Religion: The Soul of Soulless Conditions

I really suck at being an atheist. Actually, I've never liked that word, even if I begrudgingly admit that, by the abstract definition, I am one. That abstract definition goes like this, "a-" stands for absence and "-theism" stands for belief in god. I have an absence of theism.

Of course, most people take atheism to imply an overt hostility to religion. That is why I am such a lousy atheist. I love religion. If I could in all good conscience return to believing in a god, miracles, or immortality, I would do so. Those beliefs defined my existence for nearly all of my life, until about 12 years ago. One thing I learned from half a decade of psychotherapy, it doesn't pay to hate any part of yourself, even the ugliest parts. So, I love my religious self with a passion. For the record, my religious self is one of my most beautiful parts.

Recently, I was arguing about religion with a few Marxists, via email. Now, I am an unorthodox Marxist, of a sort. I wasn't very good at being an orthodox Christian, so why start now, eh? Many Marxists are reactive shallow atheists. They see nothing good at all in religion, even less than does Richard Dawkins. Below are a few of my comments:

"Religion is not perfect adherence to an unchanging perfect revelation, that is in fact the supreme idolatry, it is irreligion itself. Religion is the attack of the almighty truth and terrifying justice against the established oppressive order. It is rebellion against all Pharoahs, Caesars, apartheids, Mammonists, and pretenders to godhood that dominate humanity.

"Why is the rebellion against tradition not also part of religion? Before Judaism had a tradition, say in Abraham's day, wasn't Judaism itself a rebellion against the pre-Jewish tradition?"

"I also assert that Marxism is also never coherent. Like religion, it, too, is always dis-integrated. Isn't that the point Adorno* repeatedly makes? Marxism is only possible when when realizing a revolution is impossible?

Religion is never coherent, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions."

(*Theodor Adorno, one of the most important Marxist thinkers, called his own philosophy an "anti-system.")

So long as any part of life is weighted by suffering and oppression, no systematic account of reality is possible that does not actually suppress part of reality, since suffering and oppression are so horrible they cannot be described objectively and logically.

This is why I could never be a good logical atheist. Reality, with its monstrous suffering, is not logical. Religion expresses this truth, even if it often simply recommends fatalism. The earthquake in Haiti today was described by a televangelist as the result of an ancient pact Haitians made with Satan. So logical, so neat, but what about the suffering? If God is in all things, and feels all things with infinite sensitivity, then God is both afflicted with the suffering of all and the cause of all suffering. Though perhaps that is a mystical notion, it is also supremely illogical.

Peace & Love! Charley

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 1st mo. 14, 2010 at 1:11am
I was reading Stephen Gaskin tonight:
"The Deity may not be apprehended through Aristotelian logic."
[Q... Is there a way?]
"Yes. By direct revelation, by direct knowledge. It is not given to us to figure it out, because that would make us able to comprehend the Deity. Well, comprehending the Deity would make you bigger than the Deity. Can't do it because the Deity's everything. Can't be bigger than everything. But you can experience oneness with it and be everything. And you can know it by direct cognition. But you can't figure it out by Aristotelian logic. And when you do know it, you can see that there's nothing contradictory."
Comment by Forrest Curo on 1st mo. 14, 2010 at 11:55am
I've had more time for your piece this morning... Why do people imagine that any revelation is "unchanging"? We change. Maybe the fact that for awhile (and still, for many people) "religion" is an expression of political, tribal loyalty?

I am sure that 'God' feels the toothache that Minion of Evil Swartznegger refuses to let the State of CA have filled. Also that the toothache serves some function, for me. Partially paying my solidarity dues with the rest of The Poor, for one thing. (A friend of mine defines "poor" as "having less than $500,000," and if more people saw things that way, your Marxism would be a lot more popular.) Anyway, when the old indignation gets too tired, it helps to have something personal to remind me what it's about.

Anyway. More Gaskin: "I managed to go through and get a Master's degree in creative writing without ever finding out that the statements about Spirit by people like William Blake and John Donne were statements about Spirit, and not mere poetic metaphors. And it was my experience with psychedelics which showed me that there was and is another plane of experience other than the material plane which is with us all the time. And if we don't be faithful to that other plane, the material plane will fall apart and fall to crap on us."

That's my only way of making sense of places like Haiti, which suffer so much more than we do despite all the suffering we USians continue to cause throughout the world. For whatever reason, the collective karma there isn't good. And ours?--We've earned ours and we're just now starting to get it... Gaskin's description of karma, by the way, is that it works like "taking a full swing at a golf ball in a tile bathroom." (& we've got a large can of balls, & we just keep on swinging?--but our national brain hasn't heard yet what's happening in all the bruised spots?)

"This country was set up with guns and high ideals... And here we are two hundred years later, and count the high ideals, and count the guns; we got lots more guns than high ideals. You got to set it up with just high ideals, and if you get wasted you start over again with just high ideals. And you don't ever do it with guns, and you start over with high ideals every time.The only way you can do that is you've got to be sustained by God..." A good way of putting things, sometimes. He went on to start what was probably the largest & most successful of the hippie communes, kept on good terms with the rural Kentucky neighbors, did some humanitarian work here & there, took some good stands with Native American leaders etc. Eventually had to stop taking in any more refugees from Straight America...

The suffering is "cause and effect," even though people don't always see the cause. To start seeing better effects, we've got to clean up the Collective Unconscious, which is currently carrying some ugly static... and we don't achieve that by denying suffering, much as I'd like to! Or by dwelling on it. You make things better where you can reach, and that's an act of God too! (I imagine you do a lot of that!)
Comment by James C Schultz on 1st mo. 17, 2010 at 4:12pm
Religion is an attempt at putting God in a box. Don't confuse religion and God. Don't make God in your image. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.
Comment by Charley Earp on 1st mo. 17, 2010 at 4:34pm
I believed in God from an early age until my early 30s. Don't expect to return to that belief, but don't judge those who have it.

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