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FRANCE TO-DAY



FRANCE TO-DAY

ITS RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION

BY

PAUL SABATIER

M

TRANSLATED

FROM THE SECOND FRENCH EDITION
BY

HENRY BRYAN BINNS




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LONDON: J. M. DENT & SONS, LTD.
NEW YORK : E. P. DUTTON & CO. 1913



All rights reserved



PREFACE TO THE SECOND
FRENCH EDITION

WHY should I not confess that I was glad when
I heard that this volume was to be reprinted a few
months after its appearance? Did it not afford a
striking indication of the new tendencies everywhere
manifest in our country? Moreover, these pages
had had the result I foresaw and desired; they had
been criticised with equal vigour by every party and
Church.

I thought at one time of replying here to all those
criticisms. I have abandoned the idea, which would
have swelled this book to undue proportions; but I
wish at least to express my warm thanks to their
writers. I am especially grateful to those teachers
who have been so good as to write to me of their
doubts, their hopes and endeavours.

If they will kindly continue to confide their experi-
ence to me, some day, perhaps, I may try to draw from
it more precise and efficacious conclusions as to the
evolution of moral and religious education.

PAUL SABATIER.

La Maisonnette,

PAR S. SAUVEUR DE MONTAGUT,
ARDECHE.

Oct. i, 1912.



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THIS BOOK IS WRITTEN

PAGE

The phrase " religious orientation " not synonymous with
religious affairs Our object to make clear certain
aspects of reality and of life Historia magistra vitce
The most important movements not always the best
supplied with authorities Inaccuracy of every historical
picture Can the historian be impersonal ? The legend
of the superficial Frenchman ... 3

CHAPTER I

RELIGION AND RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION

Search for a definition of religion valid for our age and
civilisation Essentially ethical basis for which many
simple minds are looking in religion Spontaneous and
unconscious symbolisation in dogma Religious change
always achieved at the cost of the Churches The
Catholic Church and her right to the gratitude of France
Efforts of the Church to control public opinion La
Bonne Presse Uselessness of its activity The new
religious orientation . . . . . . 14

CHAPTER II

WHAT IS AND WHAT IS NOT TO BE FOUND HERE

Impossibility of completeness Real significance of the
Dreyfus affair Scientific activity in the Catholic
Church Attempts at reform and at a new religion
Portraits and proper names; the reason they find little
place here Unconscious collaborators in the religious
movement Of certain saints whom it would be danger-
ous to name Anonymous confidences and their value
Ought the several Churches and tendencies to be given



viii CONTENTS

PAGE

space in proportion to their numerical importance ?
Conversions Negative impression produced on certain
spectators by the missionary zeal of certain proselytisers
Exclusion of eccentric and pathological phenomena . 28

CHAPTER III

CIRCUMSTANCES DETERMINING THE PRESENT RELIGIOUS
ORIENTATION

Effect of the war of 1870 on the national consciousness
As individuals the priests had proved themselves good
citizens; but on the morrow of disaster the Church
could not rise to her opportunity Attitude of France
towards Germany and Protestantism before 1870 The
Prussian victory dealt an irreparable blow to the prestige
of the Reformation ...... 40

CHAPTER IV

GRAVER AND GRAVER MISUNDERSTANDINGS BETWEEN CHURCH
AND PEOPLE

The attitude alike of Alsace and of France has transformed
the political question of the annexed region into a moral
question Incorrectness of the formula that patriotism
has become the religion of France New idea of patriot-
ism to which the Church did not give birth The
blossoming of certain ideas, sown by her in other days,
seems sometimes to make against her The undenomi-
national school must be reckoned among the factors
strongly affecting religious orientation It has been
arraigned as the nursery of crime Mistake of the
apologists of religion who try to turn terror of the
hooligan into a motive for the return to faith By
appealing to the unbounded devotion of her sons, the
Church, and the Church alone, responds to the most
powerful instinct of the human heart . . . 53

CHAPTER V

DEFICIENCIES OF ANTI-RELIGION

Free-thought must not be confused with anti-clericalism
Impressions produced in country districts by certain



