Pascal & Dogma (was Re: Reply on Religion and Marxism: 2)

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Mon Jan 1 19:51:04 MST 2001

George Snedeker wrote:

>  my point
> is simply that failure in politics may not be a full explanation for the
> turn to God. I'm not sure...

The kinds of explanation one arrives at through a materialist and
historical analysis of social forces _never_ explain particular details.
(Engels makes this point a number of times in letters I believe, but
I don't remember any exact citations.) A given individual's religion
or the lack of it may be grounded in any of an almost indefinitely
large number of causes. Perhaps someone (s)he liked said "Come
along with me to this lecture tonight" and so enthused over it in
a bar afterwards that she was convinced life was impossible
without some sort of spiritual support. Make up any number of
similar stories. They are probably all true. But they don't have
much to do with Jim's basic argument.

That argument focuses on the fact that in the1960s there was a
general _trend_ towards a more secular response to the world.
Fewer students got all excited at an anti-religious remark, more
students made such remarks themselves. That created an
_atmosphere_ in which trivial causes could trigger a shift to
materialism on an individual's part. Then a countertrend set in,
creating an atmosphere in which trivial causes were more and
more apt to move in the opposite direction. In which students
who were not religious were fearful of saying so in class (and
even in my office would sound frightened at their own temerity).

And I think Jim's explanation is a pretty full explanation of
that general trend. There is no reason to look at individual
cases. Defeat brings about a sort of failure of nerve -- and
from failure of nerve almost anything can follow, including
clutching at spiritual straws.

But there is another sort of tendency which might also be
associated with spirtuality: an over anxiousness to _prove_
marxism. I sort of resented that post today which quoted
_Time_ as saying Marx could feel vindicated. For shit's
sake, why should this list want to cling to straws assuring
us that Marx was right. That is our point of departure.
We aren't about proving marxism -- that is in fact a
religious impulse. We are about ways of applying marxism
to understand the world we are in and change it.


More information about the Marxism mailing list