This system was continued, with more sincerity on the part of government, under the dynasty of the Restoration. But the interested favors of the Court, for the higher clergy of a particular worship, irritated the minds of the populace against the priesthood.
The more it lavished power and human dignities upon priestly superiors, the more the mind of the People turned from the religious sentiment. Each favor of royal authority to the privileged Church cast thousands of souls into Atheism.
The Revolution of July suppressed the religion of the State: it was a progress towards the religion of conscience. But it favored the religion of the majority; it still leaned towards the supremacy of numbers in matters of faith. However, from the moment the State religion was suppressed, the religion of conscience gained ground in men's hearts. From 1830 to this day, every intelligent observer gladly acknowledges an immense progress in the religious sentiment in France. -- Why? Because the suppression of the official religion of the State was a progress in the liberty of conscience, and all progress in liberty of conscience is a progress of human thought toward the idea of God. Go farther still, and complete liberty will destroy Atheism in the People!
But the evil done was immense. The cynicism of Diderot, materialism, scepticism, revolutionary impiety, the false and hypocritical piety of the empire, the concordat, the restoration of an imperial religion, and of an official and dynastic God by Napoleon, the tendency of the two Bourbon reigns to reconstruct a political church, everlastingly endowed with a monopoly of goods and of souls, -- and, finally, the industrialism of the reign of Louis Philippe, turning every thought to trade, to manual labor, to worldly wealth, and making gold the true and only God of the century; -- all this has borne its fruits.
Look at these fruits at the present day, and say, if practical Atheism does not devour the souls of this People. But let us proceed.