Posts Tagged ‘Atheism’
” Hello Andrew,
Appreciate you are probably with the LRC, but thought you may be interested to see these.
Enclosed two “Original” Briefings.
I have great respect for the comrades who produce this journal (this is not made up)
It’s always good news to learn that Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch and ex-WRP is still spilling bile against secularism.
One would have though that the Arab Spring, and the relentless fight of Egyptian democrats against his old mate Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s Muslim Broherthood would have led him to shut his gob.
Liberty, Equality and Islamophobia is his latest offering to the only left journal willing to give him space.
Pitt has got this theory that there is some kind of ‘left-wing’ wave of Islamophobia going on in France.
On the basis of some tiny crank orgs who have recruited a couple of former far-left individuals (Cassen and Engleman – yes I underlies a couple that is 2 people) he manages to suggest that there is some kind of widespread turn to the far right of French secularist lefties.
But the bite is in the tail.
“there are hardline secularists in Britain too, some of them active in the labour movement, whose claim to oppose all forms of religious belief doesn;t prevent themselves with the right in portraying Islam as a particular threat to civilisation”.
Now we know that Bob is referring to one main target who is tapping away at the keyboard now.
Readers of the ‘Original’ Briefing will not be any the wiser as to who the other ‘hardline secularists’ are by reading the obituary of hardline secularist Terry Liddle in the same issue.
In Stalinist style it does not mention Terry’s secularism once!
Terry Liddle 1948 – 2012, Comrade.
Terry Liddle died on November the 16/17 November 2012 aged 64 , after suffering ill health for a long time.
Many people on the left will have memories of Terry. There are those much more familiar with him than myself. A full obituary will be difficult to write. But this is one tribute to his memory.
I first became acquainted with Terry around 1979-1980, when he was involved in setting up an explicitly socialist atheist group. With my house-mate John, a cockney anarchist and shop steward at Warwick University, I joined. But living in Leamington Spa we had only written contact.
This group, according to the secularist anarchist Nicolas Walter, was bound to run into difficulties, as non-belief in religion takes many, often clashing, forms on the left. Indeed the organisation did not last. But Terry continued to place atheism, along with left democratic socialism and republicanism, at the centre of his politics.
Terry was, as they say, involved in many left wing groupings. In the Labour Briefing pamphlet Why Socialists Should Stay in the Labour Party (1991-2) he wrote with self-depreciating humour, “After a decade as an intransigent ultra-left sectarian, joining the Labour Party wasn’t easy. Staying in it is harder still.” But like other contributors (including myself) he placed his hopes in building a Labour left that would “work as a unified coherent force”. This would challenge the Party’s rightward drift, and give body to the “hopes and dreams of our class.”
The “long hard slog” of refounding the left led Terry, like many of us (such as the writer of the pamphlet’s introduction, Mike Marqusee, then Editor of the Briefing) outside the Labour Party.
A full history of these attempts to form a fully socialist party, principally in England, around the Socialist Alliance (SA), has yet to be written. Its derisory votes in the General Election of 2001 counted less towards it dissolution than the bandwagon launched by George Galloway and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) backed the Respect party.
The type of ‘vanguard’ Leninism offered by groups like the SWP never attracted Terry. Still less would he follow Galloway’s populist ‘anti-imperialism’, support for ‘Muslims’ and self-promotion, into Respect. His hostility, widely shared on the left, looks more than justified when we look at Respect’s present, sorry, state. Terry sought a different future for the left in democratic and robustly socialist groupings and networks.
Terry Liddle was anchored in the activist and intellectual traditions of the British left. His own family background included a grandfather who was a member of Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation (SDF). He had his forebear’s two volumes of Hyndman’s autobiography (The Record of an Adventurous Life, 1911 Further Reminiscences, 1911). An article on the heritage of William Morris illustrates the depth not just of his reading, but equally his easy familiarity with the heart of the historic labour movement and the left. As he wrote, “Morris belongs neither to Marxists, Anarchists or Greens. He belongs to all of toiling humanity, for his is a message of hope for their freedom.”
