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Philosophical arguments about religion at Christmas

By Tristan Ewins - posted Friday, 22 December 2017


But so long as people don't have definitive answers and are questing after hope you can't blame them for exploring religions! Some may point to 'Pascal's Wager': that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from believing in God. (I like to think my belief is more than a cold calculation however!) Indeed Marx's position in this regard also rested on an article of faith: that 'reality' was only as confirmed by the senses and that, increasingly, there was nothing left which was 'unseen' (especially given the enormous leaps in scientific understanding which were progressing in the 19th Century ; the century, amongst other things, of the Industrial Revolution). The progressive accumulation of scientific discoveries since Marx's time suggests there is still plenty to be scientifically 'uncovered' even in the 21st Century.

One of the most significant problems with religions is that cynical people will exploit other peoples' sincere search for spiritual truth and hope in order to mobilise those people as a 'power base' in the world. And in a way which was not originally intended by the founders of various faiths. I think there is something deeply wrong with that. Arguably this happens with secular ideologies as well - and pretty much any organised interest or system of beliefs.

As a Leftist Christian I also worry at the possible consolidation of Christian communities as a political power base by the Conservative Right: which can only be facilitated further by those escalating voices of intolerance against the faithful (ie against their liberal right to practice their faith).

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So religions are deployed regularly to rationalise bloody conflicts and that has also been the case for thousands of years.

In response Faiths have to engage with each other for the sake of peace and co-existence. Those cynical interests (mentioned earlier) will exploit differences in order to create conflicts and ultimately wars, which determine spheres of influence and power in the world. Innocents more often than not 'get caught in the middle'. They become 'fodder' for the 'power-plays' of cynical manipulators.

But at Christmas I still believe that the 'true' Christian church lives on in people who find God and Christ in their own way. Despite the manipulations that go on (wrongly) in the name of religions.

While I have little to do with worldly churches I still consider myself a Christian. I believe in the "unseen" as well as the seen. And I refuse the extremes of 'worldly' material acquisition: the pursuit of exponentially-increasing personal wealth by a small minority under capitalism.

Marx understood that material abundance could lead to a kind of freedom 'in the world'. Freedom from the need for alienating labour, and hence a recasting of the division of labour, enabling much fuller personal development and fulfilment (personal growth through the pursuit of art, philosophy, science and so forth). In other words "the good and decent life (in the world) for everyone".

That said I reject the waste, exploitation, repression, inequality and poverty that goes with capitalism and the subordination of everything to the endless accumulation of personal material wealth. And I believe there is a basis for this in Christianity.

And I believe that a critique of capitalism itself might be derived from scripture.

And yet perhaps "liberation in the world" alone is not sufficient given the human condition; humanity's striving for hope; and unanswered questions as to "what next?" What of eternity?

Finally at Christmas I consider the following from the book of Micah "…act justly….,love mercy and…walk humbly with your God."

Peace and best wishes to all this Christmas.

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About the Author

Tristan Ewins has a PhD and is a freelance writer, qualified teacher and social commentator based in Melbourne, Australia. He is also a long-time member of the Socialist Left of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). He blogs at Left Focus, ALP Socialist Left Forum and the Movement for a Democratic Mixed Economy.
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