Free & Uneasy

Free & Uneasy

Liberalism and Its Discontents

By Francis Fukuyama

In the middle of the 19th century, Auguste Comte, the French positivist thinker and forefather of sociology, devised a new faith. His Religion of Humanity would channel the natural desire for worship towards scientific and humanist ends. There was no God, but to be human was divine. Comte described the liturgy in detail. Rather than crossing themselves, for example, congregants would tap themselves in three places on their heads, signifying love, order and progress.

Temples of Humanity sprang up in cities across England, as well as the United States and Brazil (the Porto Alegre temple is apparently still functioning). Most of Comte’s contemporaries, however, even those who admired his work in other fields, were not converted. John Stuart Mill wrote that some of Comte’s proposals ‘could have been written by no man who had ever laughed’.

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