Terry entered left-wing politics early. His experiences in the Young Communist League (YCL) in South London (he told me they felt that us young North London leftists considered ourselves a bit ‘above’ them), left him a committed anti-Stalinist.
Terry was a Marxist. But it was the kind of democratic Marxism, which many of us believe in, which crosses over with other types of socialism, left libertarian thought, and anarchism. As such Terry kept alive two strands from the pre-Great War left, secularism, and republicanism. He was open to new, and different, ideas, from feminism to ecology. He was also an advocate of animal rights, relating this to the writings of 19th century socialist, Henry Salt, on the issue (Extending the Circle of Compassion What Next. No 29.2004).
This openness was illustrated in some of his last writing. This year he reviewed a collection of Colin Ward’s writings, (Autonomy, Solidarity Possibility – a Colin Ward Reader). He stated, after a friendly overview of the Editor of Anarchy’s ideas on “autonomous direct action”, “Anarchists are all too often seen as crusties in ragged black clothing with mangy dogs on strings or mindless nihilistic trouble makers. But anarchism has always been a part of the movement for working class self-emancipation. It has a long history and some important thinkers.” (Chartist July/August 2012).
I feel glad that I was able to tell Terry how much I appreciated this piece.
Atheism remained, as well, very much part of Terry Liddle’s outlook. he set up the Freethought History Research Group. He was active in the Humanists. He was supported the main thrust of French laïcité, particularly the ideas of the important left wing of French secularist thought and campaigning.
Terry wrote sympathetically on the ‘New Atheism’. He distinguished it from purists, like the National Secular Society, who are largely concerned with the separation of Church and State. Writers like Dawkins, Hitchens and Frank Harris were ‘science based’ and interested in arguing about the truth of faith. This was valuable, if with limits. While he was critical of Christopher Hitchen’s entrance into the “camp of imperialism” Terry had no time for those who have become “apologists for political Islam” (War on the Heavens. The Rise of ‘New Atheism and its Meaning for Socialists. New Interventions Vol. 13. No 4. 2011).
He commented, “While the New Atheism provides an arsenal of ammunition to hammer religion, to undermine the foundation of its mythology, it falls short in failing to describe or make an analysis of the ideological role played by religion in sustaining the alienated social relations of social relations of bourgeois society.” (Ibid) He cites FA Ridley, “Once a Communist order was fully established, the twin foundations of religion would be torn up by the roots.” (Ibid)
Terry’s contribution to the left was outstanding.
He was a great bloke.
He will be much missed.
The signs of the times were there but it was hard to believe this, on France-Inter this morning.
La percée des anticléricaux polonais
Breakthrough for Polish anti-clericals.
Palikot’s Movement (Polish: Ruch Palikota), is the main force pushing this.
They may get over 5% in the coming Polish elections.
Wikipedia gives details about this party – here.
“Palikot is in favour of ending religious education in state schools, ending state subsidies of churches, legalising abortion on demand, giving out free condoms], allowing same-sex civil unions, the introduction of a first-past-the-post system, combining the Social Insurance Institution and the Kasa Rolniczego Ubezpieczenia Społecznego, and dissolving the Senate.
However deep scepticism about Palikot is in order – here.
Janusz Palikot – who leads the liberal populist Palikot Movement – claimed in an interview in today’s ‘ Metro’ that those studying on Humanities courses should pay for their studies. And why? Because afterwards they will be unemployed.
Walid Husayin: Prison for Criticising Islam.
Walid remains, le Monde reported yesterday, in Gaol.
Updates from Internet Sans Frontières More Here.
Original Story from here.
The case of the unlikely apostate, a shy barber from this backwater West Bank town, is highlighting the limits of tolerance in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority — and illustrating a new trend by authorities in the Arab world to mine social media for evidence.
Residents of Qalqiliya say they had no idea that Walid Husayin — the 26-year-old son of a Muslim scholar — was leading a double life.
Known as a quiet man who prayed with his family each Friday and spent his evenings working in his father’s barbershop, Husayin was secretly posting anti-religion rants on the Internet during his free time.
Now, he faces a potential life prison sentence on heresy charges for “insulting the divine essence.” Many in this conservative Muslim town say he should be killed for renouncing Islam, and even family members say he should remain behind bars for life.
“He should be burned to death,” said Abdul-Latif Dahoud, a 35-year-old Qalqiliya resident. The execution should take place in public “to be an example to others,” he added.
Over several years, Husayin is suspected of posting arguments in favor of atheism on English and Arabic blogs, where he described the God of Islam as having the attributes of a “primitive Bedouin.” He called Islam a “blind faith that grows and takes over people’s minds where there is irrationality and ignorance.”
If that wasn’t enough, he is also suspected of creating three Facebook groups in which he sarcastically declared himself God and ordered his followers, among other things, to smoke marijuana in verses that spoof the Muslim holy book, the Quran. At its peak, Husayin’s Arabic-language blog had more than 70,000 visitors, overwhelmingly from Arab countries.
Wikipedia Background here.
Will God Save the Left?
REVIEW: REASON, FAITH AND REVOLUTION. REFLECTIONS ON THE GOD DEBATE. TERRY EAGLETON. Yale University Press. 2009.
Why should we take it for granted that the Church is the Pillar of the Establishment? Is religion, potentially, a source for radical protest against injustice? This idea has a long history, and can be found in numerous socialist writings. Karl Kautsky in The Foundations of Christianity (1908) claimed the early Christians preached a form of communism. With atheism and secularism live issues the time has come (for those who back it) to resurrect the view. Taking umbrage at the new wave of anti-religious writers, Terry Eagleton has vigorously pleaded the case. Christ was a revolutionary. The “Roman state and its assorted local lackeys and running dogs took fright at his message of love, mercy and justice, as well as at his enormous popularity with the poor, and did away with him to forestall a mass uprising in a highly volatile political situation. Several of Jesus’ close comrades were probably Zealots, members of an anti-imperialist underground movement” (London Review of Books. 19.10.06). The flame is not extinct. The message of the Gospel of the poor lives on. In The Trouble with Strangers (2008) Terry Eagleton asserted, “It may well be a dismal sign of the times that it is to the science of God, of all things, that we must look for such subversive insights.” Kautsky’s observed elsewhere – against his contemporary anti-clericals – that Socialism “preaches the energetic conquest of this earth and not the patient waiting for a future life” and in this can draw on believers, though not the Official Church hierarchy. This, to Eagleton, needs expanding. To him we can turn away from the bad side of religion, the heresy hunts, authoritarianism, complicity with exploitation and oppression, the moral prudery, and embrace the true “radical impulses” of the faithful.
Reason, Faith and Revolution is the published form of lectures in defence of the transcendental drive – in theological, philosophical, and political forms. It charges that many modern critics of religion rely on feeble arguments, and that some its champions veer to an apology for the West in the guise of a campaign for Secularism. Read out from the lectern it must have produced some wry agreement from the – no doubt – high percentage of believers amongst its American audience. Though not, one suspects, amongst any left-wing atheists (a group, of which I am one, he has difficulty taking at its word) who happened to be present. The principal target of his venom is Ditchkins, a laboured amalgam of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens’s names. These chief (English speaking) proponents of the New Atheism are wrapped in mechanical ideas about “untrammelled human progress”, and that the “trust in the sovereignty of human reason can be every bit as magical as the exploits of Merlin..”(P 89). But there is more. Religion, of an oppositional, anti-Establishment (yet still ‘Orthodox’ – theologically) kind is one way, a way of unconditional Love, to socialism. Through that is, “political love” as its ethical basis. In “tragic humanism” there is something shared “in socialist, Christian, or psychoanalytic varieties, (which) holds that only by a process of self-dispossession and radical remaking can humanity come into its own..”(P 169) One opposed to both the inherent ‘atheism’ (Page 39) and ‘agnosticism’ (Page 149) of modern capitalism. We are left in no doubt as to whom the committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie has delegated the task of spreading this message.
Don’t Worry Terry’s With You!