CONTENTS ix



manifestations of the latter That a profound antipathy
towards clericalism is met with among certain peasants
who will not identify themselves with anti-clerical
organisations Civil and religious burial Inability of
the anti-clerical mind to understand the Catholicism of
our country districts Easter That the Church be-.
stows a sense of discipline, solidarity and harmony
Scant success of the efforts of scientific religion . . 70

CHAPTER VI

CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION

The philosophers have not brought about the present religious
orientation Endeavours of the flower of the nation,
among the working classes as much as among intel-
lectuals, to grapple with living social realities Christian-
ity, in its beginnings, was a popular movement, not
occasioned by philosophical views Though their high
value has been recognised in intellectual circles, the
efforts of Messrs. Pillon, Renouvier and Secretan have
had no appreciable practical influence Why the present -
generation leans to the thought of Bergson, Boutroux
and William James Tendencies of the new philosophy . 82

CHAPTER VII

PHILOSOPHICO-RELIGIOUS VIEWS OF J. M. GUYAU AND
6MILE BOUTROUX

Guyau : his Irreligion of the Future Growing importance of r
this work Guyau's ideas as to a new conception of the
love of God, of prayer and of doubt, and as to what is
eternal in the world's religions Boutroux goes yet
further in the direction of realism, the comprehension
of living truth and the love of institutions Without
asserting the absolute perfection of the Churches, he
sees their endeavour towards the ideal, and manifests
towards all a disinterested and effective sympathy very
new among philosophers His definition of religion
The philosophy of contingency; historical significance
of its success Boutroux's teaching as to the postulates
implied by all self-conscious life, as to the results of
religious evolution, as to rites and the religious future . 98



x CONTENTS

CHAPTER VIII

RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION IN ART AND LITERATURE ^^

The most superficial facts are constantly soliciting our
attention Segantini, Bocklin, Courbet, " The Burial at
Ornans " Eugene Carriere : his " First Veil " ; his
biography, by M. Gabriel Seailles ; his ideas as to art
and its union with life Scanty religious influence of
Russian and Scandinavian literature in France Causes
for this Sully Prudhomme ; Maeterlinck ; Charles Peguy 121

CHAPTER IX

CHARACTERISTICS AND DIRECTION OF THE PRESENT
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT

To-day Man has above all else the sense of life, and under-
stands alike his powers and the limits of his liberty
History tends to invade the whole intellectual domain
and even to supersede metaphysics ; but contemporary
thought does not oppose a materialistic conception of
history to the dogmatic under the pretext of reality ; it
realises the life in history, and from that point the
guiding principle is found To whom does the child
belong ? Neither to the Church, the State, nor its
parents Historic feeling in the toast proposed by a
village mayor Features of an undenominational ethics
and religion that issue from the new conception of
history Incurable weakness of some religious reforms . 138

CHAPTER X

. OUR PRESENT RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION ESSENTIALLY FRENCH

The unity of France is not chiefly political How it ex- .
presses itself in the movement we are studying
Moderate enthusiasm of our country for industrial and
commercial success Our present religious orientation
not of foreign origin France unable to enter into
intimate relation with the German mentality, whether
political or theological Renan the precursor of present
tendencies Dr. Harnack Manifesto of a broad-
minded German pastor who proclaims the piety
that may exist among Atheists Why " unconscious
Christianity " would have no success in France . 151



CONTENTS xi

CHAPTER XI

ITS MANIFESTATIONS IN CATHOLICISM

Two Catholicisms co-exist in the Church Her great strength /"-
lies in having created the sentiments of unity and
tradition Students from Catholic institutions at the
lectures of State professors Rome's prohibition
Modernism Administration of the Church in the
hands of a Committee of Public Safety Success of the
new tendencies The diocese of Milan accused of being
a nursery of Modernism, just as is the University of
Fribourg (Switzerland) A page from Father Sertil-
langes Note on Le Sillon . . . . . 171

CHAPTER XII

ITS MANIFESTATIONS IN PROTESTANTISM

Or rather its absence of manifestations Unity of the
Protestant character amid its ecclesiastical divisions
Individualism The separation of Churches and State
has permitted new schisms in the Reformed Church
Why the furthest evolved among Catholics prove so
rigid in regard to Protestantism Its situation stated by
Pastors Lafon and Morize Are Protestants so much
misunderstood as they suppose ? Pastor Wagner and
the Abbe Lemire Dean Auguste Sabatier What it is
in Protestantism that wounds the feelings of France Is
Protestant freedom complete ? Pastor W. Monod
How far has he grasped the religious character that
atheism may possess ? . . . . .189

