Pope Francis is on a visit to Ireland and after meeting local Catholics organisations and visiting Knock in County Mayo returning to Dublin on Sunday to conduct a mass in the city's Phoenix Park. Half a million are expected to attend and rather than 5 loaves and five fishes, there will be 150 food and drink outlets using 25,000 loaves for sandwiches. The overall cost of the Pope's visit is being estimated at about 35m euros (£44m). Of that, 22m euros is being raised by the Catholic Church in Ireland and the remainder from the Irish government.
People surely cannot be unaware of the mass of anthropological and historical evidence which informs us quite unequivocally that all religions, including Christianity, evolved from and are founded on nothing more substantial than primitive superstitions. Whatever personal experiences or inner visions others may have had, regardless of how revered the words of the priests and prophets as handed down to us. when closely examined they never amount to very much.
"Gods” are literally inconceivable, literally indescribable, literally indefinable. There are no steps you could take or investigative action you could engage in to bring these fantasies into focus or into a semblance of reality other than by an irrational abandonment of all normal verification procedures. Hence you are left with merely a belief, a faith handed down to you by people less knowledgeable, less informed than yourself and whose motives and intentions are totally irrelevant to your life. And one must always bear in mind that those who claimed the authority to vouch for "Divine Revelations" are the very same people whose over-heated imaginations and demented devotions gave birth to the "revelations" in the first place. What an abject denial of the dignity of intellect and reason it is to respond, in the face of all this, with the cry ". . . leave me alone — I’m content in my ignorance and feel safer being told what to believe than thinking for myself".
The basic “message” of Christ was an exhortation to believe in a meaningless (even though up-dated and humanised) God. The links between socialist thought and some expressions of Christianity such as the Early Church “communism”, have always been tenuous although they were forged in the heat of common hopes, desires, and expectations of a better life and an end to inequality. hunger, suffering, fear and all the other avoidable afflictions and indignities both are subject to. But socialism is one thing and Christianity quite another. The early Christians could not have had any comprehension of socialism as understood in this and the last century; it serves no useful purpose and only confuses matters when attempts are made to dilute the one and up-grade the other. The Socialist Party works to lift the burden of ignorance and in this endeavour we must be implacably opposed to all religions because all require "a blessed state of innocent, undoubting, unquestioning faith”; whereas, in our view, social progress can only be achieved by the very opposite intellectual stance. Behind the many bastions defending capitalism and obstructing progress towards socialism lurk authoritarian theologians who peddle anti-democratic attitudes, who belittle the strengths and self-developed abilities of "mere mortals" and. in condemning us all as “weak vessels", seek to undermine workers’ confidence. Their doctrinal clap-trap has always been an obstacle to progress and the advancement of science. Holy writ calls on the poor and downtrodden to abjure protest and political action and to “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s". It has served and still serves as an apologist for every and any cruel autocrat, tyrannical despotic regime, every exploiter, and ravager since the Romans realised it was tailor-made as the best unifying, pacifying and thus the best controlling agent they could hope to find.
The world would undoubtedly be better, pleasanter, more tolerable, less stressful. if everyone abided by the tenets of Pope Francis. But this wouldn't touch the basic problems or their causes. How could it be otherwise when the nature of world capitalism requires of us and inculcates entirely opposite attitudes and behaviour. This system, which we seek to replace, dominates all aspects of life including the toleration or active promotion of religions, so long as they serve a useful purpose. Modifications, twists, and U-turns are fairly easy to engineer as and when required: in the hands of skilled manipulators employed by the ruling class and its agents in the bureaucracy and religious hierarchies, the believer is a pushover. Witness the case with which workers are hyped up on the heady cocktail of religion, patriotic jingoism and nationalism a. The intention is patently obvious: to ensure that the populace identifies their own needs and aspirations with those of their class enemies.
We want to see a change in people's behaviour and attitudes. But behaviour and attitudes spring from social and economic structures not from the condition of the "soul": relationships and roles are geared to the particular way the production and distribution of goods and services in any given society arc organised — to the particular requirements of those who possess the means of production and, of course, the right to cease production if it suits, never mind about needs or moralities. Socialism, on the other hand, would be conducive to the kind of harmonious cooperation you envisage. Satisfaction of one’s own needs would not have to be at someone else's expense; and the results of common effort, ingenuity and inventiveness would be commonly owned and freely available, not privately owned and only available if profitable.
Many may ask. “ what is it all for; how did it all start; where did it all come from; what is the purpose; where is it all going; where will it all end; what are we all doing here?" To these questions there is only one possible answer: of all the past and present explanations, answers and accounts proffered, the least tenable, the weakest case, the proposition which accords with the fewest known facts, the claim which is the hardest to swallow, the assertion which requires the highest suspension of all reason and rationality for the longest period, the theory riddled with the most holes, stitched together with the greatest number of non-sequiturs and perverse presumptive leaps, is the one which invokes an “Almighty Being.'’
No matter how acceptable some of that Papal philosophy of social concern and personal responsibility may still be, Christians do not have exclusive claims to such a philosophy. We also seek to change hearts and minds — not by force or convoluted mysticism but by the only practical method open to the humankind: self-help.