Socialism and Religion. Our reply to the critcism of our pamphlet

In the booklet in question (“Socialism and Religion”) Christianity has been proved to have an earthly, not a supernatural, origin, and to be a superstition in kinship with the fear of the most ignorant savage. Christianity has been shown also in the pages of that pamphlet to be the hypocritical enemy of science, the constant enemy of the working class, and the buttress of oppression. Therefore the Rev. “Philolethes'” ridiculous assertion that the pamphlet which he criticises is not an attack on the Christian posi­tion would not deceive a baby, and necessarily fails to cover his confessed inability to defend his creed.

Small wonder, then, that he has to resort to empty bombast about “facts” like a stage brigand calling for “wine.” Moreover, the points he does elect to deal with are none of them vital, and if they were as our critic wishes them to appear, the position laid down in the Party pamphlet would not, as a whole, be shaken in any way. Let us, however, expose his pretended “facts.”


Our opponent describes as “quite untrue” the statement in the pamphlet regarding the general acceptance of ancestor worship as the earliest form of religion by students of primitive culture, and to prove this he makes the utterly false assertion that “Caspari and Le Boa alone agree with Spencer.” No one with any know­ledge of the subject could make such an absurd statement—a statement which completely con­demns his whole argument. It is only necessary to mention a single name, auch as, for example, Lippert, to expose “Philolethes'” ignorance or worse.

The author of “The Evolution of the Idea of God” says (preface) : “On the whole I have accepted the theory which traces the origin of the belief in gods to primeval ancestor-worship, or rather, corpse-worship, as against the rival theory which traces its origin to a supposed primitive animism.” “Philolethes” cites Tyler, according to the loose classification of a certain encyclopaedia, yet a perusal of his “Primitive Culture” shows him to be, in the main, a supporter of Spencer’s view. This is even more completely the case with regard to Professor Edward Jenks, while Professor W. H. Hudson (who, it need hardly be said, is among those in agreement with Spencer) says in his “Introduction to the Philosophy of Herbert Spencer,” with regard to the general question of anthropomorphism, of which some form of ancestor-worship is the only explanation : “That all early religious conceptions are absolutely anthropomorphic, both in their positive aspects and their limitations, is now admitted by all students of culture history ; and we may here notice in passing, the striking harmony of this fact with the general theory of ancestor-worship above outlined. Man was not only the primitive type of deity, as Dr. Tylor has said ; he was the primitive deity.”

It is scarcely necessary to do more here than refer the reader to the many authorities cited in “The Evolution of the Idea of God,” and to the overwhelming mass of evidence on this matter in the first volume of Spencer’s “Principles of Sociology.” But what are the names blindly given by “Philolethes” to show that Spencer’s views are not accepted to-day ? Spencer’s work was published in 1876. Now the “modern” authorities of our critic are Le Brosses, a con­temporary of and disputant with Voltaire ; Comte, who died in 1857 ; Crewzer, who died in 1858 ; and Schelling, who died in 1854 ! For the rest, Canon Cook, Rawlinson, Caird, and Flint were theologians, whose evidence can no more be accepted as unprejudiced than can that of a brewer regarding the social utility of beer !

Our critic further says that supposing the fact to be as stated in the pamphlet, what caused it ? To this the pamphlet gives a complete answer on pages 9, 10, and 11.


The idea upon which religion (or any other thing) is based is distinct from the definition of the complete developed thing, and it is signifi­cant that “Philolethes” confuses so elementary a matter. In all recognised religions this idea of a “spiritual” life is fundamental. See Spen­cer and Tylor. See also “Philolethes'” public library test. According to Chambers’ Encyclopaedia, “Dr. Tylor takes the belief in spiritual beings as a minimum definition of religion.” For a fuller and better definition see the pam­phlet, p. 9 : “Originally and in essence through­out, religion is a belief in the existence of supernatural beings, and in the observance of rites and ceremonies in order to avert their anger or gain their goodwill.” Allen and Hudson give somewhat similar definitions.

Our oppocent goes on to make the quite un­true assertion that the Hebrews did not believe in life after death. This, from a clergyman, is diverting. Let us again apply his public library test. The Encyclopaedia Britannica (10th ed., Vol. 8, p. 536) says : “The Hebrews believed that the heathen and unjust would remain in the death sleep of Shael, while faithful Israel received back the soul in the resurrection.” Other encyclopaedias make similar statements. Better still, see the Old Testament : Daniel 12, 2 ; Psalms 16, 10 R.V. ; Isa, 26, 19 ; 2 Macc. VII. 14 and Jos. This should convince even a Christian ! So much for another of the sky-pilot’s “facts.”


“Philolethes” asserts that miracles are not now, and implies that they have not been in the past, adduced as proof of the divine origin of religion. Every thinking man knows the con­trary. The fact has a continuous history in Christianity, from Aaron’s rod and the plagues of Egypt to the cast-off surgical appliances which decorate the church at Lourdes to-day. Lecky. in his “Rationalism in Europe,” Chap. 2, says : “Miracles . . . are the divine credentials of an inspired messenger announcing doctrines which could not otherwise be estab­lished.” He also says (same chapter) “The Church of Rome still maintains the continuance of ‘miraculous powers.’” So much for the “public library test” of another “fact.”

That ministers abandon the crude faith of their fathers and adapt themselves to the rising flood of knowledge by re-interpreting the scriptures according to the needs of the moment is undeniable ; but one has only to listen occasionally at the street corner, or go to worship with simple peasants, to realise that the sincere (if ignorant) Christian does believe in, pray for, and expect the miraculous, giving instances of “divine power” for the delectation of the sceptic.


