Questions for James Miller. Atheism as Point of Departure

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Thu Nov 30 07:25:24 MST 1995

    (Note: the local internet machine here at ISU is, currently, hopeless, and
everytime I have started a message in the last six weeks I've got hung
up and had to cancel it. If I get even a fragment down this time, I'll send
it even if it doesn't make much sense. Carrol Cox, IL State U)

    The arguments between Burns and others get off to the wrong foot, for
his opponents seem to believe it is worth arguing the existence of God. To
vary a phrase of Milton's, I am an antheist by birthright more than merit,
and it is merely a point of departure, not something to worry about. In
fact, arguments that assume one needs to "prove" the non-existence of god
tend to fall into idealism by implicitly acknowledging the priority of
thought to practice. (Perhaps that is partly what annoys Ralph Dumain
about the "atheist movement" or whatever, still stuck in the 19th c.)

    But while it is easy to be an atheist, it is difficult to achieve and
maintain a materialist viewpoint, because capitalism endlessly reproduces
idealism in daily life. Hence atheism by itself is no guarantee whatsoever
of materialism.

    Materialism, like atheism, should be a point of departure, not something
at which arrives by pure thought (an oxymoron). But unlike atheism, it cannot
be *merely* an intellectual premise, it must be lived, and that is difficult.
This explains part of the importance of Lenin's MEC. He is not trying to

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