The RW received the following correspondence

The Debate is On

over the RCP's Draft Programme at

Revolutionary Worker #1163, August 18, 2002, posted at

Issues surrounding religion have generated much debate, from the very beginning of our site's conversation over the RCP's Draft Programme. We can only give you some extremely excerpted highlights here.

Key points of discussion include: the role of religion in holding back liberation, how to criticize religion without seeming to attack the believers themselves, and whether some forms of religion can play a positive role in the revolution and in socialism. There has also been some particular controversy over the RCP's view that believing in god is incompatible with being a communist.

We urge you to read the full exchange on our website, at

And we look forward to seeing your comments and thoughts there too.

Subject: religion trains people to submitPosted by: pennsylvania prisoner

I greet you with a clenched fist... There's always going to be people who fear the Amerikan power. But the struggle continues.... A lot of these brothers are not just brainwashed by capitalist society, but their religion is destroying them.

Slaveowners use the Bible to justify slavery. They wanted to keep the slaves ignorant. ...Slaveowners was telling the slave that he/she was cursed and that they was supposed to be slaves. And a lot of them believed their master. ...So my point is these brothers are being controlled. Most of their thinking is shaped by their religion. Islam and Christianity are destroying our brothers in prison and out there on the streets. They are working with "spookism," which pushes them far from reality. Malcolm X said if I got a religion that don't fight for my people, I say the hell with that religion.

Subject: Not a Communist?Posted by: tigger

Why can't Christians be communist?

Subject: Christianity and Revolution Posted by: Redflagdan

I want to point out the utopian character of the Party's claim on page 25 of the Programme: "as the masses...take up and wield the outlook and method of MLM, they will begin to voluntarily cast off religious beliefs."Where is the historical evidence of such a claim?

Religion is no less social or material than art or literature...why then is it so inconceivable that religion can play a positive role in communist society? I am not suggesting that the Party adopt a particular religious perspective...only that you drop the one line on p. 25 that is a back-handed insult to people of faith.

The very existence of Maoist Christians like myself should convince you that it is possible for a communist to fight for communism and still be a "religious" person. If you expect to win a revolution in this country...I don't see how you plan to do it without the participation of religious people...

You might like for MLM to be the sole motivation...the all-sufficient rational and scientific explanation for reality...but the fact is, people seem to need more than science to live fulfilling lives. Biology and science are great at explaining things...but there remains a mystery at the center of life...our experiences of love, orgasm, nature, life and death can be "explained" scientifically, but sometimes people need rituals to celebrate and grieve those experiences.

Science can explain the "how" of existence...but it is not so good at explaining the "why." Religion is an exercise, then, in creating meaning, no less than art, it seeks to fashion meaning not by being "unscientific," but by involving metaphors and poetic imagery...emotions as well as rationality. Why then must religious people be encouraged to "voluntarily" cast off religious beliefs... why don't you say that novelists "cast off" their fictional creations?!?! What is the difference between a fictional novel that reveals a "greater truth" and a religious narrative that does the same thing?

Subject: Re: Christianity and RevolutionPosted by: J__x

Redflagdan said: "Yes, there is horrible culture-bound crap in the Bible too, but most people understand justifications for slavery or women's oppression in the Bible as precisely that: culture-bound specific and contextual practices of ancient people. My pastor has never stood in the pulpit and told people that all they need to do is `get saved' and go to heaven. He has, however, argued for an end to proscriptions against homosexuality."

This is not a whole picture of the truth, no matter how much we might want it to be. One example that comes to mind is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, Roy Moore. Known infamously as the 10 Commandments judge, he recently stated that "Homosexual behavior is an inherent evil. The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle."

I'm not quoting him to say "hey, there are religious nuts about" obviously there are. The point is that this type of literal translation is subscribed to, and its used in a material way that is undeniable....

I would say that one could favor and fight for the overthrow of the U.S. and be religious, that one could have a genuine proletarian internationalist ideology, and could support and unite with communists. But I would argue that a key part of taking up dialectical materialism, and being able to put this understanding in continual practice, requires a full anti-metaphysical stance, not just a break with established religions.

