The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston/New York, 2006,
God and His Demons, by Michael Parenti, Prometheus Books, Amherst/New York, 2010.
If you are reading this, you are probably eager to see the world move beyond exploitation of the many by the few, and away from continual inter-imperialist wars for control over the world’s resources. We are aware that many CHALLENGE readers rely, to some degree, on religion to produce such progress. But whatever you may think about religion and God, there is an inherent problem in religion that allows our profit-seeking exploiters and war-making executioners to get away with their daily theft and murder of our friends, our families, ourselves. The problem is that religion — whatever comfort it provides, or whatever unity it encourages among fellow worshippers — is used by our exploiters to bind us to their needs over our own.
Bibles Celebrate Murder and Mayhem
Religions of all sorts have been used for millennia to justify war and genocide in the name of god. They have always been used to lead us to regard other members of our exploited class as enemies rather than allies and fellow-sufferers. Over thousands of years of human history, new religions evolve out of older ones whenever a rising class needs a new weapon of mass control.
The God Delusion and God and His Demons are both worth reading despite their shortcomings. Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, concentrates on the logical and factual inconsistencies in the Judeo-Christian Bible. He shows the disconnect between religion and morality, describes the murder and mayhem celebrated in the Old and New Testaments, and alludes to the frequent modern-day abuse of children by religionists. He also writes about the historical use of all religions, by clergy and other backers, to induce workers to kill other workers in endless wars for gain and profit. Dawkins’ stated goal is to give skeptical readers enough evidence to argue against the belief in a supreme being.
Manufactured Religious Precepts
Michael Parenti, a Marxist historian in the U.S., places a greater emphasis on the predatory nature of fundamentalist preachers and priests, and how they have enslaved women and children to do their bidding, sexually and otherwise. He offers his own long selection of quotes from the Old and New Testaments to illustrate the bloody roots of the Judeo-Christian tradition. And he exposes the horrendous hypocrisy of contemporary clergy and politicos in their use of made-up religious precepts, such as those espoused by the anti-abortion and anti-gay movements in the service of meaningless “family values.”
Dawkins’ non-Marxist outlook, not surprisingly, fails to relate religion-fostered blindness to workers’ willing submission to exploitation by the capitalist promoters of religion. Parenti, a Marxist, points out how leading capitalists use religion to induce the world’s workers to do their bidding, against the workers’ own interests.
But while he exposes the racism, nationalism, and wars fostered by several major religions (including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, among others), Parenti treads lightly on Jewish fundamentalism. Describing Jews as the historic “whipping boys” of other religions, he fails to consider how the Israeli ruling class and the Zionist movement inflict the same oppression on the Palestinian working class within Israel-Palestine. Nor does he expose these rulers’ racist support of Apartheid South Africa, shipping arms to suppress black workers.
Perhaps the greatest failing of both Dawkins and Parenti is that neither relates the historical and present crimes of religionists to the need for the world’s working class to free ourselves from the bonds of faith. Neither advocates the mental liberation of a scientific approach to all things in life. And neither understands that only a communist-led revolution can free ourselves from capitalist exploitation and oppression.
PLP has long argued that science rather than religion offers the world’s working class a deliverance from the bondage of capitalism. One major article deals with the history of various religions and their uses — “Religion: Tool of Bosses, Enemy of Workers.” Another explores the nature of science and its incompatibility with religion, and how science investigates the real world rather than an imagined or hoped-for one — “Intelligent Design.” These articles can be found on the plp.org website under the “Literature” tab, section “leaftlets and pamphlets.” Both of these articles fill important gaps in these two useful, well-researched books.