“A religion is, among other things, a mode of moral government. The historian does not ask if a theology is true—through what omniscience might he judge? Rather he inquires what social and psychological factors combined to produce the religion; how well it accomplished the purpose of turning beasts into men, savages into citizens, and empty hearts into hopeful courage and minds at peace; how much freedom it still left to the mental development of mankind; and what was its influence in history.”

—Will Durant, The Age of Faith

“Render possessions ever so equal, men’s different degrees of art, care, and industry will immediately break that equality. Or if you check these virtues, you reduce society to the most extreme indigence; and instead of preventing want and beggary in a few, render it unavoidable to the whole community. The most rigorous inquisition too is requisite to watch every inequality on its first appearance; and the most severe jurisdiction, to punish and redress it. But besides, that so much authority must soon degenerate into tyranny, and be exerted with great partialities; who can possibly be possessed of it, in such a situation as is here supposed?”

—David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

“All this might astonish me; but I would still reply, that the knavery and folly of men are such common phenomena, that I should rather believe the most extraordinary events to arise from their concurrence, than admit of so signal a violation of the laws of nature.”

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

“Just as good customs require laws in order to be maintained, so laws require good customs in order to be observed.”

—Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy (Bondanella translation)

“A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”

—John Stuart Mill, “The Contest in America,” Harper’s Magazine

“How can there be any plenty where every man will excuse himself from labour? for as the hope of gain doth not excite him, so the confidence that he has in other men’s industry may make him slothful. If people come to be pinched with want, and yet cannot dispose of anything as their own, what can follow upon this but perpetual sedition and bloodshed….”

—Sir Thomas More, Utopia

“During the past twenty years, the negative, fainéant outlook which has been fashionable among English left-wingers, the sniggering of the intellectuals at patriotism and physical courage, the persistent effort to chip away English morale and spread a hedonistic, what-do-I-get-out-of-it attitude to life, has done nothing but harm.  It would have been harmful even if we had been living in the squashy League of Nations universe that these people imagined.  In an age of fuehrers and bombing planes it was a disaster.  However little we may like it, toughness is the price of survival.”

—George Orwell, “The Lion and the Unicorn

“It is the interest of every man to live as much at his ease as he can; and if his emoluments are to be precisely the same, whether he does, or does not perform some very laborious duty, it is certainly his interest, at least as interest is vulgarly understood, either to neglect it altogether, or, if he is subject to some authority which will not suffer him to do this, to perform it in as careless and slovenly a manner as that authority will permit.”

—Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

“The sects that exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God. If it be of the highest importance to man, as an individual, that his religion should be true, it is not so to society. Society has no future life to hope for or to fear; and provided the citizens profess a religion, the peculiar tenets of that religion are of little importance to its interests.”

—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Bowen-Bradley translation)

1 comment:

  1. Update: Several of these Musings are on the utility of religion in instilling the virtues needed for a free republic to thrive. However wise such Musings may have been when originally made, they now seem increasingly to acquiesce in the diminution of human happiness. The Bible is not only untrue, it is also horribly immoral in the conduct its God endorses. As Hitchens has more recently and more profoundly mused, the God of the Bible is the most evil character in all fiction.