Review (1892) of Gustave de Molinari’s
Religion (1892)

by E. Castelot (1844-?)

Religion. Par G. DE MOLINARI. 1 vol. PARIS: GUILLAUMIN ET CIE., 1892.

GM-R.1 It may appear strange to mention in the Economic Journal a book entitled Religion, but M. de Molinari would have been justified in entitling it La Religion au Point de Vue Economique, as he has entitled an earlier work La Morale Economique. It originality consists in its retracing the progressive evolution of religious feeling in strict connection with the economic evolution of society. As an instance, we may quote the explanation given of the rising, first of sorcerers, and then of a body of priests, who, says the author, could not exist as long as society was too poor to maintain them, and ‘until a larger supply of subsistence allowed the introduction of the division of labour.’ We may also mention the distinction drawn between paganism, the gods of which were to be propitiated with offerings, and which was consequently a costly religion, and Christianity, which was a cheap religion, as ‘the motive of the God of the Christians was the love of mankind and its interests and not His own.’
GM-R.2 Although strongly anti-socialistic, M. de Molinari is not at all the extreme individualist which some people imagine, and he asserts that, in case of antagonism, the happiness of the species must take precedence of the happiness of the individual. To secure due regard for this claim, the proper cultivation of the moral sense cannot be dispensed with; on this point the author follows very much the same lines as many moral philosophers. But he is convinced that without the assistance of religious feeling, the moral sense will be unable to achieve the necessary economic reforms. ‘Economics must enlighten conscience on the nuisances caused by the vies and imperfections of the individual and collective governments, and religion must provide its moral equipment.’ Without this prompt, man will not strive to conquer his passions and the prompting of his egoistic interests.
GM-R.3 Another desideratum is to be realized in order to achieve this end. ‘The highest branches of human activity, such as religious, artistic, or literary culture, must submit to the law of competition as well as the lowest and material ones. In all countries, and at all times, the healthy effects of religious competitions ... have been verified, as well as the laxity and corruption arising from monopolies.’
GM-R.4 This of course applies to the latterly much discussed question of the separation of Church and State in France. M. de Molinari is of opinion that, effected in a spirit of justice, and not of prejudiced hostility, it would give a new vitality to religious feeling, and thus further an equitable solution to the economic and social problems of our times.


Economic Journal 2, no. 6 (June 1892), pp. 351-352.

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