Socialist opposition to all Religions
Theologians and their supporters in the media have been unable to respond to the criticism of religion made by atheists like Richard Dawkins. Faith is no answer to the progress made by scientists in evolution and genetics which requires no supernatural justification for explaining natural phenomena.
Professor Dawkins works within a scientific methodology that openly encourages debate about whether a scientific theory is right or wrong and that includes evolution. This is not the case with religion whose dogmatic certainty allows for no doubt, error or falsification. A questioned and questioning view of the world is increasingly at odds with one that refuses to question and to be questioned.
Having no answer to a scientific criticism of religion, theologians are forced to fall back on slur and innuendo; increasingly this means denigrating their opponents either as racists or as eugenicists. So it comes as no surprise to read the INDEPENDENT carrying a story trying to paint Dawkins as an “Islamophobe” on the grounds that he singled out Islam among other religions as “the greatest force for evil today” (INDEPENDENT 13th April 2013). Dawkins was also attacked for criticising Islam by admitting not having read the Qur’an.
Dawkins was indeed foolish to single out Islam for any special comment when he could have mentioned those other religions which deny blood transfusion to their children, take part in genocidal civil wars, mutilate the genitals of minors and treat women less than livestock. The widespread abuse of children over the past four decades within the Catholic Church surely merits equal censure to the barbaric and often anti-sematic policies of theocratic Muslin states like Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the radical Imams and “religious community leaders” who advocate the destruction of “the kafir”, the stoning of gays and adulaters, the social imprisonment of women in the Burqa and the imposition of a Fatwa with “bounty and expenses” against the novelist, Salman Rushdie.
Religion is now a contested ground. And the religious fundamentalists fully understand what is at stake even if some theologians try to square the circle and attempt to reconcile the science of evolution with the existence of God. After the publication of Darwin’ ORIGIN OF SPECIES (1859), the argument from design for the “proof” of God became intellectually meaningless. The science of evolution does not require what Marx called “A teleological explanation” for the world in which we live.
The collection of scientific facts confirming the Darwinian origin of species trumps metaphysical speculation. Some theologians go even further; the former Lutheran theologian, Professor Ludermann published the work: HERETIC: THE OTHER SIDE OF CHRISTIANITY(1995) in which he argued that the Christian Church had conjured up Jesus for their own religious and political interests. Fortunately Ludermann’s critique of religion was against Christianity not Islam; he just lost his job not his life.
As for having to plough through religious texts in order to gain the necessary credentials to criticise religion, the critics of Richard Dawkins are being disingenuous. Reading the Qur’an is not necessary for the rejection of the God of Islam any more than a reading of the Bible in Hebrew or Greek is required to demonstrate that the God of Judaism and the God of the New Testament are both fictional creations.
As Marx pointed out in THE POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY (1847) there is in fact not one God but many Gods. Religious leaders believe their God and only their God alone is divine, omnipotent and omniscient while their competitors are damned for having historically constructed their Gods. All religions though are human constructions and theological texts are marked by the hands of man (seldom woman) not God.
Religion has its origins in the primitive explanation of natural phenomena but now represents a theological justification for class power and privilege within capitalism. The prime function of religion is the exercise of social control and social conformity as well as providing a “spiritual” defence for the private ownership of the means of production and distribution.
Marx meets Marx
And the Defence of capitalism by theologians and religious leaders is everywhere. The pulpit was and still is a political forum. The Catholic theologian Cardinal Reinhold Marx, for example, published in October 2008 a 300 page book entitled DAS CAPITAL: A PLEA FOR MAN, an allusion to Karl Marx’s CAPITAL published in 1867. In his book the Cardinal attacked capitalism “red in tooth and claw” and wanted to reconcile the profit system with “social justice” but he also rejected the conception of Socialism advocated by Karl Marx. The Cardinal wanted the impossible; capitalism without the effects of capitalism.
The idea of a “socially responsible capitalism” outlined in Cardinal Marx’s book was recently used in a lecture by the Jesuit trained Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, given to the Catholic Academy in Munich on 27th February 2013 to justify the capitalism of the European Union and its “social market economy”. Government Ministers and politicians employ concepts like “social justice” to be found in the Cardinal Marx’s book since it supplies them with useful ideas against the Socialism of Karl Marx. Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, drew upon similar theological ideas found in the works of the German Theologian; Hans Kung to underpin Blair’s now discredited “third way” doctrine and belief in “Christian Socialism”, the latter a contradiction in terms.
In his book the Cardinal censured Karl Marx, (particularly the chapter “Marx speaking to Marx”), for holding a divisive political theory of class struggle and went on to belittle his revolutionary ideas seeing no reason to replace the private ownership of raw material, factories, transport and communication system and distribution points with Socialism. Instead the Cardinal believed capitalism could be reformed to work in the interest of all society a faith in the profit system shared by Mr Draghi and his colleagues at the European Bank.
