Humans made God in their image and attributed to him the powers which they collectively possessed, and then bowed down and worshiped this figment of their imagination. The first premise of historical materialism is that all man's thinking is social thinking; that there is no idea that man discusses, no interest that he fights for, and no ideal that he aspires to, that is not derived from social origins. If humans were to realise this and take their own destiny in hand there would be no need for God or religion. Where the working class accepts allegiance to religion, to royalty or the nation-state, or accepts a false ideology or economic subservience to the capitalist class, it denies itself the realisation of its own interests. The poverty of the modern proletariat still results from the fact that its labour operates in commodity form, is bought for wages and exploited by capitalists with a view to profit. To buy a man's labour power and set him to work is to reduce his existence to a commercial transaction and alienate his individuality.
Despite the attempts by churchmen to modify the image of the Church and alter its social role, it will retain one enduring characteristic, that of an anti-working class institution. The Church supports the present method of producing and distributing wealth--capitalism. The ideas that it disseminates, its concepts about society, and the universe it trades in, are either irrelevant or hostile to the ideas that the working class requires to achieve its economic emancipation. Socialists seek the universal brotherhood of men, but for the Church to sloganise ideals and in practice support a system that precludes their realisation, is worse than hollow gesture, it erects a barrier to their practical achievement. Churches arrogated to themselves the role of arbiter in things appertaining not only to matters of what it called ‘morality’ but to all forms of human behaviour and even juridical practice. If the Church genuinely aspires to social harmony on a world scale what it should do is relate to specific social situations within actual experience and explain the reasons why men now behave in a manner contrary to their mutual interests. It should argue a valid social theory and advocate a practical course for political action that offer the sure prospect of the unity of all men based on relations of genuine social equality. Only Socialists do this.
Many anti-religious writers see themselves as defenders of the Enlightenment tradition of reason against its traditional foe, religion. But they see nothing wrong in capitalism. Socialists recognise that the main source of irrationality in the modern world is to be found in the capitalist system of society. For socialists, therefore, the struggle against religion cannot be separated from the struggle for socialism. We fight religious superstition whenever it is an obstacle to socialism that keeps the gaze of the masses fixed upon the sky where they cannot investigate the real material world and see how they are robbed and oppressed.
The Preacher and the Slave
Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.
The starvation army they play,
They sing and they clap and they pray
Till they get all your coin on the drum
Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum:
Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
They holler, they jump and they shout.
Give your money to Jesus they say,
He will cure all diseases today.
If you fight hard for children and wife -
Try to get something good in this life -
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.
Workingmen of all countries, unite,
Side by side we for freedom will fight;
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:
You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and to fry.
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good,
And you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye