Wednesday, December 09, 2009

God , Paul , and Marx

This article in the Guardian makes interesting reading and appears to be a confirmation of Marx and his well-known quotation “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” - an illusory escape from real suffering.

Popular religion is a psychological mechanism for coping with high levels of stress and anxiety. It is a crutch to which people turn when they are under extreme stress, "a natural invention of human minds in response to a defective habitat". Americans, Gregory Paul says, suffer appalling stress and anxiety due to the lack of universal health care, the competitive economic environment, and huge income inequalities, and under these conditions belief in a supernatural creator and reliance on religious observance provides relief.
"...popular religion is in the main a superficial psychological response that seeks the daily aid and protection of supernatural entities to alleviate the stress and anxiety created by a sufficiently dysfunctional social and especially economic environment."

His earlier research showed strong positive correlations between nations' religious belief and levels of murder, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and other indicators of dysfunction. It seemed to show, at the very least, that being religious does not necessarily make for a better society.his latest research Paul measures "popular religiosity" for developed nations, and then compares it against the "successful societies scale" (SSS)using 25 indicators which includes such things such as homicides, the proportion of people incarcerated, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births and abortions, corruption, income inequality, and many others. In other words it is a way of summing up a society's health. The deviation from the mean again and again is the US with a stunning catalogue of failures. On almost every measure the US comes out worse than any other 1st world developed nation, and it is also the most religious.For this reason Paul carries out his analysis both with and without the US included, but either way the same correlations turn up. The 1st world nations with the highest levels of belief in God, and the greatest religious observance are also the ones with all the signs of societal dysfunction.

"America’s high-risk circumstances, the strong variation in economic circumstances, and chronic competitiveness help elevate rates of social pathology, and strongly contribute to high levels of personal stress and anxiety. The majority of Americans are left feeling sufficiently insecure that they perceive a need to seek the aid and protection of a supernatural creator, boosting levels of religious opinion and participation. The nation’s good ratings in life satisfaction and happiness is compatible with a large segment of the population using religion to psychologically compensate for high levels of apprehension; America’s apparently high level mental illness may be in accord with this suggestion. The ultimate expression of this social phenomenon is the large minority who adhere to the evangelical Prosperity Christianity and Rapture cultures whose Bible-based world-view favors belief in the Genesis creation story."

For socialists, the struggle against religion cannot be separated from the struggle for socialism. We fight religious superstition wherever it is an obstacle to socialism. Socialists oppose religion for its anachronistic premises, for the barrier it presents to scientifically examining and controlling our own lives and destinies.To the extent that the working class feel themselves powerless, they are willing to accept an explanation of the world that gave them some measure of understanding and control.People in politically marginalised and powerless communities – like much of the rural United States – are turning to religious fundamentalism in the face of their own lack of control over their own and their communities’ lives.

Marx explains that “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about their condition is a demand to give up a condition that requires illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore the germ of the criticism of the valley of tears whose halo is religion”.

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