Bergonian Socialism and Religion



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The revolution realized a fixed consensus concerning religion, which consists of two complimentary parts.  First we admitted that metaphysics and theology are not necessary or even relevant to our socialism, strong as she is on her own, yet we found that religious ethics thoroughly buttress it.

Second, our socialism is not threatened by religion, and in no way has it opposed or intended to threaten religion, except for those very serious errors committed by the Radical Regime that we repudiated in the revolution's last phase.

Accordingly, our post-revolutionary commonwealth gives freedom to religion belief and theology, as it does to any non-capitalist thought.  The commonwealth allows all the religions to practice openly, with the materials means to do so, to have a balanced presence in all spheres of public life, and also to participate in policy debate.

--President Julzen (1940-1948)

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.  --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife, Brazil

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress.  Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of an unspiritual situation. It is the opiate of the people.”  --Karl Marx, 1844

"The urge in the human heart that impels a man toward God is the same urge that spurs us now toward socialism.  While capitalists stand convicted of sin by any religious measure, socialism seeks to embody the religious virtues in social form."  --Umac Dherein, 1924

Real-World Convergences between
Socialism and Religion

Socialists in Britain have been more influenced by Christianity than in any other country.

Communism was envisioned by radical protestants in their attempts to make a Christian revolution on earth.  These included John Ball & Wat Tyler, John Wycliffe, the Ranters, Levellers, George Fox (founder of the Quakers), the Tolpuddle Martyrs and, arguably, William Blake.  In fact, the first usage of the word "communist" was by radical Dissenters in England during the 1600s.

The roots of Christian Socialism as we know the movement today lie in the late 1840s and early 1850s when F.D. Maurice, Charles Kingsley, John Ludlow and John Ruskin were among the founders of what has ever since been a Christian Socialist movement. However, Chris Bryant in his history of the British Christian Socialists Possible Dreams writes of many comrades from an even earlier age. Among them are

R.H. Tawney's book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, remains a classic for many Christian Socialists. Tawney wryly defines private property as a necessary institution in a fallen world of sinful men and a product of human frailty.  In contrast, communism would result if man's nature were free of sin.

The unpardonable sin is that of the speculator or middleman, who snatches private gain by the exploitation of public necessities. The true descendant of the doctrines of Aquinas is the labor theory of value. the last of the Schoolmen was Karl Marx (Tawney, 1990).

Christian Socialists have remained an important strand within the Labour Party, although Labour is hardly a socialist party any more. 

Modern Theologists in the early 1900s embraced socialism.

Paul Tillich, 1886-1965) German-born Protestant theologian  applied his theology to political questions.  In 1923, his essay "Basic Principles of Religious Socialism" became foundational for the growing religious socialist movement. His work in Germany culminated in The Socialist Decision (1932), a religious socialist manifesto. He emigrated to America to escape the Nazi threat in 1933 and joined Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Theological Seminary.  Jewish Theologian Martin Buber and Christian Karl Barth also endorsed "religious socialism."

The Catholic Church has never been Socialism's friend, but Catholic theology doesn't conflict with socialist theory, and sometimes parallels it.

The Kingdom of God, being in the world without being of the world, throws light on the order of human society, while the power of grace penetrates that order and gives it life. In this way the requirements of a society worthy of man are better perceived, deviations are corrected, the courage to work for what is good is reinforced. In union with all people of good will, Christians, especially the laity, are called to this task of imbuing human realities with the Gospel. --John Paul II

See Catholic social teaching, including Rerum Novarum (on the condition of the working class) Pope Leo XIII, and all major relevant papal teachings since.  Leo's pronouncements brought into focus Catholic "Christian Democracy" that sought some measure of social justice based on church teachings.  However, while John Paul II issues good teachings on social issues such as Third World land reform, and while he spoke of the Church's love for the poor, he staunchly opposed not only Marxism but all socialism. Centesimus Annus (On the 100th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum)

Latin America, in reaction to its widespread grinding poverty, developed Liberation Theology, which holds that the gospel compels the church to help liberate the world's peoples from poverty and oppression.  The term was first used in 1973 by Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian priest.  Church teaching now disapproves of liberation theology.

It must be remembered that the Church assured a certain measure of social justice during its most ascendant period, the early medieval ages, including the right of sanctuary, the relentless war against usury, the numberless benevolent institutions, the protection afforded to labor in general, and the special provision made for the unemployed.  Through the montes pietatis, the church sometimes provided an interest-free alternative to usurious lenders. The many thousand Catholic confraternities scattered up and down Europe almost always had common funds for their members' benefit and protection, the kind of voluntary association that modern anarchists only talk about.  At Leo XIII's instigation, Catholic communities formed credit cooperatives in Italy that survive today.

