September 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm #81491
I am not a Party member, I was never permitted to join, yet I share the same Socialist beliefs and goals as Party members, appart from one.
I believe in a Creator (I hate the God word, it is so cliched)
What I believe in is of no importance to anyone else. I seek no converts, neither do I belong to any group, or Church.
My belief is personal and private, although I am told it is not original.
Yet the Party, “claims that Religion is a social, not personal matter and that Religion is incompatible with Socialist understanding.”
Like I said, my belief IS personal and private, and it does not interfere in any way, shape or form, with my Socialist belief.
Anyone care to comment?September 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm #89161
I see absolutely no good reason why you should not join the SPGB in that case. It is irrational and absurd to put completely unnecessary obstacles in the way of you doing that.September 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm #89162
thanks for your input robbo203, and your support. I am going back as far as 1981, things might have changed somewhat, now.September 9, 2012 at 6:08 am #89160ALBKeymasterQuote:That this conference endorses the editorial Committee’s reply to a correspondent’s letter in the May 2002 Socialist Standard and holds that it is a good brief summing up of the party’s position. ‘The Socialist Party takes a non-theistic, materialist approach to things, in particular to society and social change. Religious people believe in the existence of at least one supernatural entity that intervenes in nature and human affairs. Socialists hold that we only live once. Religious people believe in some afterlife. Clearly the two are incompatible’.
Resolution passed by Conference 2003 by 90 votes to 15 (86% to 14%).September 9, 2012 at 7:19 am #89163
“That this conference endorses the editorial Committee’s reply to a correspondent’s letter in the May 2002 Socialist Standard and holds that it is a good brief summing up of the party’s position. ‘The Socialist Party takes a non-theistic, materialist approach to things, in particular to society and social change. Religious people believe in the existence of at least one supernatural entity that intervenes in nature and human affairs. Socialists hold that we only live once. Religious people believe in some afterlife. Clearly the two are incompatible'”. A classic example of redefining the terms of the debate to invest your argument with an aura of spurious authority: “Socialists hold that we only live once. Religious people believe in some afterlife”. If you believe that then, of course, the two are going to be “incompatible”. But if you said SOME socialists hold that we only live once then you are into a whole different ball game The only relevant form of materialism to a revolutionary and practically -minded socialist party is historical materialism – NOT metaphysical materialism. Discussing the ultimate nature of reality, while no doubt fascinating, has got sod all to do with changing society But for this dumbass policy of the SPGB (which I believe it shares with Anarchist Federation), the organisation would probably now be many times larger than it is today – considering the thousands of people who have come into its orbit but have been disillusioned by its dogmatic stance on religion. There are more than enough safeguards built into the membership procedure to ensure that only genuine socialists join the organisation, whether they be atheists or not. I just shake my head in disbelief every time this subject is brought up. It just goes to show that so called “scientific” socialists can be just as irrational , pig-headed and dogmatic as the rest when it comes down to it. Such a pity. What is more important – changing society or shooting yourself in the foot, every time you turn away good socialists on the spurious and specious grounds that belief in an afterlife or some god is going to act as in impediment to that endSeptember 9, 2012 at 10:31 am #89164J SurmanParticipant
Just like to say that an uncle of mine, a vicar of the church of England for decades, stated quite categorically that he had no belief whatsoever in any kind of afterlife. We never discussed socialism but now I look back I wished I knew about the party in those days because I’m sure we would have had much to agree upon, knowing the kind of man he was.September 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm #89165jondwhiteParticipant
Putting aside organised religion or “life after death”, atheists realise any religion is essentially by definition irrational reasoning but don’t necessarily say it is harmful for society.You don’t have to be a socialist to realise irrational reasoning is harmful for society. Humanists and freethinkers realise this.What humanists and freethinkers don’t explain is why irrational ideas arise and become powerful at holding back society.By all means, lets try and keep interested supporters who start supporting us whilst still religious. But the least we can expect from members joining is that they understand the first, the minimum, of the above three steps. That religion is defined as irrational reasoning, therefore atheism is the rational position.If anything the party should be engaging with the growing movement of humanists and freethinkers who are already at stage two and before some other movement gets there first.September 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm #89166jondwhiteParticipant
