Are Jesus, Buddha & Company Enemies of the People?

Richard Bos Richard.Bos at
Sun Sep 1 00:52:14 MDT 1996


I agree with a lot of what you say, but I hope that I am not being too
negative by picking out a few parts that I disagree with.

Carl Davidson wrote:
>  So Adolpho wants us to use "militant materialism" to wage class struggle
>  with modern religious thinking.  I don't think he'll have much luck. If
>  religious belief were simply based on a lack of scientific knowledge, he
>  might have a case.  But most modern believers have no problem accepting
>  scientific knowledge.  They simply point out that many kinds of concerns and
>  questions many people have about how to live and how to die, about the meaning
>  and significance of life, about their place in the universe, are not yet
> answered
>  by science, either by "militant materialism" or any other variety. That's why
>  many people, even nonbelievers, are drawn to the community of the local church
>  at turning points in life--birth, the end of childhood, marriage, death--to
>  celebrate or gather emotional strength and meaning through rites of passage.
>  There are few secular institutions, especially any rooted in militant
> materialism,
>  that exist today that can supplant this role of the church.
>  I uphold science against any kind of ideology, whether it labels itself
>  bourgeois, humanist or proletarian ideology. I challenge anyone on this
>  list to scan the entire works of Karl Marx and find an example of the use
>  of the term "ideology" that is not perjorative.

The reason why Marx did not like the term "ideology" is because socialism
is a science, and not an ideology. I think that it answers a lot of the
questions that you say science doesn't. If you are a socialist/communist
and have a scientific way of thinking then accepting something such as a
faith is a big jump away from science. The human need for ceremonial is
well known, but that is not an arguement for religion; otherwise it could
equally be an arguement for the monarchy.

 By the same token, I recognize
>  that the universe is infinite and our knowledge of it, while growing, is
>  still quite finite. Nor does the universe, which includes the human psyche,
>  easily reveal its secrets to us. Like class struggle, the work of scientific
>  endeavor is difficult, protracted and full of twists and turns. Soviet science,
>  for instance, got itself in deep trouble when it decided both genetics and
>  cybernetics were anti-scientific and bourgeois.  Science in that part of the
>  world is still trying to recover from those detours.
>  Today's religious thinking, more the most part, tends to center precisely
> on those  areas of human concern where science does not yet have answers, or
> has conflicting   answers, rather than on those areas where science does
> have answers. The main
>  exception is the right wing fundamentalist's promotion of creationism against
>  evolution. Marxist-oriented scientists, like Stephen J Gould, have done great
>  work taking on these reactionaries in the courts. Yet the realm of the unknown
>  is still large--and that is where faith resides.
>  I do not consider myself a person of religous faith. By pursuing an interest
>  in science, I find the universe itself an awesome place of terrible beauty. I
>  find it even more wonderful that it has evolved our own species, and perhaps
>  others, to become more and more conscious of it and reflect upon its mysteries.
>  I don't feel the need for traditional religious belief to embellish it.
>  Unlike Adolpho, et al, however, my political awakening was combined with a
> positive
>  experience with the Black church in the Deep South.

I too have have positive experiences with individuals from a number of
religions. I do not deny the good work that they do. Progressive
religious people can be great friends and close allies to the working

 As a young working-class
>  white youth from the North, alienated from the dominant culture of the
> 1950s, I became  a student and was drawn to the sit-ins and freedom rides.
> In 1966, I marched
>  with 500 others across the State of Mississippi for several weeks, Every night
>  we were received by small Black churches, where the parishoners often set up
>  armed guards against the Klan at night, while we slept on the floors. The
>  ministers called mass meetings in the evenings where discussions of Black
> power, the
>  Bible, the evils of class domination--all filled the air with an electricity
>  of revolutionary consciousness I will never forget.  The church was the center
>  of those communities, and in most cases they were mobilizing centers of the
> poor for  struggle the like of which I have rarely seen repeated. It fueled
> my own revolutionary
>  transformation and that of many others. This is the same reason that
>  many of these churches are being burned by fascists today. To my way of
> thinking,
>  liberation theology did not begin recently with Latin American clergy and
> intellectuals, but has its roots in the African American church from the
> days of   slavery to the present.
>  Of course the Black church in the US is not the whole church.  But that's just
>  my point--the "church" is not a monolith or an institution we should analyze
>  with an a priori set of dogmas of our own. We need an acutal analysis of the
>  different trends and layers as they exist and engage in politics today.
>  Here's a final point for Adolpho, et al. to chew on: Does one have to be a
>  "militant materialist" or atheist to be a communist or a communist party
> member?

It is not a written rule, but I do not see how one could be anything

>  If so, then we end up restricting party membership to the tiny strata of
>  nonbelievers in society and the working class. In my experience, even among
>  those who would qualify as advanced class fighters by every other criteria,
>  the atheists are still a minority.

Maybe the US is different to here. I certainly would not be so confident
as to say that atheists are a minority. Not so many years ago I would
have said that agnostics were that majority, but now I hear much more
atheist/humanist expression around.

  If not, then the party itself contains both
>  believers and non-believers.  Does it then still take up its cudgels against
>  religion in the fashion that our anti-clerics recommend, even though it would
>  be offensive and divisive to many party members with religious beliefs? Or
>  does take a more protracted view, seeing religious belief as primarily a
>  private matter, and the struggle against reactionary obscuratism narrowed to
>  the worse targets, like the Creationists and White Christian Identity movement
>  in the US today, and waged, as a famous man once put it, "on just grounds,
>  to our advantage and with restraint."
>  Carl Davidson, Chicago.
> Keep On Keepin' On

I do not think that we need to wage war against religeon, only certain
aspects of it. In the process of building the new society, it will be
seen by people as irrelevant, and just whither away.
Best wishes,

      New Worker Online

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