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The Rise of Modern Secular "Religions"
33
people's faith in the divine-right
concept. In its place emerged
the inflaming idea of popular
democratic rule. Government of
the people became the crusad–
ing cry of eighteenth- and nine–
teenth-century man.
In this respect the French
Revolution had significant and
far-reaching implications. Ac–
cording to Alexis DeTocque–
ville: " 'No previous political
upheaval, however violent, had
aroused such passionate enthu–
siasm, for the French Revolu–
tion set before it was not
merely a change in the French
social system but nothing short
of a regeneration of the whole
human race. It created an at–
mosphere of missionary fervor
and, indeed, assumed all the as–
pects of a religious revival.'
"Thus, according to De–
Tocqueville, the French Revo–
lution, though ostensibly
political in origin, functioned on
the lines, and assumed many of
the aspects of a religious revolu–
tion"
(The Old Regime and the
French Revolution,
pp. 12-13).
Now it was no longer the king
or the Papacy that was as "god
on earth," but the nation. As
Lewis Mumford put it:
"If
a re–
ligion consists of the beliefs and
hopes for which men, when
challenged, will sacrifice their
lives and fortunes in the assur–
ance of participating in a
greater life, then nationalism
was the vital religion of the
nineteenth century ... it seized
men, for a century or more,
with a fanatical passion similar
to that which Christianity had
once stirred"
(Condition of
Man,
p.
356).
Launching a Secular Crusade
Like its ecclesiastical prede–
cessors, this new brand of na–
tionalistic religion was not one
to stand still.
It,
in effect,
sought to fill the ecumenical
gap left by the partial demise of
Roman Catholicism after the
Protestant Reformation. By
the beginning of the nineteenth
century, numerous wars had al–
ready been fought in an at–
tempt to "convert" the
nondemocratic "heathen."
The conduct of these na–
tional skirmishes had also un–
dergone a fundamental change.
Armed conflict was no longer
the "Sport of Kings." Now
countries clashed in grim ear–
nest over the newly enshrined
ideals of democracy and nation–
alism. Wars fought in the name
of democracy demanded vir–
tually total participation on the
part of a nation's populace.
Relatively small mercenary
forces were suddenly replaced
by massed multitudes of newly
conscripted citizens. According
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