Subject: Re: religion & communism Part 3Posted by: redflagdan

Comrade Veale said: "Unlike religion, the imagination is rooted in the history and present reality of the material world and human society in order to change it."

There are, in fact, plenty of theologians who make the claim that religion is exactly this: an act of imagination rooted in history and the material world in order to bring about a "kingdom" of justice. ...The Judeo-Christian tradition has consistently taught that God acts IN HISTORY and THROUGH PEOPLE.

Subject: Role of the church to the oppressedPosted by: RL

Can't there be spirituality without religion, without the need for various deities and worn out moral codes?

It is my experience that the church often serves as a support network and extended family for many in which social services are provided under capitalism, emotional support and so on that should otherwise be unavailable.

In rural areas the church is often the hub of social activity, especially for women and may provide what daycare is actually available within miles of home, despite the oppressive thinking that it forces onto women. Emotional support during deaths and illness is often another aspect that is critical.

So long as no other grouping of people can fill these needs, in this society or another, the oppressed will cling to the church because they have a need for the roles that it serves.....I think that perhaps we should view things in terms of building revolutionary community... rather than in the very dry terms of this protest or that. Out of this community and new way of relating to each other will also grow a spirituality devoid of oppression and god, a new way of thinking and living that does not belong to the oppressor but rather to the revolutionary people.

Subject: On religion now and laterPosted by: teacher

Here are some suggestions concerning the religion sections in the Draft Programme . They are derived from my experience with students who have read parts or all of the DP, in conjunction with reading Bob Avakian's book Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones .

Doesn't there need to be a clearer and more positive distinction made between the enemies of the revolution, and real or potential friends?

The DP expresses the need to relentlessly and ruthlessly combat reactionary religious forces who use religion to undermine the socialist state and attempt to overthrow it. The DP expresses the fact that religion enslaves people and weighs them down. But there must be a way in which the Programme can go after belief in god without appearing to trash or belittle people for believing. This is done to some extent, for instance in the way in which the DP says that the masses themselves will be relied upon to caste off religious belief. But I think it has to be stronger....

I am also wondering if the Programme might include some comment on why religious beliefs cannot be the leading ideology, and must be confronted and struggled against in the process of transforming all of society. Maybe just a capsule statement, for instance: That without a grasp of the underlying, real, materialist determinants that drive human history, it is impossible to fully grasp what must be done to defeat the enemy and to transform the world. Notions like pacifism or universal love that can flow from a belief in spirit, or "Higher Power" cannot lead.

When we were discussing whether or not there exists such a thing as a human soul, or a spirit reality, a student said, "But wouldn't it be bad for society not to believe in spirit?"

This question relates to morality, but it encompasses much more than that. It seems to me that if she were to pick up the Programme ... what she finds there could be put in the form of a challenge, along the lines of the following: Because the dialectical materialism of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is true, it can illuminate meaning and the way forward for humanity in a far more uplifting, purposeful and practical way than recourse to religious belief and spirituality can.

The Programme could say that the struggle over the truth of this statement will continue throughout the whole period of socialism.

Subject: Re: On religion now and laterPosted by: dolly veale

A number of people have raised something similar to the student who asked "wouldn't it be bad for society not to believe in spirit?"

Often people confound the real and powerful human spirit with the surreal or supernatural "spirit". Though a lot of this history is hidden from young people today, millions worldwide in the 1960s were inspired by the revolutionary truth that "the spirit of the people is greater than the man's technology" (a concrete example then was the Vietnamese people's struggle kicking the ass of the "almighty" U.S.)

There's also the communist spirit of "serve the people"--...part of the high standard for the vanguard Party that imbues its life, culture and morality as stated on pgs. 139-140 of the DP. We can agree that we don't want a dull (spiritless) world where love and solidarity get reduced to chemicals and our biology. The first victim of that kind of world would be the revolutionary spirit of MLM I spoke of above. It'd be just like the capitalist world we live in today.

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