Jonathan\'s Swift\'s Real Argument




Jonathan\'s Swift\'s Real Argument


God only knows from whence came Freud\'s theory of penis envy, but one of
his more tame theories, that of "reverse psychology", may have its roots in the
satire of the late Jonathan Swift. I do not mean to assert that Swift employed
or was at all familiar with that style of persuasion, but his style is
certainly comparable. Reverse psychology (as I chose to define it for this
paper) means taking arguments that affirm an issue to such a degree that they
seem absurd, and thus oppose the issue. Swift, in "An Argument [Against] The
Abolishing Of Christianity In England" stands up for Christianity, and based on
the absurdity of his defense, he inadvertently desecrates it. He sets up a
fictitious society in which Christianity is disregarded and disdained, but
nominal Christianity remains. The author writes to defend this nominal
Christianity from abolition. The arguments that the author uses, which are
common knowledge in his time, if applied to Christianity in Swift\'s time would
be quite dangerous allegations. Indeed, the reasons that Swift gives for the
preservation of the fictitious Christianity are exactly what he sees wrong with
the Christianity practiced in his time. By applying Swift\'s satirical argument
for the preservation of this fictitious religion to that which was currently
practiced, Swift asserts that their Christianity served ulterior motives, both
for the government and for the people.
If we are to prove that the government was using religion for selfish
purposes, we must be sure that it was not serving its intended purpose, the
assurance of the moral sanctity of its policies. This is quite evident in the
author\'s comment that if real Christianity was revived, it would be, "destroy at
one blow all the wit and half the learning of the kingdom; to break the entire
frame and constitution of things[.]" This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that
Christianity has no influence on the government\'s current policies. It even
seems as if the government established Church isn\'t completely rooted in
Christianity, as the author weakly suggests that, "[A]bolishing Christianity may
perhaps bring the church into danger." The ways that the government actually
uses Christianity are completely selfish. One such purpose is the consolation of
allies, "among whom, for we ought to know, it may be the custom of the country
to believe a God." He later goes on to suggest the abolition of Christianity in
peace-time in order to avoid the loss of allies. It also seems as if the
government uses Christianity to pacify the commoners. Although Swift
sarcastically interjects, "Not that I [agree] with those who hold religion to
have been the intervention of politicians to keep the lower part of the world in
awe," he also says that religion is, "[O]f singular use for the common people."
In other instances, the government does not use, but certainly benefits from
Christianity. In several ways Christianity is a buffer from dissension, in that
it takes a blow that might have instead landed on government. Many of the
reasons that the author\'s opposition has given for abolishing Christianity deals
with the settlement of unrest that comes from religious disputes. One such
example they give is that if Christianity were abolished, there would be no
more persecution of "blasphemers". Swift answers that these people are naturally
inclined to rebel against establishments. Therefore, if the church, their
favorite object of rebellion, was taken away, they would resort to rebelling
against the government. This statement suggests that ,"deorum offensa diis
curae" (offenses against the gods are the god\'s business). If applied to the
English government, it accuses them of only punishing "blasphemers" in the
interest of protecting the government. Another argument that the author counters
is that upon the
fall of Christianity, Protestants and other dissenters would be able to again
join in communion with the Catholic church. To this, the author retorts that
while this may take away one reason for dissension, "spirit of opposition" would
still remain. Thus, when these Protestants found themselves unhappily thrust
back into the fold, they would simply find another area in which to dissent, and
this time it may be an important area like government. While reaffirming the
government\'s selfish motives, this accuses the Protestants of separating from
the Catholic church not because of moral differences, but in order to quench
their desire to rebel. Another unity that the author\'s opposition predicted
would come from Christianity\'s fall would that of political and religious
parties. Swift answers that these parties used religious differences as an
excuse to argue, and that, if necessary, they would find any number