James Walker

Managing Director, MOFILM

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Is Socialism a religion?

It would appear that Socialism has many of the characteristics of a Religion - Prophet based, sacred texts, denial of the primacy of the individual, intolerance of other belief systems, importance of belief over actions, etc.
Is Socialism a religion?

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      Jun 14 2011: Yes
      Agree
      Both are very Collectivist, both, to my mind, deny the importance of Self.
      In Socialism, you look to the Government to take care of you, you abdicate individual responsibility and hope a greater power will look after you.
      In a Religion, you look to a God to look after you, you submit yourself to pre-determination of your fate (well, if you'r a Christian).
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        Jun 16 2011: James I agree with you that Democracy Is the tyranny of the majority, or as Borges put it "an abuse of statistics." That said do you not find any social value in helping "the weaker animals in the herd. " Many of the so called weak have been merely born into bad situations. Many go on to make the herd overall stronger, while some do not. We are a herd animal, last time I checked, the only ones with internet. Our advantages came about not only because of our intelligence, but also because we were highly social and were able to combine ideas with each that exceeded our individual intellect. civilization and all its perks is derived from us learning long ago to share food with our tribe, weak and strong alike.
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          Jun 16 2011: Anthony, I think you have articulated a key here. Many, like James are convivnced that they are self made men. They think that they did it on their own without acknowledging what the societies they live in did to provide the environment and conditions for their success. They do not acknowledge the contribution that other individuals have made to 'their' success. Thus they have the illusion that they are so strong that they do not need others or society.
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          Jun 16 2011: Haha! Debra, you know perfectly well I don't live in a "society".... ;)
          I do need other people as it happens.... Companionship, friends, sex, love (sometimes, these come as a package deal); educators; collaborators and business partners. But these are all free-relationships I (and I think they) make of our own choosing.
          I guess you do hit upon something interesting though, Socialism and the other religions all have the same idea you're promoting that you're NOT and individual and your success/failure in life is not something you shape but down to God (in the case of Christians, a pre-determined set of outcomes as it happens), and you look to a God or a Government to look after you as opposed to self-reliance. I'm all for helping those less fortunate than I am (in fact, I spend a great deal of time and money on it), but that it between me and my conscience, I don't need a Government, a Socialist regime or a pastor or a Pope to tell me how to behave.. it's just humanity.
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          Jun 16 2011: James, someone who was not you paved every road you ever travelled on. That education was provided by others as it was funded by others. Those ideas that you base yours on were thought by others and shared with you. The milk from your mother's breast or from that cow was provided by others. The food that grew your body was provided by others until you could fend for yourself. All of your collaborators grew up in a safe and free society that was also provided by others. You and they owe a debt to every decendent of every soldier who died over Germany and to every person who held your society together during the bombings of London. You owe a debt to every firefighter who died. You owe a debt to every doctor who went to school on scholarship to learn how to keep you healthy and to every cop who keeps your wealth safe from the 'rabble'.

          But you see none of it and imagine that they and the rest of the people of England owe you. Your life stands on the work and sacrifice of people who built a society in which you have the ingredients to prosper and you look down on them! You act as though the world and you country started the day you took your first 'brilliant' step to success.

          I do not deny that your success is 'your own' for the laws that have been made to help it happen worked and the spoils go to the victor whether or not he bends the rules or steps on faces to get there. I simply remind you that ingratitude and selfishness are unattractive even really quite ugly.
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          Jun 16 2011: Anthony
          Hi, sure, there is (social) value from helping others. (Don't like the word Social, but I know what you mean).
          I like helping others; cheers me up a bit.
          But, they don't have a Right to be helped.
          In France, they have a very interesting law, which is Manslaughter by failing to render assistance. Eg: you're breaking the law if you see a man bleeding to death and don't offer help. This seems a perfectly reasonable law just like saying that if someone has diabetes a public-paid-for health system should pay for his treatment.
          But do you think helping others, taking my money and giving it to others by force is right? The Socialists claim a higher force at work (oh, like a Religion), the argument you make sound awfully like what I heard at Church when I was a child.
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          Jun 17 2011: Hi all,

          This concept of helping those other people in need reminds me of a term I think is much misinterpreted: compassion.

          An essay I wrote about the Dalai Lama challenges how many approach it:

          http://dynamicshift.org/archives/civilized-compassion-not-detached-attached

          Andrea
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          Jun 17 2011: Dear Andrea: This time your words showed me that you have the lamp! Truly Beautiful!

