Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter eight: Another Effect of the Axiom That the People Must Have a Religion - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter eight: Another Effect of the Axiom That the People Must Have a Religion - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Another Effect of the Axiom That the People Must Have a Religion
The axiom that the people must have a religion is furthermore of all things the one most calculated to destroy all religion. The people are alerted by a rather sure instinct as to what is going on over their heads. The cause of this instinct is the same one which gives children, servants, and all the dependent classes their insight. Their interest enlightens them as to the secret thoughts of those in charge of their destiny. It is counting too much on the people’s good will to hope they will believe for long what their leaders refuse to believe. I know that atheistic governors with superstitious subjects seem to some statesmen the ideal model today. This sweet chimera cannot be realized, however. The sole result of their endeavor is that the people, seeing them to be unbelievers, break off from their religion without knowing why. What these men gain by prohibiting discussion is to stop people from being enlightened, but not from being impious. This they become by imitation. They treat religion as a foolish thing, as trickery, and each person hands it down to his social inferiors, who in their turn hasten to push it down even further. Thus it declines, more degraded, every day. It was less threatened, and above all less debased, when it was attacked from all sides. It could take refuge in the depths of sensitive souls. Vanity did not fear to seem foolish nor to be demeaning itself by respecting religion.
 This is still not all. When a government lends its lofty assistance to a fallen religion in this way, the recognition it demands completes the abasement. Religion is no longer that divine power, coming down from heaven to amaze and reform the world. It is a timid slave and humble dependent which prostrates itself before government, watches its gestures, asks for its orders, flatters the thing which despises it, and teaches the peoples eternal truths only at the government’s pleasure. Its priests, trembling at the foot of their servile altars, stammer in censored words. They do not dare to make the old truths ring out in the accents of courage and conscience. And far from speaking, like Bossuet, to the great of this world, in the name of a God who judges kings, in their terror, under the eye of a disdainful master, they try to work out how they should speak of their God.