Gramsci or Marx? - is religion decided or decisive?

This has been taught to me during a class about Cultural History; I haven't actually done much research about this subject so everything I claim can be wrong.

Marx saw economics and the struggle between the classes as determining everything. This philosophical school is called 'economic determinism'.
Gramsci thought the cultural development of the common worker was important. You didn't need to change the entire economic balance to improve the position of the lower classes; the lower classes should be educated and their culture should be developed, and using these methods the lower classes could get a better position in society.

I have to think about this difference quite often when I'm debating about... religion on this forum.
A lot of people argue that religion is just a sign of poverty. Poor countries are more religious. Being poor makes[1] them not only religious, but also violent, criminal, warlike, etcetera. But this cannot be blamed on religion; all these things are just symptoms of their poverty.

Personally, I think religion is not only a sign of poverty, but also a cause of poverty. [2]
Some quotes from Palmer[3], from the end of Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2.

Somehow Europe became more enterprising and restless, perhaps because in Europe there was no all-embracing empire as in China, but kings, lords, and towns that competed with each other. With religion and church kept distinct from the state, the questions of what one should do with one's life were less dependent on the political powers than in China.

---

The process of developing a variety of activities outside the sphere of religion is called "secularization." In the very long it was those aspects of European civilization that were least associated with Christianity, such as natural science and industrial technology, or military and economic power, that the non-European world proved to be most willing to adopt. If in our time there has come to be such a thing as a global civilization, it is because all the world's great traditional cultures have been increasingly secularized.

---

What arose in Italy, in these surroundings, was no less than a new conception of man himself. It seemed very doubtful whether a quiet, cloistered, or celibate life was on a higher plane than an active gregarious life, or family life, or even a life of promiscuity and adventure. It was hard to believe that clergy were any better than laity, or that life led to a stern divine judgment in the end. That man's will and intelligence might mislead him seemed a gloomy doctrine. The belief that human beings were frail creatures, in need of God's grace and salvation, though perhaps said with the lips, was not felt in the heart. Instead, what captivated the Italians of the Renaissance was a sense of the vast range of human powers.

So, what do you think? Do you prefer Marx or Gramsci? And does economics and 'progress' affect religion or is religion also important in limiting or supporting progress and growth?

[1] Makes is an incredibly strange word
[2] Please don't tell me about all the exceptions to this rule. If somebody says poverty turns people criminal, nobody is whining about their friend who is also poor but not criminal.
[3] A History of the Modern World - R.R. Palmer, sometimes called the Bible of historians

There's been decades of theory to undermine marxist thinkers of any kind. Why go back in knowledge some 40 years and pretend we don't know better and debate the ideas of two communists?

After all, they weren't much further off about religion as they were about society and economy: they had a clue of how things worked, but got the explanation totally wrong. Even theories dealing with the topic more casually have a good understanding of how organised religion occurs in a society that starts to stratify (from a tribalism). Pretty much priests of any kind have to create organised religion and religious suppression at that stage, or else they'd be doing nothing in terms of usefull work, and be out of job, or be regarded as parasites on society by everyone.

Well yah of course Europe was like that, the way I see it China basically did what Europeans had been trying to do for centuries i.e. conquer and unify Europe, when China did become unified who was left to threaten them? In the West and North were a bunch of nomadic tribes, in the SouthEast were just small countries which could not do them much harm which they conquered at times, in the South West there was a fight to unite India but not enough to threaten China, in the East there was also Japan which they felt they could defeat some time down the line. Nothing that could threaten it's independence at all. In Europe however, whose independence was secure? They were all not that big after all or had a clear superiority over their neighbors which China would have if it were invaded by the above, it was quite clear no one's was secure, thus they all had to constantly build up reputations, oh did you see those Spanish? They've built the largest empire in history, better not fuck with them, and then say "Did you see those English? They've openly rejected the Catholic church and have established a Protestant state church which is controlled by their king, we should teach them a lesson in God's wrath" or "Did you see those Polish establish a new Constitution which took power away from the feudal lords and more power to the lower class? We should invade and teach those savages the proper way of government through our own" and constantly having to defend against invasions due to things like that, meant that the powers were constantly trying to out compete the other. If say Europe did become unified, there wouldn't be much to prove since the only other threats would be the Muslims and they're not too impressed with what the Europeans had.

Danyal:

A lot of people argue that religion is just a sign of poverty. Poor countries are more religious. Being poor makes[1] them not only religious, but also violent, criminal, warlike, etcetera. But this cannot be blamed on religion; all these things are just symptoms of their poverty.

You are either misunderstanding or misrepresenting this point. No one is claiming that poverty makes you anything just because you are poor. However, there's a clear correlation between poverty, lack of education and unstable social conditions (crime, war, etc.) and religion. As someone said in your thread about the terror attack in Nigeria: "There are no atheists in foxholes" is a very fitting quote, because it is easy for those of us who live in relative prosperity and safety to dismiss faith as silly superstition, but for those that are living in constant danger of trauma or death it can be just about the only available coping mechanism.

