.

Sometimes, by blasphemies, such as were never heard upon the earth, until an insult to the Creator became a means of popularity among His creatures; blasphemies which would have darkened the sun and extinguished the stars, if God had not commanded His creation to pass unnoticed the revolt of a blind and foolish insect against Infinity, and refused Himself to sink to the foolishness of avenging impiety! Read those lines which I dare not write, those lines where an apostle of Atheism effaces the name of God from the beautiful creation and endeavors to substitute his own! * * *

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