Marxism and Religion

Marxism and religion"Early on, humans have sought an imaginary communion with a non-material spirit world where — it is believed — a part of me will live on. This was indeed one of the most powerful and enduring messages of Christianity: 'I can live after death'. The problem is that the life that is led by most men and women in present-day society is so hard, so intolerable, or at least so meaningless, that the idea of a life after death seems the only way to invest it with any meaning." — From Marxism and Religion

“Religion is the opium of the masses” is one of Marx’s most quoted phrases. However, the full quote is almost always neglected, which explains the position of Marxism far more adequately. Marx explains that religion fills the soulless void found in class society, and, in a sense, even indicates the need to protest against the injustice of this world. However, by seeking mystical and otherworldly explanations and solutions to the injustices of the real world, it plays the key ideological role in maintaining class society.

Marxism is about achieving the full realisation of humanity’s powers, the unfolding of our nature without diversion into obscurantist fetishism, be that the fetish for money or for religious symbols. But we can only cast aside these illusions when we directly control our fate, and to do that we need to put the productive forces of society under social control. In other words, we need socialism and a revolution. Religion cannot be overcome by recourse to pure, rational arguments; we must instead attack its social foundation.

Marxists are in favour of religious freedom and do not set up barriers to religious workers joining in the struggle for socialism. However, we are irreconcilable atheists and materialists in our own world outlook, and we are in favour of the radical separation between religion and the state.

As the twenty-first century progresses, there has been an increasing interest and not a small amount of debate on the role of religion in society and particularly on advances in secularisation. Richard Dawkins’ book , ‘The God Delusion,’ was a best-seller in the UK and novels like ‘The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ’ by Richard Pullman have touched raw nerves in Church hierarchies.

As the last Russian soldier crossed the Oxus River going back from Afghanistan into the Soviet Union in 1989, the Japanese-American philosopher at St. James’s University, Maryland and a CIA operative, Francis Fukuyama, came out with his iniquitous thesis on the “end of history”. However, although the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Soviet Union had collapsed, this thesis was soon refuted by history itself as the first Gulf War broke out in 1991.

On Tuesday December 7th the University of London Union Marxist society concluded its autumn term programme of discussions with a special 'festive debate' will on the philosophies of Marxism and Christianity and their ability to further the human race.

The Pope’s visit to Britain comes in the midst of the most serious crisis of capitalism since the Second World War, with a growing mood of discontent among the workers. No doubt a little help for the British Establishment in times like these from the Almighty will always come in handy. The Pope is also hoping to boost the fortunes of the Church after it has been shaken by scandals in one country after another.

Many of us know that the origins of Christianity have nothing to do with silent nights or wise men. So what are its true origins? John Pickard looks at the reality of how this religion came about - from the standpoint of class forces and the material developments of society, rather than by the pious fictions fed from church pulpits.

Christianity has played a pivotal role in shaping the modern world and continues to hold considerable influence over many people's lives and even many countries' governments. Understanding the roots of such a phenomenon, dating back 2000 years, provides great practical significance when it comes to understanding the development of religion and society in general.

Alan Woods talks at the IMT Winter School in Berlin on the topic of 'Marxism and Religion'. Alan explains the materialist conception of the world, integral to the theory of Marxism, and contrasts it to the idealist perspective that gives rise to religion. Alan explains the nature of religion as a means of consoling the oppressed with a life after death.

With Christmas just around the corner we present the final meeting of the ULU Marxist Society, which celebrated the end of a successful first term of meetings on December 4th by hosting a debate on Marxism and Religion. Under the heading Christianity - Capitalist or Communist? Dr Peter Hatton, Methodist Minister, debated Fred Weston, co-editor of In Defence of Marxism and leading member of the International Marxist Tendency.

The Egyptian Medical Union proposes to ban organ transplants between Moslems and Christians. This decision was undoubtedly prompted by the Moslem Brotherhood, a reactionary fundamentalist organization that originated in Egypt, and which dominates the Union. This decision has aroused a critical response from many quarters. But these criticisms will have no effect, since the criteria of blind religious fanaticism cannot be affected by rational argument of any sort.

The late Pope John Paul II reconsidered the Catholic Church's treatment of Galileo. That was several hundreds of years late. But better late than never! However, what about all the other scientists and freethinkers who were martyred by the Church?

The present Pope, Ratzinger or Benedict XVI as he has chosen to call himself, far from being a “transitional” Pope is not only following in the footsteps of John Paul II, he is putting his foot on the accelerator of Christian fundamentalism. While talking of reconciliation he promotes conflict, backs reactionary politicians of the Bush type and condemns anyone who wants to really change the material conditions of millions of poor and working class people.

Alan Woods talks to the ULU Marxist Society on the topic of 'Marxism and Religion'. Alan explains the materialist conception of the world, integral to the theory of Marxism, and contrasts it to the idealist perspective that gives rise to religion. Alan explains the nature of religion as a means of consoling the oppressed with a life after death, the tendency of the church to break down along class lines, as well as the trade union credentials of God.

This article written in 1945 analyses the relationship between the Soviet state and the Russian Orthodox Church. There was a clear dividing line between Lenin’s approach to this question and the zig-zag policy later adopted by Stalin. First published in Workers International News, October 1945.

On this Easter Monday we are republishing an article by Rob Sewell in which he analyses the real origins of the early Christians. Quoting at length from Kautsky's The Foundations of Christianity he reveals the real nature of early Christianity and how it emerged as a movement of the oppressed in ancient Roman society, an early form of Communism.