Sunday, March 20, 2011

Atheism for Lent: Marx

Tonight there were sixteen of us exploring "Atheism for Lent" at Journey and we looked at Marx's critique of religion.

I started the discussion off by giving a brief overview of the reading material that I put together (see below for links to the relevant posts): how Marx's historical materialism differs from Freud's essentialisation of psychological conflict and common unhappiness (last week) such that there remains the possibility of struggle and revolution in the face of contingent social hopelessness; how Marx can be understood to radicalise Feuerbach's atheist theory of religion as projection (see this post) such that the critique of religion presupposes the critique of current material socio-economic relations; and how both religion and the state function as ideologies, serving as imaginary relationships between theology and politics (on the one hand) and people's real existence in sin and self-interest (on the other) (see here and here).

We then discussed a range of topics, from the cult of capitalism, consumerist desire, and materialism in this sense to historical materialism, immanence, and responsibility. Commenting that we need to get rid of this idea of a "good God" that will solve our problems, one group member argued for the notion that a transcendent God absolves us of our social, economic and political responsibilities, and that instead of looking "up to heaven" or "after life" for answers we should act together in community in the here and now of material relationships.

The notion that church can sometimes function as a social club arose, and we talked a little about the dangers (coccooning or ghettoisation, for example) and opportunities (identity, belonging, etc) of that understanding of church. This discussion really peaked my interest, thinking in particular about Tony Jones' thesis that emerging Christianity can be likened to a new social movement. I wondered about the possibility of thinking about church as a co-operative, or union, or Party. In other words, as another Course participant said, as operating in a non-commercial environment. The possibility or impossibility of functioning outside western capitalism aside, it proved food for thought. Particularlity since Journey is in the process of transitioning away from being a "church" (albeit one they built themselves under a railway arch) to a "vegetarian cafe."

Anyway, here's a collection of links to the material I wrote introducing Marx's critique of religion:

Religion as Ideology: Marx (1)

Religion as Ideology: Marx (2)

Religion as Ideology: Marx (3)

Religion as Ideology: Marx (4)

Religion as Ideology: Marx (5)

Religion as Ideology: Marx (6)

Nietzsche starts tomorrow!

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