Religion and the Modern State

EXCERPTS FROM: Religion and the Modern State, 1935
Christopher Dawson

Note: Some of these quotes that are on the same page do not necessarily succeed one another. And unfortunately there are some thoughts here that presuppose the familiarity of the context. Nevertheless, they are still worth reading even without having read the chapter.

Page 45. We have seen that the most striking feature of the new political order is the increasing claims of the State on the individual. The sphere of action of the State has grown steadily larger until it now threatens to embrace the whole of human life and to leave nothing whatsoever outside its competence.

The abolition of war, the destruction of poverty, the control of the birthrate, the elimination of the unfit- these are questions which the statesman of the past would no more have dared to meddle with than the course of the seasons or the movements of the stars: yet they are all vital political issues today and some of them figure on the agenda of our political parties.

46. The most important step in this advance was undoubtedly the introduction of universal compulsory education; for that put into the hands of the State the power and responsibility of forming the minds of the youth of the nation.

48. The new type of political authority is the dictatorship not of man but of party. It is, however, something very different from the political parties that we know in democratic countries. It is organized in a hierarchical fashion. That is to say it is based on authority, discipline and subordination, It demands complete obedience and unlimited devotion from its members, who may have to undergo a period of probation before their admission and who may be degraded in rank, or expelled from the party altogether, if they show signs of disloyalty and inefficiency.

54. Nevertheless, I have already pointed out, the same forces that are for government control and social uniformity are at work also in the U,S,A,, and it seems to me highly probably that these forces will result in the formation of a Totalitarian State which bears the same relation to Anglo-Saxon political and social traditions, as the Nazi State bears to the traditions of Prussia and Central Europe. Such a State might be nominally Socialist…

55. The new State will be universal and omnipotent. It will mould the mind and guide the life of its citizens from the cradle to the grave. It will not tolerate any interference with its educational functions by any sectarian organization, even though the latter is based on religious convictions. And this is the more serious, since the introduction of psychology into education has made the schoolmaster a spiritual guide as well as the trainer of the mind. In fact it seems as though the school of the future must increasingly usurp the functions that the Church exercised in the past, and that the teaching profession will take the place of the clergy as the spiritual power of the future.

Nor will the State confine its educational activities to the training of the young. It will more and more tend to control public opinion in general by its organs of instruction and propaganda. We have already gone a long way towards the nationalization and public control broadcasting, and I believe the time is not far distant when similar methods will be applied to the control of the Press, and the Cinema. It is obvious that a Totalitarian State, whether of the Fascist or the democratic type, cannot afford to leave so great a power of influencing public opinion in private hands, and the fact that the control of the popular Press and of the film industry is often in unworthy hands gives the State a legitimate excuse to intervene. The whole tendency of modern civilization is, in fact, to concentrate the control of opinion in a few hands…As our civilization becomes more completely mechanized it becomes easier to control, and the organs of control become more centralized. It is true that these things are not usually regarded as having much relevance to the religious issue. But we may ask ourselves- do people go to the cinema or to church? Does not the cinema take the place that was formerly occupied by church and chapel? Has not Hollywood got a distinct ethic of its own which influences the minds of its audiences? Is this ethic in any sense Christian?

56. Regarding the new State: They will govern the whole life. It will be impossible to go one’s own way, as in the old days, and leave the State in control of politics. For there will be no department of life in which the State will not intervene and which will not be obliged to conform to the mechanized order of the new society.

57. This is the situation that Christians have to face. The great danger we have to meet is not the danger of violent persecution but rather that of the crushing out of religion from modern life by the sheer weight of a State-inspired public opinion and by the mass organization of society on a purely secular basis. Such a state of existence has never occurred before because the State has never been powerful enough to control every side of social life.

The coming conflict is not one between religion and secular civilization but rather “between the God-religious and the social-religious,”—in other words between the worship of God and the cult of the State…

58. Communism is not simply a form of political organization; it is an economy, a philosophy and a creed. And its hostility to Christianity is due not to its political form, but to the philosophy that lies behind it. Communism, in fact, challenges Christianity on its own ground by offering mankind a rival way of salvation. In the words of the Communist poster, “Jesus promised the people paradise after death, but Lenin offers them Paradise on earth.”

Consequently it is in Communism that the latent opposition between the new state and the Christian religion attains its full realization in the social consciousness of our age. For the first time in the world’s history, the Kingdom of the Antichrist has acquired political form and social substance and stands over against the Christian Church as a counter-church with its own dogmas and its own moral standards, ruled by a centralized hierarchy and inspired by an intense will to world conquest.

