September 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm #89234HollyHeadParticipant
I’m not convinced that Robbo’s religious socialists exist in the large(?) numbers he claims. In the 40+ years I’ve been a member I can recall fewer than ten such. We are certainly not turning away potential members in droves. In my experience as a member of the Party’s Inquisition the few I have had dealings with have not proceeded with their applications to join — they have put their religious and/or spiritual convictions before their socialist ones.September 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm #89235
Good point, Ed. There’s also the fact that under capitalism there’s money to be made out of exploiting stories of the “paranormal”. For example, the film “When the Light Went Out” about a supposed poltergeist story that’s just been released this week:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19541877http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Monk_of_PontefractNote one explanation in the wiki entry, the most plausible unless you believe in ghosts, that the teenage boy involved faked it:Quote:The Doncaster Research Group also looked into the disturbances, and concluded that Philip faked the entire haunting.
Proving that he faked it is another matter but presumably he is still alive and somebody could go and ask him. He might confess. But he must be under enormous pressure not to, as the film might flop ( the film-maker is one of his relatives) and those organising paid ghost trips to the house would lose out.For those who say this is off topic, the reason why the lights go out in 1974 is because of the miners’ strike that year. So there is a class-struggle angle to this.September 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm #89236steve colbornParticipantEd wrote:Except there must be a rational explanation based in science. The issue is whether the event can be explained within the context of our current level of scientific understanding or not. It would be arrogant of us to think we have reached the pinnacle of scientific discovery it’s also clearly not the case. However, this does not mean that we should resort to primitive reasoning declaring that unknown science is magic or the work of God or spirits.
Totally agree Ed. Just because our level of scientific understanding is not up to the task at the moment, does not mean that that, will always be the case.As to the end of your comment, all I will say is, that northern light in particular never alluded to, “unknown science is magic or the work of God or spirits”, nor did he want to resort to primitive reasoning.September 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm #89237EdParticipant
The end part was not specifically aimed at anyone in particular but more towards humanity as a whole. By primitive I mean the same logic used since pre-history to explain unknown phenomena.As I said before I hope Northern Light can join and having re-read his explanation I am even more sure. I think the problem with what he is saying is identifying his thoughts with religion at all. I mean just the word Creator implies to most people (at least to me) a conscious god somewhat like the Abrahmic one. But he then goes on to say that he doesn’t know if IT has conscious thought, can interact with us or is aware of us. By removing the context of religion and the word Creator and maybe dressing it up in more scientific language he could be talking about string theory. The problem, like most problems, seems to lie in semantics. But I would ask Northern Light why he feels this is a religious issue and not a scientific one?If he hasn’t lost patience with us yetSeptember 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm #89238
Just been listening to news about fanatical muslims causing mayhem about some film. Can’t see how anybody can see anything positive in religion. Confirms we should keep our distance from it. In fact should oppose and denounce it.September 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm #89239AnonymousInactiveALB wrote:Just been listening to news about fanatical muslims causing mayhem about some film. Can’t see how anybody can see anything positive in religion. Confirms we should keep our distance from it. In fact should oppose and denounce it.
