Conflicts and Clashes in the Social and Cultural Arenas...
The Battle Against Religious Fundamentalism in American Society

By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA

Revolutionary Worker #1127, November 18, 2001, posted at

The RW is currently running this series of excerpts from an unpublished work by RCP Chairman, Bob Avakian, "Great Objectives and Grand Strategy." Although written over a year ago, this work--and these excerpts in particular--contain much that is very relevant to the current crisis and war. This is the first in this series.

In general, it is important to pay attention to social and, broadly speaking, cultural phenomena--including some significant changes in these spheres in U.S. society in particular--in connection with changes in the U.S. and global economy.

One of the striking features of U.S. society today is the extreme individualism, acquisitiveness, and commodification (commodity fetishism) of these times (and the relentless promotion of the ethos and model of the "entre-manure"). Now, on the one hand, this obviously serves--and plays an important role ideologically as well as practically with regard to--the functioning of the system and its needs at this time. But, at the same time, there are important aspects in which this ethos and this model can actually conflict, even fairly sharply, with the "larger interests" of U.S. imperialism and the "cohesiveness" of U.S. society. One sharp expression of this is the contradiction--a contradiction which, in important aspects, is already quite acute--between the "military culture" of the U.S. armed forces, with its emphasis on a kind of feudo-fascistic subordination of the individual to the group, and the larger culture of U.S. society at this time, with its great promotion of individualism, instant gratification, consumerism, and so on.

In this regard, it is important to speak to the role of religion at this point in U.S. society in particular.

One of the most glaring features of contemporary U.S. society is the many-sided and unrelenting promotion of religion by the ruling class, even while there are differences within the ruling class about exactly what kind of religion to promote and how much "diversity" of religion to include while keeping Christianity and the "Judeo-Christian tradition" as the core and "most favored" religious/moral standard, and how far to go in insisting on making religion, and in particular fundamentalist Christianity, the basis (or proclaimed and ostensible basis) for law and public policy.

The RW special supplement "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...and Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer," written during the impeachment of Clinton, points to the necessity of our side seizing the high ground in order to combat both the Christian Fascists and more generally the oppressive and repressive program and "agenda" of the ruling class as a whole. As "Truth" puts it, it is crucial

"to directly and uncompromisingly take on the theocratic Christian fascists and those allied with them--not only in their political program but also in their ideological-religious rationalizations--and to pose a powerful positive alternative to this. These people attempt to seize the 'moral high ground' by portraying themselves as the upholders of a tradition-steeped moral certainty, in opposition to moral relativism and self-indulgent degeneracy. They proclaim that they stand for a literal and absolute interpretation of `biblical truth' and adherence to biblically-based commandments and law. But the truth is that the moral and ideological principles they proclaim are wildly in conflict even with what can be accepted in bourgeois-democratic society, to say nothing of a communist society in which all relations of exploitation and oppression have been eliminated and uprooted."

To see the deadly serious intent and the nature of the objectives being pursued by the fundamentalist reactionaries, take a look at the recent thing in Kansas--the attack on the teaching of evolution in the schools. We are far from seeing the end of these kinds of attacks--which only a few years ago would have seemed incredible. What this underlines is the need for the proletariat to lead in this sphere, too--in countering these attacks in the intellectual/ideological as well as the practical/political realm.

In terms of the crucial aspect of rallying people in the scientific and intellectual fields to stand up against this, it must be recognized that, left to their own devices, even some of the better people in these fields won't really, or thoroughly, stand up to this and will instead seek to conciliate and compromise with it--or, in any case, will end up conciliating and compromising with it and giving more and more ground to it. A perfect illustration of this is Stephen Jay Gould. He continues to promote an accommodation whereby religion will render unto science that which belongs to science and, in turn, scientists (and others) will render unto religion that which belongs to religion. (This is the central theme of Gould's recent book Rocks of Ages, Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life.)

The idea is that the religious fundamentalists will somehow assent to not "encroaching" upon the sphere of science and other important secular domains. But, the problem is, they will never agree to this! They keep making more and more aggressive "forays" into the sphere of science, as well as the social, cultural, and political spheres overall--more and more aggressive attacks on scientific understanding and a scientific method, as well as on progressive trends in general. This is a sharp illustration of how people like Gould, even with some very real positive contributions they make, will never--on their own and without a firm hand from the revolutionary proletariat--thoroughly stand up to and take on these obscurantist reactionaries.

These Christian Fascists are not going to stay in some little corner (or some circumscribed arena) with their religious fundamentalism; they have an agenda that this religious fundamentalism serves, and they are going to aggressively put it forward and attempt to trample anything that stands in the way of it. Once again, this shows not that we can't unite and shouldn't seek to unite with people like Gould--and to rally even broader forces to stand up against and to counter-attack this fundamentalist reaction politically and ideologically--but that there is a crying need for the line and leadership of the proletariat and its vanguard in this arena too.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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