Tag Archives: religion

Religious and Political Oppression of Workers Takes Similar Forms the World Over – USA No Different

Food for thought:  from Wang Lixiong’s article on Tibet from “New Left Review” March/April 2002

Replace the word: “Tibetan” and “Tibetans” with any other nation or nationality and “Buddhist” with any other religion and the analysis is very nearly unchanged.  The origins of the usefulness of religious mythology in the maintenance of the social status quo is explored; the use of fear of death and of angering the gods by opposing their “divine plan” here in this life is exposed.  Without the intervention of conscious revolutionaries bearing Marxist materialist ideas and ideals, the masses remain trapped by the all-pervasive fear of the gods and of the capitalist state which – in the view of the religious believers of any faith – exists due to the fact that the status quo is ordained by God and cannot – must not –  be opposed.  This is the “slave mentality” that cripples workers and peasants throughout the capitalist world.

—— IWPCHI

“A fear above all others

“One of the unique characteristics of traditional Tibetan society was that, despite a considerable degree of social and economic polarization, there was hardly any history of actual class confrontation. Conflict was generally between upper-class factions, or between Tibetans and other ethnic groups. What explains such an unusual degree of deference and obedience? The answer surely lies in the deeply rooted religious traditions of Tibet. Even if aware of their suppressed and exploited status, the poor would resign themselves to their fate, seeing it as retribution for their previous lives. According to Buddhist doctrine, their hope of freedom from suffering lay entirely in the hereafter: only by resigning themselves to their present condition and enduring its misery might they hope to win the favours of the deities, and the chance of being born into a better afterlife. Any resistance was disobedience to the divine will and would be met with suitable punishment. This staunch belief moulded the Tibetans’ attitude of passive submission. The benefits of reform in this world could never match the happiness of the afterlife; if they committed the crime of ‘defying their superiors’ or ‘enriching themselves with dubious wealth’, the dreadful punishment that awaited them would far outweigh any earthly gains. This was why so many felt uncertain about class struggle…”

[…]

[In this section of Wang Lixiong’s essay, replacing the word “Buddhism” with “capitalism” – the national religion of the USA – you get even more surprising and enlightening results.  — IWPCHI]

“If the highly evolved doctrines of the lamaist tradition are almost impossibly abstruse, the faith of the masses is far more comprehensible. The roots of their intense religiosity lie in the terrors of their natural environment—the explanation, surely, for the extraordinary proliferation of deities and monsters within Tibetan Buddhism, differentiating it from Indian and Chinese variants. Fear is the key factor […] [f]ear provoked awe, and awe gave rise to the totem of deities and monsters:

“The Tibetans were living in a state of apprehension and anxiety. Every perturbation, either physical or spiritual, every illness, every susceptible or dangerous situation, would drive them to search feverishly for its causes, and for preventative measures.

But the search for solutions only reinforced the anxiety: the more thought and explanation was lavished upon it, the deeper it grew. Faced with a fear that they could neither escape nor conquer, Tibetans were in need of a larger fear, clearly defined and structured, one that exceeded all others and which, so long as one obeyed it totally, would keep at bay all the lesser fears, lifting the intolerable psychological burden.

Fear formed the core of the Tibetans’ spiritual world. Only by propitiating their terror, by offering sacrifices to it in complicated ceremonies, by worshipping and obeying it, could one feel safe and free, reassured by its vast dominion and tremendous power. Such a fear already possessed, at a certain level, the nature of divinity; the origins of the vast number of ferocious and terrifying objects worshipped in Tibetan religion—including those of the Bon shamanism that predated the eighth-century introduction of Buddhism from India—can surely be traced back here.  In that frightful environment, humankind can scarcely persevere without some sense of divine guidance and support. From this perspective it might be argued that, even if all other religions were on their way to extinction, the Tibetan creed would probably be preserved to the very last day.