From The Western Socialist No.2 1966 “God is Dead” by Rab,Like Engels’ “shame-faced materialists” of the 19th century, the Rationalists who gave materialist explanations for all phenomena but metaphysical rationalizations for their uncertainties, the “God is Dead” clergymen cling to their adherence to a meaningless “religion,” freed, as it is alleged, from a belief in a supernatural power, a belief which alone constitutes the very essence of all religions. Remove the “supernatural” and there is no religion left.September 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm #89167AnonymousInactive
In short the belief in a creator stands in direct opposition to the materialist conception of history.September 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm #89168Hud955Participant
Hi Robin and everyoneHistorical materialism is just as antithetical to the concept of god as metaphysical materialism. If all human ideas emerge from material conditions, then that is where the idea of god originated too. But aren’t there two prior questions? 1. Should we assume that all party members believe in socialism for rational reasons, and 2. does someone have to subscribe to the materialist conception of history to be a socialist? Frankly, I think the answer is no on both counts. I’ve known people within the party say, for example, oh I can’t be bothered with all that intellectual stuff, I’m just a gut socialist. We are perfectly willing to accept gut socialists into the party so long as they give give the right answers to the basic questions. And so we damn well should! But heaven knows (!) gut socialism is no more rational than a belief in the creator. Then, I have a strong suspicion that a lot of members come to hold certain beliefs because when they enter the party, that’s what the party orthodoxy says. They take them on trust and assert them but if asked to defend them, wouldn’t be able to. I know that to be true of some ideas for some people, including, if I’m honest, me (though I’m gradually working on that. LOL). How many people within the party who say they subscribe to the Labour Theory of Value would be able to defend it rationally, for instance, against its many objectors? It’s a complicated argument. How many members would even know what it was? It is open to a multitide of interpretations. How many members who cheefully claim that currency crank theories of money are nonsense and talk demeaningly about those who defend them would be able to give a detailed and rational analysis to support their view? There are loads of areas where members clearly take certain views on trust or have only a hazy understanding of them. And how many irrational beliefs do many of us hold in our daily life anyway. Probably far more than we would be prepared to acknowledge. I think we kid ourselves a lot of the time that we are these perfectly rational beings. Why would we be?. We don’t, after all, have a god’s eye view of reality and we have to deal with a complicated world. We don’t have time to have detailed, reasoned, empirically supported views on everything we need to make decisions on. Life is too short and far too occupied with wage-slavery. I would object to giving membership to anyone who was a member of a religious organisation or subscribed to the beliefs of a religious organisation. That’s simple, there would be a direct or potential conflict of values there. But I’m not sufficiently purist to believe that someone who simply has a belief in a creator could never be a conscious socialist. That’s because I don’t believe that a carefully reasoned belief system is what defines a conscious socialist. A conscious socialist, in my book, is someone who identifies with working-class class interests and works for the introduction of a common ownership, post-capitalist society. If anyone believes that religion and belief in a creator are going to disappear at all soon among the working class, then, personally, I think they are going to be disappointed. If a socialist movement ever does get off the ground then we are going to have to work with socialists who believe in a creator or even have religious views. That’s something we will have to face. We constantly side-step this issue. How rational is that? Whether we should accept people as members who believe in god but don’t subscribe to any religion – well, I struggle with that. On balance I think I’m against it – very reluctantly. I’m really quite sympathetic to many of Robin’s arguments on this. He makes some very good points. Yet, still I think it would cause us big problems. But one thing I feel certain about. I don’t think we should be denying them membership for purely philosophical reasons. That really would turn us into something of an elitist cult. But to admit people with a belief in a creator, all kinds of practical questions and problems would arise. If we did, then there would be no question of this being ‘a private matter’. Being a socialist is above all a social act and that would have to take precedence over everything else. Would we demand to know what conclusions they drew from their belief or what were their associated idea? Would we be able to preserve a purely atheistical stance in our propaganda? Would we want to? If so, would we, then, have to ask members who believed in god not to promote that idea when speaking on behalf of the party? How many would want to join under those circumstances. I think it could get very, very complicated.We have someone on the forum here who is a committed socialist but also believes in a creator. Can we not ask him to engage open-mindedly and honestly in this debate without defensively attacking his views? I think it is an important one for us all.September 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm #89169HollyHeadParticipantnorthern light wrote:…I believe in a Creator (I hate the God word, it is so cliched)…Anyone care to comment?
