“Opium and Revolution”

R.R. Reno’s short essay posted today at First Things is not a new take on the question of political revolution as a substitute for religion, but it is provocative nonetheless. I don’t think that I’m giving anything away to say that it implicitly comes down on the side of the superiority of faith. A few lines:

The 1930s was a decade when many intellectuals were convinced that revolution, either fascist or communist, was the only answer to the social crisis of the times. It was during this era of political fervor that Simone Weil penned a rebuttal: “It is not religion but revolution which is the opium of the masses.” Like so much of what Weil wrote, it’s an arresting thought. And it’s also one that is true on many levels.

We should never discount the appeal of revolution as a holiday from the tedium of everyday life. I’m sure the students who occupied university administration buildings in the 1960s sincerely wanted to make the world a better place; but the way in which the events seemed to suspend ordinary time must have been intoxicating, even temptingly so. The same is probably true for some of our present-day Islamic revolutionaries, or at least their fellow travelers. Revolutions bring danger, but, like blizzards and hurricanes, they also lead to school cancellations.
It is not simply the desire to control or even reform society but rather to remake it from the ground up, and to do so on principles that will guarantee purity. We often use this dream, Weil suggests, to dull the pains of our existence.

It’s a good read all the way through and, as I said, provocative.

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