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  • Though we tend to think of atheists as not only unbelieving

  • but also hostile to religion,

  • we should remember a tradition of atheistic thinkers

  • who've tried to reconcile a suspicion of the supernatural side of religion

  • with a deep sympathy for and interest in it's ritualistic aspects.

  • The most important and inspirational of these

  • was the visionary, eccentric, and only intermittently sane

  • French 19th century sociologist, August Comte.

  • Comte was born into a strict Catholic family in Montpelier in Southern France in 1798.

  • As a young man, he received a highly progressive education

  • and became obsessed with the idea of building a new kind of France based around science and republicanism.

  • His family violently disagreed and broke off relations with him

  • so he went to live in Paris, where he became a student of, and later, secretary to

  • the Utopian thinker, Henri de Saint-Simon.

  • But Comte had a quarrelsome nature and fell out with Saint-Simon, failed to get a university post,

  • and for the rest of his life, maintained a precarious existence

  • writing dense, often unreadable, works about the reform of humanity.

  • He was not entirely sane and spent long periods in asylums,

  • and in 1827, attempted suicide by jumping off the Pont des Arts in Paris.

  • In 1844, he fell deeply in love with a married woman called Clotilde de Vaux

  • but the relationship was never consummated.

  • After her premature death, Comte made his love for Clotilde

  • into one of his center pieces of his thinking on religion.

  • Though a deeply eccentric man,

  • Comte did manage to gain the trust and interest of the important British philosopher, John Stuart Mill,

  • who admired his efforts around religion, and helped Comte to be better known in Britain.

  • Comte's thinking on religion had as it's starting point, a characteristically blunt observation

  • that in the modern world, thanks to the discoveries of science,

  • it would no longer be possible for anyone intelligent to believe in God.

  • Faith would henceforth be limited to the uneducated, the fanatical, women, children,

  • and those in the final months of incurable diseases.

  • At the same time, Comte recognized, as many of his more rational contemporaries did not,

  • that a secular society devoted just to financial accumulation and romantic love

  • and devoid of any sources of consolation

  • transcendent awe of solidarity,

  • would be prey to some untenable social and emotional illness.

  • Comte's solution was neither to cling blindly to sacred traditions,

  • nor to cast them collectively and belligerently aside,

  • but rather to pick out the more relevant and secular aspects

  • and fuse them together with certain insights drawn from philosophy, art, and science.

  • The result?

  • The outcome of decades of thought and the summit of Comte's intellectual achievement was a new religion:

  • a religion for atheists,

  • or as Comte termed it, "A Religion of Humanity":

  • an original creed expressly tailored to the emotional and intellectual demands of modern men and women,

  • rather than the inhabitants of Judea or northern India in 400 B.C.

  • Comte presented his new religion in two volumes:

  • the "Summary Exposition of the Universal Religion"

  • and the "Theory of the Future of Man."

  • He observed the traditional faiths

  • tended to cement their authority by providing people with daily, and even hourly,

  • schedules of who or what to think about.

  • Rotors typically pegged to the commemoration of a holy individual or supernatural incident.

  • So Comte announced a calendar of his own,

  • animated by a pantheon of secular heroes and ideas.

  • In the Religion of Humanity,

  • every month was to be devoted to the honoring of an important field of endeavor;

  • for example: marriage, parenthood, art, science, agriculture

  • and every day to an individual who had made a valuable contribution within these categories.

  • Comte was impressed by the way the traditional religions

  • had disseminated moral guidance, for example:

  • dictating principles on how to conduct oneself in a marriage, or fulfill one's duties to the community.

  • And he lamented the modern, liberal governments,

  • in their desire to prove inoffensive to all constituencies,

  • had settled on merely offering factual instruction

  • before letting people out into the world to destroy themselves and others

  • through their egoism and self ignorance.

  • Therefore, in Comte's Religion of Humanity, there would be classes and sermons

  • to help inspire one to be kind spouses, patient with one's colleagues,

  • and compassionate towards the unfortunate.

  • Comte also recognized how badly we all need consolation

  • and proposed that his girlfriend, Clotilde, take the function previously accorded within Catholism

  • to the Virgin Mary.

  • Portraits of Clotilde were to be placed everywhere in the new religion,

  • and when one was down, one was invited to share one's sorrows

  • and weep in front of his vision of kindness and sympathy.

  • Because Comte appreciated the role that architecture had once played

  • in bolstering the claims of traditional religion,

  • he proposed the construction of a network of secular churches,

  • or as he called them, "Temples for Humanity."

  • He suggested that each one be paid for by a banker,

  • whose bust would appear above the door in recognition of his generosity.

  • Rather than resenting bankers,

  • Comte thought it was wiser to coax them into supporting good causes.

  • Inside the temples of humanity, there would be lectures, singing, celebrations, and public discussions.

  • While around the walls, sumptuous works of art would commemorate the greatest moments

  • and finest men and women of history.

  • Finally, above the west-facing stage, there would be a large aphorism written in golden letters,

  • invoking the congregation to adopt the essence of Comte's philosophical religious world view:

  • the statement, "Connais Toi Pour T'ameliorer"

  • (Know yourself to improve yourself.)

  • Regrettably, Comte's complex, thought provoking, and often deranged project

  • was felled by a host of practical obstacles.

  • Ridiculed by both atheists and believers, ignored by public opinion, devoid of funds,

  • Comte fell into despair and self-pity.

  • He took to writing long and frightening letters in defense of his scheme

  • to monarchs and industrialists across Europe, including Louis Napoleon, Queen Victoria,

  • the Crown Prince of Denmark, three hundred bankers, and the head of the parish sewage system.

  • But few offered money, let alone replies.

  • Without seeing any of his proposals take hold,

  • Comte died at the age of 59, in 1857.

  • Nevertheless, like Jesus, Comte was well served by his followers,

  • and in the decades after his death,

  • his religion made some notable advances.

  • The Chapelle de L'humanite was opened at 5 Rue Payenne in Paris, where it still stands to this day,

  • and became a well known venue for secular baptisms, funeral services, weddings and sermons.

  • Comte's religion crossed the channel,

  • where it acquired 5,000 adherents,

  • led with rare energy by a former Oxford don.

  • In 1878, with the help of a legacy from an aunt,

  • this don opened the Church of Humanity in Lamb Conduit Street in London,

  • where secular services were held every morning.

  • Comte's religion had even greater success in Brazil,

  • where it was put into practice by some students that Comte had taught in Paris in the 1840s.

  • El Templo de la Humanidad opened in Rio in 1890,

  • and others followed in São Paulo and Curitiba.

  • Unfortunately, infighting among the leadership

  • connected to doctrinal squabbles about the place of Western authors and their liturgy,

  • meant that the movement failed to grow into a truly popular religion.

  • And yet it acquired a small and permanent place in Brazil's spiritual life.

  • To this day, every Sunday morning in Rio de Janeiro,

  • at 74 Rua Benjamin Constant audiences, who make up in intensity of what they lack for in numbers,

  • arrive at the Templo de Humanidad to draw sustenance from the teachings of a Parisian sociologist's

  • unusual secular religion.

  • Whatever its shortcomings, Comte's religion is hard to dismiss entirely,

  • for it identified a psychic space in atheistic society,

  • which continues to lie fallow and to invite resolution.

  • Comte's work was an attempt to rescue

  • some of what is beautiful, touching, reasonable, and wise

  • from what no longer seems true.

  • For these reasons and more it remains extremely timely.

Though we tend to think of atheists as not only unbelieving

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社会学 - オーギュスト・コント (SOCIOLOGY - Auguste Comte)

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    Dum Dum に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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