II (9) : OF THE RELIGIONS OF THE UTOPIANS
|The indigenous religion|
By degrees, they fall off from the various superstitions that are among
them, and grow up to that one religion that is the best and most in request;
and there is no doubt to be made but that all the others had vanished long
ago, if some of those who advised them to lay aside their superstitions
had not met with some unhappy accident, which being considered as inflicted
by heaven, made them afraid that the God whose worship had like to have
been abandoned, had interposed, and revenged themselves on those who despised
|Many accept the Christianity of Hythloday and his companions|
|They cannot accept religious intolerance or exclusiveness|
At the first constitution of their government, Utopus having understood that before his coming among them the old inhabitants had been engaged in great quarrels concerning religion, by which they were so divided among themselves, that he found it an easy thing to conquer them, since instead of uniting their forces against him, every different party in religion fought by themselves; after he had subdued them, he made a law that every man might be of what religion he pleased, and might endeavor to draw others to it by force of argument, and by amicable and modest ways, but without bitterness against those of other opinions; but that he ought to use no other force but that of persuasion, and was neither to mix with it reproaches nor violence; and such as did otherwise were to be condemned to banishment or slavery.
This law was made by Utopus, not only for preserving the public peace,
which he saw suffered much by daily contentions and irreconcilable heats,
but because he thought the interest of religion itself required it. He
judged it not fit to determine anything rashly, and seemed to doubt whether
those different forms of religion might not all come from God, who might
inspire men in a different manner, and be pleased with this variety; he
therefore thought it indecent and foolish for any man to threaten and terrify
another to make him believe what did not appear to him to be true. And
supposing that only one religion was really true, and the rest false, he
imagined that the native force of truth would at last break forth and shine
bright, if supported only by the strength of argument, and attended to
with a gentle and unprejudiced mind; while, on the other hand, if such
debates were carried on with violence and tumults, as the most wicked are
always the most obstinate, so the best and most holy religion might be
choked with superstition, as corn is with briars and thorns.
|No place in Utopia for atheists or mortalists, who have no reason to observe morality|
|Very different funeral practices for those who die quietly and those who die in fear|
When they come from the funeral, they discourse of his good life and worthy actions, but speak of nothing oftener and with more pleasure than of his serenity at the hour of death. They think such respect paid to the memory of good men is both the greatest incitement to engage others to follow their example, and the most acceptable worship that can be offered them; for they believe that though by the imperfection of human sight they are invisible to us, yet they are present among us, and hear those discourses that pass concerning themselves. They believe it inconsistent with the happiness of departed souls not to be at liberty to be where they will, and do not imagine them capable of the ingratitude of not desiring to see those friends with whom they lived on earth in the strictest bonds of love and kindness: besides they are persuaded that good men after death have these affections and all other good dispositions increased rather than diminished, and therefore conclude that they are still among the living, and observe all they say or do. From hence they engage in all their affairs with the greater confidence of success, as trusting to their protection; while this opinion of the presence of their ancestors is a restraint that prevents their engaging in ill designs.
They despise and laugh at auguries, and the other vain and superstitious ways of divination, so much observed among other nations; but have great reverence for such miracles as cannot flow from any of the powers of nature, and look on them as effects and indications of the presence of the Supreme Being, of which they say many instances have occurred among them; and that sometimes their public prayers, which upon great and dangerous occasions they have solemnly put up to God, with assured confidence of being heard, have been answered in a miraculous manner.
They think the contemplating God in His works, and the adoring Him for
them, is a very acceptable piece of worship to Him.
|An active religion of good works|
|Religious celibacy and marriage|
|The selection and role of their priests|
The severest thing that the priest does is the excluding those that are desperately wicked from joining in their worship. There is not any sort of punishment more dreaded by them than this, for as it loads them with infamy, so it fills them with secret horrors, such is their reverence to their religion; nor will their bodies be long exempted from their share of trouble; for if they do not very quickly satisfy the priests of the truth of their repentance, they are seized on by the Senate, and punished for their impiety. The education of youth belongs to the priests, yet they do not take so much care of instructing them in letters as in forming their minds and manners aright; they use all possible methods to infuse very early into the tender and flexible minds of children such opinions as are both good in themselves and will be useful to their country. For when deep impressions of these things are made at that age, they follow men through the whole course of their lives, and conduce much to preserve the peace of the government, which suffers by nothing more than by vices that rise out of ill-opinions. The wives of their priests are the most extraordinary women of the whole country; sometimes the women themselves are made priests, though that falls out but seldom, nor are any but ancient widows chosen into that order.
None of the magistrates has greater honor paid him than is paid the priests; and if they should happen to commit any crime, they would not be questioned for it. Their punishment is left to God, and to their own consciences; for they do not think it lawful to lay hands on any man, how wicked soever he is, that has been in a peculiar manner dedicated to God; nor do they find any great inconvenience in this, both because they have so few priests, and because these are chosen with much caution, so that it must be a very unusual thing to find one who merely out of regard to his virtue, and for his being esteemed a singularly good man, was raised up to so great a dignity, degenerate into corruption and vice. And if such a thing should fall out, for man is a changeable creature, yet there being few priests, and these having no authority but what rises out of the respect that is paid them, nothing of great consequence to the public can proceed from the indemnity that the priests enjoy.
