Every physician will admit that by the correct diagnosis of a malady more than half the fight against it is won; also, that if a correct diagnosis has not been made, all skill and all care and attention will be of little avail.
The same is true with regard to religion.
We are agreed to let stand the claim that in "Christendom" we are Christians, every one of us; and then we have laid and, perhaps, will lay, emphasis now on this, now on that, side of the teachings of the Scriptures.
But the truth is: we are not only not Christians no, we are not even the heathen to whom Christianity may be taught without misgivings, and what is worse, we are prevented through a delusion, an enormous delusion (viz. "Christendom," the Christian state, a Christian country, a Christian world) from becoming Christians.
And then the suggestion is made to one to continue untouched and unchanged this delusion and, rather, to furnish a new presentation of the teachings of Christ.
This has been suggested; and, in a certain sense, it is altogether fitting. Just because one lives in a delusion (not to speak even of being interested in keeping up the delusion), one is bound to desire that which will feed the malady -a common enough observation this - the sick man desiring precisely those things which feed his malady.
Imagine a hospital. The patients are dying off like so many flies. The methods are changed, now this way, now that: of no avail! What may be the cause? The cause lies in the building the whole building is tainted. The patients are put down as having died, the one of this, the other of that, disease, but strictly speaking this is not true; for they all died from the taint which is in the building.
The same is true in religion. That religious conditions are wretched, and that people in respect of their religion are in a wretched condition, nothing is more certain. So one ventures the opinion that if we could but have a new hymn‑book; and another, if we could but have a new service‑book; and a third, if we could but have a musical service, etc., etc. that then matters would mend.
In vain; for the fault lies in the edifice. The whole ramshackle pile of a State Church which has not been aired, spiritually speaking, in times out of mind the air in it has developed a taint. And therefore religious life has become diseased or has died out; alas, for precisely that which the worldly mind regards as health is, in a Christian sense, disease just as, vice versa, that which is healthy in a Christian sense, is regarded as diseased from a worldly point of view.
Then let the ramshackle pile collapse, get it out of the way, close all these shops and booths which are the only ones which are excepted from the strict Sunday regulations, forbid this official double‑dealing, put them out of commission, and provide for them, for all these quacks: even though it is true that the royally attested physician is the acceptable one, and he who is not so attested is a quack: in Christianity it is just the reverse; that is, the royally attested teacher is the quack, is a quack by the very fact that he is royally attested and let us worship God again in simplicity, instead of making a fool of him in splendid edifices; let us be in earnest again and stop playing; for a Christianity preached by royal officials who are payed and insured by the state and who use the police against the others, such a Christianity bears about the same relation to the Christianity of the New Testament as swimming with the help of a cork‑belt or a bladder does to swimming alone‑it is mere play.
Yes, let that come about. What Christianity needs is not the stifling protection of the state ah no, it needs fresh air, it needs persecution and - the protection of God. The state does only mischief in averting persecution and surely is not the medium through which God's protection can be conducted. Whatever you do, save Christianity from the state, for with its protection it overlies Christianity like a fat woman overlying her child with her carcass, beside teaching Christianity the most abominable bad habits as, e.g., to use the police force and to call that Christianity.
A person is growing thinner every day and is wasting away. What may the trouble be? For surely he is not suffering want! "No, sure enough," says the doctor, "that is not the trouble. The trouble is precisely with his eating, with his eating in season and out of season, with his eating without being hungry, with his using stimulants to produce an appetite, and in this manner ruining his digestion, so that he is wasting away as if he suffered want." The same is true in religion. The worst of all is to satisfy a craving which has not as yet made its appearance, to anticipate it, or- worse still - by the help of stimulants to produce something which looks like a craving, which then is promptly satisfied. Ah, the shame of it! And yet this is exactly what is being done in religion where people are in very truth fooled out of the real meaning of life and helped to waste their lives. That is in very truth, the effect of this whole machinery of a state church and a thousand royal officials who, under the pretense of being spiritual guides for the people, trick them out of the highest thing in life, which is, the solicitude about one's self, and the need which would surely of itself find a teacher or minister after its own mind; whereas now the need - and it is just the growth of this sense of a need which gives life its highest significance - whereas now this need does not arise at all, but on the contrary is forestalled by being satisfied long before it can arise. And this is the way, they claim, this is the way to continue the work which the Savior of Mankind did begin - stunting the human race as they do. And why is this so? Because there happen to be a thousand and one royal officials who have to support their families by furnishing what is called - spiritual guidance for men's souls!
- This suggestion had actually been made to Kierkegaard in the course of his attacks on Martensen.