59. The conflict between Christianity and Marxism- between the Catholic Church and the Communist party –is the vital issue of our time. It is not a rival of economic systems like the systems between Socialism and Capitalism, or of rival political ideals- as with the [Parliamentary system] and Fascism. It is a conflict of rival philosophies and of rival doctrines regarding the very nature of man and society.

64. But as [Conservatism] did not create these moral ideals, so, too, it cannot preserve them. It lives on the spiritual capital that it has inherited from Christian civilization, and as this is exhausted something else must come to take its place. Once society is launched on the path of secularization it cannot stop in the half-way house of [Conservatism]; it must go on to the bitter end, whether the end by Communism or some alternative type of “totalitarian” secularism.

70. The lesson of Bolshevism is that any philosophy is better than no philosophy, and that a regime which possesses of authority, however misconceived it may be, will be stronger than a system that rests on the shifting basis of private interests and private opinions.

71. …what drives men to Communism is not mere economic discontent, not even dissatisfaction with the existing social order. It is something deeper than these- a discontent with human life itself: a divine discontent that can only find full satisfaction in the sphere of religion.

80. History was no longer a mere unintelligible chaos of disconnected events. It had found in the Incarnation a center which gave it significance and order. Viewed from this center the history of humanity became an organic unity. Eternity had entered into time and henceforward the singular and the temporal had acquired an eternal significance.

104. The whole Christian tradition, and the prophetic tradition which lies behind it, are a standing protest against the injustice and falsehood of that which is commonly called civilization. The world which is the natural enemy of the Church is not a moral abstraction; it is an historical reality which finds its embodiment in the empires and world cities of history- in Babylon and Tyre and Rome. Wherever the city of man sets itself up as an end in itself and becomes the center of a self-contained and self-regarding order, it becomes the natural enemy of the city of God.

105. Never before in the history of the world has a civilization been so completely secularized, so confident in its own powers and so sufficient to itself as is our own. The crude and aggressive atheism of the Soviet State is but the logical culmination of a tendency that has characterized the general development of European civilization for the last century and a half. Indeed we may well ask the toleration which is still shown to Christianity by the States of Western Europe is not due to the fact that religion is regarded by them as something politically negligible, and consequently whether it is not really more insulting to Christianity than the open hostility of the Bolsheviks.

105-106. We have to face the prospect of a growing pressure on individual thought and behavior making for the complete secularization of social life. The State will be less tolerant of criticism and differences of opinion in so far as they affect, not only politics, but social conduct of any kind. It aspires more and more to govern the life of the individual, to mould his thought by education and propaganda, and to make him the obedient instrument of his will…The State of the future will be not a policeman, but a nurse, and a schoolmaster and an employer and an officer—in short an earthly providence, an all powerful, omnipotent human god—and a very jealous god at that. We see one form of this in Russia and another in Germany. It may be that we shall see a third in England and America.

106. As I have already pointed out it is not likely that the Western democracies will ever become either Communist or Fascist. But I think it very probable that they will follow a parallel line of development and evolve a kind of democratic etatisme which, while being less arbitrary and inhumane than the other two forms of government, will make just as large a claim on the life of the individual as they do and will demand an equally whole-hearted spiritual allegiance.

107. Religious people are not always very clear-sighted in political matters and nothing is easier for them to mistake the real danger and waste their time attacking that form of secularism which happens to be the most unpopular in their own society, and consequently the least likely to succeed, while they close their eyes to the real source of danger.

109-110. From a Catholic point of view there is a fundamental error in all this. That error is ignoring Original Sin and its consequences or rather the identification of the Fall with some defective political or economic arrangement. If we could destroy the Capitalist system or the power of bankers or that of the Jews, everything in the garden would be lovely.

But as Leo XIII points out in Rerum Novarum all these hopes are built on an illusion, for they ignore the primal curse under which humanity has labored:

“To suffer and to endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity; let them strive as they may, no strength and no artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it. If any there are who pretend differently -- who hold out to a hard-pressed people the boon of freedom from pain and trouble, an undisturbed repose, and constant enjoyment -- they delude the people and impose upon them, and their lying promises will only one day bring forth evils worse than the present. Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere, as We have said, for the solace to its troubles.”

111. It is, however, useless to look for help to the State, for the State is not concerned with life but with the ordering of life and will always be on the side of law and order, of organization and control. The real ally of life and the only true source of spiritual power is to be found in religion. All genuine forms of religious experience and religious action—repentance, asceticism, sacrifice; prayer, contemplation, communion, ecstasy—are vital acts and experiences.