Couldn’t agree more. Of course there have been many examples of religious nutters causing mayhem over the centuries. One such notable case in recent times was the heated and frequently violent reaction of some Muslims to the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which was first published in the UK in 1988. Many Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemy or unbelief and in 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwā ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie. Numerous killings, attempted killings, and bombings resulted from Muslim anger over the novel.I’ve had quite a long-standing admiration for Rushdie who’s come out with some great quotes about religion and God. Here are some…..“If you were an atheist, Birbal,” the Emperor challenged his first minister, “what would you say to the true believers of all the great religions of the world?” Birbal was a devout Brahmin from Trivikrampur, but he answered unhesitatingly, “I would say to them that in my opinion they were all atheists as well; I merely believe in one god less than each of them.” “How so?” the Emperor asked. “All true believers have good reasons for disbelieving in every god except their own,” said Birbal. “And so it is they who, between them, give me all the reasons for believing in none.”“So India’s problem turns out to be the world’s problem. What happened in India has happened in God’s name.The problem’s name is God.” “Something was badly amiss with the spiritual life of the planet…Too many demons inside people claiming to believe in God.” “If I were asked for a one-sentence sound bite on religion, I would say I was against it.” “I, however, was raised neither as Catholic nor as Jew. I was both, and nothing: a jewholic-anonymous, a cathjew nut, a stewpot, a mongrel cur. I was–what’s the word these days?–atomised. Yessir: a real Bombay mix. ” “If by some bizarre chance there turns out to be a god […], I’m willing to bet he’s an atheist too.”September 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm #89240ALB wrote:Ex-comrade Robbo is missing the point. It is a question of which group of people we should direct our appeal to: the New Agers or the Rationalists? We can’t appeal to both as we are likely to upset the other. For historical as well as intellectual reasons, we are in the latter camp and get some respect from them for this.In any event, we are scientific materialists rather than atheists as such, even if some members, as a result of what religion did to them, are god-killers and priest-eaters
.This precisely demonstrates the confused and illogical thinking on religion that goes on in the minds of people like ALB: “We can’t appeal to both as we are likely to upset the other”. Stop for a moment and think what is implied by this statement. It implies a specific tailored appeal to certain groups of people on the basis of certain specific views they hold. Fuck me, and there I was thinking that the SPGB was a revolutionary Socialist Party whose only appeal was to the working class as a whole to cooperate and establish socialism. Apparently not , according to Mr Buick. Now , it seems the SPGB is into niche marketing with separate appeals for separate groups of workers. I never imagined that things had got so bad in the SPGB that it now has to resort to such opportunistic tactics as this. And, no, I don’t think the SPGB is a scientific materialist organisation . Far from it. It may say it is but it is not. “Scientific materialism” is something that it only pays lip service. It should apply a scientific materialist analysis to itself for a change and try to understand why it is that as an organisation it is now drifting along going nowhere and, in fact , in steady decline. You cant argue with the facts. The Party is half the size it was when I was a member and as this rate it will go the way of the near moribund Socialist Studies group into oblivion. It might be able to pad it out for a few more years with a transfusion of legacy money. But thats about it. At this rate it will die, certainly not with a bang, but the faintest of whimpersThe root of the problem, Im afraid, is the endemic dogmatism and chronic conservatism – the total unwillingness to think afresh and to see that same old formulas just ain’t working . We’ve seen this time and time again on this thread: “Oh you cant change things, ya know,. better to stick with the old ways,” they moan and whine like that pair of “old gits” on the Harry Enfield show . For fucks sake – spare us this complacent drivel. If the SPGB is going to even survive as revolutionary organization it is going to have to grab this bull by the horns and radically overhaul everything. Its ironic that this thread is about religion because, I am sorry to say that, far from being a scientific materialist organization it exhibits certain traits that unmistakably resemble those of a fundamenlialist religion. I remember many years ago reading a critique of the SPGB in some journal by a political scientist that made just this point I scoffed at it at the time but, by god, was he spot on.ALB wrote:So ex-comrade Robbo would exclude those who go to church! His crackpot idea of trying to make a distinction between those who are part of an organised religion and those who merely have personal religious views would turn the Membership Dept into the Spanish Inquisition he has denounced it as being. It would have to go into detail about a person’s religious views and ask such questions as: do you go to church? do you eat pork? why are you wearing a turban? etc.
Don’t be ridiculous ALB . You arguments get more and more bizarre , offbeam and wacky as times goes by. Personally speaking. if it was up to me, I would advocate the complete abandonment of anti-religion policy altogether on the grounds that it is totally redundant – there are more than enough safeguards built into the membership application procedure to ensure that only genuine socialists join The suggestion I put forward that individuals belonging to organized religions should be barred entry into the SPGB for the time being was a simply a compromise solution – not one I’m particularly comfortable with – but knowing the endemic conservatism of the SPGB, I guess compromises is what you have to make. At any rate, the idea is that applicants will be asked upfront if they belong to an organised religion and a simple YES/NO answer will suffice . You don’t need to go into details of whether they go to church etc – even some Atheists I know of go to church for purely aesthetic reasons. Exactly the same arguments you raise would, incientally, apply to voting for reformist parties Membership requires you not the vote for reformist parties but we both know very well that SPGB members have voted for reformist parties in the past for tactical purposes The only reason why I suggested membership of organized religion be the deciding factor is because apart from the metaphysical assumptions underlying such religions there are also the institutionalised social policies that tend to go with such religions, policies that are often anti-socialist in content. The idea is that by allowing people to join only if their religious beliefs are personal and they do not belong to an organised religion , you would thereby encourage individuals to abandon such organised religions in order to join the SPGB and thus actively contribute to the decline of such anti socialist organisations. I think it is quite a good idea on some ways – certainly far better than the status quo which can do absolutely nothing constructive about mitigating the pernicious influence or organised religion. Still, I, not rigidly attached to the idea and am open to suggestions. So if you have a better idea lets hear itSeptember 14, 2012 at 6:08 pm #89241Young Master Smeet wrote:Quote:Well, what about the compromise idea discussed earlier of allowing socialists in who hold personal religious beliefs but not those who belong to organised religions?
