Blind Mouths

From Sesame and Lilies, “Of Kings’ Treasuries,” by John Ruskin

…The first thing, therefore, that a bishop has to do is at least to put himself in a position in which, at any moment, he can obtain the history, from childhood, of every living soul in his diocese, and of its present state. Down in that back street, Bill and Nancy, knocking each other’s teeth out! – Does the bishop know all about it? Has he his eye upon them? Has he had his eye upon them? Can he circumstantially explain to us how Bill got into the habit of beating Nancy about the head? If he cannot, he is no bishop, though he had a mitre as high as Salisbury steeple; he is no bishop, — he has sought to be at the helm instead of the masthead; he has no sight of things. “Nay,” you say, “it is not his duty to look after Bill in the back street.” What! the fat sheep that have full fleeces – you think it is only those he should look after while (go back to your Milton) “the hungry sheep look up, and are not fed, besides what the grim wolf, with privy paw” (bishops knowing nothing about it)., “daily devours apace, and nothing said.”?

and a page or two later, speaking of those “puffed up” with religion, a few lines that ring true today:

This is literally true of all false religious teaching; the first and last, and fatalest sign of it, is that “puffing up.” Your converted children, who teach their parents; your converted convicts, who teach honest men; your converted dunces, who, having lived in cretinous stupefaction half their lives, suddenly awakening to the fact of there being a God, fancy themselves therefore His peculiar people and messengers; your sectarians of every species, small and great, Catholic or Protestant, of high church or low, in so far as they think themselves exclusively in the right and others wrong; and, pre-eminently, in every sect, those who hold that men can be saved by thinking rightly instead of doing rightly, by word instead of act, and wish instead of work; — these are the true fog children – clouds, these, without water; bodies, these, of putrescent vapour and skin, without blood or flesh; blown bagpipes for the fiends to pipe with – corrupt, and corrupting, — “Swollen with wind, and the rank mist they draw.”

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