          "This construction of compassion calls for conscious engagement combined with iterative, co-integration of humane practices. Where all parties to it are seen to have equal stake and potentials. And, indeed, see themselves as critically co-constructive agents and partners to its most inherent ideal.

          In that sense, compassion should be understood as conscious attachment with others in unison with and while disengaging self-only desires. And rejects holding oneself one-up by way of physical, spiritual or intellectual detachment above the fray or outside nonlinear inter-relational growth."

          True Enlightenment is a very very beautiful thing that draws others naturally.
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        Jun 17 2011: So, James I think we are getting a bit closer to the meat of our disagreement. You are more concerned with the abstract morality wealth redistribution whereas i am looking at it from a pragmatic sort of view. When we get down to it I do not really know what any rights we have in the abstract. Do you have the right not to get cancer, even if I were to have a factory up wind from your home that emitted carcinogenic waste into the air. In the abstract we could argue this either way, but from a experiential point of view I' m betting you are against my factory since it will adversely effect your life. Does any government have any right to tax anyone anything. No I agree with you there, but if it does, and invest it wisely (yes I know this last part of the sentence is a stretch) it can makes life better for all of us. This is why people from governments in the first place.

        No how much to tax and how to apply it can be argued. Personally I don't care for the amount of military infrastructure we have in the states. Prison time for non violent offenders seem a waste of money. It's would be cheaper to send many people to college for 4 years than it would be to put them in prison for one. There is also the argument that overtaxing people is counter-productive since they will divert their money into foreign countries.

        What I'm getting at Is we should try to find the way to create the most good for everyone. Get involved, argue about the best way's to go about it. If a government program is failing it should be negotiated, but remember being part of society intrinsically means it not all about you the individual.
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      Jun 14 2011: By your definition, Edwin, wouldn't capitalism also be a collectivism?
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        Jun 14 2011: no, since capitalism praises the freedom of the individual, and is based on the actions of individuals, not the collective. however, it is an interesting question whether democracy is a form of collectivism.
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          Jun 14 2011: Sure, it is Krisz,
          Democracy is the tyranny of the Majority, and leads to a group mentality.
          There's lots of interesting stuff written on why we have to pay crazy-high taxes to support the weaker animals in the herd. I pay marginal in the UK of 68% (i spend all my money, so we have to include consumption taxes also). That isn't what I voted for, but the "majority" (Oh praise them...) want to steal my money. This bullying is called democracy.
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          Jun 15 2011: What about Collective Capitalism?

          It seems to have succeeded in robust wealth distribution for "Japan, Inc." where businesses and government co-exist in significant equilibrium, thanks to Confucian beliefs that engage highly dimensional relational methods. (Though Mother Nature bows to no-one's doctrine, as evidenced by the wrath begot by recent earthquakes).

          They are a parliamentary democracy with a (more-or-less ceremonial only) constitutional monarchy.

          Andrea
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          Jun 15 2011: Andrea, Great points!

          Benes (cited below) ends his article with the following warning: (2 full years before the American led world wide crisis)
          “Japan’s apparent fate as a perpetually uncompetitive financial center serves as a stark warning to the costs of the failure to follow through.”

          “The typical Japanese company has a debt-to-equity ration two to three times higher than its counterparts in the United States. The reason is that credit tends to be more available in Japan because of the traditional relationship between an industrial firm and its bank. They may both be part of the same cartel or trading company with interlocking directors (directors that serve on both boards).” Textbook authors go on to state that “The key point is that Japanese firms have high OPERATING leverage as well as high financial leverage and that makes them act very competitively”. “This, of course, may well be a virtue because it ensures that a firm will remain market oriented and progressive.”

          However, too much leverage and too little transparency and regulatory oversight have consequences that go beyond the fate of a few companies and their samurai ways. While gambling can be exciting and a big wager has the potential to pay off in big money, there are down sides to excesses in every sphere. When the people at the top play too fast and loose others often pay the price. In Japan, the actions of the highly (and one might say over) leveraged companies have had a serious impact on the economy, the recovery, the confidence of world-markets and of course, the citizens of the country. Sometimes less is more.

          James, business people have more than enough power.

