September 10, 2007

Religion and Communism: Minions of Darkness

Diana linked over to my review of Song of Russia! Woohoo! It's a Noodlefood-a-lanche!!! Welcome Noodlefood readers!

But in her post, she remarks:

For the record, I disagree with [Flibbert's] comments about the equal threat of religion versus communism. The fact that both yield statism in politics doesn't show that one ideology isn't more dangerous -- i.e. more durable, totalistic, and inspirational of fervent belief -- than the other. That more dangerous threat is religion. Then again, I might not be understanding [Flibbert] correctly, as his comments were a tad rambling.

Diana is a hero of mine, so I take her remarks seriously. Since I respect her comments and I also know that my post IS very rambling and I did state some things incorrectly, I think I owe my readers a little clarity if not brevity.

The argument I intended to make is not as Diana describes.

First, to be upfront about it: I agree that religion is a greater threat than communism at present.

I was trying to say that they share the same origin, but that religion is the en vogue form of the overarching evil in both.

But I wrote this:

I was just thinking about the (ongoing) debate about whether religion or communism poses the greater threat to freedom and I remembered: there is a single threat to freedom. In the realm of politics, the threat is that of statism.

That sounds so bland, but there isn't a name for that ideology at the political level.

The threat is the ideology that makes people think in politics that they (or a committee of them) know better than you about your life. But it's deeper than that. The threat is the ideology that makes people think -- in their private lives -- that they owe you something and they resent you for not thinking that you owe them more.

This debate about whether or not religion or communism is the bigger threat misses the point. It's the same threat. The question is only about which form is metastasizing at the moment.

What I was trying to point out is that if we confine our view to the branch of philosophy dealing with politics, we can only see that both religion and communism present the same sort of evil: statism. That isn't particularly illuminating and I said it was bland in my earlier post.

I was avoiding delving into the deeper topic in the more fundamental branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. I was trying to suggest, without getting into a lengthy discussion about what 'altruism' means, that altruism is the evil, underlying philosophy shared by religion and communism.

This isn't right either, is it?

It seems like while communism certainly does stem from flawed ethics, namely altruism, Religion suffers from flawed metaphysics and epistemology, namely mysticism and faith.

Could a person have proper metaphysical philosophy and still end up a communist? What of epistemology? It seems like to be a communist, you'd have to have an error in metaphysics and/or epistemology in order to maintain the flawed ethics of altruism, but I'm not completely sure.

In Any Rand's book, We the Living, the tragic hero, Andre, is a communist who is rational and reality-based. He seems to have simply made a mistake in his ethics somewhere. I should probably go back and read more about his character since it has been a while.

I wrote to Diana asking for some clarification around Leonard Peikoff's remarks on the whole thing and she indicated that the above (communism and religion are fundamentally different and do not necessarily share the same origins) is moving in the right direction.

Since they don't share the same origins, we're still left with the question about which is worse: Communism or Religion?

Tough call. They're both hideously stupid.

Religion has some advantages over Communism, though. Religion not only tells people that they can expect huge rewards for obedience, it isn't under any pressure to produce those rewards since you only get them when you're dead. Communism does rely on people being extremely gullible, but most people catch on after a while of standing in a bread line; religion goes a step further and tells people not to think ("Have faith!"), thereby convincing people to just ignore the misery.

Not all religions are altruistic, but they do all pervert rational metaphysics and epistemology in some way. And that's how they've been able to persist for so long and why religion is worse that communism/socialism.

I have some ideas about why other efforts to thwart religion in politics and society have failed, but I am going to save them until I've read Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at September 10, 2007 02:51 PM | TrackBack
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