Before I comment may I ask:Why do you hold this belief?If it it does not interfere in any way …with your Socialist belief what are the effects of this belief on your analysis and interpretation of the world you live in? HHSeptember 9, 2012 at 11:12 pm #89170AnonymousInactive
We are constantly being told by Robin that the party “would probably now be many times larger than it is today – considering the thousands of people who have come into its orbit but have been disillusioned by its dogmatic stance on religion.”Where is the evidence for this statement? I’ve been around the party for some years and I can’t think of one religious person I’ve met who said they’d been put off the party because of its stance on not admitting religious individuals. The truth is that the majority of religious people subscribe to an after-life of one sort or another and many regard their present existence as simply a lacrimarum valle and thus have no real incentive to improve their lot or that of others except to the extent that their ‘good works’ might guarantee safe passage to the hereafter.However, although religious people cannot join the party at present, they can, if they so wish, participate in socialist activities, even within the party but without being actual members. My branch (K&SRB) has one such person (a catholic) who has been a supporter of the party for many years and is currently more active within the branch than some members.September 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm #89171
I did say that my belief was personal and private, but I have entered the “arena of debate,” so I feel obliged to answer Hollyhead’s questions.
I had the usual exposure to the Christian faith in my childhood, and accepted without question that I was a Christian.
It was not till I was in my late teens/ early twenties and I saw a photograph in a magazine, of a dehydrated African baby, face covered by flies, and too far gone to search for non-existant milk, from his mother’s empty breast, that I realised that the Christian God of Love, was a mythe.
So now I would have been an atheist, if it was not for a couple of paranormal experiences I had, which led me to question spirituality, and ultimately, the existence of a Creator
Unable to come up with any rational scientific explanation for these events, I was left with no alternative, but to accept the belief in spiirit,so probibly a Creator. So what is The Creator ?
Does IT have consious thought?……….. I don’t know
Is IT awair of us? ………… I don’t know.
Does IT interact with humans? ……… probibly not.
Has IT spoken to me?………… certainly not
I believe the Creator is the sum total of all that is the Universe, the Sun, you, me, your mother-in-law, everything came from the singularity that created the Big Bang.
That is my belief, in a nut-shell. I am probibly wrong, but at this time in my life, the jigsaw pieces fit.
These views have no influence on my political, or social beliefs, in fact, I never knew anyone who shared my vision of the sort of society I desired, till one day, while waiting to ascend from the coal-mine where I worked, I heard a man talking politics. He was taking on all-comers, and winning hands down. I had never heard anyone talk like this. He believed in what I believed in. The next day, I sought this man out, and asked what I believed were pretty tricky questions. Of course he was able to answer them This man’s name was Bobby Gleghorn. Me and Bobby became very good friends, and we spent many an hour talking shop. I still miss my friend.September 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm #89172
There is plenty of evidence of individuals with religious views being initially attracted to the Party, discovering its policy on barring individuals with any sort of religious views whatsoever and being put off by it. I too was a member of the SPGB for a long time and all I can say is my experience was totally different from Dave’s. There was even a member of my branch who, I recall, developed religious ideas and despite my best efforts to persuade him not to leave, he disappeared into the ether never to be heard again. Over on SPOPEN I see an ex member of the Membership Committee revealed that he had to ” reject a large number of people of different religions who accepted the core meaningful points of our case for a socialist society (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spopen/message/15142). This would only be the tip of an iceberg. Many more people, learning about the Party ‘s anti-religious attitude simply do not bother even to apply to join and the great bulk of those, in my experience, just drift away. One or two may stick around but is there not something a little hypocritical or condescending about the Party’s attitude towards such individuals, some of whom are more active , as Dave admits, than many members? .”You can help the Party but you cannot join us because you are not socialists” seems to be the line of argument here. If you really believed these individuals were not socialists then it would be more honest to refuse their offer help – just as you do when you urge people not to vote for the SPGB if they are not convinced socialists. But all that is somewhat besides the main point – which is the utter irrationality of the SPGB’s stand on the question of religious applicants. This is richly ironic because, as we have already seen in this thread, the grounds on which religious applicants are rejected are precisely that they are supposed to hold “irrational” views. What is it with this fetishisation of “rationality” in the SPGB, anyway? Frankly it makes my toes curl with embarrassment every time I head this mindlessly simplistic dyad being solemnly intoned : socialist = rational, religious = irrational. This comes across as so