For Marx atheism was not a prerequisite for socialism
I just came across a great blog by a theology professor named Roland Boer who writes about Marxism and Christianity. I just ordered his book Criticism of Heaven on the theological writings of Western Marxists like Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, and Gramsci. He also wrote a great piece on Rosa Luxemburg and religion. I hope to review both here as soon as I can carve out time away from our constant organizing.
In the meantime, I am struck by Boer's short, accessible review of Marx's stance on religion on his blog. Here is an excerpt:
While Marx admitted that he had a particular dislike of Christianity – ‘so specific is my aversion to Christianity,’ he wrote to Lasalle – and even though he is guilty of occasional moments of crass materialism, he also argued that atheism is not a prerequisite for socialism.
Another reason for distinguishing between atheism and socialism was tactical. On one side Bakunin and the anarchists wanted the International to declare itself atheist, abolish cults and replace faith with science. Marx comments dryly, ‘As if one could declare by royal decree abolition of faith!’ On the other side there were plenty of accusations that the International was precisely as Bakunin had wanted. I do not mean the scaremongers of state repression, but former comrades such as Jules Favre and Mazzini, who stated that the International wanted to make atheism compulsory. Engels repeatedly points out that atheism is not part of the socialist program.
Marx basically argued that religion would only go away once a socialist society fulfilled all of its promises. Once the future socialist society develops into the social equivalent of the Kingdom of God, Christians will have nothing left to preach. Until then, Marx and Engels argued Christians were welcome to participate in the 1st Communist International.
Someone should go that to Revolutionary Communist Party leader Bob Avakian who keeps raving about the need to destroy religion. The RCP's bookstore even carries filth by "new atheist" authors who are helping to feed the neoconservative thugs in the ruling class plenty of ideas about the backwardness and barbarism of Islam.
I'm really impressed with what I've read of Boer's work so far. I don't know why he isn't read more widely on the US Left. This country is even more religious than his home (Australia) and we are in serious need of this kind of critical engagement with religion if we're ever going to build a serious revolutionary movement here.