But the worshippers and lovers of those gods, whom they delighted to imitate in their criminal wickedness, are unconcerned about the utter corruption of their country. "So long as it lasts," they say, "so long as it enjoys material prosperity, and the glory of victorious war, or, better, the security of peace, why should we worry? What concerns us is that we should get richer all the time, to have enough for extravagant spending every day, enough to keep our inferiors in their place. It is all right if the poor serve the rich, so as to get enough to eat and to enjoy a lazy life under their patronage; while the rich make use of the poor to ensure a crowd of hangers-on to minister to their pride; if the people applaud those who supply them with pleasures rather than those who offer them salutary advice; if no one imposes disagreeable duties, or forbids perverted delights; if kings are interested not in the morality but in the docility of their subjects; if provinces are under rulers who are regarded not as directors of conduct but as controllers of material things and providers of material satisfactions, and are treated with servile fear instead of sincere respect.
"The laws should punish offences against another's property, not offences against a man's own personal character. No one should be brought to trial except for an offence, or threat of offence, against another's property, house or person; but anyone should be free to do as he likes about his own, or with his own, or with others, if they consent. There should be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes, for the benefit of all those who prefer them, and especially those who cannot keep private mistresses. It is a good thing to have imposing houses luxuriously furnished, where lavish banquets can be held, where people can, if they like, spend night and day in debauchery, and eat and drink until they are sick; to have the din of dancing everywhere, and theatres full of fevered shouts of degenerate pleasure and of every kind of cruel and degraded indulgence.
"Anyone who disapproves of this kind of happiness should rank as a public enemy: anyone who attempts to change it or get rid of it should be hustled out of hearing by the freedom-loving majority: he should be kicked out, and removed from the land of the living.
"We shoud reckon the true gods to be those who see that the people get this kind of happiness and then preserve it for them. Then let them be worshipped as they wish, let them demand what shows they like, so they can enjoy them with their devotees, or, at least, receive them from their worshippers. All the gods have to do is to ensure that there is no threat to this happiness from enemies, or plagues, or any other disasters."
St. Augustine, Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans (Henry Bettenson, Tr.), Book II, Ch. 20, actually speaking of Imperial Rome, in words many of which could also be applied to the modern United States.
"And from that time," he says, "the degradation of traditional morality ceased to be a gradual decline and became a torrential downhill rush. The young were so corrupted by luxury and greed that it was justly observed that a generation had arisen which could neither keep its own property or allow others to keep theirs."
St. Augustine, Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans (Henry Bettenson, Tr.), Book II, Ch. 18, quoting Sallust, regarding the generation which arose in Rome about the time of its Civil Wars, but which could also be applied in its entirety to modern America.