You still seem unable to grasp the basic sociological concept of poverty and how it affects those of a low socioeconomic status. Poverty doesn't make you anything (other then poor), but it makes you statistically more likely to become religious, a substance abuser, criminal, likely to go through several failed marriages and religious, of course.

I think it was proved pretty conclusively by several of us, in your Nigeria thread, that religion is not a significant factor in "growth and progress".

[1] Makes is an incredibly strange word

Gethsemani:

You still seem unable to grasp the basic sociological concept of poverty and how it affects those of a low socioeconomic status. Poverty doesn't make you anything (other then poor), but it makes you statistically more likely to become religious, a substance abuser, criminal, likely to go through several failed marriages and religious, of course.

I hope it was clear that this thread is about societies as a whole, not individuals. If an individual is statistically more likely to become religious or criminal because of poverty, a poor nation will be more religious and more criminal. Poverty makes a nation more religious and more criminal.

Danyal:
So, what do you think? Do you prefer Marx or Gramsci? And does economics and 'progress' affect religion or is religion also important in limiting or supporting progress and growth?

I'm going to willfully ignore the whole religious aspect (for obvious reasons) and focus more on the thinkers.

Obviously both economics and politics are factors in the formation of any society, Marx stated as much with his coining of the term "historical (&) dialectical materialism". Central in this idea is that ideas and societies develop as a result of the actual material realities of those times, and that therefore the circumstances dictate the development of societies. It is easily understood as a veritable "natural selection" of ideas, where those ideas that are most applicable or useful to the society at hand gain the most traction and becoming the dominant ideas (in capitalism usually the ideas of the capitalist class).

Now, given that situation, the culture that develops has a decivise effect on the evolution of society from that point onwards, seeing as those ideas have become entrenched in society vis--vis institutions, laws and traditions. This is why it is a historical and dialectical process.

Both were right in that sense.

But, Marx was right more, seeing as he understood that in order to change society, the best way to do this was to make structural changes to that society, because it is the more powerful force of the two. Attempting to subvert the "mass consciousness" is an uphill battle fought against the prevailing conceptions and institutions of its day, making it far more energy-intensive and wasteful than going after the circumstances in which that consciousness arose.

Cheers.

Danyal:

I hope it was clear that this thread is about societies as a whole, not individuals. If an individual is statistically more likely to become religious or criminal because of poverty, a poor nation will be more religious and more criminal. Poverty makes a nation more religious and more criminal.

So then you're saying two things:
1. Religion doesn't cause (street) crime, poverty does (reasonably defensible statement, but incoherent with your earlier words)
2. Less poverty means less religion (if you could back that up I think there'd be some social science departments eager to enlist your aid)

Also, when you're talking about societies as a whole, you're also talking about individuals. Gethsemani is right in bringing it up.

Also yeah, yeah, I know, I feel obligated.

Danyal:
A lot of people argue that religion is just a sign of poverty. Poor countries are more religious. Being poor makes[1] them not only religious, but also violent, criminal, warlike, etcetera. But this cannot be blamed on religion; all these things are just symptoms of their poverty.

Personally, I think religion is not only a sign of poverty, but also a cause of poverty. [footnote]Please don't tell me about all the exceptions to this rule. If somebody says poverty turns people criminal, nobody is whining about their friend who is also poor but not criminal.

Here's the thing:
when your wealthy and your life is generally pleasant, you don't need anything to help you cope with it.
When you're poor, you want more than you have. Religion tells you that you'll be rewarded with an eternity of bliss if you only worship whatever it is that you have to worship. If you don't ask questions and just take it at face value, that's a great deal.
Drugs help you take your mind off the bad things in life, that's why there's more addicts among the poor.
Crime can get you a lot of money fast so there are more criminals among the poor.

As for the question:
Education is important. If you want something, knowing how to achieve it can make things a lot easier. The more information you have, the better you can plan out your path towards your goal and you can make better use of the things available to you.
Struggle between classes is another thing. The lower classes want to have what the higher classes have (or more). When your resources are limited, you're forced either to make innovations in order to get more with what you have or you can try to change the established order of things to make the resources more accessible.

It's not like one of these is right and one is wrong. I actually think they're connected. A better education can shift the balance of the class struggle. When there's a conflict of interests (the lower class wants to take the place of the higher class and the higher class wants to remain in it's place), what you know and how you use that knowledge is essential.

[1] Makes is an incredibly strange word

HardkorSB:
Religion tells you that you'll be rewarded with an eternity of bliss if you only worship whatever it is that you have to worship. If you don't ask questions and just take it at face value, that's a great deal.

No, "religion" doesn't. Only certain religions make this claim. It's very likely that the majority of religions have absolutely no interest in practitioners making a commitment to a single worship focus.

Katatori-kun:
No, "religion" doesn't. Only certain religions make this claim. It's very likely that the majority of religions have absolutely no interest in practitioners making a commitment to a single worship focus.

If not an eternity of bliss, it's usually some kind of universal justice.
The ones that don't offer any kind of gratification and are essentially just spiritually enhanced philosophies, usually aren't that popular among the poor and the uneducated.
Also, I'm not even counting things like druidism, wicca or other stuff like that, because the reasons for joining such religions are different and they have no impact on the international culture in general.