113. Now this society [the Church] is the only Kingdom of God on earth that we have any right to look for, and it is only in our membership of this society that we shall find an answer to the claims of the Totalitarian State. For if the State has become too totalitarian, that is because the average Christian has not been totalitarian enough. He has acquiesced in the secularization of life; he has allowed his own aims to be divided and his religion to become a sectarian affair, cut off from his real interests and his real life. The attempt on the part of the new States to unify life and to tolerate no division of allegiance ought to lead Catholics to unify life in the power of the Spirit and to tolerate no division in their allegiance to Christ the King. No doubt this will involve conflict, but conflict is not a bad thing: it is the condition of life.

115. We must admit that the passion for social justice and national renewal and the spirit of self-dedication to a common cause are good and even holy things. But on the other hand we must recognize that these ideals are neither final or exclusive: that programs of humanitarian or national reform, however successful, will not suffice to conquer the forces of social evil, and that if they are based on false principles they may even prove to be their ally. Above all we must remember that an exclusive and one-sided devotion to a particular object often ends by defeating the very end that it has in view. Just as German militarism ended in military defeat and the Russian Five Year Plan produced a state of general scarcity nor far removed from famine, so, too, an insistence on higher wages may help to increase unemployment, and the campaign for the abolition of poverty may end in the pauperization of a whole society.

116. Humanity labors under a burden of inherited evil which it is powerless of itself to throw off. In St. John’s terrific phrase “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

117. National feeling or the economic interests of a particular class are of themselves formidable powers, but if they are raised to the spiritual plane and as it were deified by the social idealism of Nationalism or Communism, they become monstrous idols which demand human sacrifices on a scale which far surpasses anything to be found in West Africa or ancient Mexico.

118. Christianity refused each of these alternatives [social and political causes of Jews and Greeks], it offered men the answer of the Cross—to the Jews a scandal and to the Greeks foolishness, just as today it is a scandal to the secular reformer and foolishness to the rational idealist. In the life of Christ the power of the world—the “torrent of human custom”—at last met with enough power which it could neither overcome or circumvent,--the irresistible power met the immovable obstacle, and the result was the tragedy of the Cross, a tragedy which seemed at first sight to manifest the triumph of the forces of evil and the victory of the flesh over the spirit, but which was in reality the turning point in the history of humanity and the starting point of a new order.

Christianity literally called a new world into existence to redress the balance of the old. It did not attempt to reform the world, in the sense of the social idealist. It did not start an agitation for the abolition of slavery, or for peace with Parthia. It did not support the claims of the Jews to national self-determination, or the Stoic propaganda for an ideal world state. It left Caesar on his throne and Pilate and Gallio on their judgment seats and went its own way to the new world.

118-119. To the ordinary educated man looking out into the world in A,D. 33 the execution of Sejanus must have appeared much more important than the crucifixion of Jesus, and the attempts of the government to solve the economic crisis by a policy of free credit to producers must have seemed far more promising than the doings of the obscure group of Jewish fanatics in an upper chamber at Jerusalem. Nevertheless, there is no doubt today which was the most important and which availed most to alter the lot of humanity. All the Roman world with power and wealth and culture and corruption sank into blood and ruin—the flood came and destroyed them all—but the other world, the world of the Apostles and Martyrs, the inheritance of the poor, survived the downfall of ancient civilization and became the spiritual foundation of a new order.

120. Apparent success often means spiritual failure, and the way of failure and suffering is the royal road of Christian progress. Wherever the Church has seemed to dominate the world politically and achieves victory within the secular sphere, she has had to pay for it in double measure of temporal and spiritual misfortune.

122. The well-meaning people who talk about the possibility or the necessity of a Christian revolution do not consider where the Christians are to come from who are to carry it out.

Political religion is an offence alike to religion and to politics: it takes from Caesar what belongs to him of right and fills the temple with the noise and dust of the market place. The only really and specifically Christian politics of the world to come, and they transform social life not by competing with secular politics on their own ground but by altering the focus of human thought and opening the closed house of secular culture to the free light and air of a larger and more real world.

The ancient world in the first century B.C. was in dire need of a religious solution, and the wise men of the age provided one in the religious revival of the Augustan age. But since their solution arose directly from the political situation, it provided merely a political remedy. The true solution came from an entirely unsuspected quarter—from an unknown sect and a despised people. But it directly arose out of a religious situation: it was not to answer the political needs of the Roman world, but the fulfillment of the hope of Israel.

124. Religion is the sphere of the absolute, while business and politics belong to the sphere of the relative. Religion is the fixed pole on which human life revolves and to which all its parts must be related.