Terry Eagleton is thoroughly upset (here). At the “militant rationalism” of Dawkins, novelist chaps called Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, not to mention, Christopher Hitchens, and philosopher AC Grayling. They have become “weapons in the war on terror.” Indeed “Western supremacisim has gravitated from the Bible to Atheism.” He forgot Rosie Bell - who inched the path of doom last year.
Why? Apparently it’s because these sceptics and secularists are liberals. And liberals holds that “the state should tolerate any opinion that does not seek to undermine that very tolerance.” Eagleton, reader of Gnostic hidden meanings, sees that this is a “form of partisanship”. That they don’t like Islam. That some of them, Hitchens and Amis, want not just to lock up terrorists. They stand for “western cultural supremacism”. That Dawkisn is “self satisfied” critic of “benighted Islam”. That Grayling even believes in Progress! They end in a “slanderous reduction of Islam to a barbarous blood cult.” Yes, Islam, the rationalists soil it with the same libels. These reductionist Islamophobes: they are all of the same kidney!
To Eagleton, agnosticism is “part of late (how late?) capitalism’s everyday routine.” These characters look at other people’s faith with “superiority” ,”disdainfully above it.” Unlike Eagleton. He knows the sense of “national injury and humiliation” that underlies Islamist terrorism. Having to hear Dawkins, Hitchens, Grayling and the rest of the gang of atheist sneerers and witherers can’t help either.
Terry Eagleton briefly mentions socialism, which stands for civil liberties, a key demand of the working class movement. Apparently it is different from liberalism, which tolerates “any opinion” (even if it turns its nose up at them). One awaits clarification of this difference.
While waiting (a long time one suspects), let’s give a case. What might a socialist stand on Islamism be? For socialists it is one of complete and total opposition. Islamisms, in their various forms, are movements led by the pious Muslim bourgeoisie. They are anti-socialist (standing for private enterprise), anti-democratic (believing in a harmonious society based on divine Law), and oppressive. Generally pretty racist as well. Class enemies we might say.
Eagleton, by contrast, has a lot in common with post-modernism liberalism. And with the high-minded thinking-the-best-of-everybody of American Transcendentalists, Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman. That is ways to relativise difference, to reach out to the Other. Thus: Eagleton is against Islamism. But understands where Muslim self-assertion is coming from. Better than most. Certainly better than supercilious metropolitan liberals who probably lack the balls of a gutsy Manchester Irish boy, an EngLit prof who’s done a couple of years in the Weasels (Workers Socialist League). Hard-types, orthodox Trotskyists.
But….Eagleton is not really talking about politics at all. If he dismissed (here) Dawkins’s The God Delusion as a book written by a man ignorant of religion, the literary commenator shows few signs of acquaintance with political socialism. Socialism after all has strong roots in anti-clericalism, (even socialists with a religion). Few socialists want a religious state – in that they agree with liberalism. That’s a reason why they loathe Islamism – amongst the others already given. Secularism is a belief in a state which attempts to be neutral about religious by not ceding to any of them. We might have an interesting debate about how this might come about in the United Kingdom, where under New Labour organised religion has unprecedented state influence. Or the faults of secularism, say, as interpreted in the French political tradition. Or how imperialism is a structure of economics and politics, not some kind of ‘anti-Islamic’ ideology. Again, what unites and separates the liberal rationalists Eagleton cites from the atheists and rationalists in the Marxist and socialist ranks. But I digress.
What Eagleton is really talking about is the Christology and Ethical Theory he elaborates in The Trouble with Strangers (2008). This rests on the Imitatio Christi - the image of a Christ who takes on the suffering of the world. Who struggles for Justice. Eagleton opines that Christians follow this, in love and solidarity, in their reach out to identify with ‘strangers’ in a common humanity.
Humbly he imagines a Christian standing in for another in the queue for the Gas Chambers.
Truly the man is a worthy successor to Thomas à Kempis.
Atheists? They have fallen “at the first hurdle” – or we could say, at one of the stations of the Cross on the way to Calvery. Turned away. To wander in error eternally.
There is indeed nothing like a Christian to endure the suffering of others.