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Atheism Among The People by Alphonse de Lamartine

IX. Besides these men, there is still another class, -- inventors of another scienceà

Besides these men, there is still another class, -- inventors of another science, which they call |Political Economy.| This is the class of Economists. I do not, indeed, speak of all of them: there are among them some who are as spiritual as Fenelon, and these are, perhaps, at this day, the greater number. I speak only of those who, considering this world alone, have been driven, voluntarily or involuntarily, to Atheism in another way. Leaving the eternal and fastidious metaphysical and religions disputes in which the theologians of past centuries wasted the time, the good sense, and the blood of men, to honor their pretended God by immolating to Him the enemies of their faith, these false economists have said to governments and people, |Leave all this; there is only one science which is good for any thing: it is the science of Wealth. All else is vanity and vexation of spirit.| This is the famous cry, the cry of a materialistic society: -- |Grow rich!| The economists of this school, now highly enlightened, legitimate children of the materialists of the Eighteenth Century, see in humanity, only matter and the things that belong to matter; in men, only consumers and producers; in the social functions, only labor of the hands: -- to labor, to sow, to reap, to hew, to build, to forge, to weave, to barter, to exchange, to sell, to buy, to acquire, to beget, -- this is, according to these disciples of Malthus, the whole of man! These are the Lycurguses and the Moseses, the legislators of a trading People: the moral, intellectual, spiritual, religious man does not exist for them. They love liberty, not because it ennobles human nature; exercises free will, the most sublime of man's vital functions; cultivates his highest faculty, -- conscience; purifies religion, the fundamental idea of mankind, from the superstitions that debase and dishonor it; sanctifies human society, by leading it to the knowledge and worship of God; -- they love it because it abolishes Custom House duties! All legislation, all civilization, all religion, is reduced by them to a well-balanced account! To have and to owe, these are the only two words in their language! What matter to them the spirit, the soul, virtue, sentiment? -- What the moral and consoling beliefs, the divine hopes, the supernatural certainties, revealed or proved, or the immortal destiny, of man? -- What the present intellectual life, and the future immaterial life of these harvests of human generations, which God sows that they may bear fruit in his name, may adore his grandeur, -- which Death cuts down to bear them, ripe in faith and virtue, up to Heaven? All this can neither be bought nor sold; all this has neither stated price nor net revenue; all this is not current on the Exchange, -- therefore it is nothing!

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

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