Update: We should be wary of critiquing Marx here on this point. The social condition of religion are clearly relevant and Marx was determined to analyze this in his own way.
Update: Having mentioned the eonic effect I should point out that the triangle of Kant, Hegel, Marx (in some ways Schopenhauer makes Kant clearer) is a spectacular moment in the eonic sequence itself at its modern divide (consult the eonic model) and that also explains why such a moment is repeatedly recalled and analyzed like an echo of that strange moment or generation. But it is only a brief moment in a large situation. Marx and Hegel are just at the limits of the eonic transition of modernity. Same for Kant who is well inside.
The so-called new atheism treats beliefs in isolation from their social conditions and does not link the persistence of religion to our alienated forms of life under capitalism.
Surely this is the wrong analysis. By restricting study to social context the gesture of reductionism fails. Religion is not an alienated form of life under capitalism. Bullshit. It might assume that demeanor in context. But religion emerges millennia prior to capitalism. Further, the rational critique of superstitions while entirely appropriate in one way misses the points that a spiritual domain is not a superstition. The problem is the destructive duality of western thought here. So it is not that spirituality is a superstition against materialism, but that both are a unity in a larger context, possibly of the universal materialism of ancient Samkhya revived in the new age movement by figures like Bennett (and his sources). The spiritual then, as an aspect of a larger material nature is real but subject to the Kantian limitations of metaphysics. It is real but can it be knowable? The materialist left was outplayed by a rightist clever piece to try and speak in materialist language: the figure Gurdjieff, that dark occultist, revived some bit of sufi interpretation of the classical India Samkhya with its materialism, atheism, and triadic dialectic. It was a clever piece taken up by Bennett. The point here is that while materialism is a good foundation but its western form is crippled by a false duality. Can anyone recall that the yoga now so popular in the new age wasteland was and is a materialist conception based on that very Samkhya? The great yogas of India were at one point materialist.
Anyway, the reduction of religious beliefs to material conditions just doesn’t work. It does not follow that we should not critique the drift into the superstition of much of this legacy.
The left should be wary of their own perspective. The strange and eerie triad of Kant, Hegel, and Marx is prone to dangerous confusions and sounds elegant in academic jargon in excelsis but is a lost thought in the actual reality invoked by ‘marxism’, which is the dangerous cadre ‘religion’ of Stalinist executioners.
Anyway the endless dialectic of Hegel and Marx is a lost cause now. If all this confusion could take five minutes to review Kant the useless and almost endless parade of marxist finery in those who are addressed by this left, might settle back into sanity. Marx and Hegel both are oblivious to Kant’s critique of metaphysics and both are extravagant metaphysicians of idealism, and materialism both.
This is all very interesting but the study of religion in the context of Marx, what to say of Hegel, is out of date now, despite its continuing interest as one aspect.
But the issue of religion is more than that of monotheism or the issue of ‘god’. It encompasses via the New Age movement, the hidden aspects of Christianity, the case of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, the history of Hinduism, the Zoroastrian component and much else.
A study of the eonic effect can help to free the discussion from the idiotic straightjacket of ‘historical materialism’ which is entirely brain dead on all aspects of religion. The idea that socialist revolutionaries pegged Marxist are going to rewrite world culture via Marx’s confused theories and of historical materialism will cause an immense jackknife of the left against itself and turn the public to rightist fanaticism. But Marxists won’t listen. Their own ideology has all the characteristics of religion, and religion at its worst. Don’t go that route. The world has one last chance at socialism and Marxists will be there to spoil it.
The secular trend in world history is validated here but at the same time the secular humanist has been reduced to a sort of atheist worshipping at the altar of Newton and reductionist scientism. The secularist fails to understand his own historical position.
I have often recommend the model of the eonic effect as a better foundation : it approaches theory but then stands back and sees that historical theories and theories of religion are not so easy to come by and that basic outlines are enough: there we find a simple periodization of history and evolution and a context of empirical mapping instead of the now visibly amateurish nonsense of Marx and his epochs of production. The economic angle simply won’t work on the history of world culture and its regions.
Threatened with extinction by secular reductionists the immensely elusive world of esoteric Buddhism declared war on secular modernity and generated a fascist response while remaining hidden from view.
The left cannot go about these issues in the now archaic fashion of the era of the Marx/Hegel collision.
I recommend a close study of the ‘eonic effect’ as a warning against doing stupid things after the fashion of a now long gone left…