          Benes, N. (2008) Japan's Lessons for Managing the Crisis
          Far Eastern Economic Review; Oct 2008; 171, 8; Downloaded from ABI/INFORM Global September 8, 2009.
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        Jun 15 2011: Andrea, it is either corporativism, or a mixed system of capitalism and corporativism. pure corporativism was tried in italy, in the 30's, and yeah, it was collectivist, we can say that. but in japan, the individuality might be suppressed to a degree, but still exists, and expresses itself in various ways. one of them is free, creative, risk taking enterprise. a trait that is essential to capitalism.
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          Jun 15 2011: Thanks, Krisz --

          It appears to be a hybrid of capitalism and corporativism systems. The most apparent suppression of workers in Japan appears to be less about income and more about exhaustion, due to the long hours they put in.

          Italian collectivism in the 30s was married to fascism, and supported by the Vatican, as was the Holocaust, wherein Nazis adapted Italian fascism.

          Socialism, notably, has not held favored child status with Catholic hierarchies, in spite of Church texts and prophets' calls for social justice.

          The hierarchies have tended to favor disciplined, indoctrinated and militaristic methods heavily augmented by wealth and power.

          Andrea
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        Jun 17 2011: Reviews of Atlas Shrugged the Ayn Rand book James prefers::

        Atlas Shrugged was generally disliked by critics, despite being a popular success. The book was dismissed by some as "a homage to greed", while author Gore Vidal described its philosophy as "nearly perfect in its immorality".[6] Helen Beal Woodward, reviewing Atlas Shrugged for The Saturday Review, opined that the novel was written with "dazzling virtuosity" but that it was "shot through with hatred".[33] This was echoed by Granville Hicks, writing for The New York Times Book Review, who also stated that the book was "written out of hate".[34] The reviewer for Time magazine asked: "Is it a novel? Is it a nightmare? Is it Superman––in the comic strip or the Nietzschean version?"[35] In the magazine National Review, Whittaker Chambers called Atlas Shrugged "sophomoric" and "remarkably silly", and said it "can be called a novel only by devaluing the term".[36] Chambers argued against the novel's implicit endorsement of atheism, whereby "Randian man, like Marxian man is made the center of a godless world".[36] Chambers also wrote that the implicit message of the novel is akin to "Hitler's National Socialism and Stalin's brand of Communism" ("To a gas chamber - go!").[36]

        Others including Alan Greenspan have more positive opinons in the Wikipedia article which can be found here:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_Shrugged


        If one philosophy is reaching religion status - I think we should consider this one.
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          Jun 17 2011: Yes. In fact, if I were to pick out a single economic idea that is continually taken as a matter of faith despite evidence against it, it would be that the market is the best arbiter of the good and right and that Adam Smith's invisible hand can always be trusted.

          When I was in high school, I liked Ayn Rand's novels. With a little more education, I grew out of them. However, I think she does make some good points about the tendency to view success and individuality as a crime and the corrupting power of envy and schadenfreude.
  • Jun 15 2011: The wealthy, many of whom tread on others to make their wealth are always prone to say why should they give something back to the community that protected them in the vulnerable years. It seems to me that they have something in common with the healthy lazy who wont work but sit infront of a 42" tv set - both look to capitalism, one exploits the workers that provide social care through their taxes and the other does thesame ..... so for these two groups Capitalism is a religion. Socialism tries to be democratic and is the softer side what the extreme Right wing would call Communism and is vulnerable to exploitation by human beings - all people are equal except some are more equal than others. Both camps treat their belief systems as a religion, and religion is man made not God made.
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    Jun 14 2011: Between 1962 and 1990 I lived in a country with a socialist regime and a communist party at the helm.
    I can tell you from personal experience that it was nothing like a religion.
    Those at power followed only their personal interests, using oppressive forces to keep control.
    Those oppressed obeyed the regime with fear and tried to survive in any possible way.
    The impact of those 45 years (1945 to 1990) of socialism is still present on our emerging democracy.
    Socialism may be in theory like a religion, but in practice - and at its large - it is a nightmare.
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      Jun 14 2011: I disagree with James' premise that socialism is a religion, but this quote:

      "Those at power followed only their personal interests, using oppressive forces to keep control.
      Those oppressed obeyed the regime with fear and tried to survive in any possible way."

