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Separation of State and Church

his much-mooted separation is the chief object of the " Liberal League. The reforms aimed at, but not the title used by the league, have also been adopted by the radicals. Personally, we have always avoided the expression, "Separation of State and Church," or used it only with quotation marks. A separation points to mutual authorization, or to an equalization of two institutions or powers, but from a radical point of view, such an equality of rights between state and church cannot be recognized. From a radical point of view, the church is not to be separated, but to be cut off and to be neutralized. To the radical mind, the church appears as an evil, a kind of cancer. Who would speak of a separation of the body and a cancer? A mere "separation" implies not only a recognition, but even a continuance of existence of the thing recognized. Now, to permit the existence of the •church, is to perpetuate the struggle with her.

The platform of the radicals protests against the implication of the " Liberal League" in an additional paragraph, which indicates the true aim by acknowledging to the state the right of taking steps against church organizations, that form states within the state, and that would be benefited by that very " separation." The " Liberal League" could not object to such an organization, even if, favored by the separation, it should grow into a power, capable of absorbing the entire " state."

There is, in general, still much lack of clearness on the whole theme, however much it has been discussed. Clearness can only be attained through a radical view of the subject In order to contribute to this, we print here a small essay, written twenty-five years ago, which


we had forgotten long ago, and which came into our hands again by some accident.

November, 1878.

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You agree that the people should be freed from the yoke of religious nonsense, but you cannot bring the measure needed for that liberation into accord with freedom, and you believe that religion and the church should be quietly let alone, and the state should take no notice of them. You are of the old opinion, that the solution of this difficulty is attained most easily and naturally through the so-called "separation of state and church," which, as you express it, "is already recognized in every political nursery-book." I am willing to acknowledge this, but T make bold to say, that he, who allows himself to be put off with such illusio is, still needs a political nurse.

You desire freedom of religion, though yourself not religious. 1, too, desire it; 1 would have religious opinion as free as any other opinion. Yet, nevertheless, I am opposed to the "separation of state and church," which T consider rather as the means of religious unfreedom, of the subjection of the spirit of the people by an untrammeled rule of priesthood.

Whence comes the call for " separation," which }Tou take up? Let us see.

In the first place, the priests, themselves, incessantly put up the demand: we want the "separation of the church from the state."

These are joined by their opponents, the " revolutionists," with the same demand: we want the " separation of the state from the church."

The former would free the church from the influence of the state, the latter would free the state from the influence of the church; and both would attain their end by the same means " separation."

It seems, as if state and church were a married couple, who mutually call for divorce; but state and church are competitors, who each claim supremacy, must claim it; and competitors attain their purpose not by separation, but by contest.

The very fact that the same call for u separation" comes from two hostile camps, should have led you to suppose, that the occupants of One of the two must be in the dark, concerning their aims and interests. Experience, as well as reflection, should have aroused in you the suspicion that this lack of clearness must be in the camp of the revolutionists. This is as natural as the practical superiority of an old experienced and cunning person over a young genius. Whoever would displace an existing wrong by a right to be gained by a struggle and to be tested, finds it far more difficult to reach the necessary insight, clearness and decision in means and ends, than he, who seeks to maintain something in existence or to restore something that existed previously. The priests know what they are about, when they speak of the separation of state and church ; the " revolutionists" do not know it. Let us now endeavor in a few words to to get clearness concerning this matter. What the state is, we know, but what is the church? Is it what most people usually take it to be, " religion" or " denomination." By no means. Just this tacit confounding of church and religion constitutes the illusion, which most priests use in order to carry their point.

Religion is a matter of individual conviction or of individual belief; it must, therefore, like all matters of conviction, be left to the individual; and the state has as little right forcibly to examine into a religious convic-

tion or to compel its change, as it has in the case of any other conviction. If the conviction is bad or erroneous, its change must be the work of the freely acting and freely progressing mind, which is to be restrained neither in the press nor in oral communication. To secure this freedom, is the business of the state, but not to hinder it. In so far, therefore; every one must be, retaining this expression, for separation of religion and state, i. e., in other words, for securing religious and every other conviction, and its expression against encroachments by the powers of the state.

