Present-day society is based on the exploitation of the vast mass of the working people and popular classes by a tiny minority of the population, the class of capitalists and large landowners. It is a slave society, since the “free” workers, who work all their lives for the capitalists, are “entitled” only to such means of subsistence as are essential for their maintenance. This is needed to guarantee an adequate profit and so safeguard and perpetuate capitalism.
The economic oppression of the workers inevitably calls forth and engenders several kinds of political oppression and social humiliation. This results in the coarsening and darkening of the spiritual and moral life of the masses. The workers may secure a greater or lesser degree of political liberty to fight to improve their economic situation, but no amount of liberty will rid them of poverty, unemployment, and oppression. That is, until the power of capital is eventually overthrown.
Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the working masses, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Feelings of impotence in the struggles of the exploited classes inevitably gives rise to the hope for a better life after death. Just as the impotence of savages in their battle with nature gave rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like.
Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient, while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. Those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth. This offers a cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them, at a moderate price, tickets to well-being in the afterlife.
As Karl Marx said, Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of people.
But slaves who have become conscious of their slavery and struggle for their emancipation have already half ceased being slaves. The modern class-conscious worker, reared by large-scale factory industry and enlightened by urban life, often contemptuously casts religious prejudices aside. They leave heaven to the priests and bourgeois bigots and try to win a better life for themselves here on earth.
The proletariat of today takes the side of socialism, which enlists science in the battle against the fog of religion. Socialism tends to free workers from belief in life after death by welding them together to fight for a better life on earth in the here and now.
Religion is a private affair. In these words, socialists usually express their attitude towards religion. But the meaning of these words should be accurately defined to prevent any misunderstanding. We demand that religion be held a private affair so far as the state is concerned. Religion must be no concern to the state, and religious societies must have no connection with governmental authority.
Everyone must be absolutely free to profess any religion they please or adhere to no religion what so ever. Discrimination among citizens on account of their religious convictions is wholly intolerable. Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated. No subsides should be granted to the established church nor state allowances made to ecclesiastical and religious societies, including support for pilgrimages. Mosques or churches should be absolutely free associations of like mind citizens and associations independent of the state.
Only the complete fulfilment of these demands can put an end to our shameful and accursed past. Then the church or mosque lived in feudal dependence on the state. Medieval, inquisitorial Christian laws (to this day remaining in the state’s criminal codes and statute – books) were in existence. They were applied, persecuting people for their religious beliefs or non-belief. They violated people’s consciences. Cosy government jobs and government-derived incomes were linked with the dispensation of the established church. Complete separation of the church or mosque from the State is what the socialist proletariat demands.
Our party is an association of class-conscious, advanced fighters for the emancipation of the working class. Such an association cannot and must not be indifferent to lack of class-consciousness, ignorance or obscurantism in the shape of religious or other superstitious beliefs. Unity in the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed classes for the creation of a paradise on earth is paramount. It is more important to us than the unity of opinion over paradise in heaven promised by either the church or the mosque. Whatever their religion, workers need to unite against their bosses and ultimately fight together for a socialist world.
by Josephine ALABI