A Toy for Religious Dandies and a Tool for Designing Men

“I love religion, with all my soul, where it is sincere; but abhor, above all things, the pretense or abuse of it, to advance any purpose but those that regard the other world.” 

Letter of Sir Charles Wogan to Jonathan Swift (February 27, 1732) [1]

The pretense of religion is a false claim to piety in one’s self.  The abuse of religion is a false appeal to piety in others.  The former is the hypocrisy of vain men who covet praise.  The later is the hypocrisy of vulpine men who covet power.   The common mark of both, as Wogan says, is that their purposes lie in this world, the one in outward shows and the other in secret stratagems.  This is the essence of Christ’s criticism of the decadent religion of his day.  It had degraded into a toy for religious dandies and a tool for designing men.


[1]) Jonathan Swift, Works, vol. 17 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1884), vol. 17, pp. 423-469, quote p. 466

9 thoughts on “A Toy for Religious Dandies and a Tool for Designing Men

  1. “to advance any purpose but those that regard the other world.”

    In the ancient world they had two religions each before Christianity. The worship of the state apporved gods for the maintenance of the state, and the mystery cults for afterlife belief. Christianity in imposing One Only God destroyed that natural ordering of religion, resulting in one religion for afterlife concerns and maintenance of the state. Meaning the state ends up medddling in afterlife concern. But that was too much so people revolted and created secular states, and we see how that worked out. We must realize the priblem is not merely secularization. The problem is also that we need two religions, one for state stuff and one for afterlife, and this requires polytheism.
    People need polytheism. And if you take it away from them, they simulate it. Their Lady of Fatima, for example. Worshipping apes who pass a ball around. Worshipping comic book stuperheroes. Etc. We need that natural division into two religions that Rome had before Jews imposed Christianity to merge the two into one jn preparation to centuries later get rid of both.

    • Must each state religion be polytheistic, or is your polytheism a matter of different gods for different states? My sense is that polytheism always ends up positing some sort of ultimate Brahma behind all the avatars and demigods. I think you are right that a state requires a cult and cannot rest on pure transactional rationality.

      • I don’t think transactional is the only rationality. Apes are both social and transactional most sexually most life forms have developed a two pronged strategy that to greater and lesser extent account for things like moral hazard cheating defect. It’s a delicate dance that may not be able to be written in stone having “evolved by chance “
        So what if reason is used to recognize this and that is because while genes are only passed through individuals rarely can we survive without a social structure if only from which to choose a mate. So imagine a rational religion ie state philosophy that good is the preservation of the noblest individual and the health of the social network they require to live and ascend to godhood or ubermenchen as you prefer. Part of this high wire act require the recognition of the diminishing returns the larger the social construct

    • I would have thought “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” kind of took care of that. The problem isn’t the lack of a civil religion – those abound. The problem is the right ordering of those religions – the afterlife one takes precedence because the afterlife is for keeps. So the problems arise not from lack of two religions, but the ordering of the temporal over the eternal.

      • But there’s also a confusion between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. Often times what belongs to Caesar is presented as belonging to God in order to give supernatural police power over behavior which props up the state.

    • Polytheism is false; therefore, polytheism cannot be the natural order. Monotheism is true; therefore, monotheism must be the natural order.

  2. Pingback: Render Unto Caesar | Winston Scrooge

  3. Yeah but, not for nothing but,
    the evolutionary purpose of religion like all CULTure, IS designing men!
    -Except of course the one true religion which happens to be dysgenic so that can’t be it’s purpose. Then again it’s only dysgenic to European people and almighty convenient to ((( others)))

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