[Marxism] Islamist, Socialist revolutions do not mix

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Sat Oct 6 10:32:05 MDT 2007

Ralph, I jump in, although I'll not be around after today to help
carry things forward.

> As far as I have seen, there has been little discussion on this list
> or elsewhere that includes some of the reasons for the existence and
> spread of religious beliefs, historically and more recently. That
> might be a timely, clarifying discussion.

A traditional approach is to bifurcate between what is roughly an
anthropological approach, which is to look to origins in order to
grasp why religion is an expression of the human psyche, and a
sociological approach that looks to the social function of religion to
explain it. Both approaches are subject to criticism.

You are probably right that there's a lack of solid discussion in
Marxist circles, at least ones that escape the criticisms. Given that
religion obviously is not simply a hang-over from more primitive
society and that in some obvious ways it is socially dysfunctional, I
get the feeling that it should be addressed in a fresh (Marxist) way.

Rather old-fashioned, but nevertheless a very useful discussion of
religion from a sociological perspective is that of Bryan Wilson,
_Religion in Sociological Perspective_ (Oxford, 1982). Not a
conventional view, but nevertheless very interesting from an
anthropological perspective is Stanley Jeyarija Tambiah, _Magic,
Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality_ (Cambridge, 1990). A
psychological view is that great classic that is a must-read: William
James, _The Varieties of Religious Experience_ (1902). Oh, and I
suppose one can't get very far without reading the theological view of
Paul Tillich, _The Courage to Be_ (New Haven, 1952).

Books like these offer an essential background, but I wish I could
also recommend a good Marxist discussion. I know of none (my fault,
I'm sure). Alexander Saxton, _Religion and the Human Prospect_ (New
York, 2006) is the closest I can get to it.

       Haines Brown, KB1GRM


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