Our opponent’s next “fact” is a denial that the cardinal ethic of Christianity is one of submission. To prove this he directs us to look up in a Concordance—what ? Submission ? Oh dear no ! Something very different. In his innocence “Philolethes” does not see that to dispute the statement in the pamphlet it would be more logical to look up the references to submission and cognate ideas. This is what readers should do. They will then see that in the New Testa­ment—the essentially Christian part of the Bible—meekness, humility, non-resistance, and self-effacement are preached in no uncertain voice—a fact of which Christians boast until Socialists point out the dire consequences of that ethic. The New Testament says : “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” “But I say unto you that ye resist not evil: but who­soever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,” etc., etc. Our opponent says that the quotation from Professor Seeley “turns and rends” us. The only quotation from Prof. Seeley which actually bears on this point in the pamphlet is the following. Readers may judge of its definiteness.

“Christianity provided a complete change in the attitude of the people to the emperor. It made their loyalty more intense but confined it within definite limits. It strengthened in them the feeling of submissive reverence for govern­ments as such. It encouraged the disposition of the time to political passiveness.”

Let us, moreover, again turn the “public test” upon our opponent. Nelson’s Encyclo­paedia, article “Jesus Christ,” says:

“In that time of sorrow was born the central and distinctive idea of Christianity, the idea of victory through service and not through the assertion of the self, in however exalted a fashion; and with this went the determination to renounce the help of physical force, and to commit the issues to the sphere of the spirit only, even to the acceptance of apparent defeat. These were the lines upon which his whole mission was pursued.”

On the next point, regarding the other-world-liness of Christian teaching, “Philolethes” fully admits the facts as to the past, but endeavours to minimise them as to the present. He wastes his time. That teaching is still heard to-day, and that it is less prominent than formerly is solely due to the malting away of Christianity under the rays of the rising sun of scientific knowledge. On these points the history of Christianity, as well as its documents, shows that the sincerity and fervour of Christianity are the measure of its other-worldliness and self-abne­gation. As faith withers and sincerity weakens, so do nominal Christians repudiate the antique tenets of their faith.

“That individualism is of the very essence of Christianity” cannot be controverted. The statement was made by the Bishop of Truro at the Church Congress, 1909, where precisely the relation of the Church to Socialism was discussed. Derived from the Greeks, individualism has underlain the Christain attitude all through. The Christian is a Christian, indeed, only to save his soul. Socialism and Christianity can­not, in fact, mix without sacrificing the essence of both.


The quotation which “Philolethes” endeav­ours to garble has reference to the present only. It refers to the growing indifference of the toilers to theology, and runs :

“This indifference of the workers is fostered by the fact that religion, when put to the test, is ever found on the side of their oppressors.”

Every word of this is perfectly true. It is, more­over, true of the entire history of established religion. At no period has it been possible to say that the oppressors did not have religion on their side. When Christianity became stronger than the pagan religions to which it was opposed it took the place of the latter in the service of tyranny, and has remained there ever since. In each of the cases mentioned by “Philolethes,” the appeal to the “public library test” will re­veal the fact that the most powerful section of Christianity was in the service of the oppressors ! “Did Luther betray the masses of Germany ?” our opponent asks. He did ! Oppressed by their misery and serfdom, and tainted with Luther’s doctrines, the peasants rose in revolt in 1524. Luther’s invectives against the abuses of Catholicism paled into insignificance compared with his vituperations against the poor peasants driven to desperation by misery and treachery.

The encyclopedia pathetically states that against these peasants was directed “some of the most violent language Luther ever uttered” !


On this point again “Philolethes” has found a mare’s nest. A school-boy could have told him that his so-called second principle is only a part of the first. The principle of association or mutual aid has been throughout the world a method of participating in the struggle for the food supply which has favoured certain species to the disadvantage of others. Just as, to-day, the association and “sacrifice” of workers in trade unions are part and parcel of the modern struggle for bread, so in the past has mutual aid been a factor in the great struggle for the food supply which, as stated in the pamphlet, is the fundamental principle of organic evolu­tion. “Philolethes” should use the “public library” in order to polish up his rusty natural history.


There is no section with this title in the pamphlet, since we are concerned, not with material­ism, but with Socialism. The materialistic monism dealt with in the book has never been shown to be illogical, nor has it been “abandoned by almost every thinker,” or, indeed, by any scientist of today. “Philolethes'” statement is utterly false. Materialistic monism, or philo­sophic materialism, is the working creed of to­day, despite the fact that a few give it fancy names and are inconsistent outside of their own special studies. The concept of God as explanation of fhe Universe and its phenomena is totally excluded, by science, which deals only with facts. Christian explanations of life have been abandoned by practically every scientist of note. In the realm of biology Schafer’s address to the British Association made this plain, while the protest aroused last year by the vague aspirations of poor Sir Oliver Lodge shows clearly the general trend. Sir Ray Lankester in parti­cular protested strongly in the name of science, through the columns of the “Daily Telegraph,” against the debasement of science by Lodge.

All this has had its effect upon Christians, compelling them to abandon their antagonism to science and make frantic endeavours to square the circle and reconcile the irreconcilable. The result is that Christianity becomes all things to all men. It slowly crumbles away, while science firmly advances ; and those depen­dent for their livelihood upon the propaganda of religion are compelled to adopt a paltry, time­-serving expediency in a vain attempt to stay the exodus from the churches. To such a state, indeed, has the decay of religion advanced, that the churches are afraid to take another census of the congregations, and the places of worship are practically empty where the superior attrac­tions of the cinematograph or the concert pro­gramme have not supplemented the worship of God.


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