125. In spite of the oppression and cruelty that marked the ancient State and of the impotence of man to control the evil forces that manifested themselves in social life, men always felt that civilization did not merely exist to serve men’s needs and desires, but it ought to be a sacred order which rests not on the will of man but in the Law of God. When a civilization has entirely abandoned this belief, when it makes itself its own law and its own end and cuts itself off from its roots in the spiritual order, its days are numbered. It is doomed to destruction, not by any external fatality, but by the decay of its own energies and the loss of its social vitality.

But in so far as these social faiths themselves forward the complete secularization of culture, they are digging their own graves and that of the civilization which they dominate. As the religious passes out of them with the growing secularization of culture, they lose their power over men’s minds and descend to the level of practical politics, as for instance continental Liberalism has done during the last generation. And as the vision fades, society is left to itself with no faith or no hope to sustain it, and man is brought once again face to face with the vanity of human existence and the worthlessness of human achievement.

If this is so, it is clear that the true social function of religion is not to busy itself with economic or political reforms, but to save civilization from itself by revealing to men the true end of life and the true nature of reality.

126. If the light is hidden, we cannot blame the world outside of ignoring it. It is, of course, possible that men may know Christianity and still reject it, but in the great majority of cases the men who follow the new Secularist ideals of life and regard Christianity as discredited are men who have never known it as a living reality, but have been acquainted with it only at secondhand or in distorted forms.

Nevertheless, sectarianism is by no means solely responsible for the failure of religion in the modern world. An even more widely spread cause is the indifference and apathy which spring from a mechanical and lifeless acceptance of religion as a matter of course. When the practice of religion becomes a matter of social conformity, it is powerless to change the world. Indeed, the men who are religious because society expects them to be, will be irreligious for the same reason in a secular society.

127. Christians should remember that it is not the business of the Church to do the same thing as the State—to build a kingdom like the other kingdoms of men, only better; not to create a reign of earthly peace and justice. The Church exists to be the light of the world, and to fulfill its function the world will be transformed in spite of all the obstacles that human powers place in the way. A secularist culture can only exist, so to speak, in the dark. It is a prison which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanism that has been constructed for living in the dark becomes useless.

142. The fundamental primacy of the soul, the subordination of the State and the whole temporal order to spiritual ends, and the conception of humanity as, in the words of St. Thomas, a great community or republic under the rule of God were formerly accepted as the unquestioned principles of the European social order.

After the Reformation, however, this was no longer the case. Not only was Christendom divided, but its energies were so absorbed in religious controversy that it was powerless to check the progressive secularization of culture. The sectarianizing of Christianity led to the secularizing of the State and to the increasing subordination of human life to economic ends.

143. What we are suffering from is the morbid growth of a selfish civilization which has no end beyond itself—a monstrous cancer that destroys the face of nature and eats into the heart of humanity. As in the days of ancient Rome, but on a far larger scale, men have made themselves the master of this world, and find themselves left with nothing but their own sterile lusts. For this leisure civilization in which the people sit down to eat and drink and rise up to play is the dark world which has turned its face from God and from which God’s face is hidden. It is terrible not only on the account of its emptiness but because there is a positive power of evil waiting to fill the void, like the unclean spirit in the parable that came out of the waste places in to the empty soul.

144. The only true solution must be a religious one which will restore man’s spiritual freedom and liberate him from the world of darkness and the kingdom of death. And it is this that the real answer of Christianity to the social needs of the modern world is to be found. It is often objected that Christianity fails to find a remedy for our modern difficulties and that it has no clear-cut solutions for the political and economic problems of the present age. And this is in a true sense, in as much as it is not the business of Christianity to solve the political and social problems except in so far as these problems become moral and religious. There is no Christian economic system that can be compared with the Capitalist system or with Communist economics. There is not even a Christian State in the absolute sense, there are only States that are more or less Christian and all more or less different from one another…

145. Christianity is not merely a social religion, it is in its essence a society, and it is only in the life of this One Body that the individual human being can attain his true end. But this society is not a State or an economic organization. It is a society of the world to come, the Bride of God, and the mystical body of Christ. Consequently Christian sociology is also theology. It is the theory of this divine society through and through which alone the true destiny of the human race can be realized. All other societies are partial and relative ones—they exist to serve the temporary needs of humanity and to organize and protect the natural foundations on which the supernatural structure of the one absolute society is built up. As soon as they make themselves the absolute ends of human life they become counter-churches, representative of that City of Man which to the end of time makes war upon the City of God.

A Christian State is not marked by any particular political institutions, it is a State that recognizes Christian ends, and consequently recognizes its own limitations.

