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Very interesting post - particularly the 'nongame' analogy ;). Incidentally, it reminded me a passage from Bertrand Russell´s History of Western Philosophy, which I quote below:

"To understand Marx psychologically, one should use the following dictionary:

Yahweh = Dialectical Materialism
The Messiah = Marx
The Elect = The Proletariat
The Church = The Communist Party
The Second Coming = The Revolution
Hell = Punishment of the Capitalism
The Millennium = The Communist Commonwealth

The terms on the left give the emotional content of the terms on the right, and it is this emotional content, familiar to those who have had a Christian or a Jewish upbringing, that makes Marx´s eschatology credible."

During many discussions of Marxism with my friends, I have many times said that the forced atheism was a non-essiential part of Marxism. Any religion or belief system that included a focus on the importance of community could easily integrate Marxism into its structure.

The concept of a 'Christian athiest' seems like an oxymoron to me.

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Chico: Russell really did see Marxism as a new fundamentalist atheist religion - he was not a fan. :)

Chill: I wholeheartedly agree! I'm certainly heartened to see a new softer Marxism emerging recently.

RodeoClown: I realise that 'Christian atheist' sounds oxymoronic, but it describes someone who identifies as an atheist, but who identifies Christianity as their religion. There appear to be many such people in the UK. I think many of them are actually Christian agnostics in my own terminology, but who am I to take away people's right to identify how they wish?

As an example, consider Atheists for Jesus.

Such people effectively reject Christian metaphysics but accept Christian ethics. I believe Christians should consider them allies, since they share ethical goals, but sadly some consider them to be enemies.

But what is the parable of the Good Samaritan, when interpreted in its original cultural context, if not an instruction from Jesus not to judge people on their faith and culture, but to love one another, as he loved everyone?

Best wishes!

I think Christian ethics without the metaphysics is ridiculous. All of Jesus' teachings came from his belief (I'm not debating whether he was or not, I think 'is', you believe not - as far as I can tell) that he was God's son, you have to throw away almost everything else if you leave that out.

I'll look into this later though - the concept is intriguing.

I'll probably make a blog post about it (eventually - like the rundowns on the parables... I haven't forgotten, just haven't got there... yet).

The good Samaritan:

Another take on the good Samaritan.

It's a thirty minute video clip! :o Any chance of a precis? ;)

The one reason why Marxism is not a religion is that you do not have to "belief" that Marx or Marxism is correct. His statements are verifiable unlike the statements of any religion. Marx just offers one way to analyse events around us - follow the money (surplus). God did not speak to him and provide him with all the answers. He just used something all of us already have - our ability to think - to analyse the world around us. Rationality is the key. He did not say, "This is so because I say so or because God told me so. If you do not believe in me you will go to hell." Instead, he said, "This is so because of the following ...." You can agree or disagree with his reasoning and if you obtain the relevant data prove or disprove what he said. The fact that Soviet Union fell is proof that Marxism is not a religion. People of that country did not say, "Oh it is ok that we are starving. Marx said that the classless society is coming, let us wait for it." No one waited for Godot.

Thanks for sharing your view, Anon binary 33. I'm not sure about your argument, however. Marx's statements might be verifiable, but practicing Marxists have not verified them - rather, they appear to have chosen to believe in them.

That the USSR rejected Marxism no more demonstrates that the question of religion and Marxism does not apply than the rejection of classical Greek religion during the era of European monotheism demonstrates that classical Greek religion was not a religion, if you see what I mean.

I still think the question being posed is valid. I concluded in the negative - Marxism is better understood as a nonreligion than a religion - but I think the question remains a fair one to ask.

I never said that the question was not a valid one. It is absolutely a valid question. The point that I wanted to make was that religion, by definition, is not verifiable - it is a faith. Marxism, on the other hand, is verifiable - whether you choose to verify that or not is upto you.

The question this raises for me is whether this is sufficient criteria for distinguishing a religion. A cult which promises aliens will transport its followers away on a particular date is also verifiable (and thus far, always in the negative!) but this does not seem sufficient to exclude said cult from being a religion. I'm sympathetic to the idea that a belief system can be excluded from being considered religion on account of verifiable claims, but instinctively I feel like this will create problems rather than solve them.

Thanks for the fresh perspective!

I may be totally wrong on this one but wasn't christianity around the year 1000 pretty convinced that the Book of Revelation were to be verified any minute?

I guess humans have been experiencing over time that physics can be turned into metaphysics as soon as proper experimentation is introduced ... how about the other way round, what about metaphysics turned physics?

translucy: yes, this is in fact the case; the early Christian church was convinced that Jesus was on his way back imminently, leading to a general state of inaction as they waited.

I assume you meant metaphysics is turned into physics by experimentation... can physics become metaphysics? I think the answer to this is yes: since any model in physics is a tentative explanation, it can later be invalidated by new research and theories. But people can hang on to the old interpretation if they wish, but if its in strict contrast to the experiemental data the only basis for doing so would be metaphysics.

Take a hypothetical person who rejected relativity and held onto a Newtonian model. One could argue that their rejection of relativity was a metaphysical choice, thus the Newtonian physics would (in a certain sense, at least) have been turned back to metaphysics.

Or at least, this is how it seems to me at first glance. I suspect I have overlooked something pertinent to the issue. :)


your answer seems fine to me but maybe somewhat incomplete ;) As always my intent is to spawn more questions rather than get definitive answers. I'll rephrase the puzzle a little bit:

How is science turned into meta-science?
How is meta-science turned into science?
How is it that the practice of meta-science and science can somehow coexist in a person's mind?

And on different a topic:

Is it possible that we left out from our discussions so far how modern common sense perceives (and often ridicules) the medieval period?

I find it fascinating to compare the events we witness now around 2k with the records that exist from around 1k, angst and terror included.

translucy: one of the interesting things about your perspective is that it is intimately historical. For myself, I tend to go spiraling off into the abstracts, and although I have a broad grasp of history it is by no means detailed. One of the interesting thing about reading Arendt is how she assembles things in a historical perspective - I'm finding it quite illuminating.

Best wishes!

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