The state, then, should not demand any religion, not dictate any religion, not prohibit any religion; it should not prescribe any belief, nor favor any denomination ; but it should also not have any religion, nor recognize it. Odillon Barrot is right, when he says : ,c the law is atheistical and the state, too, this organism of laws, should be atheistical. The state is the organized society upon a certain piece of this corporeal solid earth. What business has it with the idea, that certain individuals have of " another world," of an existence built in the air? The state regulates the relations of men in earthly unquestionable things; only a theocratical despot can have the idea to Use it also for the regulation of " heavenly things," of which no one knows anything. The state has to do with men, not with gods; with knowledge, not with belief; with rights, not with fancies; with solid interests, not with metaphysical speculations. It is not to usurp the control and direction of the fancy of its citizens, and not to concern himself with a realm, in which neither its police nor its laws can take effect. It should also not wish to establish any 11 jus circa sacra;" but just as little should it allow the " sacrav to meddle with its "jus." It is concerned with the religion of its citizens, only when this religion encroaches upon the province of the state; and,

in such cases, the hand of the 6tate should arraign him who commits a crime " from religion" under the same law, under which it arraigns him who commits a crime " without religion." Religion should be free, but not a license for infringing the common rights and for breaking the laws of the state.

This should, at least, be the principles of the true state, of the future state that is yet to be established. The more a state is in its infancy, the cruder it is, the more it is mixed up with religion; and the first rulers were, at the same time, religious and secular chiefs. In spite of all contests and all phrases, there has been no state as yet, that knew how to keep religion wholly out of consideration, or that ventured to do it. Even the state that has carried the " separation of state and church" farthest, that has made the freeest utterance of religious conviction and of religious humbug one of its chief principles, because its founders wished to secure themselves forever against the restraint of religious freedom, experienced elsewhere,—even the North-American Republic is still thoroughly infected with religious matters, is still formally a state of religious compulsion. It prescribes an oath with religious forms; it lets the governors of states establish religious holidays (thanks-giving day); it obstructs commerce on Sundays, and tyrannizes society by the most nonsensical Sunday-laws; it has the meetings of Congress and of other legislatures opened with the blessing of a priest; it has its tribunals—as lately in Boston—to refuse hearing to its citizens who do not believe in a " God," i. e.. to deprive them of their right on account of free conviction ; it permits even exemption of taxes to the priests, and already these gentlemen have commenced to appropriate the church property of the communities and have attempted, not without prospect of success, to obtain the sanction of legislators for such robberies. All this is not" separation of state and church," but it is church-tyranny with the help of the state. It is only a wonder, that the following paragraph from the constitution, which Locke once framed for Carolina, was not embodied in all the constitutions of the Union : " No one shall be a free citizen of Carolina, or possess real estate or home-stead therein, who does not recognize that there is a God, and that he must be publicly and solemnly worshipped."

In these matters, the "atheists'1 are far more liberal than the North-Americans, who know no limit in the praise of the liberality of their institutions, but who are submerged over head and ears, not in the Christian-Ger-manic, but in the Christian-Anglo-Saxon state.

• Also in philosophical Germany, at the time of greatest freedom, the time of the revolution, legislative boldness did not venture to leave religion or "God" out of consideration wholly. The " fundamental rights of the German people," drawn up at Frankfurt, secure, indeed, "complete freedom of belief and conscience" (of which, of course, no one can be deprived without emptying the skull of his brain); they stipulate religious equality, grant free exercise of religion, and establish that " no one shall be forced into any action or solemnity of the churh;" but, at the same time, they require, in contradiction to all that preceeds, that the formula of the oath in future shall be: "So help me God !"

What in all the world is the meaning of the phrase: " So help me God ?" Even granting the existence of a " God," how can a man be asked to fortify the truth of his words with the half-wishing phrase," so help me God ?" And how and in what shall God help him ? I know of no more complete nonsense than this holy solemn phrase, recognized by German philosophers and professors: "So help me God." But it becomes at the same time a crime, if it is forced upon an " atheist." Since an " atheist" does not believe in a " God," he cannot believe that " God" will " help" him. If, then, an atheist should swear that he tells the truth, "so help him God," he is thereby asked not to tell the truth. It is as if he were asked to tell the truth, as truly as twice two makes five, i. e., to lie. The " fundamental rights," therefore, commit a a double crime upon the "atheist": 1, they would rob him of the ,f freedom of belief and conscience" guaranteed to him, and 2, they ask him to take an oath which according to his conviction necessitates perjury.

