Socialism v. Secularism

It during the time the “Daily Standard” was carrying on its campaign against what it euphemistically called “The Red Peril,” the S.P.G.B. was misrepresented by a holy leech as being Atheistic first and Socialistic afterwards. Of course, the Socialist Party at once and rightly repudiated the allegation; but in view of the fact that this lie of the reverend gentleman is widely accepted as the truth, and that it is being persistently circulated both by the enemies of Socialism and the ignoramuses of Secularism, each for purposes of their own, it is thought advisable to set out in plain and unmis­takable language the attitude of the S.P.G.B. towards the movement known as


In the course of a debate (Cohen v. Gun) on the subject of “Theism v. Atheism,” a promi­nent speaker for the National Secular Society pointed out that “Theism is always, in the ultimate, merely an expression of some theory of the origin of the Universe.” No doubt he was quite right in making this assertion, for the moment Theism ceases to be so characterised it becomes meaningless and loses its raison d’etre. It is in this connection alone that it can be judged on its argumentative merits or demerits. For this very reason, however, Atheism, its an­tithesis, finds itself, as a philosophy, within the same groove, merely representing antagonistic views on this specific subject and this alone.

In the first part of Herbert Spencer’s “First Principles” we find Atheism and Theism, as he conceives them, dealt with in an impartial and masterly way. All the arguments that may be deduced in support of either contention are clearly set forth, dissected, and analysed ; and while showing the fallacies and the self-contra­dictory nature of the Theistic mode of reasoning, he proceeds to show that Atheism, as a reason­able hypothesis accounting for the origin of the Universe,


not on the ground of improbability, but of inconceivability.

Speaking of Theism as a theory of the Uni­verse Herbert Spencer writes :

“To conceive existence through infinite past time implies the conception of infinite past time, which is an impossibility. To this let us add that even were self existence conceivable it would not be an explanation of the Universe. No one will say that the existence of an object at the present moment is made easier to under­stand by the discovery that it existed an hour ago, or a clay ago, or a year ago; and if its existence now is not made more comprehensible by knowledge of its existence during some previous finite period, then no knowledge of it during many such finite periods, even if we could extend them to an infinite period, would make it more comprehensible. Thus the Athe­istic theory is not only absolutely unthinkable, but even were it thinkable, would not be a solution. The assertion that the Universe is self-existent does not really carry us a step be yond the cognition of its present existence, and so leaves us with a mere re-statement of the mystery.”

Evidently the representative of the National Secularist Society was fully aware of this, for he was careful to point out that : “It is the


of Atheism to analyse theistic arguments and to reject them if they prove unsatisfactory on ac­count of the contradictions which they imply.”

It will here be noticed that no alternative hypothesis is offered.

The above admission (from which there ap­pears to be no escape) by the aforementioned speaker—probably the most capable man in the ranks of Atheism, explicitly excludes that philosophy from dealing with anything outside theistic controversies, and although it may be contended that Secularists do extend their acti­vities in other directions, yet an impartial exa­mination of the attitude they adopt and the propaganda they advocate, will show that as far as the real, vital, and fundamental issues are concerned, they are as indifferent or as reaction­ary as the Theists they oppose.

The economic and political aspects of society are either rigidly kept out of their discussions or are considered as of little or no importance in comparison with Secularism. Thus, in spite of his profession of determinism, the Secularist utterly fails to understand that religious ideas, like his own—like all ideas, in fact—are deter­mined by


and are therefore nothing but the results of such conditions.

What are those conditions, and how are they characterised ?

These are questions which have no weight in the propaganda of the Secularist. To the Socialist the solution of these problems are of extreme importance, because it carries him to the very foundation of society. It breaks through the veil of idealism and enables him to see what lies behind the scenes. Such a solution affords the only explanation of the rise of and the course followed by ideas, and therefore of intellectual development. The conception of history, from the materialist point of view, is based upon the fact that before we can think and have ideas, we must have food, clothing, and shelter. How they necessaries of life are produced and distri­buted determines in general what the people of an epoch shall think and shall strive for. In other words, ideas are subservient to economic forces. Further, these economic forces constitute the centre of gravitation of political activities ; whether the manner in which the necessaries of existence are produced and distributed shall be preserved or abolished constitutes the object of those who endeavour to capture political power.

Thus it is that legislative measures, enacted or in the process of being enacted, no matter what aspect they may present, always find their root-motive in


and are subservient to the basic principle of modern soctety, viz., private property.