That approach would admit William Blake, or a Southern Baptist who doesn’t go to church. The problem isn’t just organised religion, disorganised religion is a problem as well.I think a far simpler dividing line is we accept conscious materialists, who don’t think the party is doing Bob’s work, nor that socialism is divinely ordained or part of Bob’s plan.
OK, this is an alternative compromise suggestion that you are putting forward here. What you are saying, in other words, is that only individuals who entertain a theistic conception of god/Bob as something that intervenes actively in human affairs in contradiction to a historical materialist approach (“human beings make their own history” blah blah) should be barred membership of the SPGB . Yes?What that means, if I read you correctly, is that , according to you, people who hold a deistic notion of god ( a non interventionist freemarket kinda god) or who hold pantheistic or Buddhist views or who believe in an afterlife or even so called paranormal events (which our Mr Buick seems to be so obsessed with) should be allowed entry. Fair enough. As a compromise suggestion, its got something to recommend itself . It is certainly a vast improvement on the dire situation that exists today. For myself, I am quite persuaded by Richard’s argument that “gut socialists” aren’t and don’t need to particularly au fait with historical materialism and that while HM is fascinating as a rather abstruse intellectual theory, I don’t know how relevant, if at all, it is to the actual political movement for socialism which is or should be a movement of gut socialism and thus should include all those who want and understand socialism irrespective of whether or not they are religious. If they want and understand socialism they are socialists. Period. Richard may or may not think this – I dont know – but I certainly do.I think if the SPGB were to adopt this compromise suggestion it might prove a turning point. Who knows – you might even have a few ex members returning to the fold.September 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm #89242AnonymousInactive
That the membership of the SPGB is smaller than when Mr know-it-all Cox was a member is by no means due to its policy on not admitting religious people to its ranks. That has remained unchanged since the party’s inception in 1904.In 1910 the party issued a pamphlet entitled “Socialism and Religion” ; it can be seen here:-http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/socialism-and-religionHere are a couple of pertinent extracts:-“It must be either the Socialist or the religious principle that is supreme, for the attempt to couple them equally betrays charlatanism or lack of thought. There is, therefore, no need for a specifically anti-religious test. So surely does the acceptance of Socialism lead to the exclusion of the supernatural, that the Socialist has little need for such terms as atheist, Free-thinker, or even Materialist; for the word Socialist, rightly understood, implies one who on all such questions takes his stand on positive science, explaining all things by purely natural causation; Socialism being not merely a politico-economic creed, but also an integral part of a consistent world philosophy.”[….]”But it must never be forgotten that since religion is ever used as a weapon by, the ruling class against the wealth producers, no working man in the struggle for the emancipation of his class can honestly avoid the religious conflict. Our question is therefore answered. Socialism, both as a philosophy, and as a form of society, is the antithesis of religion.”September 14, 2012 at 9:50 pm #89243northern lightParticipant
Hi Ed,I thought this had been put to bed by ALB. I was a naughty, attention seeking girl, who made the whole thing up. ( sorry ALB, just couldn’t resist it. ) Anyway, I reckon my story is of no importance, the debate has reached it’s climax.September 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm #89244
This discussion as to whether or not religion and socialism are compatible is parallelled by a discussion amongst scientists as to whether or not religion and science are compatible. On the one side are the late Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan (both good blokes) who say that religion and science are not necessarily incompatible. On the other side are Daniel Dennett and (of course) Richard Dawkins (even if not such a good bloke). See, for instance:http://darwinsteapot.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/dennetts-problem-with-goulds-non.htmlhttp://issues.control.com.au/issues2008/82extra.shtmlWe are by no means alone in taking a hard line on religion.September 14, 2012 at 10:53 pm #89245northern lightParticipant
