Durkheim on Religious

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at SPAMjuno.com
Sun Dec 24 15:37:02 MST 2000

George Snedeker's questions concerning Durkheim
might well be addressed by examining the thought of
the Bolshevik theorist Anatoli Lunacharski who seems
to have held a view of religion not unlike that of Durkheim.
In the wake of the failure of the 1905 revolution, Lunacharski
and other Bolsheviksand their sympathizers such as
the novelist Maxim Gorky, contended that one reason
for the failure of the revolution and of Marxism's failure
to take hold within the proletariat was that it was too
cerebral, and so lacking in basic emotional appeal
to the masses.  They argued that for Marxism to become
successful in Russia it would have to take on a
quasi-religious form, that indeed Marxism would have to
become a kind of non-theistic religion which would
be unafraid of making use of the language, rituals and
other techniques of religion in order to win the hearts
and minds of the masses.  Thus Lunacharski proposed
a reinterpretation of the Trinity in which the means
ofproduction would be the Father, the proletariat
would be the Son, and scientific socialism, the
Holy Ghost.  In a similar vein Gorky wrote:
"Thou art my God, O sovereign people, and creator
of all gods which thou hast formed from the
beauties of thy spirit. . .  And the world should
have no god but thee, for thou art the only god
that works miracles."

All this reflected the influence on the one hand of
Nietzsche who during this period, known as
Russia's Silver Age, had emerged as a dominating
intellectual and cultural figure, as well as
that of August Comte's Positivism which included
among its proposals a Religion of Humanity.
Durkheim as George may recall considered himself
to be a kind of latter day disciple of Comte.

Although the proposals of Lunacharski and the
other "god builders" within the Bolsheviks
were repudiated by Lenin, it would seem
that many of them were taken up (without
acknowledgement) by the Soviet regime
following Lenin's death.  The creation
of the Lenin cult would seem to be one
instance of this.  Likewise, Stalin's transformation
of dialectical materialism into a a kind
of theology with its own catechism
*History of the Communust Party of
the Soviet Union (Bolshevik)* would seem
to be another instance. It is said that
Khruschev's campaign in the 1960s
for the revival of militant atheism
brought a renewed attention to
Lunacharki's work.

Jim F.

On Sun, 24 Dec 2000 11:07:13 -0500 " George Snedeker"
<snedeker at concentric.net> writes:
> the French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, argued from an Idealist point
> of
> view that religion is a representation of society. religion was
> defined by
> Durkheim, not by the existence of belief in God, but by the
> distinction
> between the "sacred" and the "profane."

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