“Well, to this extremity,” said Maximilian, “the governing classes of the world have progressed. We will go to-morrow—it will be Sunday—and visit one of their churches; and you shall see for yourself to what the blind adoration of wealth and the heartless contempt of humanity have brought the world.”
A SERMON OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Max and I entered the church together. It is a magnificent structure—palatial, cathedral-like, in its proportions—a gorgeous temple of fashion, built with exquisite taste, of different-colored marbles, and surrounded by graceful columns. Ushers, who looked like guards in uniform, stood at the doors, to keep out the poorly-dressed people, if any such presented themselves; for it was evident that this so-called church was exclusively a club-house of the rich.
As we entered we passed several marble statues. It is a curious illustration of the evolution of religion, in these latter days, that these statues are not representations of any persons who have ever lived, or were supposed to have lived on earth, or anywhere else; and there was not in or about them any hint whatever of myth or antique belief. In the pre-Christian days the work of the poet and sculptor taught a kind of history in the statues of the pagan divinities. Bacchus told of some ancient race that had introduced the vine into Europe and Africa. Ceres, with her wheat-plant, recited a similar story as to agriculture. And Zeus, Hercules, Saturn and all the rest were, in all probability—as Socrates declared—deified men. And, of course, Christian art was full of beautiful allusions to the life of the Savior, or to his great and holy saints and martyrs. But here we had simply splendid representations of naked human figures, male and female, wondrously beautiful, but holding no associations whatever with what you and I, my dear Heinrich, call religion.
Passing these works of art, we entered a magnificent hall. At the farther end was a raised platform, almost embowered in flowers of many hues, all in full bloom. The light entered through stained windows, on the sides of the hall, so colored as to cast a weird and luxurious effulgence over the great chamber. On the walls were a number of pictures; some of a very sensuous character; all of great beauty and perfect workmanship; but none of them of a religious nature, unless we might except one of the nude Venus rising from the sea.