1920s >> 1928 >> no-286-june-1928

Should We Use the Terms “Faith” and “Belief”?

“C.C.” (who does not give his address) comments on the fact that Socialists avoid the use of such abstract terms as “faith” and “belief” in reference to Socialism. He suggests that this attitude is not helpful in the matter of making members, and, secondly, that these words represent real things: We “have to believe in one another to have faith in one another, to confide in one another.” “Is it, then, correct or incorrect to make use of these words? “

“C.C.’s” difficulty appears to arise from his having failed to notice that these words as loosely used in popular speech have widely different meanings. If a Christian says “I believe in God,” he means that he is confident that there exists a supernatural being. But if he also says ‘”I believe in Lloyd George,” he is not affirming the existence of Lloyd George. He simply means that he trusts Lloyd George and considers his political principles to be sound. The first is based not on verifiable evidence, but on what is sometimes called “faith,” and as there are people who hold unverifiable “belief ” and “faiths,” then there is need of words to describe those attributes.

Socialism is not a “faith,” like Christianity, and it would therefore be incorrect to describe it as such. Moreover, although sympathy with one’s fellow human beings is a deeply-rooted instinct, past experience has shown that personal attraction is not the foundation upon which can be built the organised movement for the abolition of capitalism. “C.C.” writes: “We have to believe in one another, to have faith in one another,” but is it entirely true? Does he “have to believe” in Mussolini or “have faith” in Winston Churchill? His recognition of his class position inside capitalism prevents this. Socialists do not base their policy and actions on “belief”‘ or “faith” in the religious sense, but on their knowledge of their class interests. The justification for Socialist principles is that they are in accordance with observed facts, and we subscribe to those principles because they show us the means of escape from the evils of capitalism from which we as workers suffer. We avoid the use of these terms because they would obscure the nature of Socialist principles and Socialist organisation.

“C. C.” will perhaps have noticed that it is the practice of the Socialist Party to seek to make Socialists, not merely to make members.

Ed. Comm.

(Socialist Standard, June 1928)

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