TIMES OF RISE AND DECLINE OF RELIGION AND MORALITY (3)
This becomes even clearer and clearer when we deal with the moral teaching of Stoicism, which has undoubtedly had the strongest influence compared to its theoretical positions. Stoicism created the Buddhist ideal of the serene-calm sage, indifferently watching the stage of life, and in this ideal he sought happiness and satisfaction. The wise do what is necessary, doing as the knowledge of good dictates; his conviction is unwavering; indifferent, calm, happy internally, he is the master of his desires and completely independent of external factors; only he is free because he reaches his goal with a calm soul; he is the real rich man, because he does not need anything and everything can be used as follows; he is a true king, to whom everything obeys, a true poet and the only priest, because he proclaims the word of truth and honors God with pious deeds; in him reason is realized, he hovers like God among mortals, resembling Zeus in the blessed life. We cannot but agree that the ideal Stoic sage involuntarily attracts us with the purity of his spirit. But we cannot deny that it is this clarity, this complacency, that completely focuses attention on the external and hinders the spirit in its sublime impulses to heaven, stifles its best aspirations – to believe and to pray. The proud sage cannot bend his knees, he cannot indulge in the rapture of self-humiliation – he himself is a god, he unconditionally relies on his moral strength and is guided by the suggestions of his own reason.
We see that the influence of Greek philosophy was detrimental to the religious feeling of mankind. Epicureanism destroyed him with its materialistic views and mocking indifference, Stoicism with its proud doctrine of a pantheistic character; until finally, the skeptical school or new academy existing alongside these schools, preaching the impossibility of knowledge, infects with its incurable skepticism. And, in fact, under the influence of all these influences, faith seems to have abandoned humanity. And not only were the educated strata of society indifferent, but the masses were imbued with skepticism both with regard to the national religion and with regard to religion in general.
The disastrous example set by the upper classes could not fail to have consequences, all the more so as literature and science itself — these drivers of public opinion — were conductors of anti-religious tendencies. . For Cicero, Scevola, Varon, and others, religion is simply a useful state institution, and the performance of religious rites is necessary not as a need of inner feeling, but as an obligation to recognize state power. Pliny the Elder considers madness the belief in the gods, in the immortality of the soul. The wise do not need a positive religion, it is needed only by the uneducated crowd. “It would be unfair to distinguish popular opinion from the opinion of enlightened people. These same writers were both mentors, publicly teaching their teachings, and priests, performing religious rites; moreover, they were the glory of their age not only in mind but also in spiritual nobility. They expressed a common conviction, and no voice condemned or contradicted them. In general, there was little difference between the so-called crowd and the so-called thinkers. In the ignorant apathy of the plowman unconsciously lies as much disbelief as is expressed in the eloquence of the writer. In any case, what is written by everyone is thought by all non-writers, if not today, then tomorrow ”(Khomyakov, Sochineniya, vol. IV, p. 405).
Of course, philosophical views could not be consciously assimilated into the simple, illiterate crowd. In it the teachings that excite the society vaguely reached as an echo: scientific notions about the deity, the deification of nature, faith in destiny, etc. under. The majority, obviously, could not realize these concepts if they were asked to do so; but this circumstance did not prevent him from ridiculing the gods and religion together with philosophers and scientists. The point was that not every scientific theory reached the lower strata, but they were accessed by every mockery, every mockery of old beliefs. The result was the same: some did not believe by conviction, others became skeptics by frivolous imitation. “No one believes that gods are gods,” says Petronius, “no one gives a hair for Jupiter: we are not religious at all.” The temples were deserted, Juvenal notes, or were visited only as a place of debauchery: “Laughter was received by the simpleton, who claimed that the deity lived in temples and on altars stained with sacrificial blood.” According to Propertius, the sciences wrapped the shrine in their cobwebs and the altars were overgrown with grass.
The collapse of religion in cultural humanity at the end of the pre-Christian era and at the beginning of our era was complete. The religious feeling seemed to be dead. Only the painful mysticism that was spreading at that time testified that the religious need was not yet alien to the human soul, that it was simply silenced under the cold influences of skepticism. Such a state could not last long. The philosophy that planned to replace human faith did not keep its promises. Her dreams of building a worldview on the beginnings of reason, answering all questions, and solving all the problems that troubled humanity have proved unfulfilled. In the field of knowledge, disappointment has come a long time ago. The earliest philosophical experiments ended in skepticism, and since then the skeptical trend has run like a red thread through the entire history of philosophy. But this disappointment was not gloomy at first. The faith in man, the faith in the moral ideal, was still alive; alive was the hope of finding complete satisfaction in the type of natural wisdom created by reason. It was only when this ideal was shattered that this hope faded, and only then did humanity realize its complete disappointment. Self-belief turned out to be an exaggeration, the ideal sage turned out to exist only in the imagination. The pride of the will surrendered. The pride of reason surrendered even earlier. “Virtue, you are an empty word,” said the Roman world through Brutus. “What is truth?” He asked through Pilate’s mouth, asking his question without hoping for an answer. “There is neither the beauty of the will – virtue, nor the beauty of knowledge – the truth; the world was left without deities. ”
From here begins a turn in the religious life of mankind. The age of decline is over; could not proceed further. The bitter feeling of deceived expectations made people think and led them back to faith. Started movement, diametrically opposed to the previous one. At the same time, we observe that the crisis is approaching with extremely fast steps. The religious feeling, so long suppressed, surfaced, and the enthusiasm it gave rise to ever wider parts of the world. And during this time the world’s greatest historical event took place – Christianity appeared.