“Tibetan Buddhism exacts an exorbitant price from its followers. The hope of a better life hereafter demands a punishing regime of forbearance, asceticism and sacrifice in the present. Tibetans also have to contribute a considerable part of their personal wealth to religious activity—building monasteries, providing for monks and nuns, performing ceremonies, making pilgrimages and so forth. Under the Dalai Lama’s government, 92 per cent of the budget was devoted to religious expenditure. Even today, according to some estimates, the Tibetans pay about a third of their annual income to the monasteries. This was money that would not be transformed into productive investment nor used to improve the people’s lives. For over a thousand years, the sweat and toil of the Tibetans had gone to encrust the monasteries, while the governing monks formed an enormous parasitic social stratum. […] This unproductive layer was a heavy burden on Tibetan society…”

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Religion Corner – Mark Twain on the Old Testament story of the Jews’ 40-year “Flight From Captivity in Egypt”

“Roughing It”: Chapter VI.

As part of our never-ending effort to bring about peace, harmony and enlightenment in this troubled world of ours, we at the Independent Workers Party undertake to present the works of the great writers of science, history, economics, politics and every other subject pertinent to the struggle for the emancipation of the working class from the chains of ignorance and wage-slavery which we all are forced to labor under so long as the capitalist system exists.

Of course, though the work before us is a serious business, we value every opportunity we can get to combine all our favorite serious subjects and add a heaping helping of comedy on top of them, just so we don’t get too full of ourselves.  And it is in that spirit that we present another great humorous essay by Mark Twain on that most serious subject of all: religion.

This one’s taken, like the last one, from the book “Roughing It”; and you’ll find the link to it at the top of this introduction.  Here Twain’s acid pen is worked to great effect on one of the most cherished Judeo-Christian myths of all: the one about how Moses led the Jews on a 40-year Exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land of Israel.

You wouldn’t think it would be easy to blast a hole the size of the Grand Canyon in that story now, would you?  But Mark Twain was no ordinary man.  He could take the piss out of anyone or anything no matter how big or improtant it pretended to be.  He shot sacred cows for fun – and made it look easy, too.  So enjoy another bit of classic American humor courtesy of the fine folks at the Gutenberg Project.

You’re welcome!

IWPCHI

P.S.: If you’re intrigued by the description of the “Overland Stage” system given in Twain’s essay, check out this excellent webpage that goes into even greater detail on the subject:

“Overland Stage” – From “Wyoming Tales and Trails”

Religion Corner – Mark Twain on The Book of Mormon

Roughing It, Chapter XVI.

We submit for your approval one of our favorite essays on that rather interesting take on Christianity, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, more popularly known as “The Mormons”.  It is from Mark Twain’s book, “Roughing It” and you can read it by clicking on the link above.

This essay, written by the great American humorist Mark Twain, is a review of the Mormon Bible – “The Book of Mormon”.  Twain, at the time just starting out on his career as a writer, ran across the Mormons while he was dodging the Civil War draft by taking off from Missouri to head to California and points west in 1861.  Passing through what is now known as the state of Utah, Twain came into contact with the followers of Joseph Smith and got to spend some time with them.  Back then not many people outside the Mormon church had ever seen a “Book of Mormon”, so Twain obtained a copy and set to writing a review of that uniquely American religious text.  In his inimitable way, Twain gives a hilariously honest appraisal of the “Book of Mormon” in much the same way that he had, in Chapter VI of “Roughing It”, eviscerated one of the most crucial tall-tales of the Judeo-Christian mythology.

Every religion in the world forces its followers to mentally pass a camel through the eye of a needle in order to become a member of that sect.  The Mormons are no exception to this rule.  In addition to all the tall tales of Christianity that they (like all their fellow Christians) accept at face value, they add more than a few whoppers of their own.  We present this essay in the spirit of fun and amusement, and not to irritate or belittle anyone’s religion.  Everyone has a right to believe in God, or not to believe in anything; ours is a secular political party that admits people of all faiths as members, provided that while “on the clock” for the Independent Workers party, they proselytize for the IWP, not their religion of choice.  What they do on their own time is their own business.   Every member of the Independent Workers Party stands for the strict separation of Church and State; the wisdom of this principle can be demonstrated by far too many historical and present-day examples of what happens when this noble and very civilized principle is repudiated.

IWPCHI