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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Extracts from Amiel’s Journal
Fundamentals of Religion
By Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)
 
Translation of Mary Augusta Ward

JUNE 5TH, 1870.—The efficacy of religion lies precisely in that which is not rational, philosophic, nor eternal; its efficacy lies in the unforeseen, the miraculous, the extraordinary. Thus religion attracts more devotion in proportion as it demands more faith,—that is to say, as it becomes more incredible to the profane mind. The philosopher aspires to explain away all mysteries, to dissolve them into light. It is mystery, on the other hand, which the religious instinct demands and pursues: it is mystery which constitutes the essence of worship, the power of proselytism. When the cross became the “foolishness” of the cross, it took possession of the masses. And in our own day, those who wish to get rid of the supernatural, to enlighten religion, to economize faith, find themselves deserted, like poets who should declaim against poetry, or women who should decry love. Faith consists in the acceptance of the incomprehensible, and even in the pursuit of the impossible, and is self-intoxicated with its own sacrifices, its own repeated extravagances.  1
  It is the forgetfulness of this psychological law which stultifies the so-called liberal Christianity. It is the realization of it which constitutes the strength of Catholicism.  2
  Apparently, no positive religion can survive the supernatural element which is the reason for its existence. Natural religion seems to be the tomb of all historic cults. All concrete religions die eventually in the pure air of philosophy. So long then as the life of nations is in need of religion as a motive and sanction of morality, as food for faith, hope, and charity, so long will the masses turn away from pure reason and naked truth, so long will they adore mystery, so long—and rightly so—will they rest in faith, the only region where the ideal presents itself to them in an attractive form.  3
 
 
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