Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/39

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LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY

glory (which was) a value without equal," created by Greece, and as a result of which "a selection was made from the swarming masses of humanity, life acquired an incentive and there was a recompense here for those who had pursued the good and the beautiful."[1] The intellectualist philosophy, far from being able to explain these things, leads, on the contrary, to an admiration for the fifty-first chapter of Jeremiah, "the lofty though profoundly sad feeling with which the peaceful man contemplates these falls of empires, and the pity excited in the heart of the wise man by the spectacle of the nations labouring for vanity, victims of the arrogance of the few." Greece, according to Renan, did not experience anything of that kind, and I do not think that we need complain about that.[2] Moreover, he himself praises the Romans for not having acted in accordance with the conceptions of the Jewish thinker. "They laboured, they wore themselves out for nothing, said the Jewish thinker—yes, doubtless, but those are the virtues that history rewards."[3]

Religions constitute a very troublesome problem for the intellectualists, for they can neither regard them as being without historical importance nor can they explain them. Renan, for example, has written some very strange sentences on this subject. "Religion is a necessary imposture. Even the most obvious ways of throwing dust in people's eyes cannot be neglected when you are dealing with a race as stupid as the human species, a race created for error, which, when it does admit the truth, never does so for the right reasons. It is necessary then to give it the wrong ones."[4]

Comparing Giordano Bruno, who "allowed himself to be burnt at Champ-de-Flore" with Galileo, who

  1. Renan, loc. cit. p. 267.
  2. Renan, loc. cit. pp. 199–200.
  3. Renan. op. cit. vol. iii. pp. 458–459.
  4. Renan, op. cit. vol. v. pp. 105–106.