Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

Religion and Socialism

Immigrants are not to blame

Religion is in the news again; whether it is Christian militias massacring Islamists in Africa, Sikhs fighting each other at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Muslim sects killing one another in Iraq and Syria, the imposition of conservative Islamic practices in some British schools in the UK where one private school in Luton was found to have library books promoting stoning, lashings and executions, or the crass and anti-socialist opportunism of some Trotskyist groups who are using “radical Islam” as a Feudal battering ram against the doors of “US Imperialism”.

The Socialist opposition to all religion has not in any way changed since the formation of the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904. We have rejected the argument that religion is a “private” affair. Religion is wholly social in its impact and in its negative influence on people and is totally antipathetic towards the case for Socialism.

The case for Socialism is built upon a rational understanding of history supported by facts. Men and women make history through class struggle where the forces of production come into conflict with the social relations of production. The class struggle, existing today in all capitalist countries, no matter what religion holds sway, is the motor force of revolutionary change from one social system of society into another.

Socialism is scientific in that history can only be understood and explained in terms of the succession of different social systems which have come and gone, the reasons why they were replaced and the political role of the classes who replaced them. History is not determined but is moved by the actions of men and women. The class struggle is in effect a political struggle in which ideas and beliefs play an important role; whether conservative or Socialist, whether in suppressing or highlighting social reality; whether in resisting revolutionary change or promoting it.

And religion is deliberately used to suppress and mask social reality; it is used as a mechanism of social control and the splitting of the working class into antagonistic groups. Political ideas can either shackle the working class to the particular or general interest of the ruling class or it can free their thinking towards the conscious and political establishment of a world of free men and women working harmoniously and socially within a classless society in which arcane religious beliefs and practices play no part.

The historical development of social production supports Marx’s theory of history; a theory of history which contains a savage truth about the world in which we live; one denied by all religions and religious leaders. And it is this; capitalism is the last class system left in social evolution and the workers the last class to free themselves from class exploitation. Capitalism has a political end in human history including the ideas and beliefs associated with it.

Capitalism came out of a class struggle within Feudalism will end with the establishment of Socialism by a socialist majority taking conscious political action within a principled Socialist Party through the revolutionary use of parliament and the capture of the machinery of government including the armed forces. The profit system deliberately underproduces to the market no in meeting human need. Socialism is necessary because a world society of free men and women will release the forces of production including co-operative social labour from the impediment imposed by commodity production and exchange for profit.

The social relationships entered into by men and women to produce the wherewithal of life show that in order for people to directly receive what they need to live, to flourish and to develop as human beings, then social production must be harmonised with social ownership and class antagonism abolished. Socialism is sustained by knowledge and the instability bred of conflicting class interests under capitalism.

Religion, on the contrary, has no basis in knowledge or science; it is built upon myths and superstition, and sustained by poverty, fear and ignorance. The study of religion reveals more than anything the seemingly infinite capacity of the human mind to fantasise and to believe the unbelievable. Both strands of fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, for example, deny the science of evolution. In the “Bible belt” of the US Fundamentalists celebrate the belief in Noah’s Ark and the literal interpretation of the Bible while Islamic fundamentalists, like ISIS in Syria and Iraq, believe their religion is absolutely true, that it owes nothing to any human culture and that all true believers must return to a theocratic utopia over the destruction of the infidel.

For Islamic fundamentalists apostasy requires feudal retribution; stoning to death, the lash and the gallows while some Christian fundamentalists bomb abortion clinics, kill doctors or wait, armed to the teeth in a log cabin high-up in the Wyoming or Montana Mountains for the apocalypse and the subsequent rapture for those with a one-way ticket to heaven. A Tea Party Republican candidate recently proclaimed that stoning gays was a law that came direct from God INDEPENDENT 13th June 2014). All forms of religious fundamentalism preach violence and hate while all forms of religion practice social control and deference to leadership.

No religion puts forward the urgent need for the world’s working class to establish the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society. “Christian Socialism” is an oxymoron. A Christian cannot be a socialist and a socialist cannot be a Christian. The “Christian Socialism” associated with the Labour Party is merely an impotent moral outrage against the effects of capitalism offering superficial reforms instead of revolution; a regulated capitalism rather than its abolition.

The sheer diversity of religion, both historically and currently throughout the world, really goes full cycle and cancels itself out. They cannot all be right but they can certainly all be wrong. The myths of creation, of almighty spirits, the immortality of the soul and the efficacy of prayer have trapped believers in the grip of predatory ruling classes whose interest it is to perpetuate their submission and servility.

From the bible-black darkness of religious fundamentalism there are numerous shades of religious ignorance rippling out to the edge of reason. There are even Christians who do not believe in God and “liberal Islamists” whose theological beliefs drastically shorten their life-span on Earth. And there are scientists who waste their time trying to square the circle between science and religion; the agnostics of which Engels remarked:

Thus, as far as he is a scientific man, as far as he knows anything, he is a materialist; outside his science, in spheres about which he knows nothing, he translates his ignorance into Greek and calls it agnosticism (Socialism, Utopian and Scientific)

What of atheism? Atheism is not sufficient for Socialists. Secular Capitalist states are just as exploitive as religious ones; instruments of class power protecting the minority private ownership of the means of production and distribution to the exclusion of the rest of society. Someone can be both an ardent atheist whilst simultaneously being a wild and rabid supporter of capitalism and the free market. In the US “market libertarians” are often atheists openly hostile to both Socialism and religion..

The appeal of socialism is of such a fundamentally different order that, when it is asked why, after a hundred years of the SPGB and Socialist propaganda, so little progress has been made, a major part of the answer is that the lack of progress has been on the part if those who live their lives on their knees.

Before Socialism can be established a majority of the working class must reject the pernicious ideology of capitalism which includes religion and nationalism. To look at the persistence of religious myths and primitive superstitions gives us a sobering realisation of the distance we have yet to travel before the world’s working class prioritise their emancipation.

Poverty and religion have always been bedfellows. Opportunist priests will declare that a baby washed up on a beach after a tsunami, was a “miracle” whilst some 500,000 other human beings perished is passed over in silence. Capitalism guarantees the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and deprivation for the class that sells its labour-power for wages.

It’s as futile to yearn for a form of capitalism without religion as it is to imagine capitalism without war. They are an integral part of the same degenerate society. When the world’s workers abolish capitalism, religion and war - together with the other ill effects of that system - will be consigned to the past.

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