If you are reading this, the world did not end. ‘This year, a Christian conspiracy theorist David Meade has made an alarmingly specific prediction – not only is the world about to end, doomsday is scheduled for September 23… Meade bases his predictions on an assortment of sources including the Book of Revelation and signs allegedly written in the Pyramids. He says, ’It is very strange indeed that both the Great Sign of Revelation 12 and the Great Pyramid of Giza both point us to one precise moment in time’ (yahoo.com, 8 September). Meade will likely join the many fakirs on Wikipedia’s long list of dates, stretching back to 66CE, who predicted apocalyptic events. Capitalism continues: it’s business as usual –war, famine (amidst plenty) and (often curable) pestilence.
Religion was humans’ first attempt at science. We could not explain the forces of nature, the rising and setting of the Sun, phases of the moon, etc., and ascribed them to the supernatural. Viewed through the lens of the materialist conception of history, it can be seen as a necessary adjunct to our development. Yet religion has long served the interests of the minority master class. Just as the fundamental change from Catholicism to Protestantism was essential for the rise of capitalism as an ideology – for example, the Calvinist idea that God shows his favour on Earth by making merchants rich – so atheism is fundamental for the 99 percent and the socialist claim that the world is theirs to run, with neither gods nor masters, as they see fit. The evangelist Jim Bakker – once jailed for fraud, involved in a sex scandal, and leader of PTL (better known as Pass the Loot) Ministry – continues to divert the gullible from their real interests. ‘During a segment in which Bakker was selling $175 buckets of his disaster preparedness food, Tasty Pantry… he revealed that he felt the real issue with the weather and everything else on the earth has to do with sin and wickedness… Bakker added, ’Just remember, God gets the last word. God gets the last word. Be not deceived, God is not mocked ‘(theblaze.com, 7 September).
No nonsense Nun
Remarkably, the contents of a ‘coded letter written by a 17th Century nun while she was possessed by the Devil [has been] finally translated using decryption software discovered on the dark web’ (dailymail.co.uk, 8 September) and are – no crystal ball in sight – likely to be of interest to socialists. According to modern scientists, Sister Maria suffered from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder yet she described God and Jesus as dead weights (predating Marx’s ‘the tradition of all past generations weighs like an incubus upon the brain of the living’ by over 200 years) adding that the former was invented by Man. Maria may well have agreed with Marx when he stated that ‘The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about their condition is a demand to give up a condition that requires illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore the germ of the criticism of the valley of tears whose halo is religion’ (Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1844). Given the very real threat capitalism represents to our survival – you do not need to be a socialist to recognize the ever-present danger of nuclear Armageddon, for example – reject the pie in the sky when you die of religion and instead worry, agitate now, be happy later.
What are we to make of the ongoing war between the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and the state of Myanmar? Mainstream media in the West present it in religious terms: the persecution of Muslims by Buddhists. Religion is often used to justify conflict as well as to obscure the real interests involved. ‘China’s concerns over Rakhine State are related to interests in its One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR), said political and ethnic affairs analyst U Maung Maung Soe. Rakhine plays an important part in OBOR, as it is an exit to the Indian Ocean and the location of a planned billion-dollar Chinese project – a planned economic zone on Ramree Island, and the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port, which has oil and natural gas pipelines linked with Yunnan Province’s Kunming. “Therefore, the stability of Rakhine State is important for this project. The meeting shows China’s concerns over its One Belt One Road Initiative,” said U Maung Maung Soe’ (irrawaddy.com, 4 September).