They have indeed very few of them, lest greater numbers sharing in the same honor might make the dignity of that order which they esteem so highly to sink in its reputation. They also think it difficult to find out many of such an exalted pitch of goodness, as to be equal to that dignity which demands the exercise of more than ordinary virtues. Nor are the priests in greater veneration among them than they are among their neighboring nations, as you may imagine by that which I think gives occasion for it.
When the Utopians engage in battle, the priests who accompany them to the war, apparelled in their sacred vestments, kneel down during the action, in a place not far from the field; and lifting up their hands to heaven, pray, first for peace, and then for victory to their own side, and particularly that it may be gained without the effusion of much blood on either side; and when the victory turns to their side, they run in among their own men to restrain their fury; and if any of their enemies see them, or call to them, they are preserved by that means; and such as can come so near them as to touch their garments, have not only their lives, but their fortunes secured to them; it is upon this account that all the nations round about consider them so much, and treat them with such reverence, that they have been often no less able to preserve their own people from the fury of their enemies, than to save their enemies from their rage; for it has sometimes fallen out, that when their armies have been in disorder, and forced to fly, so that their enemies were running upon the slaughter and spoil, the priests by interposing have separated them from one another, and stopped the effusion of more blood; so that by their mediation a peace has been concluded on very reasonable terms; nor is there any nation about them so fierce, cruel, or barbarous as not to look upon their persons as sacred and inviolable.
The first and the last day of the month, and of the year, is a festival.
They measure their months by the course of the moon, and their years by
the course of the sun. The first days are called in their language the
Cynemernes, and the last the Trapemernes; which answers in our language
to the festival that begins, or ends, the season.
|Their places and forms of worship|
They meet in their temples on the evening of the festival that concludes a season: and not having yet broke their fast, they thank God for their good success during that year or month, which is then at an end; and the next day being that which begins the new season, they meet early in their temples, to pray for the happy progress of all their affairs during that period upon which they then enter. In the festival which concludes the period, before they go to the temple, both wives and children fall on their knees before their husbands or parents, and confess everything in which they have either erred or failed in their duty, and beg pardon for it. Thus all little discontents in families are removed, that they may offer up their devotions with a pure and serene mind; for they hold it a great impiety to enter upon them with disturbed thoughts, or with a consciousness of their bearing hatred or anger in their hearts to any person whatsoever; and think that they should become liable to severe punishments if they presumed to offer sacrifices without cleansing their hearts, and reconciling all their differences. In the temples, the two sexes are separated, the men go to the right hand, and the women to the left; and the males and females all place themselves before the head and master or mistress of that family to which they belong; so that those who have the government of them at home may see their deportment in public; and they intermingle them so, that the younger and the older may be set by one another; for if the younger sort were all set together, they would perhaps trifle away that time too much in which they ought to beget in themselves that religious dread of the Supreme Being, which is the greatest and almost the only incitement to virtue.
They offer up no living creature in sacrifice, nor do they think it suitable to the Divine Being, from whose bounty it is that these creatures have derived their lives, to take pleasure in their deaths, or the offering up of their blood. They burn incense and other sweet odors, and have a great number of wax lights during their worship; not out of any imagination that such oblations can add anything to the divine nature, which even prayers cannot do; but as it is a harmless and pure way of worshipping God, so they think those sweet savors and lights, together with some other ceremonies, by a secret and unaccountable virtue, elevate men's souls, and inflame them with greater energy and cheerfulness during the divine worship.
All the people appear in the temples in white garments, but the priest's vestments are parti-colored, and both the work and colors are wonderful. They are made of no rich materials, for they are neither embroidered nor set with precious stones, but are composed of the plumes of several birds, laid together with so much art and so neatly, that the true value of them is far beyond the costliest materials. They say that in the ordering and placing those plumes some dark mysteries are represented, which pass down among their priests in a secret tradition concerning them; and that they are as hieroglyphics, putting them in mind of the blessings that they have received from God, and of their duties both to Him and to their neighbors. As soon as the priest appears in those ornaments, they all fall prostrate on the ground, with so much reverence and so deep a silence that such as look on cannot but be struck with it, as if it were the effect of the appearance of a deity. After they have been for some time in this posture, they all stand up, upon a sign given by the priest, and sing hymns to the honor of God, some musical instruments playing all the while. These are quite of another form than those used among us: but as many of them are much sweeter than ours, so others are made use of by us.
