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The progressive numbers in the text refer to the Key to the Quotations
at the end of the volume.
o seeing man possessed of even half an eye, will be disposed to dispute that our present age is a thoroughly irreligious one. Even the religion which men still profess to follow, almost everywhere has degenerated into a mere affair of external observances. Above all, this irreligiousness has laid hold of the lower classes of the population whose idol to a very large extent has become Lenin, the deceased leader of the Russian Communists who declared all religion to be opium from which the people, but most of all, the youth, to-day as well as to-morrow, must be delivered. For the irreligious man, however, there exists only his present form of existence, which precisely therefore becomes for him the summation of all possible possessions. From this mental attitude there springs an unbridled impulsion towards making the very most of this present fleeting form of existence. Hence the vast majority of men abandon themselves to the grossest sensual enjoyments. They have no feeling save only for the pleasures of a well-filled stomach, the delights of lust, the satisfaction of personal vanity in all its varied manifestation, and the titillations of a sensuous art in common or refined forms. Even science has turned entirely in this direction in its endeavour, as the so-called "applied sciences," to produce the means required for the satisfaction of this craving of the senses.
In the satisfaction of this craving men do not shrink from the exploitation, nay, the spoliation, of the economically weaker. Hence those weaker are little by little filled with deeper illwill against their exploiters. To remove their weakness they "organise" themselves. Against them the masters also organise themselves; and thus the combat of individual against individual has become a war of the different classes of mankind against one another. The war of species in the animal kingdom finds its resurrection among men in the shape of the class war.
At the present day, this social war rages throughout entire civilised humanity. What in the normal course of things will be the final issue, cannot be a matter of much doubt. The proletariat is not only superior in numbers, but in the compulsory military service which the possessing classes themselves forced upon them, they have been given the physical weapon, in manhood suffrage the political weapon, and in compulsory education the mental weapon. And thus the whole of civilised humanity is driving on towards the red revolution, is going the way of Russia, in whose present condition some States, of course, will land earlier, and some later. This red world revolution will constitute the great danger of the future. The terrible spectre of the social question will tower giant-high into the heavens, and with its awesome shadow outdarken all others. To avert the final catastrophe there exists only one resource, as surely as there is only one effective means of releasing the tension of that spring which impels to the social warfare found in the unbounded craving for ever more refined forms of sensual enjoyment. This sole means resides in giving back again to mankind religion, and to the upper strata of humanity no less than to the lower. For religion opens out to man the prospect of survival after death, and thereby requires of him that he no longer direct his efforts toward the utmost
possible unrestrained satisfaction of his sense cravings, but also take into account the consequences that in a future life may follow upon such brutal egoism. The religious consciousness declares unmistakably and unanimously that self-seeking—and the greater it is, all the more so-in the period after death leads to an abyss; and further proclaims with one voice that besides the happiness of the satisfaction of sensual craving there is another and purer happiness which stands throned beyond sense enjoyments, which springs out of inward quietude, inward peace, which descends upon a man in all the greater majesty the more he renounces all sensual enjoyment and all outward possessions,—a happiness that not even death can disturb. Whoso once has understood this, withdraws from the social warfare; he is a man subdued. And so the social question disappears, without remainder over, in the solution of the religious question. In very truth the social question is also a religious question; nay it is the religious question. Therefore like a Sphinx big with threats. of doom, again and again it can loom up and grin at men only when the religion of a people is lost to them. A religious people knows no social question. Whoever therefore really desires to help present-day humanity, can only help it by again restoring to it its sense of religion.
It might be thought that all this goes without saying, is so clear that at least every man of the better class of mind, at the very least, the leaders of mankind, would see it quite well, and therefore would feel bound to direct all their energies towards making a home for religion among the nations. But the terrible thing is precisely this, that of men of this better class of mind hardly any more are now at all to be found, and that, particularly for the leaders of mankind the religious factor no longer has any existence at all, so that they are veritably like captains who with their own hands steer the already wrecked ships of state into the
maelstrom that roars in wait for it at the end of the long voyage of the social problem. Or does even the mere word religion ever come to the lips of these statesmen? For the rest, one need only cast one's eye over our journals and magazines, over the huge bulk of our collective literature. Where and when does one find even the very slightest reference to religion and the religious happiness? When by way of exception, such a thing once in a while is ventured upon, is it not made precisely an occasion for blame of its author? This fact only needs to be thoroughly reflected upon in order to recognise the full, the terrible completeness of the religious degeneration of present-day humanity. One may justly doubt if at any period in the known history of mankind such a degree of general religious, and therewith, of moral, degeneracy has ever been reached. The ancient peoples, as a rule, held fast by their gods to the end, or until they had taken to a higher religion. In this light no prophecy as to the impending fate of the civilised peoples of to-day can be black enough not to fall short of actuality.
But this is not yet the whole truth. Even if there dawned on us the insight, "We need a religion!" we no longer have with us a religion with the help of which the religious revival might be initiated and carried out. For Christianity which alone could come into the reckoning, for every unbiassed mind has quite obviously exhausted its mandate, has for ever lost its influence over the great masses of the working population, as in the broadest circles of the intellectual.
So then our doom is inescapable? Perhaps. Perhaps we are face to face with the signs of a frightful downward movement of humanity initiated by the most barbaric of all wars, since in the course of the world's history such downward movements repeat themselves with the same regularity as the upward movements, a confirmation of which is to be found in the 26th Discourse of the Digha Nikaya.