CHAPTER XIII

ITS MANIFESTATIONS IN FREE-THOUGHT

That Free-thought is not essentially anti-religious Free
discussion according to Seailles : according to F.
Buisson Is the pessimism of Charles Peguy justified ?
Significant success of the Cabiers de la quinzaine The
School of Advanced Social Studies, and its section for
the study of religion in its relation to society The
Union of Free-thinkers and Free-believers . .216



xii CONTENTS

CHAPTER XIV

THE CREATION OF THE UNDENOMINATIONAL SCHOOL

PACE

If the war of 1870 influenced our scholastic organisation, the
soul of the undenominational school has a more distant
and a loftier origin Our undenominational school is
the new incarnation of a time-honoured religious effort
In 1882 it was far from being anti-clerical Crusade
against it preached by the Conservative parties : the
result It is now compelled to give the children the
spiritual nurture they would otherwise lack . . -237

CHAPTER XV

MORAL INSTRUCTION IN THE SCHOOL

Undenominational effort towards an efficacious and solidly
established morality Moral anarchy from which we
suffer Efforts of Guyau, Pecaut and Wagner The
Course of Jules Payot M. Delvolve's Essay : its gener-
osity towards religious instruction Is the hesitation of
undenominational teaching a proof of its failure ?
Undenominational mysticism . . . . .253

CHAPTER XVI

SCHOOL AND CHURCH

Neutrality impossible Place and part of the history of
religions in education New conception of history
Attitude of our contemporaries toward religious ques-
tions The Bible again taken possession of Return of
admiration for the Churches and monuments of the
past A non-Catholic historian at Mass in Notre Dame 274

CONCLUSION 295

INDEX OF NAMES 2OQ



FRANCE TO-DAY:
ITS RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION

" None of the divinities successively created by the human
spirit can satisfy it to-day : it needs them all at once, and some-
thing yet beyond, for its thought has left its gods behind." J. M.
GUYAU, Irrlligion de Vavenir, p. 321.




INTRODUCTION



THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THIS BOOK IS WRITTEN

The phrase " religious orientation " not synonymous with religious
affairs Our object to make clear certain aspects of reality
and of life Historia magistra vitce The most important
movements not always the best supplied with authorities
Inaccuracy of every historical picture Can the historian be
impersonal ? The legend of the superficial Frenchman.

IT is long since religious matters have so continu-
ously occupied French public attention as in our
time. We are not here concerned with what the
Press calls religious affairs. The phrase, indeed, indi-
cates what is most external in religious and ecclesi-
astical matters, what these become when they are
carried to political markets and utilised in party
quarrels.

If now and again we are compelled to mention this
utilisation, we shall do so as briefly as possible; our
title sufficiently suggests that we are not concerned
with the doings of Churches and Antichurches; that
is a chronicle which is written day by day, and is the
business of the Press.

We would attempt a somewhat novel essay : to see
whether, apart from any metaphysical thesis, in the
independent, disinterested spirit of scientific investi-
gation, a kind of inquiry cannot be opened into

3



4 FRANCE TO-DAY

religious feeling, its presence or absence, its disappear-
ance or re-emergence, and, in short, into the direction
of its evolution to-day.

Above all we must inquire whether, while still
remaining what it was in the past, it has not already
renewed and transformed itself; and whether, after
having, little by little, rendered age-long habits of
thought foreign to us, it does not tend to create a new
cast of spirit, and to open unsuspected horizons both
to individuals and institutions.

In other words, is there not a somewhat deep
religious feeling in our country, apart from any habits
of worship and traditional acts, apart from a language
that still subsists though the ideas and needs to
which it corresponded have passed away ? Is not this
religious feeling at the present time and for the
generation to follow, does it not seem as though it
would be an important factor in the history of
society ? Such are the two questions we would essay
to answer.

The reader has already been mentally asking :
Whither do you wish to go ? What is your object
your interest in this question ? What God, what
Church do you serve?