146. There has never been a time when a society has been completely Christian; Christianity has never been more than leaven working in the world, and its work is never finished. The Roman Empire had hardly ceased to be pagan before it found itself Arian. The Christianization of Western Europe was hardly complete when the Reformation came. The Church does not wait until she finds a sound foundation of natural truth and natural virtue and then proceed to cultivate supernatural faith and virtue. She sows her seed broadcast among publicans and harlots, in the corruption of the Roman and Hellenistic cities, in the welter of barbarism and violence of the Dark Ages, in the slums of Manchester and New York.

149. Regarding religion as a private matter: Such ideas are natural enough to those who believe that the State is the only and ultimate society and that the Church is simply a limited organization for religious worship and instruction. But for a Christian who believes in a divine and universal society all such ideas are blasphemy against Christ the King. The Church is the true society, the goal of humanity, the only society that answers the universal needs of the human soul, and the one order that is destined to incorporate everything that is of permanent value in history. It differs from all other societies in that it transcends the limitations of time and the barriers of race and secular culture. It unites the past in living communion with the present, so that we will draw our life from the undying spiritual activity of the faithful of every age.

150. But while the Church is the bearer of life to humanity it depends on the individual members of the Church whether they will be merely the passive recipients of this gift or whether they will be the agents of its diffusion in the world. All the tragedies of Christendom arose from the failure of individual Christians to rise to their opportunities and to permeate their life and their social and intellectual culture by faith. Wherever Christians cease to be active, when they rest in a passive acquiescence in what they have received, Christianity tends to lose contact with contemporary culture and the world drifts away from the Church.

The Christian tradition contains an infinite depth of spiritual resources, but these possibilities can only be realized and actualized in a Christian culture by the dynamic activity of individual Christians. The supreme example of this vital religious action is to be seen in the Saints, in whom alone the potentialities of Christianity are fully realized. And their action is not limited, as we sometimes suppose, to the sphere of their supernatural virtues, it flows out into the world and shows itself in social activity and intellectual culture. Whenever there has been a great outburst of spiritual activity it has been followed by a fresh development of Catholic thought and culture.

151. If every Christian has an intellectual grasp of Christian principles and a living interest in his religion it will be impossible to suppress Christianity even in a Communist State.

Everywhere today the ruling forces in civilization seem to be converging against the Christian tradition. Modern civilization is not only ceasing to be Christian; it is setting itself up as an anti-religion which will tolerate no rival, and which claims to be sole master of the world. Never, perhaps, in the whole of its history has the People of God seemed to be weaker and more scattered, and more at the mercy of its enemies than it is today. Yet this is no reason for us to despair. The Christian law of progress is the very reverse of that of the world. When the Church possesses all the marks of external power and success, then is its hour of danger; and when it seems that no human power can save it, the time of its deliverance is at hand. Christianity began with a startling failure, and the sign in which it conquered was the Cross on which its Founder was executed. The more persecution and unpopularity strip off the coating of human prestige that has gathered round the Church in the days of its temporal prosperity, the more room will there be for the development of its inherent spiritual vitality.

152. And while the City of God is stronger than it appears to be, the city of man is weaker. The forces that appear to make human civilization so irresistible—its wealth, its economic organization, and its military power—are essentially hollow, and crumble to dust as soon as the human purpose that animates them loses its strength. The real forces that rule the world are spiritual ones, and every empire and civilization waits for the hour when the sentence of the watchers goes forth and its kingdom is numbered and finished. The spiritual life goes out of its social traditions and institutions and a new age is begun. Thus from age to age the divine purpose towards the human race is carried on, and even the civilization which appears to resist that purpose is the unwilling servant of a power that it does not recognize.

Communism and the Western Conscience, 1948
Bishop Fulton Sheen

126. If a time ever comes when the religious Jews, Protestants, and Catholics have to suffer under a totalitarian state denying them the right to worship God according to the light of their conscience, it will be because for years they thought it no difference what kind of people represented them in Congress, and because they never opposed the spiritual truth to the materialistic lie.

15. It is characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. Humanity in crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times…The basic reason for this false optimism he attributes to the fact that our civilization is mechanical rather than organic.

22. Satan’s logic: His logic is simple: if there is no heaven there is no hell; if there is no hell, then there is no sin; if there is no sin, then there is no judge; and if there is no judge then evil is good and good is evil.

39. Our Lord intended that His followers should be different in spirit from those who were not His followers. “I have taken you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19) Though this is the Divine Intent, it is unfortunately true that the line of demarcation between the followers of Christ and those who are not is often blotted out. Instead of black and white, there is only a blur. Mediocrity and compromise characterize the lives of many Christians. Many read the same novels as modern pagans, educate their children in the same godless way, listen to the same commentators who have no other standard than judging today by yesterday and tomorrow by today, allow pagan practices such as divorce and remarriage to creep into the family…There is no longer any conflict and opposition which is supposed to characterize us. We are influencing the world less than the world is influencing us.