Revisionist Marxist accommodation of Religion

Ernst Bloch, a Marxist, provided some hetero-orthodox views on the development of religion, and tried to salvage religion for marxism, without abandoning the original revolutionary Marxist perspective. Reading history, he identified two opposed currents: the official church in opposition to a strong heretical tendency.  The formal, theocratic religion of the official churches, the opium of the people, a "mystifying" apparatus produces and protects an "ideology in service to the ruling classes.  during normal times, the opposing heretical tendency remains suppressed, but it occasionally bursts into the light of day, each time in a different form: the Albigensians, the Hussites, Joachim de Flore, Thomas Münzer, Franz von Baader, Wilhelm Weitling and Leo Tolstoy. Bloch saw here the good and the bad sides of religious phenomenon, (a) its oppressively superstitious side, which righteous Marxist materialism must extinguish, and (b) its potential for revolt. He dreamt of an authentic union between Christianity and revolution, like the one which came into being during the Peasant Wars of the 16th century.  Bloch does criticize Engel's charge that religion is just a “cloak” of class interests; while this is often true of bad, institutional religion, it is definitely not true of good, rebellious religion.

Again without irony, Bloch tried to give a millenarian interpretation of Marxism, through which the socialist struggle for the Kingdom in the world becomes the direct heir of the eschatological and collectivist heresies of the past. He does not see that Marxism in practice has emulated the totalitarianism of bad religion by (a) demanding a single elaborate theoretical orthodoxy and suppresses all heresies (b) irrationally believing in a favorable, redeeming history, and (c) erecting a church/party with providentially privileged stewardship over both truth and community.

Bloch thinks that good rebellious religion is a manifestation of utopian consciousness, an expression of the human "Principle of Hope."  From this, Bloch pursues a heterodox and iconoclastic interpretation of the Bible, deducing a Biblia pauperum (bible of the poor) that denounces the Pharaohs and Babylon, and calls on everyone to choose either Caesar (his bad institutional religion) or Christ (the good genuine rebellious side).  Marxists, however, have proved very adept at becoming Caesers and persecuting Christ.

Some of Bloch's perspectives were shared by members of the Frankfurt School. Max Horkheimer considered that “religion is the record of the wishes, nostalgias and indictments of count—-less generations.”  Erich Fromm, in his early work The Dogma of Christ (1930), tried to apply Marxism and psychoanalysis to illuminate the Messianic, plebeian, egalitarian and anti-authoritarian essence of primitive Christianity. The writer Walter Benjamin tried to synthesis everything: theology and Marxism, Jewish Messianism and historical materialism, class struggle and redemption.  It is a bit like trying to blend

Lucien Goldmann’s work The Hidden God (1955) attempts to reconcile Marxism with religion, and find common ground.   Although of a very different inspiration than Bloch, he was also interested in redeeming the moral and human value of religious tradition. Any socialist would admit that both socialism and religion have in common the rejection of pure individualism and the embrace of a priority outside, beyond, the individual values: for the religionist it is God, and for socialists it is supposedly  the human community, the common good, although fore real Marxists it is the party.  He points out, without irony, that for both Christian and marxist there is a "wager," a leap of faith.  for the Christian it is in the existence of God and Heaven and the Judgment, while the Marxist "wagers" on the "liberation of humanity," which is to say the dialectical materialist assurance of the revolution.

Orthodox Marxism implies that subjective "class consciousness" and human will are determined by, and manifestations of, material historical trends that operated according to dialectical laws. 

Orthodox Marxism never explicitly describes its method, other than an endless amount of philosophical "analysis."  Yet it presumes to be "scientific," which is to at least say "factual."  Yet Bloch the Marxist admits that Marxists rely upon fundamental belief that is not demonstrable on the exclusive level of factual judgments.


How Bergonian Socialists came to accept Religion

Stupid Historical Mistake #1:  Socialists, especially Marxist socialists, have opposed all Religion.

Marx was certainly not the only socialist founding father who embraced atheism, but he cemented atheism into the foundation of his doctrine, thereafter Marxist Socialists have relentlessly persecuted Christianity.  Much of the atheism of European socialism reflected the general anti-clericism of the 1800s, an understandable reaction to the Church's secular power and participation in feudal ownership.  Throughout the age of republican revolution the churches preached obedience and opposed all liberalism, and church leadership often came from the nobility.

The institutional church's abuses before the 1900s certainly warranted condemnation, but the next step of totally dissing religion and ultimately the divine itself is illogical.  Many modern secularists commit this fallacy-- condemning God for the faults of the Church. 

The denial of religion itself was also unnecessary.  The core concepts of socialism are in no way contradicted or otherwise implicated by religious faith.

Both on principle and strategically, socialists should have refrained from the debate between religious faith and modern agnosticism (or secular humanism or whatever).  They logically had no stake in the fight.

The result of the Marxian embrace of atheism was to alienate millions of potential supporters--including many members of the proletariat and peasantry with abiding faith. American conservatives now crow that Ronald Reagan heroically brought down the Soviet Empire with his insane arms buildup.  It is far more likely that Pope John Paul should get the credit. Would he and the Catholic Church have resisted the Communists so effectively in Poland had the Communists been more accepting of religion?

Mistake #1 avoided in Bergonia:  Socialists there have tolerated Religion.