      reminds me a lot of the history of the church.
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      Jun 14 2011: Hi there Laszio
      I can't imagine your experience, and in no way would I ever want to belittle your comment here - what better than personal experience to help guide us.
      However, your post is almost identical to two posts (one from a Saudi woman, one from Qatar i recall) about life in an islamic regime. Religious regimes are corrupted by those in power to suit there ends, many of the women in Muslim countries in another Post were talking about how Women's rights were retarded and religion used for the furtherance of their own ends, be it for wealth, prestige, power, wanting to drive cars etc. Jeez, think about the Popes through the ages... marrying their horses, selling their sisters, and collecting huge wealth by dubious dealings (not the current one, seems a nice guy... would be disappointed to find out had lovers, was secret nazi, covered up sex-abuse of kids, etc).
      So, sorry Laszrio, seems to me another great connection between Socialism being like a Religion. Like that Moon guy with the Rolls Royces and all the weddings, but took all his followers' money? Socialism is such a corrupt philosophy it corrodes the integrity all it touches, with the power and leaders using it to their own ends and hurting the very people they claim to protect. Seems just like mediaeval catholicism, no?
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      Jun 15 2011: The abuse of possible power, hiding behind a narrow interpretation of a scripture or constitution is what happens in every belief system, catholic church, islam, socialism, even capitalism, even in a democracy.

      "Power corrupts" is the saying not? So we should call every power in the world a religion? I think it is not the right word for corrupt power.
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    Jun 13 2011: James, pretty much any belief can become "religious" if the believer wants to. Any belief has a famous author, a famous work, and intolerance can come from anywhere. There are, obviously, "religious" socialists, those who ignore any discussions of politics, who won't darre to question Marx, and keep quoting Gramsci as arguments. The argumentative fallacies are the same of the Christians talking about christianism, Jesus and the Bible.
    However, socialism isn't, by principle, somewhat like a religion. If you look carefully, you can find tons of modern socialists who treat it simply as a political tendency, as a concept of society. Of course, there are still a great number of ortodox marxist, for example, but they're not a majority.
    In addition, I believe that some of the arguments you presented, like "socialism denies the primacy of the individual", are mere interpretations. Socialism itself is simply the political conception that the means of production should be property of the whole population. Anything beyond that is an interpretation, an extension. We can't judge an ideal based on an interpretation.
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    Jun 13 2011: There is enough intolerance on both ends of the political spectrum to go around. I don't think that socialism itself is like religion, but I do think that some people treat it as one in the sense that they accept received ideas uncritically. But this is not unique to the left. The right has their prophets with names like Hayek, Friedman, Burke, and Rand, which many quote but few have read. Few people can support their political ideas without quickly falling back on a belief system based on unexamined assumptions.
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      Jun 13 2011: I guess what you're saying is that a Belief System is exactly that.... a "belief" system, build on beliefs not on evidence.
      I wonder.... Is there such a thing a an evidence/proof based Religion or indeed Political/Economic system?
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        Jun 13 2011: Now that's an interesting question. One might say that science is an evidence/proof based religion whose tenets of faith are human reason and a universe that can be understood. But that's a discussion for another topic.

        When people start arguing with political/economic dogma, I often ask them to cite examples as a sort of proof or evidence. For instance people often insist that the smallest government is the best government. Fine, how about an example of a small government that suits them? Blank stare… (Nicholas Kristof recently cited an example of small government in the NY Times: Pakistan — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/opinion/05kristof.html ) Or when they start quoting Milton Friedman I ask their thoughts on Chile in the 70s under the economic aegis of the Chicago boys where Friedman's ideas were allowed to run wild. Again, blank stares… The point is that most people seem more interested in dogma and talking points than either real theory or real practice. I think there could be an evidence based economics if people would be willing to let go of their belief system when confronted with evidence. But these days even science has trouble existing as an evidence based endeavor, I'm not sure economics has much chance.
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    Jun 13 2011: Well if it is it is a happy one. According to Forbes (link below) all of the top countries in the world for satisifed and happy citizenry are socialist economies.

    http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/world-happiest-countries-lifestyle-realestate-gallup-table.html

    It will be OK James- even robots can learn to share and cooperate!

    http://youtu.be/IIehWm82Sr8

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/3441/beneficial_evolutionary_beha.html
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      Jun 13 2011: Haha! But haven't you noticed that Christians are all smiley and happy too?!
      It's the certainty of the belief of the Religious folks and the Socialists that make them happy.
      Religion is like a drug to the people; hang on, who said that??!! :)
      I, however, am always miserable, locked in the certainty only of my lack of certainty....
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        Jun 13 2011: James, the last time I was in church (a pretty long time ago) I did not see too many happy campers in the pews and the absolute penchant for attacking people who think slightly differently is apalling. Big difference between pretending to believe and living a belief.

