restricted access Chapter 15.a How from Time to Time Religious Beliefs Divert the Soul of the Americans toward Non-Material Enjoymentsb
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954 s4s4s4s4s4 c h a p t e r 1 5a How from Time to Time Religious Beliefs Divert the Soul of the Americans toward Non-Material Enjoyments b [⫽However animated the Americans are in the pursuit of well-being, there are moments when they stop and turn away for a moment to think about God and about the other life.⫽] In the United States, when the seventh day of each week arrives, commercial and industrial life seems suspended; all noise ceases. A profound rest, or rather a kind of solemn recollection follows; thesoul,finally,regains self-possession and contemplates itself. During this day, the places consecrated to commerce and industry are deserted; each citizen, surrounded by his children, goes to church; there strange discourses are held forth that do not seem much made for his ears. He hears about the innumerable evils caused by pride and covetousness. a. In America,Sundayandtheusemadeof itinterrupteachweekthecourseof purely material thoughts and tastes. It breaks the chain of them. Particular advantages of this. The democratic social state leads the human mind toward materialistic opinions by sometimes developing beyond measure the taste for well-being. That is atendency that you must struggle against, just as in aristocratic times you must fight against an opposite excess. Effect of religions which is to keep spiritualism in honor. So religions are particularly necessary among democratic peoples. What the government of these peoples can do to uphold religions and the spiritualistic opinions that they suggest (YTC, CVf, pp. 32–33). b. On the jacket of the chapter in the manuscript: “The utility of religions to temper the taste for material enjoyments in democratic centuries has already been touched upon in chapter V, but so lightly that I believe that it can be developed here.” It concerns chapter V of the first part. religious beliefs and nonmaterial enjoyments 955 He is told about the necessity to control his desires, about the fine enjoyments attached to virtue alone, and about the true happiness that accompanies it. Back at home, you do not see him run to his business ledgers. He opens the book of the Holy Scriptures; there he finds sublime or touching portrayals of the grandeur and the goodness of the Creator, of the infinite magnificenceof theworksof God,of theelevateddestinyreservedformen, of their duties and their rights to immortality. This is how, from time to time, the American escapes in a way from himself, and how, tearing himself away for a moment from the petty passionsthatagitatehislifeandfromthetransitoryintereststhatfillit ,heenters suddenly into an ideal world where everything is great, pure, eternal. [So I am constantly led to the same subjects by different roads; and I discover more and more the close bond that unites the two parts of my subject.] In another place in this work, I looked for the causes to which the maintenance of political institutions in America had to be attributed, and religion seemed to me one of the principal ones. Today, when I am concerned with individuals, I find religion again and notice that it is no less useful to each citizen than to the whole State. The Americans show, by their practice, that they feel the entire necessity of moralizing democracy by religion. What they think in this regard about themselves is a truth that must penetrate every democratic nation. I do not doubt that the social and political constitution of a people disposes them to certain beliefs and to certain tastes in which they easily abound afterward; while these same causes turn them away from certain opinions and certain tendencies without their workingat itthemselves,and so to speak without their suspecting it. All the art of the legislator consists in clearly discerning in advance these natural inclinations of human societies, in order to know where the effort of the citizens must be aided, and where it would instead be necessary to slow it down. For these obligations differ according to the times. Only the end toward which humanity must always head is unchanging; the means to reach that end constantly vary. [⫽There are vices or erroneous opinions that can only be established 956 religious beliefs and nonmaterial enjoyments among a people by struggling against the general current of society. These are not to be feared; they must be considered as unfortunate accidents. But there are others that, having a natural rapport with the very constitution of the people, develop by themselves and effortlessly among the people. Those, however small they may be at their beginning and howeverrarethey seem, deserve...


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