If Ridge St Could Talk VII: Moving past the past. Religion and Struggle.

Something has really been bothering me to my core for the last couple of months and I have been struggling to find a way to write about it in a healthy and productive way. I don’t know if I can do this just yet but imma give it a shot. As I said before people can call me a developing marxist if they like, I am coming to find the term more and more constricting but that is not the purpose of this blog, and as such I hang out in spaces that are dominated by marxist militants. Constantly we discuss and talk about the political left in this country and how the majority of the left is operating based on twisted interpretations of marxism and not the authentic stuff. We talk alot about the fact that many people view communism and socialism as Stalinism and the need for a true marxist movement to come forth and do away with the history of distortion. However, I am also growing increasing frustrated with the sometimes narrow, dogmatic at times, view of spirituality and religion in these circles.

As someone who considers themself a spiritual being it becomes almost damaging to observe this in some of my comrades. The famous Marx quote is stated over and over again, so many times it makes me sick.

Religion is the opiate of the people”

The general thought and message behind using this quote has been to destroy and remove any spiritual element from the table when we talk about class struggle and liberation, all under the guise of being “scientific”. Often times I have found that people attempt to out politic things they are in essence too afraid to confront or understand directly. So, instead of looking at how spirituality and religion have play a tremendous role in the liberation struggles of the past and present, all discussion is shot down by saying it isn’t “scientific” or “predictable” and “can be used against you very easily”. This position in itself isn’t very scientific because it is out and out negation without consideration. Just as people argue that communism must be looked at outside of the context of Stalin, religion and spirituality must be looked at outside of the context of humans who have used it justify their own cruel intentions.

One of the things that immediately pops into my head on this subject is the argument that religion/spiritual practice pacifies the masses by telling them to wait for a better tomorrow. While I can’t deny that this is a true statement, it is not the rule and simply opening ones eyes would lead to an understanding of that. As I was growing up I went to a Christian after school program that taught us resistance through worship. While I am not a Christian today, the message that the program taught still rings true in my ears; the world is a corrupt place and we must use the love and compassion within us to change it. That in essence is the motivation of any militant or revolutionary that is genuine to their task. Revolution, at it’s center, is about love. My profound love for humanity is the reason I fight oppression, and for a better world. It is an act of profound spirituality to understand that we don’t have to live like this and to work to change it.

Moving beyond the personal, history can show to us just as many examples of religion and spirituality working for the betterment of the human condition. African slaves had Christianity forced upon them in one of the most oppressive way imaginable, this is a fact. However, it is also a fact that many African slaves combined the message of Christianity with their own spiritual practices and created a method for resistance. They found the encouragement needed to continue the struggle for liberation through the fires of resistance in the human spirit and the arms of religion.

And while I don’t know much about it, liberation theology uses the teachings of Jesus Christ to enforce and further develop a method for liberation from the forces of oppression in existence. I don’t know where this rant is going but I know this: revolution and spirituality are intrinsically connected because they are based in the belief of transcending the oppression of the current human condition and it would do a lot of the left a world of good if they were to see through the particular parts of history to the essence of spirituality and see how it may help and enforce the revolutionary process. That’s dialectical, that’s scientific.

3 thoughts on “If Ridge St Could Talk VII: Moving past the past. Religion and Struggle.

  1. Many times ‘fuck yes’ to this post. I say this as an atheist, I find the anti-organised religion attitude in right-on liberal radical activist circles to be pretty fucking annoying, counter-productive, and what’s more deeply suspect, often thinly-veiled racism (‘organised religion’, for instance, often means ‘Islam’). The fact that, I don’t know about your marxist dudes, but many ‘hard atheists’ don’t know the first thing about what it is they’re against anyway. For instance – this in Feminist circles – I was arguing with someone who was telling me how religion is an agent of ‘kyriarchy’ and hence bad – the term ‘kyriarchy’ having been coined, of course, by theologian Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and brought to the Feminist blogosphere by a Catholic with a degree in pastoral ministry. Except apparently ‘theology’ is ‘believing in ghosts’.

    Anyway, they’d do well not to misconstrue Marx’s words. After all, the whole quote is as follows:

    “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

    which makes it rather a different proposition – and in fact Marx was generally full of praise for religion – which it should be possible to get one’s head around even if you also think it’s the ‘opiate’ of the people. Besides, it depends what you think about ‘opium’ and ‘the masses” relationship to it, which will be different coming from people who view themselves as separate from said masses. Often the sentiment is reduced to that famous bit of the quote, and if you see ‘opium’ as something the masses take because they’re unenlightened, as opposed to, well, something a little more subtle. But no, always with the deciding whether something is good or bad and if you should endorse it wholeheartedly or reject it for fear of having false consciousness or something.

    Otherwise, what can I say? There’s a lot about activism that negates any of the ideas justifying the activism in favour of the ideology of activism itself. Don’t let that put you off marxism.

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