Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/37

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23
LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the revolutionary persecutions revived this myth of the struggle with Satan, which inspired so many of the eloquent pages in Joseph de Maistre; this rejuvenation explains to a large extent the religious renascence which took place at that epoch. If Catholicism is in danger at the present time, it is to a great extent owing to the fact that the myth of the Church militant tends to disappear. Ecclesiastical literature has greatly contributed to rendering it ridiculous; thus in 1872, a Belgian writer recommended a revival of exorcisms, as they seemed to him an efficacious means of combating the revolutionaries.[1] Many educated Catholics are horrified when they discover that the ideas of Joseph de Maistre have helped to encourage the ignorance of the clergy, which did not attempt to acquire an adequate knowledge of a science which it held to be accursed; to these educated Catholics the myth of the struggle with Satan then appears dangerous, and they point out its ridiculous aspects; but they do not in the least understand its historical bearing. The gentle, sceptical, and, above all, pacific, habits of the present generation are, moreover, unfavourable to its continued existence; and the enemies of the Church loudly proclaim that they do not wish to return to a regime of persecution which might restore their former power to warlike images.

In employing the term myth I believed that I had made a happy choice, because I thus put myself in a position to refuse any discussion whatever with the people who wish to submit the idea of a general strike to a detailed criticism, and who accumulate objections

  1. P. Bureau, La Crise morale des temps nouveaux, p. 213. The author, a professor of the Institut Catholique de Paris, adds: "This recommendation can only excite hilarity nowadays. We are compelled to believe that the author's curious proposition was then accepted by a large number of his correligionists, when we remember the astonishing success of the writings of Léo Taxil after his pretended conversion."