The New Gods
"The modern process of stamping out religion produces countless caricatures of it."
In “The Spirit of the Laws,” Montesquieu counseled political leaders on “detaching the soul from religion” without the use of force. There is a debate over whether his true intention was to devise an engine for secularization in the West. But this question is perhaps less important than the fact his advice was essentially correct: to “detach” souls, regimes must cultivate comfort and complacency rather than imposing crackdowns on the pious.
Montesquieu understood that persecuting believers only inflames their faith, for religion, too, has its rods and everlasting rewards. “Religion has such great threats, it has such great promises, that when they are present to our spirits,” he wrote, “no matter what the magistrate does to constrain us to abandon it, it seems we are left with nothing when religion is taken away, and that nothing is taken from us when religion is left to us.”
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