cringingly old fashined . The human personality -if I can put it like that – is inevitably an admixture of both irrational and irrational impulses whether you are a socialist or a religious believer or none of the above.. There is no such thing as a socialist without irrational impluses any more than there is a religious believer without rational impulses. We are all without exception a bit of both – unless you’re a computerised automaton with chip, not so much on your shoulder, but inside that cavity between your ears where your thinking feeling brain used to reside. In fact, some religious type arguyments that have been presented in the past – like the argument from design – have been extremely “rational” and sophisticated in their structure and presentation. Read, for example the case put forward by William Paley. (http://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/paley.shtml). The argument might be false but it is not necessarily irrational and a notable feature of some contemporary religioinists. like Peter Russell , himself a physicist and mathematician , is that there is no incompatibility between religion and science at all. Quantum physics, the Unpredictability principle and all that jazz has certainly done much to change our perception of the nature of physical reality and this is what the modern religionists are tapping into – not some arcane argument about how many angels you can fit onto a pinhead. In short, its not the metaphysics of religion that is the problem – it is the reactionary social policies of certain religions that is the problem and it is this alone that is relevant to socialist critique. The point is this – what is a socialist? A socialist is someone who wants and understands socialism. Period. Is Dave seriously trying to suggest here that the Catholic sympathiser who attends his branch meetings is not a socialist? If so, perhaps he ought to try telling this person and see what kind of response that will provoke. My bet is that such an individual would not then be returning to branch meetings any time too soon and the branch would be the poorer for that – just as the Party is vastly poorer for having excluded all those religious socialists down the years. Dave knows as well as I do that he won’t be telling this Cayholic sympathiser that he or she is not a socialist becuase he knows in his heart of hearts that that is not true. But in knowing that he must also know that he is being fundamentally inconsistent and irrational There is absolutely no reason why someone with religious views cannot be a socialist in the sense Ive spelt out above and I defy anyone to prove otherwise. The plain fact of the matter is that there is more than enough safeguards to ensure that only genuine socialists can get into the SPGB. The anti-religious clause is totally redundant and, more than that, it is serious impediment to Party growth though some members continue to think – irrationally – that it serves some kind of useful purpose in assisting the movement towards socialismSeptember 11, 2012 at 12:09 am #89173AnonymousInactive
I’m very pleased that the subject of rationality has loomed so large of late. Avid readers of this forum will have witnessed attempts by some of the more dogmatic amongst us to discredit me personally by suggesting that they are rational. The implication, of course, being that I am not rational since I don’t agree with them… Rational? The most rational human I ever met – a lifelong party member, by the way – was, by his own admission, only partly rational. Let’s take a case in point. (I’ll leave the religion thing to Robin. He has more patience than I do.) Let’s look at the party orthodoxy on primitive communism… Now, Marx relied heavily on the notion of ‘communism’ lying at the beginning and the end of human history. Leaving aside – at least for now – the obvious problem with human history being something that can be so conveniently compartmentalised and thus grasped and understood, there remains the problem (or, as Dick would have it, the prior question) of when human history began. And there’s not an answer to that. “A while back” is the best we can do. At least for now. But the point here, I think, is that just as any ten-year old growing up in the 21st century is likely to know more about the nature of the universe than 42 astronomers from the 19th century put together, so too is it the case that any thinking, reading socialist alive today knows more – or could know more if they threw away the worship of bearded blokes from the past – about the way in which human society came to be where it is now than Karl Marx did. Not a difficult task, really. How many party members have read ‘Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony’ by Robert Edgerton? And how many who have read it have a rebuttal? I’d guess precisely none. But the idea that, actually, primitive societies aren’t worth emulating in any way is an idea that strengthens and not weakens our case. Party orthodoxy. Not necessarily a good thing. Irrespective of what a couple of members think, the SPGB is going to have a debate about whether or not the revolution will increase production and it is going to have a debate about the mythology of primitive societies. How do I know this? I happen to hold this seriously fucking irrational belief – for which I’ve seen scant supporting evidence – that if you can’t have a proper debate in a democratically organised group of people then you just can’t have a debate.(Incidentally, and just as an afterthought, how would my opponents have reacted if I’d suggested that human nature consisted of nothing more than a handful of instincts that could be characterised as shagging, socialising, squabbling and shitting?)
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