While reading about Frederick The Great’s reign over eighteenth century Prussia, I came across the following quote:
Superstition, self-interest, vengeance, treason, ingratitude, will produce bloody and tragic. Scenes until the end of time, because we are governed by passions and very rarely by reason. There will always be wars, lawsuits, devastations, plagues, earthquakes, bankruptcies. . . . Since this is so, I presume it must be necessary. . . . But it seems to me that if this universe had been made by a benevolent being, he should have made us happier than we are. . . . The human mind is weak; more than three fourths of mankind are made for subjection to the most absurd fanaticism. Fear of the Devil and of hell fascinates their eyes, and they detest the wise man who tries to enlighten them. . . . In vain do I seek in them that image of God which the theologians assert they bear upon them. Every man has a wild beast in him; few can restrain it; most men let loose the bridle when not restrained by terror of the law.
He was the first avowedly agnostic ruler of modern times, but he made no public attack on religion. He felt that the uneducated, unenlightened masses need the yoke of religion to keep them in their place.
Frederick also concluded that to allow governments to be dominated by the majority would be disastrous. A democracy, to survive, must be, like other governments, a minority persuading a majority to let itself be led by a minority. Frederick thought like Napoleon that “among nations and in revolutions aristocracy always exists.” He believed that an hereditary aristocracy would gevelop a sense of honor and loyalty, and a willingness to serve the state at great personal cost, which could not be expected of bourgeois geniuses formed in the race for wealth. Indeed, Frederick liked to picture himself as the servant of the state and the people, and he lived up to that claim. The state for him became the Supreme Being, to which he would sacrifice himself and others.