email@example.com (Loren I. Petrich)
There is another version of this type of argument. It states
that people _must_ be doped with a religion to make them virtuous.
This I call the "royal lie" argument from its most honest form -- if
it is necessary to do this, then one could just as well use a false
religion. It might also be called the theory that religion is
desirable _as_ opium for the people.
I got the term from Plato, who advocated that his Republic (in
that dialogue) teach a religion which he considered false, but which
was designed to legitimize his ideal state. According to it, there
were three kinds of people: golden ones who are to be the Guardians,
philosopher-kings and -queens; silver ones who are to be the soldiers;
and bronze and iron ones who are to be the ordinary people.
This was a common view up to early modern times. The ancient
geographer Strabo believed that "the great mass of women [yes I know
that's sexist] and common people can not be persuaded to [virtuous
conduct] by the force of reason. Superstition is necessary, and even
that is not effective without the aid of the marvelous and the
horrible." In early modern times, Machiavelli had a similar view. He
applauded the ancient Romans for pretending to believe in auguries
(official divinations), and for punishing those who refused to respect
them. This is significant because I'm sure that Machiavelli did not
believe in auguries.
However, at the present time, it seems to be a serious act of
Political Incorrectness to explicitly advocate teaching a religion one
considers false just to make people virtuous; the truth question is
often evaded by present-day advocates of this view.