Religion is inseparable from poverty and that is a demonstrable fact. The dire emotional conditions that excessive poverty causes its subjects ensure that the poor are always vulnerable to ideologies that offer salvation and hope. This includes salvation ideologies that promise hope and reward not necessarily found in this life but in a future life, one conveniently inaccessible by everything but the one-way door of death. Worldwide the rich are trying desperately to ensure that the poor never challenge their wealth and power. But at the same time the rich don’t want the poor to become envious of their comfortable position in society. The rich will never dispense with luxury to help the paupers feed their families. A few rich and clever men came up with a lasting solution: They would offer the poor hope, salvation, purity, and ultimate victory against the rich but never in this lifetime! Of course, the rich can’t do this themselves as the poor already distrust them. But this is where the rich used a tactic that America has become so good at: divide and conquer. The rich will designate some suitable messenger (the prophet) whom the masses have no distrust of and give this prophet a new message of hope and salvation to disseminate freely amongst the masses. Of course, the prophet gets his fame and fortune for his allegiance to the rich. Jesus said “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” Therefore, Jesus himself endorses the status quo.
Religion perform two essential functions. It buttresses the established order by sanctifying it and by suggesting that the political order is somehow ordained by divine authority. Its sanctification of the existing social order makes it a counter-revolutionary force. Yet it consoles the oppressed exploited by offering them in heaven what they are denied upon earth. By holding before them a vision of what they are denied, religion plays at least partly a progressive role in that it gives the common people some idea of what a better order would be. But when it becomes possible to realize that better order upon earth in the form of communism, then religion becomes wholly reactionary, for it distracts men from establishing a now possible good society on earth by still turning their eyes towards heaven.
Our position on organised religion is that religion is debilitating to the mind of the worker and thus to the progress which we wish to make as workers in advancing our interests. New Age religion is merely the old age religion in a new, modern form. Rather than obeying a priest, they choose the form of our own mental domination and the flight from reality into a magical world. Reflect on the fact that Jesus, instead of going to the rich Pharisees and lawmakers of the time to proclaim his message of hope, went to the poor and panic-stricken masses instead. This was a stroke of genius, of course, but why did Jesus and so many influential people after him direct their instructions to the poor? That is because messages of hope and salvation rarely appeal to the rich and the influential who know nothing of suffering and desperation. Thus, the rich and the influential have never been the target audience of religion; this would be a bad marketing campaign for anyone who wanted a rapid uptake of their preaching.
Divide and rule
Religion is not simply a jumble of confused ideas. It is a powerful weapon in the hands of the capitalist class. It divides us and blinds us to the class action that is required to overcome the menace of capitalism. Religion is the ideological expression of a long-gone world and its ancient social conditions, a world of superstition, slavery and little education. Far from providing an answer to today’s problems, it tells us to put our faith in the supernatural hopes of a past age. Instead of uniting us as a class we are to become meek and mild, and to submit to the whims of an ancient god. From the dawn of civilisation religion has been a weapon of political domination. The working class though not as yet hostile to religion, are nevertheless becoming increasingly indifferent to it. Religion is dying but not yet dead. None of us is born Christian or Muslim or anything else. We’re born with no knowledge or beliefs in any god. In fact we’re all born into a state of atheism. Wherever the accident of birth sees each child born, each individual is born totally dependent and without language or religion. A child develops speaking the language of its home. A child raised in a religion-free zone will not acquire religious knowledge. For this to occur it would need to be exposed habitually to ideas, concepts and beliefs by those around it. How many people make a conscious choice of religion and how many simply continue with what they were born into as part of their traditional culture, religious or not?
Belief in religion – any religion – hampers the ability to think objectively, particularly about social and political issues. The disappearance of all religious beliefs should be seen as an essential part of our struggle for socialism and not just as a fringe irrelevance. It isn’t simply a question of religion being false, or brutal or divisive; it is a weapon of the ruling class, a bulwark in the way of the emancipation of the working class, a hurdle to be overcome in the progress to socialism nor could it be overcome while the conditions that nourished it continued to exist. Thus, the socialist sees religion as an integral part of the class struggle.
Despite occasional public pronouncements that the West had no quarrel with mainstream Islam, there is no doubt whatever that, with help from the media and repeated insinuations from various officials, the widespread impression has been created that opposition to, hatred of and terrorism against the West is essentially “a Muslim thing” and that the Islamic faith itself carries the seeds of violence and terrorism. Thus we see that a difference in religion has offered the opportunity for capitalism to denigrate as scapegoats the Islamic world: and to drive a wedge of suspicion and distrust between western workers and their eastern counterparts – a good present-day example of the old imperial dodge of “divide and rule”. It doesn’t matter if it’s a charismatic Jewish preacher 2000+ years ago or a 8th century merchant messenger, whenever someone goes to the poor with the promise to alleviate their suffering, the poor masses will blindly give their allegiance to the prophets and carry these ‘messiahs’ on their hands as they have since time immemorial. Sadly the poor, the salvation and rewards promised to them will only come in a realm where their existence cannot be guaranteed: beyond the door of death from which no commentary reaches the living.
Religion advocates the ‘virtue’ of being long-suffering. Christianity particularly tries very hard to teach its subjects to turn the other cheek, dispense with mortal luxury, and disregard reverence in the eyes of wicked men of excess. Everything about the material world and the life of humans is considered wicked. Religion makes poverty an enviable position.
There is no need to use force to end of religion, when it is already dying a natural death. Socialists no longer looks to the heavens for a supernatural savior, nor seek a Moses to lead us out of bondage. It is about becoming conscious of the strength that resides within ourselves and in the knowledge that who would be free, must free the mind from chains.