Does the artist who instals himself on the borders
of a field to sketch a labourer and his plough dream
of increasing the money- value of the field? What
he would seize and render are aspects of reality and
life. Of us the same is true. We shall pursue our
way, observing religious life and religious endeavour
wherever we think that we perceive them.

People who only understand or tolerate a religious
study if it be either for or against the Church, will
then be merely wasting their time if they come to



INTRODUCTION 5

these pages seeking weapons for the struggles in
which alone they are interested.

Here will be found what to certain minds will
seem a flagrant contradiction, and will greatly exasper-
ate them a kind of admiration and love, an ardent
sympathy, going forth at the same time to each of the
antagonists. The writer hopes that patient readers
will quickly enough perceive that this attitude is
neither affected, forced, nor sceptical; but that it is
entirely natural when one puts aside the quarrels of
everyday politics and takes the point of view of social
history.

This book, then, is written in a spirit of deep
gratitude for the past, of love for the present and
faith in the future. History does not canonise the
past, making it a sort of pattern that the future will
but repeat; but discovers therein germs of life which
the present has not created but among which it must
choose germs that will become the living seeds of a
new era.

From this point of view the old formula Historia
magistra vitx takes on a fuller meaning : history no
longer merely provides examples for individual con-
duct, nor does it merely point the nations to the
sources of greatness and decay; it rises to a yet higher
conception which reaches infinitely far into the past as
into the future; and in making us witnesses of what
is most intimate and mysterious in human endeavour,
it teaches the present generation to enter into this
harmony of eternal life, to become fellow-workers
therein, first conscious, then deliberate, and at last
inspired.

Thus there comes an hour when the contemplation
of the history and toil of humanity may play in the



6 FRANCE TO-DAY

individual or collective life that moral and religious
part which was formerly played by metaphysics or
revelation.

Who says history says "document." Now the
reader must at once be warned that this volume,
being occupied with the present moment, will not
be documented like the study of a distant epoch.

It will therefore be possible to criticise many of
these pages for vagueness, lack of precision and
absence of justifying material. And with a good
deal of reason.

But this absence of authorities for events which
are going on around us and even within us, for an
evolution in which we are collaborating and of which
our vision can only be limited and incomplete, does
not constitute a reason for holding aloof. It is simply
a caution to proceed with prudence.

Moreover, the cult of the document and quotation,
which represents one of the best achievements of the
nineteenth century, should not degenerate into
idolatry.

How far the charlatan contrives to profit by the
tendency to regard the document as carrying with it
absolute proof may readily be seen in the Press.

People keep saying, "Where there are no docu-
ments, there is no history." And this is true on
condition that they add " for us." Without that
qualification the dictum would be as nai've as to
declare : " There are no meteorological phenomena in
countries where there are no observatories to record
them."

When we approach religious phenomena with
scientific and critical rigour we must bring besides



INTRODUCTION 7

X

much tact and knowledge of the human heart and of
the passions whose instrument it may become, if we
are to judge truly of the value of documents.

Religious statistics, which ought to be accurate
since they deal only with external facts, are falsified
by party spirit. Before the Separation of the
Churches and the State the latter had to abandon
their ascertainment because it was impossible to place
confidence in the sincerity of those who made either
the declarations or the census. 1

In studies such as ours documents are even more
deceitful than elsewhere. They are the more danger-
ous because they commit errors without intending to;
for it is far easier for the reader to guard against
interested falsehood than involuntary error.

Abundance of documentation is often in inverse
ratio to importance.

Thus it may be noted that, in the history of Chris-
tianity, there is only one small department in which
the documentation suffices to give a comparatively
adequate idea of the facts; and this relates to the
question of rites, liturgies and customs.

The beginnings of that great movement are bare
of any documentation properly so-called. Is this a
reason for denying its actuality? Jesus seems to
have written nothing. His friends, if they wrote, only
did so long afterwards. For the reason doubtless, as
has been suggested, that they expected the end of the
world to come shortly : but also, perhaps, because
a man rarely renders an exact account of the work
he is accomplishing. One man, who will be quite
forgotten before he is dead, thinks to move heaven

1 See Arreat, Le sentiment religieux en France, p. i.



8 FRANCE TO-DAY

and earth; another passes through life, unnoted by
those who record the events of the time both great
and small but the memory of those who loved him
will raise him from the dead; a documentation will
spring up about his life, lacking indeed to despera-
tion in scientific value; and this documentation, feeble
and replete with insecurity though it be, will become
the life-programme for a portion of humanity. For
centuries the flower of the civilised peoples will carry
it in its heart as an image of the ideal.