The Secularist or pseudo-materialist places the cart before the horse in true Christian fas­hion. He is much more interested in effects than in the causes that produce them. Although, as we have already seen, and on their own admis­sion, Atheism can only stand as a negation of fallacious theistic ideas, the Secularists never­theless regard it as a basic principle upon which they proceed to elaborate a certain plan of con­duct and to derive from it their conceptions of ”right” and “wrong,” “justice” and “injus­tice,” “good” and “evil,” and various other forms of morality. They assert that man is the creature environment and circumstances, and yet they disregard the material factors which govern the society upon which they propose to operate! And with what results ?

In the political arena, which is but a reflex of the circumstances in which we live, they are


One finds all shades of opinions among them—similar opinions, in fact, to those held by the very people they are out to attack. Such are the “refreshing fruits” of their so-called “philoso­phy” ! Such are the people who parade their propaganda under the name of Materialism, while they attribute their unbeliefs to the tri­umph of Reason ! They do not realise that such an expression is just as illogical and just as silly as any that ever flowed from the lips of a Chris­tian. By this they imply that Reason is some­thing transcending all laws, something beyond the scope of cause and effect, whereas, it being only a function of the brain acting in accordance with acquired experience, it cannot be conceived as triumphing over anything. One might as well talk about the wetness and ponderousity of water triumphing over oxygen and hydrogen.

The fact is that the Secularist will not atone for his sins, so a scape-goat is to be found, and he finds it in the shape of Reason.

This simply tends to show that atheistic Secu­larists are people who have extricated themselves from one superstition to embrace another. As the Socialist Party points out in its pamphlet “Socialism and Religion”: “The bourgeois-freethinker is, like the Christian, attributing miraculous powers to the


Now, in the face of this it is obvious that the attitude of Socialists toward Secularism must be identical with that they assume towards religion: it must be one of uncompromising antagonism. Neither of them explain the bed-rock basis of society ; neither of them are concerned with the cause of increasing wealth in one section of the community at the cost of the perpetual and ever increasing poverty of the other section.. These things are outside the sphere of activity of their respective philosophies.

While the Christian from his abysmal ignor-ance tells us that men must be born again before they may be able to change and improve society,, the Secularist believes that social evils find their immediate cause in the existence and influence of religion ! In his study of history he see». nothing but the evil deeds of priestcraft. Deeper than this he does not go and does not


Thus his so called philosophy is not unlike the Hindu theory of the earth resting on the back of an elephant, itself standing on a tortoise, and then — nothing except his triumphant Reason !

While the Theists and the Atheists are wast­ing their time and energy on things that do not matter, while academic discussion affords sport for their intelligence, there is a situation the gravity of which increases in intensity as each day passes. That situation is that the producers of the world are poor because they are robbed ; they are robbed because the means of wealth production are private property owned by those who have political power. What matters it to -the worker whether his master imposes upon him atheistic ethics or Christian morality ? In either case is his misery more bearable ? Is his inse­curity lessened ? Does his worry and care for -the morrow leave more room for the peaceful enjoyment of life ? Obviously no !

In the sphere of politics there is nothing to distinguish the bourgeois freethinker from the Christian. Both are to be found in the same camp, lending their efforts to the work of repres­sing and oppressing the working class. The J. M. Robertsons, the Greenwoods, the Haldanes and the Morleys are engaged in an unholy alli­ance with the Asquiths, the Isaacs and the Lloyd Georges. In France the Briands and the Clemenceaux are against the working class. In Portugal the Positivist legislators are


with exploited and discontented wage-slaves.

Secularism, forsooth ! Does any Secularist really think that the affairs of this world are run and managed by religion ? Why, if by Secu­larism it is meant that the affairs of this world can be run without supernatural intervention. what else is there, what else can there be, but Secularism to govern now ?

One thing reigns supreme : the grim class struggle.

The question as to how parasites shall con­tinue to live and workers be exploited alone sways the destinies of millions to day ; and the simple and only question regarding the desti-ies of millions to-morrow is as to how parasites shall be swept out of existence and workers be-free. This abolition of the parasites, this free­ing of the workers, is the object of Socialism. The Socialist cares little for a world of ideas whereby workers are enslaved. When the workers come into their own they will have a


of their own. In the meantime, let it be noted that the Socialist looks upon Theism and Atheism, Secularism and Christism, as so many red herrings drawn across his path, as so many Will-o’-the-wisps which disappear one by one as he travels towards his emancipation.


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