Friday, December 09, 2016

Religion 2

Religion: Thy name is superstition

The socialist point of view rests solidly on the materialist conception of history. Religion divides the universe into spiritual and physical realms and all religions offer their adherents relief from their earthly problems through some sort of appeal to the spiritual. Socialists see the problems that wrack human society as material and political, and their solutions as likewise material and political, not supernatural. A materialist is someone who understands the world by discovery and observation and does not postulate things without any bearing in fact. Some religious leaders may rebel against what they deem injustice, even suffering imprisonment or worse for their efforts. But where this means they seek their solutions within the framework of the system that socialists aim to abolish, they demonstrate a lack of understanding of the development of social evolution, and socialists cannot endorse their views.

Just as important, adherence to the beliefs of religious denominations can defeat people's best intentions unawares. The doctrines of organised religions traditionally locate the solution to society's problems in the individual's salvation and remain fundamentally indifferent to the fate of the human social community. At their most progressive, they seek only to modify the existing institutions of a class-divided society, and at their most reactionary, they openly obstruct even that desire. Such confusion over goals in an organisation claiming to practice scientific socialism would sooner or later undermine its revolutionary character, for the tendency of such thinking is to confine discussion of capitalism's problems to the horizon of existing society, a blindness fatal to the socialist viewpoint. One cannot understand the development of social evolution by resorting to religious ideas. Socialists do not hold beliefs. They have an understanding of the world based on the evidence available. Socialism isn't a dogma, it is a correct way of thinking about the world, and socialists learn to think correctly and accept the logical results of their own arguments. The Socialist Party is a materialist organisation, that is, we believe that ideas, etc. have no independent existence from human beings and that ideas are determined by the material world in which we live. This is an important idea for our case, and its refutation would amount to a refutation of our case.

It's true that belief in God is not synonymous with belief in a particular religion. But the fact remains that there is no concrete evidence for God's existence. Science cannot prove the non-existence of God. It cannot, either, prove the non-existence of pixies at the bottom of the garden. But doesn't it follow that if you are a believer, you also trust that it has some influence in human affairs? If there's no such influence, there can't be any evidence for God's existence. And as scientific knowledge grows, God is relegated more and more to the background. The God of the modern day is a very different God from that the feudal age or of ancient times. And the "role" that God plays in the explanation of the working of the material world has changed. Religion has had to do all the hard work of accommodating more and more scientific progress, which is why mature religions tend to become ever vaguer and more metaphorical. Successive modifications of religion have been the reflexes of changed conditions and interests. The role of God has changed from that of belief in predestiny to God as a "personal” God, from God as the first creator of the world and the cause to God as an afterthought (agnosticism) who has no control and the question of belief in him as irrelevant. The point being in this is that religion, belief in God and our own beliefs as socialists arise from the material world, how we produce it, how we interact with it. And the primacy is the material world, of matter, yet as matter and mind (spirituality as some say) that interact. Socialism, as the science of society, is an essential part of a scientific view of all phenomena regarded as an interdependent whole; and such a Monistic view of the universe, with each part in inseparable causal relation to the rest, can leave no nook or cranny for God.

Our case is that religion is not a personal/private matter, but a social and scientific matter. In religion, gods are products of the human imagination given powers to dominate the lives of those who create them. Throughout the history of class society religion performs 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 realise that better order on Earth in the form of socialism, 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. We invent religions which denigrate our humanity, and which offer a solution in the promise of a mythical, never-never land of the future.