[Marxism] makes me wish I was back in school

Rod Holt rholt at planeteria.net
Tue May 24 02:49:54 MDT 2005

I hunted up the article. I wonder if any of the hysterical public 
critics read it. The Wall Street Journal Online got indignant too, and 
usd the same quotelets as the Daily News. The e-zine is one of art, 
poetry and ... politics.

*fifteen credibility street*
Issue 19

Timothy Shortell
Religion & Morality: A Contradiction Explained

Durkheim observed that religion was the root of science. Religion, he 
said, was the first human attempt to systematically explain the world. 
Durkheim thought that religious rationality would wither away in modern 
times (for him, the early twentieth century) because scientific 
rationality would replace it, by virtue of its superior explanatory 
power. Alas, he seems to have gotten this one wrong.

But, Durkheim was right about the social history of thought. Modern 
religion is an elaboration of a fundamental belief in magic. In the 
absence of a scientific explanation of events and institutions, faith in 
magical powers, fetishization of nature, and overinterpretation of 
random variation are inevitable. We live in a world that wants the 
fruits of scientific labor, but refuses the mental discipline of 
scientific rationality. Just like children, we want have our cake and to 
eat it too.

Religions have persisted, despite their inability to explain the modern 
world. As social organizations, they have a dramatic power that hides 
their essential irrationality. They persist today because they are so 
effective at constructing group identities and at setting up conflict 
between the in- and out-groups. For all religions, there is an "us" and 
a "them." All the ritual and the fellowship associated with religious 
practice is just a means of continually emphasizing group boundaries and 

Just as Durkheim suggested for aboriginal religion, all modern 
affiliations are ideological: they insist on a total (though 
contradictory) system of beliefs and evaluations. For this reason, 
religion without fanaticism is a logical impossibility. Anyone whose 
mind is trapped inside such a mental prison will be susceptible to 
extreme forms of hatred and violence. Faith is, by its very nature, 
obsessive-compulsive. All religions foment their own kind of holy war. 
(Those whose devotion is moderate are only cowardly fanatics.)

In a world in which individuals and events are controlled by magical 
forces (symbolized by spirits, angels, ghosts, gods, etc.) fear will be 
the equilibrium state. There is no way to understand how such a world 
functions; one will be in awe of those who, through their 
mystifications, appear to have a special understanding of supernatural 
mechanics. Faith is, therefore, a child-like rationality.

It is no wonder, then, that those who are religious are incapable of 
moral action, just as children are. To be moral requires that one accept 
full responsibility for one's self. Morality is based on scientific 
rationality. In order to act in the world as an adult, one must be able 
to recognize that the world is structured and the situatedness of all 
individual action. The choices that present themselves in the course of 
day-to-day living are influenced by social forces (which is why we need 
theory). Morality is a basis for making choices, in the context of a 
particular political economy.

Faith, like superstition, prevents moral action. Those who fail to 
understand how the world works--who, in place of an understanding of the 
interaction between self and milieu, see only the saved and the damned, 
demons and angels, miracles and curses--will be incapable of informed 
choice. They will be unable to take responsibility for their actions 
because they lack intellectual and emotional maturity.

On a personal level, religiosity is merely annoying--like bad taste. 
This immaturity represents a significant social problem, however, 
because religious adherents fail to recognize their limitations. So, in 
the name of their faith, these moral retards are running around pointing 
fingers and doing real harm to others. One only has to read the 
newspaper to see the results of their handiwork. They discriminate, 
exclude and belittle. They make a virtue of closed-mindedness and 
virulent ignorance. They are an ugly, violent lot.

American Christians like to think that religious violence is a problem 
only for other faiths. In the heart of every Christian, though, is a 
tiny voice preaching self-righteousness, paranoia and hatred. Christians 
claim that theirs is a faith based on love, but they'll just as soon 
kill you. For your own good, of course. Those who believe that they are 
acting out the divine plan are the most dangerous sort in the 
contemporary world. Make no mistake.

Can there be any doubt that humanity would be better off without 
religion? Everyone who appreciates the good, the true and the beautiful 
has a duty to challenge this social poison at every opportunity. It is 
not enough to be irreligious; we must use our critique to expose 
religion for what it is: sanctimonious nonsense.

acpollack2 at juno.com wrote:

>If what the News says about him is true he must be A-OK!
>New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com 
>Top prof sparks outrage 
>Monday, May 23rd, 2005 
>A Brooklyn College professor who called religious people "moral retards" was elected to head his department this month - sparking a campus uproar.
>E-mails expressing alarm that Timothy Shortell was now chairman of the sociology department circulated among students last week on the school's Midwood campus.
>Shortell has written in an online academic publication that the devout "are an ugly, violent lot. In the name of their faith, these moral retards are running around pointing fingers."
>[snip. There is just more of the same.]
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