Thus the most important for us among the
religious movements of the past is destitute of all
primitive documentation, whilst, one can write
volumes, bristling with references and authorities, on
schemes that never saw a morrow. Public opinion
is well aware of this, and regards without the slightest
emotion, even indeed with a quizzical smile, certain
religious founders who take great care to advertise
through the Press the movements they are about to
launch.

If we had to consider as belonging to our pro-
gramme enterprises, like the CultueUes^ attempted
towards 1905, this book would be ten times as big.
Never was cradle surrounded by such promises; the
favour of the ministry and of some of the most
powerful papers was assured to the new Church; it
had influential adherents, a clergy all ready, places of
worship and its own organ. Should all these facts

find a place in religious history under pretext of being-

11 i i ?

well documented?



Should the difficulty of doing scientific work in
the field of contemporary religious history make us



INTRODUCTION 9

abandon the task ? Ought we to be persuaded to go
on living amid incoherence, contradiction and conflict
without seeing whither this agitation leads? That
would be an impossible abstention : one need not
abandon the effort under the pretext that one will
never attain the goal. The human mind aspires to
synthesis. If one is not satisfied to attempt syntheses
that are incomplete and provisional but yet contain
a core of truth, one will find a multitude of interested
persons ready to fashion syntheses they will believe
and declare to be definitive, though these will have
only error at their core.



Unfortunately, the historian perceives only a very
small fraction of reality; the documentary indications
that pile up before him, when he is dealing with
modern history, are but a distant mirage, already
falsified by incapacities, prejudices and passions; he is
obliged to sort them through and only retain a minor
part. Now whatever care he brings to his task, he
is so far subject to the influence of a multitude of
subtle preoccupations, often unconscious, that in the
end his work will be far enough from attaining the
value he would fain give it.

Certain historians do not choose to recognise this
state of things. When one tells them that " to write
history is to think it, and to think it is to transform
it," they cry out indignantly * and remain persuaded

1 The notion of the inevitable relativity of all historical narrative
has lately made its way everywhere. Thus one of the editors of
the Revue Augustinienne, Father Louis Talmont, admits as obvious
in the issue of Aug. 15, 1910, that there can be no historical judg-
ment without some principle of general philosophy to direct it f



io FRANCE TO-DAY

that their interlocutor has decided to scoff at docu-
ments and to supersede them.

This is contrary to the truth. He is the true his-
torian who, having done his utmost to reach historic
verity, is aware of the incompleteness his work pre-
sents, and seeks to forearm his readers against the
common tendency of accepting statements as unques-
tionable results.

We must seek to attain truth as circumstantially in
the detail, and as completely in the whole as our intel-
lectual powers and documentary resources permit;
but to imagine that we can achieve a perfectly ade-
quate picture of reality is to be the dupe of an illusion
as mischievous to the writer as to his readers.

The historian, setting to work, must not fancy he
can replace his own eyes; he cannot remake himself
and become a man without either age, sex, country, or
a soul whereon innumerable influences have left every
one its mark. Absolute impartiality is a metaphysical
entity, a sheer symbol. The idea should be kept as
an ideal; but while seeking to attain it, one needs to
have some notion of the distance that divides one
from it.

What, then, we may reasonably ask of an historian
is not that he should accomplish this impossible
miracle of divesting himself of his own personality,
but that he endeavour not to plead any cause, that he
resolve to put his pen at the service of none of those
grudges, hatreds and passions which trouble <and
divide his contemporaries. If he do this, he will
thereby singularly deserve our esteem. He will very
nearly attain to the perfection actually possible if,
conscious of whatever may be limited and partial in
his own view, he assist his readers to criticise it, and



INTRODUCTION n

take pains sincerely to point out to them the ten-
dencies that may have twisted his judgment.



The writer of this book has studied his subject


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Online LibraryPaul SabatierFrance to-day, its religious orientation → online text (page 1 of 22)