When I opened this discussion, I had an agenda, ( nothing sinister, I assure you ), and I think all of my questions have been answered, quite eloquently, by the parcipients. From my perspective, nothing has changed. I can not, will not apply to join the SPGB., even though our goals and aspirations are the same.One might say it is of little importance. I would say the membership issue is more relevant now, than any other time in the Party’s existence, not just for people who have a religious slant, but per se. Global Warming…………. is it, or isn’t it ?The war crimes of Bush and Blair, and their croniesThe world-widw recessionThe corruption of elected politiciansCorporate greedThe errosion of care for the agedThe sabotage of the N.H.S.The meddling with children’s educationThe savage repugnant attacks on the sick and vunerableThe deliberate attacks on the Muslem societyThe attempts to fragment the Public sector, by restructuring payMoving capital and jobs to the Far East, then calling our workers, lazy spongers on the State, for not finding jobsRestricting Internet freedom. These are a sample of issues in the public domain, and the Working Class, is looking for answers, and not finding them in main-stream politics.But the SPGB is not connecting with the Working Class. Why is that? This needs to be addressed.One huge turn off that SPGB members parcipitate in, is the use of archaic language, when talking politics. This sort of speech may be fine for the debating platform, but try it in the pub, and see what happens. I think the SPGB needs a new Public Relations makeover.If the SPGB wants to take part in the emancipation of the Working Class, membership has to increase, or as ALB said, “we’re so small, we are esentially a debating group…….” and that is the way you will stay. Surely members must see, that after 108 years, with only 332 members to show, there has to be something amis.How you come by new members is your business, but it seems to me, that with most organisations, the more members you have, the more you can attract. For the sake of Humanity (and we may not have much time left ) you need to increase the membership.September 14, 2012 at 11:27 pm #89246EdParticipantnorthern light wrote:Global Warming…………. is it, or isn’t it ?The war crimes of Bush and Blair, and their croniesThe world-widw recessionThe corruption of elected politiciansCorporate greedThe errosion of care for the agedThe sabotage of the N.H.S.The meddling with children’s educationThe savage repugnant attacks on the sick and vunerableThe deliberate attacks on the Muslem societyThe attempts to fragment the Public sector, by restructuring payMoving capital and jobs to the Far East, then calling our workers, lazy spongers on the State, for not finding jobsRestricting Internet freedom.
There is one solution to all of these problems. As Rolf used to say “can you tell what it is yet?”September 14, 2012 at 11:33 pm #89247gnome wrote:That the membership of the SPGB is smaller than when Mr know-it-all Cox was a member is by no means due to its policy on not admitting religious people to its ranks. That has remained unchanged since the party’s inception in 1904.In 1910 the party issued a pamphlet entitled “Socialism and Religion” ; it can be seen here:-http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/socialism-and-religionHere are a couple of pertinent extracts:-“It must be either the Socialist or the religious principle that is supreme, for the attempt to couple them equally betrays charlatanism or lack of thought. There is, therefore, no need for a specifically anti-religious test. So surely does the acceptance of Socialism lead to the exclusion of the supernatural, that the Socialist has little need for such terms as atheist, Free-thinker, or even Materialist; for the word Socialist, rightly understood, implies one who on all such questions takes his stand on positive science, explaining all things by purely natural causation; Socialism being not merely a politico-economic creed, but also an integral part of a consistent world philosophy.”[….]”But it must never be forgotten that since religion is ever used as a weapon by, the ruling class against the wealth producers, no working man in the struggle for the emancipation of his class can honestly avoid the religious conflict. Our question is therefore answered. Socialism, both as a philosophy, and as a form of society, is the antithesis of religion.”
