[Marxism] Norm Geras attacks Marxmail subscriber

Paula Paula_cerni at msn.com
Mon Jun 16 19:24:07 MDT 2008

Haines, thanks also for your replies - as kind and thoughtful as they are 

Haines wrote:
> The basic point I raised was that optimal choice theory presumes an
> atomized individual, while Marxism employs the notion of our social
> being.

I agree. Also, choice theory is conservative, because it is about making the 
best choice in given conditions; while Marxism is about changing the 
conditions themselves.

> As for the benefit of religious affiliation, I don't doubt that at
> all, but this benefit comes through socialization and whatever
> benefits it brings, not in principle because it is religously based.

Yes, but my point is that we can't take those benefits out of our concept of 
'religion'. Religion is not really about God (since God does not exist) - it 
is about socialization. Not only the church as an institution, but God as an 
idea is socialized - he is 'universal love', '*our* Father', the 'Savior of 
mankind', etc. God is the community fetishizing itself.

> Let me give an example. I have a close connection with an
> African-American fundamentalist church here. One thing I've come to
> understand that it is a valuable rumor-mill. What's happening in the
> community? The best way to find out is to attend church, for the
> newspaper or local TV news are inadequate.

Precisely. How many people would attend church if it was only about praising 
the Lord, and not about servicing the community?

> So the issue becomes, why not satisfy those needs through, say, class
> struggle rather than turn to religion?

Because class struggle has failed for decades, whereas church succeeds every 

> I'm not sure about the interesting term "real illusion". Just what
> exactly do you think it means? If I see a mirage, and in my thirst
> start walking in its presumed direction, my illusion of water is real
> because it is causing me to walk. Is this the meaning you infer from
> "real illusion"?

The mirage is real not only because it is causing you to walk, but because 
it is in turn caused by something real. Another example of a real illusion - 
another fetish - is value.

>  I don't believe the growth of global
> fundamentalism we see today is making the world any better, and many
> would argue in fact worse

I am not sure how significant the growth of fundamentalism is. Religious 
trends in the world today are quite complex and contradictory, pointing in 
part towards more flexible practices and liberal doctrines - more 
independent from institutions, less dogmatic, etc. I think there is 
something positive there. But religion will always remain a limited and 
flawed critique.

> Well, I can't help but wonder if you have ever tried to do this [clip]
>(have you ever had the misfortune of being prevailed
> upon by a friend who is an evangelist?)

I 'confess' to no more than talking to the Jehovah's Witnesses on my 
doorstep. Nobody prevailed. (I was, however, impressed that their magazine 
contained no typos or spelling mistakes.)

> To insist upon one's views
> with those who don't share them, like a teacher or parent, can make
> one seem arrogant therefore unworthy of heeding).

Yes, I agree. 'Insisting' is often the wrong thing to do, and we need to be 
sensitive. Sometimes, however, religious people invite our views - in that 
case we should be neither arrogant nor shy (I admit this is a difficult 


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