race & religion

charles brown cdehbrown at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 11 08:04:40 PDT 1998


Let me say first, I don't think this is an easy problem. Somekind of new militant atheist agitation, as I am proposing, is not going to be a picnic. But I have come to this conclusion after many years of strictly observing a sincerely respectful political activist practice toward believers. I even joined a choir recently as part of a neighborhood organization I work with (and the people know I am an atheist). So, this is not armchair revolutionism I am tossing out.

You wrote:
>> Charles; I think there is more of a problem of bigotry of
>> believers against non-believers than vice versa. That is my
>> empirical experience. The believers have the power over the
>> atheists, and their prejudice is thereby more actualized.
>Sure but I'm not in the business of ranking all the
>problems of the world, but specifically the problem of
>how the U.S. left regards religious folks.

In your the post that I excerpted and commented on, you were arguing that "What's really in question is bigotry towards non-left religious folk (especially white) founded on ignorance of religion". But that is incorrect because there is almost no problem with leftwingers' bigotry againat non-left religious folk, but the opposite: bigotry of non-left religious folk against leftwing atheists. So what is really at question in persuading non-left believers is their bigotry toward us.

>> . . . We atheists are the
>> victims in the censorship of public expression of belief,not the
>> theists of all types.
>True but see above.
>> . . .

True and this censorship is much more the problem of our inability to persuade masses of the rightness of our idea,much more than the false problem you pose of left bigotry toward believers.

>> Charles said Also, Christianity is a slaves' religion. The mode
>> of production in the Bible is slavery, old and new testaments.
>> Christianity was a religion that over threw the Roman Empire,
>> which was based on the slave mode. African slaves in America
>> could identify with this central feature of the Bible, perhaps
>> more than the white yeomen and women.
>Maybe, but so what?

Well, this thread is RACE and religion, so a historical hypothesis on the affinity of Black people for the forms of Christianity is relevant to the discussion. See ?
>> Charles says: Perhaps a bigger problem than contemplating the
>> afterlife is unquestioning respect for authority first of God and
>> then transferred to the state and much official authority. Not
>True as far as it goes, but this cuts many different
>ways. For instance, if authority of the state derives
>from God, then so too can the illegitimacy of the state
>if God changes His mind.

"God's mind" in this case is the minds of theocratic leaders, and they won't change their minds as the initiative for overthrowing the state by the masses without a mass movement that forces them to. Religious and state authority are agencies of the ruling class. Your hope for a "miracle" won't probably be fulfilled.

On the other hand, you might say that it will be a reverse miracle for we leftists to start converting masses to atheism. But I think we need to consider qualitatively new approaches, as remaining silent on our atheism is not working as far as winning people to radicalism.

>Another for instance: as a practical political matter,
>respect for authority combined with criticism of policy
>can be more effective politically than "militance."
>That is why Gandhi-type religious movements in the
>right context can be very effective: they are not
>threatening to the public at large, they maintain
>a halo of moral uprightness, and thereby attention
>focuses more on the content of the critical message.
>> only must workers question authority if we are to have socialism.
>As is all too clear now, religion is driving people
>to question authority, albeit often from a conservative
>standpoint. In the past it has had contrary political
>connotations (e.g., draft resistance, abolitionism,
>populism, etc.).

I disagree. I see religion in the main driving people to affirm authority. It suppresses critical thinking. There are exceptions as with all generalities. It is the nature of religious "thought" to be unquestioning and blindly accepting. "By faith and not by sight."

>> They must be ready to take authority and be confident in their
>> self-authority. This is the key to real democracy too, which is
>Very well-taken.
>> . . .


>> This is the downside of the American anti-statism, Levellism, as
>> expressed in the colonial aphorism " the least government is the
>> best government." The American individualist hates the state so
>> much he (and she) doesn't take the responsibilty of
>> self-governance and taking over the state. Take the state ! This
>Indeed, what we have to fear most from the religious right
>is theocracy, not anti-statism.

Well, I think the religious right is already part of the ruling hegmonic elite. But, I agree that we cannot discount an American fascism in the form of religion ( sorry to quote Huey Long here). I am making a somewhat reverse point here: I am saying that part of the failure of the AMERICAN working class to seize power is that their colonial style, "minuteman" "anarchist" tradition is GOOD in its anti-tyranny aspect, but now it is a hinderance to the average person feeling comfortable with authority in the necessary sense of SELF-AUTHORITY (necessary for self-governance and direct democracy, a fully democratic state).

>These traditions are real but altogether different from
>religious ones in the U.S. The populist case is particularly
>interesting, in that Jefferson, the author of your quote above,
>was a populist icon, but the populist program called for an
>expanded public sector as a bulwark against corporate power.
>Government was seen as a vehicle for the interests of
>"the whole people," in contrast to the machinations of
>the moneyed few. That's why I say Jefferson was
>appropriated by the populists more for opportunistic
>political purposes than doctrinal ones.

Yes. I don't mean that the American populist, leveller tradition is dominant or prevails, but in this case that that thread in our history does have the effect, ironically, of thwarting the American masses from really taking authority themselves. It's the aw shucks, golly gosh mentality of the uncomplicated regular guy, if you follow me.

I am not saying the religious tradition is the same as the "leveller" tradition. I am saying they dovetail in undermining self-authority of the masses of everyday people. Religion does by convincing to respect authority outside oneself as superior to one's own authority. American Levelling does by taking the correct criticism of the state so far that it turns into its opposite by convincing of an aversion to all government authority, including self-governance, which requires more time and effort than your average anti-government (period) American is willing to put out. They sort of say " I don't want to be a citizen governor, I hate government."

I can see that the latter is a complex argument. It is also something of a new hypothesis.

>> process starts again. The organized groups have
>> resources, but the upstarts have mobilized, highly-
>> motivated people. You can decide which you think
>> is more important. I go for Door Number 2.
>> Charles asks: Is door number 2 organize the religious neophytes
>> left politically ?
>No, though probably overstated, it simply means pay
>attention to the seat-of-the-pants, upstart religious
>groups, not just to the established ones.

Yes,"neophytes" may be the wrong word. I thought you meant new religious groups. I would agree there is no reason to favor the established groups.


Charles Brown

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