40. “The value of a trial will be to set us apart. Evil must come to reject us, to despise us, to hate us, to persecute us, and then shall we define our loyalties, affirm our fidelities and state on whose side we stand.” “Our quantity will indeed decrease, but our quality will increase. Then shall be verified the words of our Master: “He that gathers not with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30)

41. Quote on Germany

44. Christians realize that a moment of crisis is not a time of despair, but of opportunity. The more we can anticipate the doom, the more we can avoid it. Once we recognize we are under Divine Wrath, we become eligible for Divine Mercy.

123. Communism is not just an economic system; it is a philosophy of life.

The Christian point of view is to see ourselves as part of the guilty world. In fact, the more innocent we are, the more we are to feel that guilt.

124. Our mission is not exclusively to protest against the evils or our materialistic civilization, not merely to challenge its assumptions, or even diminish its severities- but in some way see ourselves as citizens of a guilty world.

There is no thought more salutary in the present crisis than the recognition that much of it is due to our own unfulfilled Christian duties.

125. A nation always gets the kind of politicians it deserves. When our moral standards are different, our legislation will be different. As long as the decent people refuse to believe that morality must manifest in every sphere of human activity, including the political, they will not meet the challenge of Marxism.

The apathy of the electorate to moral leadership is always reflected in the apathy of their politicians.

136. Many follow communism not because they are convinced that it is right, but because they have a hidden hate against something or somebody. Those who feel individually impotent to vent their hate upon a person or a class or an institution feel that if they joined communism they could find a corporate expression for their pent-up animosities and their dammed-up hate.

137. The more he subconsciously feels the wrong he has done, the more violent will be his opposition to religion. That is why the greatest persecutors of religion are those that have been baptized. The corruption of the best is the worst. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Marx were all baptized and fell away.

138. Because they became disillusioned with their freedom, which produced chaos in their souls, they for a Communist dictatorship outside of themselves to organize their chaos. Because they lost the power of self regulation from within, they seek a Communist-imposed regulation from without…[In] communism they can have a seeming sense of righteousness and justice by hating the wrongs of others without any obligation to better their own individual lives.

149/150. Unless America reverses the attitude toward the family and ceases to try to make a success in the domain wherein Russia proved to be a failure, then apart from all moral and religious considerations, three disastrous consequences will follow: First of all, America will be in danger of becoming a nation of traitors. If the nation reaches a condition where 50 percent of the married couples feel that they can throw overboard pledged loyalty in order to suit their own pleasure or convenience, then the hour has struck when citizens will no longer feel a need to keep their pledge to America as citizens. Once there is a citizenry that does not feel bound to the most natural and most democratic of all self-governing commonwealths, the home, it will not be long until it no longer feels bound to a nation…The traitors of the home today are the traitors of the home tomorrow.

A second possible danger to a nation that does not arrest the decay of the family is the creation of a mentality that will refuse to make sacrifices, suffer trials and inconveniences for the sake of the protection of the country…The fewer sacrifices a man is required to make, the more loath he is to make those few. His luxuries will become necessities, children a burden, and ego a god…Once sacrifice is separated from the home, sacrifice is uprooted from its nation.

152. If our birthrate should again decrease as it did 15 years ago, and that decrease should continue, would we not become the prey of other nations? History does not reveal the survival of a single nation with a declining birthrate in a moment of trial and crisis. On the occasion of the fall of France in 1940, a French general gave the failure of the family to perpetuate itself as the basic reason for the nation’s debacle. In 150 B.C. Polybius, in writing about the decline of Greece, said: “For the evil of depopulation grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting our attention, by our men becoming perverted to a passion of show and money, and pleasure of an evil life, and accordingly either not marrying at all, or if they did marry, refusing to rear children that were born, or at most, one or two out of the great numbers, for the sake of leaving their well-being assured, and bringing them up in extravagant luxury. The result, houses are left heirless, and like swarms of flies, little by little, the cities become sparsely inhabited and weak.”

The decline of the population always begins with the economic top; those who could most afford to have children do not. The group less economically blessed produces more. Soon the infection against the family spreads from those in high economic brackets to those below, and a civilization goes into decline. There is no doubt the State will claim more power for itself as the family declines, but the state and society are not identical. As the vital energy of society goes into decline, the mechanized bureaucratic machinery grows by leaps and bounds…Invasion was a possibility from the time Roman morals began to decline

153. Thirdly, the decline in the family is intrinsically bound up with the decline of democracy…When a nation ceases to put the highest value on the home, it will not be long before it ceases to put a value on a person.