But enough of this. I come back to the point that only an "atheist" desires and can desire true religious liberty. He leaves every one to believe what he will and can believe. In granting others freedom of belief, he reserves lor himself nothing but freedom of criticism. He has the confidence that human reason, wherever it can develop freely, will drive away all superstition, and that a state with good, gratuitous instruction, accessible to all, whose soul and contents is science and not belief, will never have to meddle with religious affairs. He would, too, if he had to establish a state, not fall into the error of prescribing an atheistic oath; he would simply change the respective paragraph of the " fundamental rights" into the following: "the biblical formula of the oath, heretofore in use, is abrogated, and a simple assurance of truth is substituted; perjury is covered with the severest penalty." He would not exercise any anti-religious compulsion; but he would, too, not confound religion xoitk the church. Religion, he would leave to intellect, and the church to the police.

" Religion" the state may and should '* separate" from itself; but the "church" it must annihilate.

What is the church? Could there be a church, if there were no pope, no bishops, no priests, in short no

hierarchy f This question leads us on the shortest road to the decisive point. The church is not the religion, is. not the denomination, is not the doctrine, and not the belief (when the religion was founded, there was no church as yet); it is also not the religious people, for this could exist without it: but is simply the organized power of the priests to use the belief for the enslavement of the believers, for the plunder of the people. The church, in the hands of the priests, is the means to enslave and plunder the people through faith, as the state, in the hands of the despots, is the means to enslave and plunder the people by force; and since the faith cannot be secured permantly without force, the priests endeavor to control at the same time the force, as the despots, too, endeavor to avail themselves of the faith, since mere force is inadequate to secure

obedience permanently. If we consider, that the Chris-


tian church, consisting of about fifteen million priests even now, without controling force, absorbs as much as two hundred million people would require for a living, we can estimate of what great value the control of power would be to it.

The church stands at the side of the state, it stands Opposite it, and is constantly endeavoring to place itself over it. It is hostile to a state in a double relation: firstly, by forming a state within the state, and, secondly) by being subject to a power outside of the state, so far as it is .catholic. Every church that is not declared a state-church, and is controlled by the state (in the absolute state by the czar, and in the republican state by the democracy) is in fact guilty of high treason, the catholic church even of treason against the country. Since absolutism is generally more consistent than democracy, it has also carried out its relation to the church more consistently than democracy. Therefore, the Russian czar is at the same time pope, and in his dominions

Catholicism is tolerated, only until it can wholly be displaced. If democracy should want to deal with religion and proceed as consistently as absolutism, the church affairs of the state would have to be regulated by the majority rule of the legislature. But democracy knows that it cannot do this; it knows that it is its province to establish the mutual rights of its citizens, and not the opinions of individuals, and that the control of the belief, if it were possible, would be in opposition to all the demo^ cratic principles of freedom. Hence, it foregoes the establishment of a democratic state church, and must forego it. But since, heretofore, it has been too stupid to pursue the opposite course, viz. not to recognize any other church and to treat religion as a purely private affair, it settles with the Lord by means of biblical oaths, thanksgiving-days, etc., and with the priests and liberals by means of the separation of state and church. It believes thereby to give satisfaction at the same time to religion and enlightment. to piety and liberty, while it simply betrays itself to the priests.

The object at which the priest* aim with the separation of the church from the state, is nothing, but the emancipation of the hierarchy from all limitation on the part of the state, so that they may use and plunder the people without hindrance, extend their power at pleasure; and at last control the state fully. They wish that the state should not concern itself about them, but they have; not the most remote idea not to concern themselves about the slate on their part. On the contrary, as soon as thejr believe to have a sufficient foot-hold among the people, they begin to meddle with politics openly and in secret; to influence the elections by the confessional, by visits at the homes, by dispensations, summons, pamphlets, etc.; to direct politics by directing the consciences. If then; as in North America, the democracy is blind enough to

leave the church separate from the state, that is, to let the priests, as an organized economic moral and political power in life, in the school, in churches, in institutions of all kinds, undermine the state; it will finally find that the separation of church and state signifies nothing but subjugation of the state by the priests or at least civil wars through priestly influence.