        As to you- somehow - I cannot see a man who worships at the altar of Ayn Rand (the Godess of selfishness- which is her actual doctrine) ever having been part of the 'faith' either Christian or socialism. As to your unhappiness, I am genuinesly sorry but perhaps that is the product of your own beliefs.
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          Jun 13 2011: I have no beliefs, that's why I'm unhappy :(

          i always thought the Christians seemed the jolliest... I've often walked up Central Park West in NY on a Sunday and heard all those happy sounds of singing, clapping hands, guitars from the churches. It always seemed like quite good fun.
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        Jun 13 2011: James, your perspective is so fascinating and incongruent to me.
        If I could ask one set of questions and get your answer it would be- what more would a different governmental system in England give you personally?
        How would your life be better if you were suddenly King there with all powers?
        Surely you as an economist understand the law of diminishing returns. How much more happiness would you gain by one more of anything in your life or would it just be the 'glee' of making others do what you think they should do?
        What 'important' thing does your governmental system take from you? Doesn't it really provide one of your greatest joys in life- something to push against and something with which to take a contrary view?
        (Even on the 10 thing you know to be true thread you could not/ would not answer the question but had to answer 10 things you know to be 'untrue' which I note includes socialism. On every question that you have not framed on this site to date in which you participated you have refused to answer the question as stated. This indicates that you are just one contrary guy who loves to take the opposite position). Can you imagine how miserable your life would be if you had a government you approved of??
        Save yourself James! Learn to live with socialism- it gives you your greatest thriil - a seemly immoveable force to permanently push against and complain about!!
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          Jun 17 2011: Hi Debra,
          Actually I don't care how much money the Government takes from me, delighted to pay more. I care that I am compelled to pay. That tithe is like some crazy medieval compulsion to pay the Bishops, it just not a 21st Century way of going about things.... which should be by free contract and what I choose to do. Perfectly happy to pay lots more tax, if only they asked nicely ;)
          When the Socialists take away freedom, they take away everything, it's like being a serf to the Government; a slave to a Borgia.
          King for a day? Hmmm, well, I think the key thing is to make taxation voluntary (and I think Revenues would increase) and for folks to pay towards compassionate causes they believe in. I would privatise the Fire Service, abolish the Police completely, and outsource our Army to the Israelis or Indians (depending on who brought the lowest bid). We have some amazing Nepalese and Fijian mercenaries fighting in our Armies, and they're great. I'd fire all 6 million public sector workers in the UK (esp anyone who's job title begins with the word Social..), I'd set up trust (ie: charity) based schools etc.
          As to saying I never answer the Question posted.... Actually, I think I always answer the question and generally very precisely and exactly, and I'm always disappointed that a lot of folks don't.
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        Jun 18 2011: Ah James - this from the man who advises his kids that 'sneaky is best'!

        Somehow this song remind me of you and I dedicate it to you today:

        http://youtu.be/anVXuGc_akk
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      Jun 13 2011: none of these are socialist economies. they are mixed economies. mostly capitalists with socialist traits. what we don't know, whether they would be even more happy without it.
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        Jun 13 2011: Krisztian- They are according to the doctrine of James which is the relevant one in this question.

        As you might remember, I am Canadian and I had a good acquaintance who was in the American FBI- he always greeted me as a 'Pinko Commie' not based on my politics but based on my nationality!
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          Jun 13 2011: Hurrah!!!
          At last, my own doctrine!
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          Jun 13 2011: my point was: they are not surely happy because they are socialist, but despite being socialists. they have strong enough economies to drag that heavy weight, and they are okay enough not to worry about the lack of progress.
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          Jun 14 2011: We French are big on Socialism (The capitalist compatible kind) and we're an unhappy bunch.
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        Jun 13 2011: Hmmm Krisz, take Denmark, isn't it pretty Socialist, it's kissing about 60% Government spending of GDP, so we could say it was 60/40 Socialist Capitalist? ;)

        I think Certainty of belief cheers you up... I lack certainty about most thing.

        I think belief in a God makes you happier, hey as a Christian, all you need to do is have Belief in Jesus and then you're saved. Life is pretty sweet.

