1960s >> 1966 >> no-740-april-1966

Catholics in confusion

It is hoped that these notes will help to demonstrate the irreconcilable conflict between Socialism and religion.The Socialist Party stands on its recognition of the class-struggle and urges the working class to take enlightened political action to get rid of present-day society and bring about common ownership of the means of wealth production. We subscribe to the principle known as Historical Materialism which briefly holds, as Engels put it, that the way in which man organises to produce and reproduce the means of living is fundamental in determining the political and religious ideas.

This view sees men as the motive force in their own social activity and as the instruments for changing society.

Socialism arouses the workers’ will to struggle, it appeals to their understanding; it demands their knowledge and confidence.

Religion blunts their faculties and turns their minds to celestial happiness. In common with other religions, Christianity makes virtues of meekness and poverty. This degrading teaching, has served well in keeping the workers docile and submissive.

“The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate …” is a phrase which sums up the whole function of religion as the guardian of privilege. We refute religion, because the working class cannot move forward to a better society while their minds are in the chains of religion.

It is interesting to observe how the purveyors of mental poison react to the growth of materialist ideas about the world and its natural forces. Sections of the Christian faith which have for centuries hated each other, even tortured and burned one another as infidels and heretics, are now frantically seeking for ways to get together.

The primitive and hoary notions to which their history binds them are a growing source of embarrassment in the technical world of modern capitalism. The working class of the Twentieth century is a different proposition to the peasant of the Middle ages.

The mighty catholic church which once held sway over the life and death of tens of millions of people, and which for centuries was able to stamp out any challenge to its word, now cuts a very different figure. Last year the Vatican was forced to make concession after concession than in any period of its past.

After centuries of vicious persecution, for example, they declared the Jews no longer guilty of killing their “saviour”. It was hinted that a priest might be allowed to marry.

The ruling against eating meat on Fridays was set aside for Christmas, (no doubt with divine permission) this may be dropped entirely. In the same year the Pope ventured out of the Vatican and grabbed what limelight he could by posing as a man of peace. No doubt, getting out and seeing the world is good public relations and it helps to take the minds of the faithful off the thorny question of birth-control. God seems to be in a bit of a quandary over this issue.

The Holy Council have met and endlessly debated what the holy word (or rather, its latest version) would be. Infallibility has been upset by something known as “the Pill”. The latest “progress” report on this issue is that the twelve bishops and fifty advisers are to bring their fertile minds to bear on the subject and hope to report in eighteen months time.

This year the Pope has just got around to changing the name of the Inquisitors whose dirty job it is to ban books. No book is to be banned in future without the author being heard.

The Index Librorum Prohibitorum lists some 5000 books which catholics are forbidden to read. The first formal condemnation of a book goes back to the year 325 a.d. when the Council of Nicaea pronounced against a book by Arius.

Eight years later Constantine ordered all of this man’s books to be burnt on pain of death. In the year of 1252 Pope Innocent IV authorised the torture of heretics, and the burning of them became widespread.

The tyranny of Catholicism has lasted many centuries and taken many forms but as society outside the church develops and changes the needs of its ruling class are modified. The capitalist class to-day are the rulers of a vastly different world to that in the times more suited to the dogmas of Catholicism.
Unquestioning faith and blind submission are no longer so easy to induce. It is doubtful that the Pope to-day could be so brazen as his predecessor Leo XIII, who in 1901 in a statement on Christian democracy said:—

  We deem it our duty to put an end to the controversy by defining what catholics ought to think.

It was this same Pontiff who issued the so-called Workers’ Charter, which asserts.

   Hence it is clear that the main tenet of Socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, . . . The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.

Christians often like to delude themselves by putting forward the proposition that Christianity could never have survived for two thousand years if it were based only on myth and superstition. But it is obvious that any organisation which preaches “the inviolability of private property” will not exist on its own; it will be supported, and made use of, by the class which owns and rules.

Harry Baldwin