159. The condition of receiving peace is the rebirth of passion.

160. Once the world, like Pilate, gives Christ and Barabbas, virtue and vice, good and evil an equal hearing, and allows a vote to determine which will be chosen, there is no need to count the ballots.

Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America, 1840-45

532. When the religion of a people is destroyed, doubt gets hold of the highest portions of the mind, and half paralyzes all the rest of its powers. Every man accustoms himself to entertain none but confused and changing notions on the subjects most interesting to his fellow-creatures and himself. His opinions are ill-defended and easily abandoned: and, despairing of ever resolving by himself the hardest problems of the destiny of man, he thinks no more about them. Such a condition cannot but enfeeble the soul, relax the springs of the will, and prepare a people for servitude. Nor does it only happen, in such a case, that they allow their freedom to be taken from them; they frequently themselves surrender it. When there is no longer any principle of authority in religion anymore than in politics, men are easily frightened at the aspect of this unbounded independence. The constant agitation of all surrounding things alarms and exhausts them. As everything is at sea in the sphere of the intellect, they determine at least that the mechanism of society should be firm and fixed; and as they cannot resume their ancient belief, they assume a master.

868. If despotism were to be established amongst the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them.

870. [Under such despotism] the will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

839. As the conditions of men become more equal among a people, individuals seem of less importance, of society of greater dimensions; or rather, every citizen, being assimilated to all the rest, is lost in the crowd, and nothing stands conspicuous but the great and imposing image of the people at large

849. Hence the concentration of power and the subjection of individuals will increase among democratic nations, not in the same proportion as their equality, but in the same portion as their ignorance.

560. If the light by which we are guided is ever extinguished, it will dwindle by degrees, and expire of itself. By dint of close adherence to mere applications, principles would be lost sight of; and the principles were wholly forgotten, the methods derived from them would be ill-pursued. New methods could no longer be invented, and when would continue to apply, without intelligence, and without art, scientific processes no longer understood.

532. The greatest advantage of religion is to inspire diametrically contrary principles. Religious nations are naturally strong on the very point on which democratic nations are weak.

305. In America the majority raises very formidable barriers to the liberty of opinion: within these barriers an author may write whatever he pleases, but he will repent if he ever step beyond them …He yields at length, oppressed by the daily efforts he been making, and he subsides into silence, as if he was tormented by remorse for having spoken the truth.

519. The nearer the citizens are drawn to the common level of an equal and similar condition, the less prone does each man become to place implicit faith in a certain man or a certain class of men. But his readiness to believe the multitude increases and opinion is more than ever mistress of the world. At periods of equality men have no faith in one another, by reason of their common resemblance, but this very resemblance gives them almost unbounded confidence in the judgment of the public; for it would not seem probable, as thy are all endowed with equal means of judging, but that the greater truth should go with the greater number.

358. When a religion founds its empire upon the desire of immortality which lives in every human heart, it may aspire to universal dominion; but when it connects itself to a government…it forfeits the hope of reigning over all. As long as a religion rests upon those sentiments which are the consolation of all afflictions, it may attract the affections of mankind. But if it is mixed up with the bitter passions of the world, it may be constrained to defend allies whom its interests, and not the principle of love, have given to it…the Church cannot share the temporal power of the State without being the object of a portion of that hatred which the State excites. Again, when religion clings to the interests of the world, it becomes almost as fragile a thing as the powers of earth.

347. Amongst the various sects of Christianity, Catholicism seems to me to be one of those which are most favorable to the equality of conditions. In the Catholic Church, the religious community is composed of only two elements, the priests and the people. The priest alone rises above the rank of his flock, all below him are equal. On doctrinal points the Catholic faith places all human capacities upon the same level; it subjects the wise and the ignorant, the man of genius and the vulgar crowd, to the details of the same creed; it imposes the same observances upon the rich and needy, it inflicts the same austerities upon the strong and the weak, it listens to no compromise with mortal man, but, reducing all the human race to one standard, it confounds all the distinctions of society at the foot of the same altar, even as they are confounded in the sight of God. If Catholicism predisposes the faithful to obedience, it certainly does not prepare them for inequality; but the contrary may be said of Protestantism, which generally tends to make men independent, more than to render them equal.

540. America is the most democratic country in the world and at the same time it is the country in which the Roman Catholic religion makes the most progress. Men living in democratic ages are very prone to shake off all religious authority; but if they consent to subject to themselves to any authority of this kind, they choose that it should be single and uniform. Religious powers not radiating from a common center are naturally repugnant to their minds…The men of our day are naturally disposed to believe; but as soon as they any religion, they immediately find in themselves a latent desire which urges them unconsciously towards Catholicism. Many of the doctrines and the practices of the Roman Catholic Church astonish them; but they feel a secret admiration for its discipline, its great unity attracts them…our posterity will tend more and more to a single division in two parts- some relinquishing Christianity entirely, and others returning to the bosom of the Catholic Church.