        I think a belief in Socialism must make you happy... Hey, I don't need to bother working, the state will look after me. Looking to the State for answers, is a bit like looking to God.
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          Jun 13 2011: yes we can say they are 60% socialists. the 40% makes it work.

          in that regard, taking away doubt, statism is similar to religions, i agree. just i'm not sure it is enough to call it that.
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        Jun 13 2011: So James, are you a wee bit happy? Watch out! When you start to see that we are interdependent and can help one another that's how all the goodness, generousity and kindess could creep in!
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        Jun 13 2011: You're so right, re. who's making it actually work.
        In the UK, 15% of the workforce works for the Government directly.
        26% work in the private sector, but doing Government work.
        28% of the workforce doesn't work.
        Leaving.... 32% of the workforce, about 21% of the 61m population, engaged in Private private sector work. It is insane!
        The UK Government spends 46% of the GDP created by just 21% of the population!!!!!
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          Jun 13 2011: Well that's interesting James because the Forbes list breaks down % thriving to % struggling in the population and the ratio for England is 54% to 44% with the final 2% listed as suffering.


          *********James: I'll edit this out but did you know that you can do summary for the questions you begin when they close? I would be very interested to read the summary you chose to do for the Freedom question.
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    Jun 18 2011: James,

    Thinking about this while playing basketball tonight, it occurred to me spectator sports are as institutionalized as many belief systems. Which can corrupt players.

    As I observed children playing with abandon, quite naturally competing, not for money or attention or because someone told them to, I thought of how larger culture risks washing this healthy expression out of them.

    So, the Q is: how can culture enable healthy expressions of intrinsic characteristics, without corrupting them with institutionalized beliefs?

    Andrea
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      Jun 18 2011: I still content that the short answer to James' question is "No. Socialism is not a religion."

      Different societies have different cultures. Each culture has it's institutions that cultivate that society's beliefs and values. Among those institutions are sports, government, religion and the arts.

      In my view the only real similarity between socialism and religion is the fact that they are both institutions.
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    Jun 18 2011: Sure it is, from an institutional standpoint. But as for other comparisons to religion I think you're stretching it a bit! What you are suggesting is that socialization is the antithesis of Separation of church and state?
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    Jun 14 2011: Capitalism, Socialism, both belief systems on how to relate matter with thoughts.

    The funny thing is we need the best of both. And to get the 'best of both' story out there we might need to make a few hollywood blockbusters on it to get the idea going.

    I believe a religion in essence is not intolerant to other religions. Over time it's followers found it easy in times of crisis to be intolerant so they only have to care for their own group. Interpretations of words divided divinities. It is not for nothing these last two d. words are so similar.

    Primacy of the individual is a matter of interpretation, in socialism there was a primacy of the individual, just a different one than material/financial independence.
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    Jun 13 2011: Every political/economic system has it's dogmatic adherents that make it like a religion.

    Think of Libertarianism with it's prophet Ayn Rand and it's sacred text The Fountainhead.
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      Jun 13 2011: Haha, actually I think the Randians (the Randys would have been funnier) prefer Atlas Shrugged!
      So, let's assume there is some truth that all Political/Economic systems have elements that are common to Religions.... Do you think Tim that Socialism is a Religion? Is it more of a Religion than say Capitalism? (By the way, I am not really a Capitalist, I think that a bit of a 19th/20c idea. Capital doesn't make the World work now, it's Innovation and Creativity. Basically because we're awash with Capital and money is super cheap to borrow, the problem is a scarcity of ideas, hence Groupon's valuation etc).
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      Jun 13 2011: i'm a libertarian, and i've never read ayn rand, and i barely know who she was. that "prophet" would much more likely be mises. a teacher and scholar.
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        Jun 13 2011: (I'm more of a Libertine than a Libertarian)
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          Jun 13 2011: Consistency of doctine with Ayn Rand as High Priestess! (but you did make me laugh!)
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      Jun 13 2011: Hi Richard, hard to separate out Socialism vs Communism.
      Basically, both subvert individual rights for a commonwealth, and suggest, sort-of, you don't have ownership of your own soul and body?
      Plus sacred texts, cultish devotion, inevitably view of history and socialist future (bit like The End of Days!) etc etc.
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          Jun 13 2011: Exactly!! We Christians are waiting for the rapture too!
          That's what made me think of it actually.... the inevitability of what is foretold....
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          Jun 13 2011: I know, I know...
          Just saying the similarities between Communism and the End of Days, as an inevitability.
          Made me think of that shared Certainty between Religion and Socialism.
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    Jun 13 2011: I don't think Socialism (I'm assuming you mean it as Communism) has all of these characteristics. There are no prophets or sacred text in Socialism. That the individuals at the head of Communist states have become figures of high authority is a perversion of the Communist ideal. As for sacred texts, there is a difference to be found in an inspirational text such as Marx's 'Das Kapital' and authoritative works such as the Bible. So I would say no to that.
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      Jun 13 2011: I just wonder what the difference is between, say Owen or Marx and Abraham or Moses? Both (all four) set out "natural" laws?
      The text of Das Kapital does indeed seem to be treated like the sacred pages of the Koran?
      Socialism is a bit like a cult, and disapproves of converts! Although seeks to exprt revolution and convert others to Socialism. It's a bit "shouty", like most religions!!!
      It is intolerant of the belief systems of others!
      Socialism sets out an inevitability of history, exactly like the Juda/Christian tradition?
      Socialism believes in a commonwealth and common ownership, rather like many religions that deny individuals rights, and put the individual secondary to the "community"?
      I don't know... I was just mulling and it seemed rather like ancient religions?
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        Jun 14 2011: The difference is that it's not wrong to say that they were wrong about certain things. The Socialist philosophy doesn't begin and end with Marx. Take the Russian Bolshevik for example, while the Menshevik wanted history to quietly usher the world into a state of communism, which is what Marx predicted in Das Kapital, the Bolshevik were in favor of a quick revolution (which led to the USSR). And could we not say the same about Capitalism with Adam Smith?

