Priesthood and priestcraft

The recent intervention of the Catholic priests in Dublin in preventing some of the starving little victims of the class war being taken to the homes of sympathisers for maintenance during the hopeless struggle, whilst affording us one more illustration of the manner in which Christians love one another, also gives an opportunity of discanting upon the functions which the clergy fulfil as political agents of the ruling class. With the struggle between the various brands of Christians over that attribute of super-naturalism called a “soul” we are not immediately concerned. We can leave the “loving followers of the meek and lowly one” to fight like Kilkenny cats about it if they wish, knowing that at best all their hullabaloo about “proselytising” is a mere surface ripple, a reflection of the deeper economic interests of the class in whose interest the world’s religions and their priestcrafts function.

It is safe to say, and, indeed, in strict accord with science to affirm, that in the sum total of human knowledge there is not one grain of evidence that the animal man possesses a soul. About souls the present writer knows as much as any priest or scientist who has been, or is, upon the planet earth, and that is—nothing ! In maintaining their position as a robber class it is necessary for the capitalists at all times to hide the fundamental fact that they only live by and upon the surplus value which their system of society enables them to wring from the workers. Therefore, where the general ignorance is deepest the aid of a priesthood (whose special duty is to foster and teach superstitious and ignorant beliefs) is invaluable in directing the thoughts of their poor dupes away from that fact by impressing on their minds the slave maxims concerning “obedience to masters and pastors,” and “rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” and in planting as firmly as possible the idea that God is responsible for all their miseries, for which they are to be rewarded after they are dead—if they are good.

But these black-coated agents of the dominant class are useful to their employers in yet another connection—that of dividing the working class into contending factions. The intelligent observer of current events in Ireland can perceive the outstanding fact that the abysmal ignorance, and the fanaticism and bigotry arising therefrom, presents an opportunity too valuable to be missed by all types of political tools, for furthering the interests of their capitalist paymaster by inciting the workers against each other. The Green Isle ! Where the priesthood have failed to fulfil their true political functions in capitalist society—that is to say, where they have failed to divide the working class, or pursue a policy detrimental to the profit-seeking interests of the capitalists—they have been discarded : disestablishment has been their reward at the hands of of their one-time employers, “The Capitalist State.” The value of a State supported priesthood has often been emphasised by us, but one more authorative statement apropos of this point will not be amiss. Herr Bulage, a member of the German Reitchstag, addressing the Annual Congress of the German Catholics at Essen in 1906, pointed out that

“The Prince of Peace will prove the surest defence of all princes and Christian kingdoms against revolution and revolutionary ideas.”

Unfortunately for the slimy distributors of brain-drugging religious cant, the capitalist class, besides being compelled by their economic needs to educate their slaves to an ever-greater degree as their system of society develops, are also not in the habit of continuing their support of any agency which, owing to that very increase of knowledge among the workers, is gradually losing its power. And so, despite the howls of the Church, disestablishment, and what they dread infinitely more, disendowment, surely awaits them—not at the hands of any wicked Socialists, but as a natural result of capitalist development, which admits only of profitable investments.

Capitalism, ruthless smasher of ancient customs and worn out beliefs, in its hurrying stride is plucking the older bulwarks of private property by the roots, and, by clearing the political field of the debris of feudalism, valuable no longer to itself, is enabling the exploited working class to see, standing in the ever-widening gulf that yawns t’wixt class and class, the real force that keeps them in economic servitude ; and the increasing knowledge thrust upon them by a class that must have more and more surplus value is assisting them to learn that the one way out of their quagmire of misery and toil is by seizing the political power for themselves—the first essential step of which is to organise to seize it.

When the priest, rattling his bag of grisly bones, fails to frighten a class strong in knowledge ; when the politician, with honeyed words and gilded promises, can no longer delude a politically enlightened class : then the miseries of the workers will be near their end.


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