Tocqueville: The safeguard of morality is the best security of law and the surest pledge of freedom.

104. Patriotism and religion are the only two motives in the world which can permanently direct the whole of a body politic to one end.

518. The independence of individual minds may be greater, or it may be less: unbounded it cannot be. Thus the question is, not to know whether any intellectual authority exists in a democracy, but simply where it resides and by what standard it is to measured.

672 Materialism is, amongst all nations, a dangerous disease of the human mind; but it is more especially to be dreaded amongst a democratic people…Democracy encourages a taste for physical gratification: this taste, if it becomes excessive, soon disposes all men to believe that all is matter only; and materialism, in turn, hurries them back with these same delights: such is the fatal circle within which democratic nations are driven round. It were well that they should see the danger and hold back.

617. Evils of equality are not as immediately felt as freedom.

667. In their intense and exclusive anxiety to make a fortune, they lose sight of the close connection which exists between the private fortune of each of them and the prosperity of all. It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. The discharge of their political duties appears to them to be a troublesome and annoyance, which diverts them from their occupation and business. These people think they are following the principle of self-interest, but the idea they entertain of that principle is a very rude one; and the better to look after what they call their business, they neglect their chief business, which is to remain their own masters.

668. When the bulk of the community is engrossed by private concerns, the smallest party need not despair of getting the upper hand in public affairs. At such times it is not rare to see upon the great stage of the world, as we see at our theaters, a multitude represented by a few players, who alone speak in the name of an absent inattentive crowd: they alone are in action while the rest are stationary; they regulate everything by their own caprice; they change the laws, and tyrannize at will over the manners of the country; and then men wonder how small a number of weak and worthless hands a great people may fall.
662. He who has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach it, grasp it, and enjoy it.

555. Men who live in democratic countries not only seldom indulge in meditation, but they naturally entertain very little esteem for it.

520. In the US the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are then relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.

521. In the principles of equality, there are two tendencies: the one leading every man to untried thoughts, the other inclined to prohibit him from thinking at all.

678. In proportion as the light of faith grows dim, the range of man’s sight is shortened, as if the goal of his actions is before him. When men have once allowed themselves to think no more of what is to befall them after life, they readily lapse into that complete and brutal indifference to the future. As soon as they lost the habit of placing their hopes upon remote events [death and heaven], they naturally seek to gratify without delay their smallest desires; and no sooner do they despair of living forever, than they are disposed to act as if they were to exist but for a single day. In skeptical ages it is always therefore to be feared that men may perpetually give way to their daily casual desires; and that, wholly renouncing whatever cannot be acquired without great effort, they may establish nothing great, permanent, and calm.

Ancient Rome and Modern America
By: Guglielmo Ferrero. 1914

92. A civilization is not always in reality richer and stronger in times when it bears the most visible marks of so being. We are rather apt to find that when it is most dazzling and outward seeming, its decadence has already begun.

We think of how great the powerful and rich which could rear monuments so massive that all the centuries have not sweep them under the face of the earth and yet we are to look at these relics in their right light, we must remember all the great roman monuments whose remains survive to our day on a large scale belong to the third and fourth and fifth century of the Christian era, to the centuries of decadence and disillusionment. As the empire weakens, and ages, its monuments become more and more elaborate and colossal.

93. In families as in nations and civilizations, ostentation, and display, the doing on a grand scale everything, even what might be done on a small scale without detriment, or even advantageously, are a sign of decadence rather than of progress. Passion for the colossal and the enormous is not a healthy passion; nor does it flourish in epochs of strength and sound morals and social equilibrium. It is a passion which thrives in epochs of decadence; epochs convulsed by a deep seated disproportion between desires and reality, a thirst for excitements and violent sensations, lavish in the expenditure of labor, and of wealth to procure a fallacious illusion of grandeur and power, spurred on by a spirit of rivalry and of competition., which easily degenerates into false pride.

96. If after twenty centuries of work and study, we find ourselves fortunate heirs of an ancient civilization in a position to live more safely and more comfortably than did our ancestors on this little globe, we are not therefore justified in altering the moral values and virtues to suite our pleasures. The vices, the faults, the depraved inclinations of 20 centuries ago remain the same today. And modern civilization would be guilty of the gravest of errors if, deaf to the great lessons preached by the ruins of Rome, she boasted of those very defects which destroyed in the ancient world one of greatest works of human energy history has to offer.