Letter to the Editors from the February 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard
I would like to complain about the article The Waiting Game" in the otherwise excellent December Socialist Standard. It stated that "Religion has always preached submission in one form or another". This is dearly rubbish, as anyone who knows of Islamic "holy jihads" will realise. I would have thought Christ's crucifixion as a "subversive" by the Romans was hardly a likely punishment for submissiveness either.
I have no religious belief myself and was in full agreement with the way established religion was shown to prop up capitalism. However, to allow this analysis to degenerate into a series of insults, albeit witty ones, does nothing to further your cause and is a poor substitute for an objective historical analysis.
C S Hedges
The submission which religion involves does not always take an obvious or simple form. The list of examples of religion being apparently rebellious or aggressive could be added to. There are also, for example, the Latin American priests who have been active in opposing many of the regimes there in recent years.
All religious thought, however, assumes there is an outside force or power which we can never control or even comprehend. It makes human beings the tools rather than the makers of history, and therefore condemns us to a perpetual repetition of the suffering of the past.
The jihads or “holy wars" are as much an example of human submission to authoritarian dogma as were the Christian crusades of the Middle Ages. The Koran, like the Bible, destroys human dignity by commanding servile worship of a non-existent "power". The name "Allah" derives from Al-llah, which means "the one God, the strong, the mighty one" and failure to offer absolute obedience is said to result in everlasting punishment. The Koran justifies the jihad against unbelievers, who often were given the choice of accepting the Moslem religion or death. This doctrine may not be pacifist: but it is certainly submissive in human terms. Religion is at loggerheads with working class emancipation.
As for our treatment of the subject having been somewhat light-hearted, most of the rival religions which are fighting over our non-existent "souls" take themselves quite seriously enough without us fuelling their self-righteousness for them.