[Marxism] Norm Geras attacks Marxmail subscriber

Paula Paula_cerni at msn.com
Thu Jun 19 20:23:19 MDT 2008

Haines asked:
> Are there not empirical studies that compare the social behavior of
> believers and non-believers, and do they not suggest latter tend to be
> more sociable?

Those kind of studies do exist, but I am not able at this moment to 
summarize their findings. We should be careful - a lot probably depends on 
what we mean by 'sociable'.

> But they are not servicing the community outside the church. In fact,
> this particular church has as its principle aim the development of
> ministries ("building ministries" is part of its complicated title),
> but in practice has a plethora of internal ministries, and these are
> either incompetent or empty (the "hospitality committee" is seen as a
> ministry, but it simply decorates for meals or dishes out the food,
> with the pastor and her cronies sitting at the high table and being
> served first and using fancier tableware).

Some churches carry out more 'community work' than others, and the same 
happens with religious organizations belonging to other faiths. Nevertheless 
the main community they service is very often themselves.

> But
> the example suggests to me that people can attend church for social
> reasons, without having to conclude that their social behavior is much
> shaped by their religious values.

Then we seem to agree that it is their social behavior that shapes their 
religious values.

>  However, when seen broadly (global; since the end of the 19th
> century), I could build a case that the working class as a whole has
> made enormous strides in terms of its development of a capacity to act
> and does to an extent manifest that capacity in action. Too big an
> issue to resolve here, but let me just say that I'm not pessimistic
> about the working class movement unless one defines it very narrowly
> (strength of organized labor in the US, for example).

I agree enormous strides have been made, though nowhere near enormous 
enough. I too remain optimistic, yet I see today's left as extremely weak 
and irrelevant to most people's lives. In this kind of situation we should 
not be surprised to see many individuals turning to religion.

> Yes, but what causes it is not what it seems to be: the water does not
> exist.

Appearances are often not what they seem to be. To repeat my point (at the 
risk of being boring), this does not mean they are irrational.

> There is no real entity out there that we
> misinterpret as being water. What is real is merely a distortion of
> light passing through hot layers of air.

The real entities 'out there', then, are the light and the hot air.

> I'm not sure why you raise your point. Is the deeper issue here the
> failure of empiricism?

The issue is: we can only change human ideas by changing the human 
conditions that give rise to them. The New Atheists' idea is that you can 
challenge religion simply by insisting: 'BUT THE WATER DOES NOT EXIST!". 
Well, I agree the water does not exist, but this does not take us very far. 
We still have to explain how the mirage really happens - especially if we 
want to make it disappear.


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