In his lecture, Draghi told the audience that capitalism was to be “harnessed in the service of all humanity”. Mr Draghi’s utopian vision for capitalism might come as some surprise to the millions of workers currently having cuts being made to their wages, being made unemployed and living in austerity over much of Southern and Eastern Europe. Capitalism can only ever work in the interest of the capitalist class.
Not that the Cardinal is happy about capitalism and the wealth concentrated in the hands of a minority. Cardinal Marx wrote: “Capitalism without humanity, solidarity and justice has no moral and no future” and went on to ask that capitalism be reformed “to be in the service of all mankind”. The history of capitalism, unfortunately for the Cardinal, cannot be divorced from humanity, class division and class exploitation. As his namesake pointed out, you cannot have “distributive Justice” based on the private ownership of the means of production. In other words it is not possible to retain the capitalist mode of production and superimpose on it a Socialist principle of distribution.
One place in which Marx explained this was in his notes on the 1875 constitution of the German Social Democratic Party, published as THE CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAMME:
Vulgar socialism has accepted as gospel from the bourgeois economists (and a part even from the democracy have taken over the doctrine from the unreflecting socialists) that the problems of distribution can be considered and treated independently of the mode of production from which it is inferred that Socialism turns mainly upon the question of distribution And capitalism can never be “moral” in the sense that its overriding drive is to make profit, accumulate capital and expand value as an interrelated set of anti-social objectives. Capitalism cannot be changed to become something it can never be – a social system directly producing to meet the need of all society - so it can have no future. Something you will not hear from the pulpit on a Sunday morning or being preached from the front of the Mosque at Friday Prayers.
The Socialist case against Religion
Unlike Richard Dawkins, who argues against religion purely on philosophical grounds, the Socialist case against all religions is that they represent an impediment for the development of Socialism. Religions not only justify capitalism and offer spurious life-after-death “heavens” to off-set current suffering and discomfort but they also instil religious and supernatural leadership into the minds of the working class. Millions of workers in Europe rage against the situation they find themselves in but still turn to the Church rather than to Socialism; they fall upon their knees and pray rather than stand-up, think for themselves and to take conscious and political action to replace capitalism with Socialism.
And Socialists are also critical of an atheism which sits comfortably with the acceptance of commodity production and exchange for profit. Suppose religion was removed from the world and atheism took hold everywhere and Darwin’s theories of evolution were universally taught and accepted; would this be the end of the matter? Capitalism with or without religion is still an exploitive class system and there are insidious and unpleasant contemporary “religions” created by commercial sport and the cult of celebrity which are just as harmful as any organised religion to the development of Socialism.
Atheists who are not Socialists also accept nationalism and the justification by governments for war and conflict. And the mechanical materialism and genetic determinism which underpins Dawkins’s world-view is also not beyond criticism. In fact Richard Dawkins is as equally dismissive of Socialism and Marx as he is of religion. In his book THE GOD DELUSION, Dawkins totally ignores the rich and complex materialist account and critique of religion given by Karl Marx.
Marx, for example, comments on religion as “… at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless circumstances. It is the opium of the people (THE INTRODUCTION TO A CONTRIBUTION OF HEGEL'S PHILOSOPHY OF RIGHT 1843-4). The misguided need for religion is rooted in material existence and until that material existence is changed through revolution it will remain “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world”.
The Socialist rejection of all religion goes deeper than the superficial criticism of religion by philosophical atheists like Richard Dawkins. Men and women are born into a material world, their ideas are formed by coming into contact with that world but they have the ability to modify and change that world in a revolutionary way. Religion acts as an impediment in changing society for the better but it is an impediment which is not a permanent feature of human existence.
The “sigh of the oppressed creature” is only a sigh that they have not realised their own political potential to act within a revolutionary class of liberation; to act as agents of historical change. The capitalist cause for the need for religion – “the opium of the people” - only ends with the production and distribution of goods and services within the Socialist framework of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
Incidentally, the Socialist Party of Great Britain took a unique position on the subject of religion in the SPGB’s 1910 pamphlet: SOCIALISM AND RELIGION. The SPGB stated that religion was not a private affair and that anyone who held religious views could not become a member of the organisation. The pamphlet stated:
No man can be consistently both a Socialist and Christian. It must be either the socialist or the religious principle that is supreme, for the attempt to couple them equally betrays charlatanism or lack of thought
Socialism, both as a philosophy and as a form of society, is the antithesis of religion
This revolutionary position separated the SPGB not only from Lenin and the Bolsheviks but also from today’s strands of Trotskyism who have gone out of their way to embrace radical Islam (see Dave Crouch of the Socialist Workers Party and his article, The Bolsheviks and Islam, INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISTS 110 Spring 2010 and the blog entry written by David Jamison, an International Socialist Group member who apparently has no qualms about imagining passing some matches to a crowd of Muslims wanting to burn THE SATANIC VERSES, forgetting that university Students and members of Hitler Youth did something similar to Marx’s works on a dark night in February 1933
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.