Yet in one thing they very much exceed us; all their music, both vocal
and instrumental, is adapted to imitate and express the passions, and is
so happily suited to every occasion, that whether the subject of the hymn
be cheerful or formed to soothe or trouble the mind, or to express grief
or remorse, the music takes the impression of whatever is represented,
affects and kindles the passions, and works the sentiments deep into the
hearts of the hearers. When this is done, both priests and people offer
up very solemn prayers to God in a set form of words; and these are so
composed, that whatsoever is pronounced by the whole assembly may be likewise
applied by every man in particular to his own condition; in these they
acknowledge God to be the author and governor of the world, and the fountain
of all the good they receive, and therefore offer up to Him their thanksgiving;
and in particular bless Him for His goodness in ordering it so that they
are born under the happiest government in the world, and are of a religion
which they hope is the truest of all others: but if they are mistaken,
and if there is either a better government or a religion more acceptable
to God, they implore Him goodness to let them know it, vowing that they
resolve to follow Him whithersoever He leads them. But if their government
is the best and their religion the truest, then they pray that He may fortify
them in it, and bring all the world both to the same rules of life, and
to the same opinions concerning Himself; unless, according to the unsearchableness
of His mind, He is pleased with a variety of religions. Then they pray
that God may give them an easy passage at last to Himself; not presuming
to set limits to Him, how early or late it should be; but if it may be
wished for, without derogating from His supreme authority, they desire
to be quickly delivered, and to be taken to Himself, though by the most
terrible kind of death, rather than to be detained long from seeing Him
by the most prosperous course of life. When this prayer is ended, they
all fall down again upon the ground, and after a little while they rise
up, go home to dinner, and spend the rest of the day in diversion or military
|Hythloday begins to make a comparison between Utopia and the outside world in terms of justice. He fiercely denounces the oppression and exploitation of the poor by the rich, in the name of law.|
I would gladly hear any man compare the justice that is among them with that of all other nations; among whom, may I perish, if I see anything that looks either like justice or equity: for what justice is there in this, that a nobleman, a goldsmith, a banker, or any other man, that either does nothing at all, or at best is employed in things that are of no use to the public, should live in great luxury and splendor, upon what is so ill acquired; and a mean man, a carter, a smith, or a ploughman, that works harder even than the beasts themselves, and is employed in labors so necessary, that no commonwealth could hold out a year without them, can only earn so poor a livelihood, and must lead so miserable a life, that the condition of the beasts is much better than theirs? For as the beasts do not work so constantly, so they feed almost as well, and with more pleasure; and have no anxiety about what is to come, whilst these men are depressed by a barren and fruitless employment, and tormented with the apprehensions of want in their old age; since that which they get by their daily labor does but maintain them at present, and is consumed as fast as it comes in, there is no overplus left to lay up for old age.
Is not that government both unjust and ungrateful, that is so prodigal of its favors to those that are called gentlemen, or goldsmiths, or such others who are idle, or live either by flattery, or by contriving the arts of vain pleasure; and on the other hand, takes no care of those of a meaner sort, such as ploughmen, colliers, and smiths, without whom it could not subsist? But after the public has reaped all the advantage of their service, and they come to be oppressed with age, sickness, and want, all their labors and the good they have done is forgotten; and all the recompense given them is that they are left to die in great misery. The richer sort are often endeavoring to bring the hire of laborers lower, not only by their fraudulent practices, but by the laws which they procure to be made to that effect; so that though it is a thing most unjust in itself, to give such small rewards to those who deserve so well of the public, yet they have given those hardships the name and color of justice, by procuring laws to be made for regulating them.
Therefore I must say that, as I hope for mercy, I can have no other notion of all the other governments that I see or know, than that they are a conspiracy of the rich, who on pretence of managing the public only pursue their private ends, and devise all the ways and arts they can find out; first, that they may, without danger, preserve all that they have so ill acquired, and then that they may engage the poor to toil and labor for them at as low rates as possible, and oppress them as much as they please. And if they can but prevail to get these contrivances established by the show of public authority, which is considered as the representative of the whole people, then they are accounted laws. Yet these wicked men after they have, by a most insatiable covetousness, divided that among themselves with which all the rest might have been well supplied, are far from that happiness that is enjoyed among the Utopians: for the use as well as the desire of money being extinguished, much anxiety and great occasions of mischief is cut off with it. And who does not see that the frauds, thefts, robberies, quarrels, tumults, contentions, seditions, murders, treacheries, and witchcrafts, which are indeed rather punished than restrained by the severities of law, would all fall off, if money were not any more valued by the world? Men's fears, solicitudes, cares, labors, and watchings, would all perish in the same moment with the value of money: even poverty itself, for the relief of which money seems most necessary, would fall. But, in order to the apprehending this aright, take one instance.
Consider any year that has been so unfruitful that many thousands have
died of hunger; and yet if at the end of that year a survey was made of
the granaries of all the rich men that have hoarded up the corn, it would
be found that there was enough among them to have prevented all that consumption
of men that perished in misery; and that if it had been distributed among
them, none would have felt the terrible effects of that scarcity; so easy
a thing would it be to supply all the necessities of life, if that blessed
thing called money, which is pretended to be invented for procuring them,
was not really the only thing that obstructed their being procured!
|Hythloday explains the whole problem as being the result of pride|
|Morus makes his own concluding remarks, rejecting Hythloday's main idea, but in a nuanced manner|