        You've drawn many similarities between religion and Socialism, and some of these ring true even to me. Nonetheless, none of these similarities are aspects that make something a religion. Most of your arguments fall under the association fallacy.
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          Jun 14 2011: Matthieu
          I think I have set out some aspects of Socialism that suggest to me it's a Religion... although I take your point that common elements do not mean 2 things are the same.
          Could I phrase the question the other way 'round, and ask you to comment, as I like your clear style. Why is Socialism not a Religion, or, what are the key differences that to you suggest Socialism is not a Religion, and/or, do the Differences outweigh the Similarities or Similarities outweigh the Differences?
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          Jun 14 2011: Anybody reading this thread who has lived socialism in Eastern Europe besides Kris?
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          Jun 14 2011: paul, here i am for one. from 74 to 90, in hungary.
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          Jun 15 2011: Hi Krisztian, I saw you and edited at the same time my post ;)
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          Jun 15 2011: paul, sneaky :)
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        Jun 14 2011: I think the similarities lie in the fact that both religious currents and political currents can be seen as life philosophies. Because they share this status (rather than one being the other), shared behavioral patterns may be seen manifesting themselves in both. This is why you'll see these traits in other social movements such as environmentalism, feminism and all kind of -isms. They all have their inspirational figures and books and some elements of the movement are pretty passionate about it. But these remain philosophies rather than religions. I still think the defining property of religion is that it makes absolute claims about the 'supernatural', or otherwise unknown, and acts according to these as though they're fact. A dangerous doctrine if you ask me.

        I think it's not uncommon to coin a movement as a religion as you've done, when it's seen to run on common ground with religion and when it's supporters are passionate. Militant atheism is often referred to (more often than not, by the religious in an attempt to denigrate) as a religion and so is environmentalism. I don't see much truth in that. In the case of environmentalism, I understand that it is often used as a critique of the hysteria that sometimes surrounds environmental issues and in that respect I understand the term 'religious' to be a condemnation rather than an actual label. It's a potentially misleading one though.

        I hope I've answered your question, even if in a somewhat indirect way.
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        Jun 14 2011: James,

        Does it follow, then, that Art of War is treated as something of a "sacred text" of business? If so, does that put the philosopher Sun Tzu in the same set as Moses, Marx, et al?