As in regard to the constitution, so also in regard to the church, North America must be to us a warning example, if the revolution once shall call us and enable us to realize her ideas. There is no country in the world which is better prepared than Germany, for the task of thoroughly solving the ecclesiastical problem. My view concerning the accomplishment of this task, which even in the beginning of the revolution, would have to be attacked with energetic measures, just as well as the political and economic problem, is the following:

The state must not concern itself with religions, since these as affairs of individual opinion and belief, are not subject to its control; but just as little should it tolerate that these should be formed on a religious basis, in the state by a caste of priests, a state within the date. The state recognizes and knows no religion, no denomination, no belief; consequently it recognizes and knows no official representative of the same, no priests, no church. Religion is a private affair of the citizen. If for this private affair, they wish to keep special persons whom they con-rider as teachers, the state cannot and should not hinder them, as little as it can and should prohibit them to practise music, and engage music teachers. If they wish to make the religious affair, the concern of an association and procure for this purpose special buildings, which they call churches or otherwise, the state will not hinder them, as little as it will prevent them from establishing singing-societies and building concert halls. Their teachers are citizens, their associations are meetings, their churches are buildings, which are treated by the law like all others.

Since the state acknowledges no religion and no official representatives of religion, it also does not establish nor tolerate institutions for the education of such representatiw The state educates only citizens and human beings, but not priests and pietists. The chairs of theology and the theological seminaries must be abrogated.

♦Since the state acknowledges no religion, no church and no cast of priests, it also cannot grant the right to possess and to acquire corporate property. Church-property is confiscated in the name of the people, and is used partly for purposes of public instruction, partly given to the respective communities for democratic disposal. Whoever, as a citizen of a state, obeys the government of another state, betrays the country. The criminality and danger of such u relation of subjection arc increased, if the citizen of a democratic state places himself as servant or agent under the command of a potentate, whether this be the pope or sonic one else. Such a traitor is to be rendered harmless with the full severity of the law. It' lie is not a citizen, the mildest procedure against him, consists in banishment 0.' course, as long as the revolution is not closed by the establishment of a constitution, the priests, who usually have been the most active accomplices of the reaction, are to be rendered innocuous like the other enemies of the people.

Besides there can be no doubt that a potentate, if he demands obedience of the citizens of another state, if he presumes to prescribe laws to them that are meant to bid and forbid even in matters of matrimony, is guilty of an insolent interference with the rights of this state, interference which it may become necessary to regard as a declaration of war. If, at the establisnment of the German republic, there etill is a pope, he must be requested to abstain completely from all orders to so-called bishops or other agents in Germany, since these agents are acknowledged as little as he himself is. If he does not acquiesce, it may become necessary to proceed against him in war. He will claim that he is the successor of Christ, but just as such he must be taught that " his kingdom is not of this world," that like his predecessor he may ride on an ass, walk bare-footed through the desert, turn water into wine, cure ulcers, console Magda-lens, descend into hell or ascend to heaven at his pleasure; but that, if "in this world" he arrogates to himself supremacy over the oitizens of foreign states, he must expect the fate of his predecessor.

You see, my dear u revolutionist," that the knotty problem of state and church, about which volumes have already been written, may be solved very easily, if we disregard the phrases of our romantic, doctrinary and diplomatic friends; if we are ashamed to coquet, even before the outbreak of the revolution, with the worst supporters of the counter-revolution, in view of the stupidity of a part of the people; if we oppose to a consistent reaction an equally consistent revolution, firm, inexorable, logical, clear, and—knife in hand. We shall, then, accomplish the transfer of 4< religion" into the hands of the people, where it may stand against the spirit of free inquiry if it can; and the transfer—and for ever—of the " church" to—the church-yard.

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25 Cents

Six Letters to a Pious Man,

Mankind, the Criminal,

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The true Character of Humboldt.


Lessons of a Century,

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What is Humanity? Murder and Liberty,

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