I certainly don’t claim that the Party has declined in numbers simply because of its policy on not admitting religious people. That would be absurd. After all as Gnome points out that policy has been in place since 1904 and there was a time – just after the war – when the party was much bigger than it is.The problem goes much deeper, as I’ve already suggested, than just that ridiculous policy – though it certainly manifests itself in the attitude of some members to the religion questionI haven’t read the 1910 pamphlet on religion but it doesn’t look like I’ve missed much . The passages quoted strike me as turgid, dire and uninformed – a series of utterly unsubstantiated dogmatic assertions. Apparently a religious individual cannot be a socialist because…er… the writer of the pamphlet asserts this to be the case. Yeah, very persuasive, very compelling…I’ve always suspected that the party harbours a kind of old fashioned mechanical materialism in the outlook of some of its members, which is essentially reductionist and deterministic . There is a hint of this in one of the passages. To wit – the word Socialist, rightly understood, implies one who on all such questions takes his stand on positive science, explaining all things by purely natural causation. Crass scientism if you ask meSeptember 15, 2012 at 6:23 am #89248
Is it really a surprise that our critic here and defender of the faiths hasn’t actually read the basic SPGB pamphlet on the subject he takes us to task on on every occasion that he can (this discussion has taken place regularly on the World Socialist Movement forum at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/WSM_Forum/ and, each time, he has lost his rag and launched into a bitter attack on the SPGB as a dying organisation that deserves to die because it opposes religion).The Socialism and Religion pamphlet is a classic, not just within the SPGB, that was reprinted by others too.Here’s what Robert Barltrop says about it in his collection of anecdotes about the Party The Monument:Quote:In 1910 a wide new field for debate was opened by the publication of Socialism and Religion. Here for the first line, a socialist organization declared itself an atheist one. True, there was a widespread feeling that the churches, in particular the Church of England, were in the pockets of the capitalist class; but that was a different thing from unqualified opposition to all religious belief and practices. The influence of Christian Socialism was a strong one in the Labour movement, and the principle ‘Religion is a private affair’ had general acceptance.Socialism and Religion was a thin, grey-covered pamphlet of no more than fourteen thousand words. It was written by F.C.Watts but, like all the pamphlets the Party produced, it was signed in the name of the Executive Committee: the argument was the Party’s, not Watts’s. Its opening section was headed THE NEED FOR FRANKNESS, and accused radical parties of suppressing the case against religion for fear of alienating supporters. Applying the Marxist principle, Watts analyzed religious belief as a social product — ‘the reflex of tribal life’. In fact, the theory of the origin of religion was taken from Herbert Spencer’s Principles of Sociology, which was highly esteemed in the SPGB.But the more important matter was in the parts of the pamphlet headed THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY. ‘Under its multifarious forms’, wrote Watts, ‘the modern mission of religion is to cloak the hideousness and injustice of social conditions and keep the exploited meek and submissive.’ He revealed that the SPGB would allow nobody in its ranks with a religious belief. ‘No man can be consistently both a Socialist and a Christian. It must be either the Socialist or the religious principle that is supreme, for the attempt to couple them equally betrays charlatanism or lack of thought.’ Finally, in the world of common ownership there would be no religion: ‘Socialism, both as a philosophy and as a form of society, is the antithesis of religion.’Socialism and Religion was a best-seller among political pamphlets for nearly twenty years. While the irreligionists and freethinkers delighted in it, churchmen held up and quoted it as living proof of the terrors of socialism. In 1914 a Roman Catholic Congress in Belfast heard a paper based on the iniquity displayed in it. ‘The poisoned breath of Socialism’ was the lecturer’s phrase, and he could hardly have needed to appeal ‘that it shall never be allowed to establish a foothold within the fair hills of holy Ireland’. And a few years later an American bishop named William Montgomery Brown, DD, a convert to the Russian Revolution, reprinted and expanded it in a booklet, Communism and Christianism; he was tried for heresy by an ecclesiastical court, and described himself afterwards as ‘Episcopus in Partibus Bolshevikium et Infidelium’.So clergymen and Christian Socialists were added to the list of debating opponents.
You can buy a copy of the edition produced by the Socialist Education Society of New York here:http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Socialism_and_Religion.html?id=fsa6QAAACAAJ&redir_esc=yOr of the 1925 edition here (for $17.50)http://www.amazon.com/Socialism-Religion-Socialist-Party-Britain/dp/B007YOXRNMIn 1997 it was republished in New Zealand. Some copies of this as still available from our Head Office. Order it now while stocks last.The whole text is also online on this site here:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/socialism-and-religion
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