        Andrea
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          Jun 14 2011: The Prince surely is my sacred text for business ;)
          I think you make a good point. A value system can have some of the same elements of a religion eg: Prophets, Texts etc.
          But I think Socialism displays MORE of the common elements of a Religion than you might often see for say "business", and Socialism displays more EXTREME adherence to Prophets, Texts, Denial of the Individual etc, in the same way as a Religion.
          There are probably some Religions (hey, where is Buddhist when you need one?) who would say their Religion has fewer of these characteristics of a Religion than Socialism, eg: more tolerance of other beliefs, although still Prophet bases, texts etc.
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        Jun 14 2011: James when you say "Socialism believes in a commonwealth and common ownership, rather like many religions that deny individuals rights, and put the individual secondary to the "community, " could you not say that for the majority of forms of governess that people have come up with. The idea of the individual is relatively recent idea. Socialism is a big word that covers many governments. Some governments such as N Korea can be oppressive, but at the other end of the spectrum you have places like Haiti were there is no infrastructure. Its all about finding a balance. Are you including socialist democracies like Sweden or Germany as potential religions or cults. It may not be your idea of a good balance, but it does not seem like its based more on a logical way of improving the quality of life for it's citizens than some arbitrary superstition .
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          Jun 14 2011: The individual is a recent idea in a sense that we were serfs you mean?
          I absolutely think (not Germany actually) but in Denmark and Sweden their socialism is a bit cultish actually, and France has an ingrained socialism as a kind of national touchstone (a bit like the national pastime of striking and demonstrating in the streets.... Just kiddin', my french friends).
          The history of France alive in the streets today is like living archaeology, it's great. It can seem a bit odd as an observer of France - the CRS demand their right to drink booze on duty before suppressing protestors in the street, meantime everyone goes on strike the moment it's proposed the retirement age is raised above 39 or whatever it was ;)
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        Jun 14 2011: By saying the idea of the individual is recent I meant that whether surf or king much of what we consider personal choice would not exist. You were not giving the liberty of forging your own identity, but merely assumed the ones of your ancestors. If your father was king that was to be your lot, if he was a cobbler, well better learn to make shoes. The king may have a better life in this, but he is just as enslaved to the system as you are. Whatever the belief of the the tribe was was your beliefs. Marriages arranged. What I'm getting at is society always comes with a price. good for you if you want to haggle but if you want the benefits of culture you have to give up some power of the individual. For many living in Norway Sweden would be too much, but for those who like that balance, I would hardly call them delusional.
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          Jun 14 2011: I would neither call christians (or jews, muslims etc) delusional, no more than the Swedes.
          I merely asking if we think Socialism is a Religion, or really what I am getting at is, do we think it has all the characteristics of a Religion?
          One of those elements being a certain Certainty of their belief the smugness of being a Christian or Swedish Socialist, maybe?
          You make a good point about the recency of the notion of the Individual, I guess dates from John Locke in the 17th C.... so I guess not so recent. Anyway, recent normally means better: Airplanes, Car, Viagra, Jetskis, Facebook etc... the World just gets better, so I think we can embrace this "recent" idea of the Individual.
          One reason the Truth of the Individual was suppressed for so long of course was by Relgions, promoting, just like Socialism, the commonwealth ahead of individual rights.
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        Jun 14 2011: Speaking of Italian political philosophers, what of Machiavellian Marxist Antonio Gramsci?

        And not to off-topic over-connect too much, but Viagra sounds Italian, which leads me to wonder if my paesans influenced that innovation? :-).

        Come to think of it, looking back on history: how did humankind propagate as far as the 20th century without Viagra? Could that "Make love, Not war" rally started during the post-WWII British Revolution by the latter-day Lennon be blamed?

        Anyway, aren'tcha glad we Americans snuck the sexual revolution into our strategy during our Civil Rights Movement? Because, after all, if we hadn't: could civilization have ever progressed without erectile enhancing measures? (Well, that and, perhaps my Franco compatriots laissez-faire feel-the-love views regards sexual freedoms).

        Which (naturally) is marketed by American hegemonists Pfiser, thanks to the brilliance of subordinates in their British plant, if I have it right.

        And, back to your topic: isn't it only fair we send a shout out or something to the Chinese and Indian workers slaving to manufacture our, er, fantasy-fulfillers?

        Perhaps the right thing (or is it Left thing?) to do would be to share the commonwealth sex-trade they produce with them? Or, isn't it possible their, er, extended denial risks sparking an organic uprising?

        I think I could make a case that the texts of Lenin, Lennon, Moses, Machiavelli, Marx, Sun Tzu and Gramsci would support my hypothesis here.

        Then again, if they are Buddhists, the workers might practice its teachings of sensual restraint in ways we Westerners wouldn't even, ahem, dream of...

        Now, what was your question again?

        Andrea
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          Jun 14 2011: Andrea, Given the subject matter would it be wrong to say thumbs up?
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        Jun 15 2011: James, sure giving that definition I would classify socialism as a religion, as i would free marketism. You could also make parallels between how some religions tend develop more abstract gods as they progress to how economies go from gold, silver, whatever standards, to an abstract fiat system where the financial gods take a cue from the bible and just say let there be money.