Re: Smerdyakov on Napoleon: Karamazovian defence policy
I think you have to consider the source of this passage, this is Smerdyakov talking. Although Smerdyakov resented his heritage, held his father in distain, he was still his father's son. Smerdy's (I almost wrote: Swarmy) thoughts on Napoleon are consistant with how he and his father felt towards religion. Fyodor and Smerdy's distain for religion is almost as strong as their disgust for each other. Neither father or son believed in God, albeit for different reasons, however, Napoleon saw a value in religion, and this may have made France look weak in Smerdy's eyes.
In terms of religion, Napoleon bordered between deism and atheism. I suppose you could say that Catholicism as a religion of salvation had little meaning to him. But, like Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Marx, Napoleon believed that religion was little more than the cement which held society together. Again, we are reminded of Marx when he remarked that "religion is the opiate of the people." According to Napoleon, religion promoted national unity and prevented class war -- it kept the people meek and mild instead of strong and independent. He made every effort to close the divide between the State and the Church, a divide created by the Revolution. The Temples of Reason (i.e., the churches) and the Cult of the Supreme Being, erected in the early 1790s, were too abstract for Napoleon. How could he expect the French common people to have understood them? So, his desire was to reconcile Church and State. Such a reconciliation would gain for Napoleon even greater approval of his people.
Shrewd, calculating and intelligent, Napoleon knew exactly what he was doing. It was for these reasons that he negotiated an agreement with the Pope. The Concordat of 1801 recognized Catholicism as the favored religion of France -- not the state religion. The clergy would be selected and paid by the State, but consecrated by the Church. So, in terms of religion, Napoleon basically guaranteed one of the rights mentioned in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen -- religious freedom (see Lecture 12). However, the Church did not regain land confiscated during the Revolution, nor did they have the right to collect the tithe and the French clergy, though consecrated at Rome, remained under state control. Napoleon had achieved another of his aims -- Jews, Protestants and Catholics could freely practice their religion. But the Church was under state control. Although the people seemed to get what they wanted, so too did Napoleon.
I have finished BK, and what I have found is that the characters may not represent Russia and certain qualities, but rather, the focus is on the characters belief or non belief in faith and religion and how this affects the lives of the characters.
If you take Russia out of the characters and see them for their religious beliefs only, the above passage is not treasonous because it comes out of the mouth of a character, it is not the voice of Russia. It is however treacherous, because Dostoevsky views those who do not have faith in God to live a treacherous life.
Smerdy believes that yes, those who have faith in God are not clever. Napoleon encouraged the French to pracice religion making it a country of stupid people in Smerdy's eyes. I don't think FD is writing about Russia, I think he is writing about people, and the universal personal conflict between faith and doubt.