[Marxism] marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu

paul illich paul_illich at hotmail.com
Sat Dec 9 03:34:05 MST 2006

David Walters writes:

>My problem with Dawkins method is that in his view, it seems to me, there 
>is an
>*inevitability* to god-belief and fanaticism, even though he doesn't 
>religious belief by all people who don't act fanatically. In this he 
>prove it at all and it's an unfortunate deduction on his part.

I posted this thread to Tim Barton, of bluegreenearth, as I know these
issues do it for him. He replies to David's post as follows:


Hi Paul,

I think that such an "inevitability" exists, though it is context
dependent as to whether it manifests or not. For example,
must an individual who subscribes to Xristain thought be a
fanatic? My answer is that, No, he or she needn't by some
strange process become an extremist/fanatic, the circumtances
of her overall experinece in the real world; the nature of the
pastor; the cultural place in which the religious group finds
itself... are all factors that determine whether or not an
inherent logical dynamic manifests in its most 'pure' form or
not. However, that fanaticism is deeply encoded and easily
revealed in the "right" circumstances...

I think that an "inherent logical dynamic" is to be found in
religious beliefs. It has several elements, from the consequences
of insisting on a creator, through whatever weighing the specific
religion gives that God in regard to interventionism; the specific
emphasis on immanence; the specific balance struck between
quietism and wrath; the specific weight given to 'chosen
people' ideology; to teleology in general... In the raw or
pure form, most often in situations where it feels embattled
by other forces (such as by secularism) or where (conversely) it
feels it is the only tue faith and feels widely regarded in the
wider society as being so, the logical flowering is, I believe,
towards an authoritarian fundamentalist arrogant stance towards
all others (the Inquisition / witching stool attitudes that if you
are harmed unfairly in this life for the glory of god, that is OK,
as you'll get your reward in the next one, is illustrative of
one of the problems of belief in afterlife/reincarnation/etc).

This is patently not deterministic in individual cases, as there
are countervailing forces for good within each religion, but
under presssure these are not so strongly hardwired in the
religious tenets and texts as those elements those of us who
do not share the belief of that religious sect rightly fear.

As a socialist-anarchist-atheist, I accept such "inherent logical dynamics"
as a matter of course - from analysis of Capital for example, where
a similar logic applies. Hence, I deny absolutely the possibility of
a genuine "green capitalism", but absolutely do not deny that
some individual capitalists can act in a green manner: ditto actions
towards labour and wages and health and safety... A grow or
die economy can only be giving towards these profit-wrecking
or at least margin-reducing on the basis of ethical views that are
imported from other cultural sources, as indeed Adam Smith, the
supposed founder of the rampant globe-raping strain of neo-liberal
capitalism sponsored by Thatcher and Reagan, acknowledged in his
Theory of Moral Sentiments, though I'd deny that this can create
a sufficient bulwark against the interal dynamics of Capital... and here
both socialists and some Xristian groups [and other religions too of
course] _can_ be beneficial, though to what extent you interpret
that as "mere reformism", and whether you regard that as a negative
or not, is another matter).

If my philosophical travels had not made the idea of "inherent logical
dynamic", however framed, a meaningful and real thing, I _might_
be neither socialist, anarchist, green, nor atheist, as the concept
(seen also, of course, in the Hegelian idea of the end being encoded
in the beginning, as in an acorn>oak tree, or the idea that we ourselves
become god through time [not one I subscribe too, of course, though
I do think a secular variant that allows aspects of our nature to give
us the technical and cultural and moral tools to become stewards of
the Earth is valid as an idea of one of several competing "inherent logical
dynamics" within our so-called "nature"]) is one that underpins my
critique of capital, of religion, and indeed of other teleologically
inclined philosophies that aren't very upfront about what those
dynamics are and why they are positive. Thus, although I think Popper
went off in a rabid maner when writing about Marx, I at the same
time value much of The Poverty of Historicism and parts of Open
Society as they in fatc address (badly) a real problem we must guard
against (hence my refusal to take a sectarian socialist/communist
stance without reference to 'other' ideas from the anarchists (about
the role of the state and hierarchy under both left and right) and
the greens (about the results of both leftist and rightist continued
industrial productivism and trickle-down economics).


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