Being an incorrigible listener to other people’s conversations, it is often both intriguing and frustrating wondering how a particular conversation ended. Also, sometimes it leads my own train of thoughts in a direction probably not otherwise followed.Recently there was such an occasion. A couple of girls at my table were discussing what they were doing that evening and one of them said she was going to a talk on “The Advantages of Religion”. Now, apart from freak appearances like Billy Graham’s circus and the Festival of Light, Scientologists, the Pope’s refusal to accept that most of his world-wide flock are
practising birth control, or the controversy as to whether it is right that Archbishops should be appointed by politicians, religion is not a subject to-day to which much thought is given by the majority of us; therefore this snippet set off my train of thought.
“The Advantages of Religion” — to whom?
To most Christians the church is the place to go to be baptized (i.e. accepted into the fold) married and buried. Jews regard their religion as something not only related to their “spiritual” life but also as actions and personal relations are governed by their part of their “race” and tradition. Their everyday religious teachings. To practising Mohammedans, Muslims and Buddhists, religion governs all their actions and forms the basis of their daily lives.
However, despite the differences in their teaching, attitudes and practices, the adherence to any of these religions is founded on two basic factors. The first is the unwillingness to admit that the life we have is the only one we are going to get; that there is no life after death, reincarnation or other “hereafter”, except in the redistribution of our organic matter and in the thoughts of those who knew us or to whom we have passed on our ideas. It is not difficult to understand why, living under the constant threat of war, insecurity and, in many cases, very real hardship and deprivation, people are looking for “pie in the sky when they die”. They feel that there must be something better to follow what they are experiencing now.
The second common factor is that, when faced with apparently insoluble problems or sorrow, it is of course comforting, and easier, to invoke the intervention of an all-powerful Being Above than to acknowledge that one has to rely on one’s own resources.
To sum up then; to the individual, religion is a palliative, an opiate, an apparent safety line or lifebelt thrown out on the stormy sea of life under capitalism.
The advantages to the system — the politician and capitalist, are more obvious. One thing which all religions practised in the so-called “civilized” world have in common is the teaching of humility and due respect to our “betters”, the endurance of suffering and hardship patiently in this world in the hope of better things to come. Obey your boss; work harder, listen to and follow your leaders, draw in your belts; fight for “your” country (they never do tell you which bit is yours though !). Obey your pastor, priest etc. and support your Church. The incongruity of churches preaching “thou shalt not kill” blessing men going to war and doing just that, does not seem to strike any of them. Of course. ‘your’ side is always right and on the side of God — fighting a just war — it is the ones whom you are going out to kill who are the villains. The fact that leaders of religion actively interfere with civil administration (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, Spain and Italy, the Religious Party in Israel) is accepted. So is the enormous wealth accumulated by Churches, often in the midst of appalling squalor and poverty.
At the end of my train of thought, I came to this conclusion: —
The advantages of religion to the capitalists are pretty obvious but, so far as I can see, there are no advantages in it for us — the workers. Reliance on “Someone up there” to solve our problems, and believing that the degree of our suffering and deprivation in this world will determine our reward in the next, only keeps us from doing something here and now — not to alleviate our problems, but to eliminate them — working for the abolishment of capitalism and the introduction of Socialism.