Monday, August 22, 2016

The Curse of Religion

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Romans 13

The full emancipation of the working class from religion and superstition presupposes its economic emancipation. The Socialist Party’s theory and practice is rooted in a materialist worldview. Such a worldview precludes the existence of magic, gods, spirits and hobgoblins. As such, people with religious views are not eligible for membership. The Socialist Party views religion as simply a product of social conditions and as these conditions improve, there will be no need for religion. Economic conditions of most of the world involved class oppression which gave rise to the need for religion. When people begin to take control of their own lives and begin the task of bringing social life under the conscious control of humanity, the basis of religion will melt away. Also most problems said to be caused by religion are essentially political in nature - from the Crusades to so-called Islamic terrorism. These religious fanatics may fight in the name of God but in reality, they just want to achieve certain political objectives and religion is only a tool for them.

A lot of people in the world are religious. Combined, those religous people have the potential to wield a lot of power. Religion is a "problem" in the sense that it prevents a complete understanding of the world and thereby a barrier to changing that world. At different points in history, certain religions can have a radical or conservative impact on the evolution of society, but it's difficult to see any progressive role for any religion in today's world. It constitutes a barrier to class consciousness. The Socialist Party does not think that human thoughts and behaviour are pre-determined by some supernatural being. Religious superstitions are not just silly outmoded belief systems, like astrology, fortune - telling and other stupid pastimes. They are dangerous delusions which can prevent understanding of the world as it really is. Whether it is the voodoo mumbo-jumbo coming from Rome, Mecca, or any other “holy” place, all religions are useful for keeping workers appropriately deferential and docile. No matter how liberatory a theology may happen to be in a moment of history, the ultimate resolution will be deferred into another realm or in some eschatological age where God intervenes in the life of men and women. The effect then is to project ones hopes into another realm or into the future.

We have a materialist view of the world: we see society as based on concrete, material things and relations. Therefore, the only way to change it is through concrete struggles – political and industrial action and so on. According to most religious ideas, the best way to change the world is through prayer, or meditation, or crystal healing or whatever your personal superstition happens to be. Politics, in this view, takes a back seat.

Religions assert unreasonable and unreasoning certainty based upon no evidence whatever. Consequently, socialists cannot be believers in any form of religious superstition. However, if we want to affect the kind of change in society that the socialist party is proposing then mere atheism is not enough. The Socialist Party is not an atheist organisation. It is materialist and that's a huge difference. An atheist defines themselves in opposition to a set of ideas. A materialist has a view of how ideas originate and how social change can come about. Prominent "new atheists" such as Sam Harris are just apologist for the present order. If you want to leave politics/class out of understanding religion then Dawkins and the late Hitchens seem to be doing a good job of that.  We don't want to police peoples thoughts. Activities such counter-prosletysing more often than not are a waste of effort and energy as rational argument alone will not convince people to abandon religion because religious conviction is not primarily arrived at through a rational process (people don't generally become religious because they've sat down and thought through the issues but due to indoctrination, spiritual experiences, etc.)

Mankind made gods in its image, not the other way around. Socialists live in the real world, not the world of 'spirit'.

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