German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, a staunch atheist, made the crucial distinction between the reactionary Church and its original beliefs, which allowed her to claim that modern socialists are more faithful to Christianity's original principles than any conservative clergy.  See Church and Socialism (1905). If the priests honestly meant to  “love thy neighbor as thyself,” they would be socialists.  When the clergy support the rich, and those who exploit and oppress the poor, they are in explicit contradiction with Christian teachings: they do serve not Christ but the Golden Calf. The first apostles of Christianity were communists, she claimed, and the Fathers of the Church (like Basil the Great and John Chrysostom) denounced social injustice. Socialism is the heir to their concern for the poor, and through socialism Christians can realize the Kingdom on earth. Instead of championing materialism in a philosophical battle against religion, Luxemburg tried to rescue the social dimension of the Christian tradition.

Fortunately, the Democratic revolutionaries in Bergonia avoided Marxism's horrible folly of atheism.  Atheism is not necessary to socialism, they realized.  They anticipated Luxemburg's advice and strategically befriended religion-- and so religious men and women joined in the revolutionary movement.  This strategy was not adopted without strong debate and dissent.  Hence the inclusion of #7 Religion among the Eight Principles.

The conservative elements in a nation's culture need not remain irrevocably chained to the conservatism of its ruling class's interests.  Here, the word conservative is not synonymous with the word conservative.  Insofar as in any nation the two remain tightly linked, it is usually to their mutual advantage, with the ruling class subsidizing the retrograde cultural elements, as a means of buying the allegiances of segments of the laboring classes, such as religious peasants.  The chains are born of mutual advantage, convenience and habit, and certainly not sustained by logic, principle or necessity, and thus are worn only as a strategy.  Any strategy, with patience, intelligence and luck, may be undone....  The finest of victories consists of receiving a former enemy as a new friend.  So do not close your minds to my suggestion that the parish priest and the Miradi bell-ringer might one day help accompany the laborers into revolution."  --Umac Dherein, 1913

Stupid Mistake #2:  Christians worldwide support Capitalism.

Given socialist/communist atheism (stupid mistake #1), the Christian attachment to capitalist conservative politics is somewhat understandable.  But it is nevertheless mocks their faith that Christians attach themselves to the monster of anti-spiritual/metaphysical  materialism.  It is also a laugh of epical proportions to see heartfelt Christians embrace the monster that is slowly eviscerating their religion's domination in the culture. It is a laugh to see how capitalist "big business" conservatives in the USA have duped the Evangelical movement.

In its cold dead materialistic core, capitalism opposes (or at least makes irrelevant) Christianity and all other religion.  Capitalism extols accumulation of wealth above all things.  Its primary virtue-- greed-- was once a mortal sin, and greed is attended by the pride, lust and sloth that its cascade of advertising promotes.  Medieval Catholic virtues of poverty were mocked by the Church itself, then scorned by Calvinists, and now they amuse capitalists, Protestants, Evangelicals and other modern materialists.

In late medieval times the Church became utterly corrupt off the new wealth of the times, and in our time the Evangelical churches have become the new Rome, glutted on late capitalist materialism.  In pre-WWII Europe, business interests and conservative Catholicism often backed the same fascist devils.  The same thing is going on in the Third world today, as Evangelical missionaries and money penetrates the Third World, e.g. Pat Robertson.  It is symptomatic of how the hierarchical, wealthy, institutionalized church has subdued the spiritual core of Christian faith.

Mistake #2 avoided in Bergonia:  During the Revolution, Miradi and Christians came to support the Socialists.

Fortunately in the late 1980s and early 1900s a large number of both Miradi believers and Christians realized that capitalism was their spiritual foe.  With the adoption of #7 of the Eight Principles, religious Bergonians took some comfort, and many joined the parties comprising the DF.  Many of the parties that comprised the Democratic Movement had links with Miradi institutions, but for a while there were very few Christians involved in the socialist and syndicalist parties.  It was pretty clear throughout the 1920s in the years leading up to the revolution that the Miradi priesthood was split between the socialist-syndicalists in the DF and the semi-fascist Kilitan.

In the critical moments, religious activists found they could deal with the socialists, make peace with them, and lend them their support.

Both the Christians and the Miradi got a good payoff from the socialist victory in 1931-34.  Once the Revolution stifled capitalism and averted the commercial assault on culture, religion has been able to blossom in Bergonia. The Bergonian media gets its financing not just from advertising, but from public grants and user fees (e.g. cable fees and sales taxes collected from television manufacturers).  Stations need not rely solely upon advertising for revenue.  Government rules require networks to reserve advertising slots to religious, political and civic groups to ensure that viewers see messages other than those extolling the "hottest" and "coolest" merchandise.  Moreover, religious groups in Bergonia vigorously attack advertising campaigns that go too far toward commercial values-- unlike fundamentalists in America who seethe indignantly about a few books in high school libraries while letting their children submerge in the morally deficient depths of pop culture.

Christ driving the moneychangers out of the Temple

Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:18)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.  (Matt 5:19-21)

"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  (Matt 5:27)


29 Sept 2005