Christianity and Islam (and some others but let's concentrate on the ones that are, sadly, important in the world) are designed to attract the poor and uneducated (especially Christianity). The less you know, the less you are going to question the content of the "Holy Books" (or you're not going to read them at all) and what the preacher tells you. The less you have, the more you'll be drawn to the pie in the sky.

HardkorSB:

Katatori-kun:
No, "religion" doesn't. Only certain religions make this claim. It's very likely that the majority of religions have absolutely no interest in practitioners making a commitment to a single worship focus.

If not an eternity of bliss, it's usually some kind of universal justice.

Usually != always, and if something isn't a trait of all religions then it isn't a trait of religion.

The ones that don't offer any kind of gratification and are essentially just spiritually enhanced philosophies, usually aren't that popular among the poor and the uneducated.

So? They don't cease to be religions simply because they don't conform to an insulting stereotype.

Also, I'm not even counting things like druidism, wicca or other stuff like that, because the reasons for joining such religions are different and they have no impact on the international culture in general.

This doesn't mean they aren't religions either.

Christianity and Islam (and some others but let's concentrate on the ones that are, sadly, important in the world) are designed to attract the poor and uneducated (especially Christianity).

This is another false statement, unless you can provide some very rigorous evidence defending it. Christianity was not "designed" for any purpose whatsoever. Even if one does not believe Christian doctrine, a short examination of the way that Christianity has evolved over the years, from the cannonization of the NT to the forming of the Papacy and the growth of the notion of "Christendom" in mideaval Europe shows that Christianity was influenced by thousands of saints and early church leaders. It doesn't have a single, unified purpose because the people involved in defining what Christianity is didn't have a single, unified purpose. Often they disagreed quite vehemently. A quick look at the division between Protestantism and Catholicism should show pretty clearly that Christianity is a religion of many different perspectives, not a religion "designed" to achieve any particular Earthly purpose.

The less you know, the less you are going to question the content of the "Holy Books" (or you're not going to read them at all) and what the preacher tells you. The less you have, the more you'll be drawn to the pie in the sky.

This is a very insulting and very ignorant characterization of Christianity I have to say. While yes, there are plenty of unquestioning, ignorant, lazy Christians who mindlessly accept anything their preacher says, there is also a movement of Christian scholarship and intense theological studies. Neither approach is a fair way to stereotype the religion as a whole.

Katatori-kun:
Usually != always, and if something isn't a trait of all religions then it isn't a trait of religion.

You know, I sometimes overestimate people and don't put "usually", "generally", "most of the time" etc. in front of every sentence and just assume that the reader can understand the point I'm trying to make instead of leeching on to every word and over analyzing each sentence.
Sorry, from now on, I will assume that whoever reads my posts is a moron.

Katatori-kun:
So? They don't cease to be religions simply because they don't conform to an insulting stereotype.

I'm following the topic. You are going off by focusing on the wrong things.

Katatori-kun:
This doesn't mean they aren't religions either.

Again, focusing on the topic. Gramsci didn't take these minor religions into account when forming his theories. I'm doing the same.
When most people say "religion", they mean the Abrahamic religions, maybe Buddhism as well. You must know that.

Katatori-kun:
Christianity was not "designed" for any purpose whatsoever.

No purpose whatsoever. Because when people create new religions, they do it for no purpose whatsoever. Sure.

Katatori-kun:
This is another false statement, unless you can provide some very rigorous evidence defending it. Christianity was not "designed" for any purpose whatsoever. Even if one does not believe Christian doctrine, a short examination of the way that Christianity has evolved over the years, from the cannonization of the NT to the forming of the Papacy and the growth of the notion of "Christendom" in mideaval Europe shows that Christianity was influenced by thousands of saints and early church leaders. It doesn't have a single, unified purpose because the people involved in defining what Christianity is didn't have a single, unified purpose. Often they disagreed quite vehemently. A quick look at the division between Protestantism and Catholicism should show pretty clearly that Christianity is a religion of many different perspectives, not a religion "designed" to achieve any particular Earthly purpose.

Here are a few things from the Bible about the poor:

http://www.zompist.com/meetthepoor.html

Katatori-kun:
This is a very insulting and very ignorant characterization of Christianity I have to say.

Insulting? Yes. Ignorant? Not really.

HardkorSB:
Sorry, from now on, I will assume that whoever reads my posts is a moron.

Is it really necessary to respond to a request to speak accurately with a personal attack?

Again, focusing on the topic. Gramsci didn't take these minor religions into account when forming his theories. I'm doing the same.

Following the choice of a man who chooses to be ignorant of reality does not make your claim suddenly become correct.

When most people say "religion", they mean the Abrahamic religions, maybe Buddhism as well. You must know that.

It doesn't matter what most people mean when most people speak ignorantly. Most people don't seem to adequately understand how quantum physics works, but that doesn't mean I can just run around quoting the uninformed as support for an incorrect claim about the Higgs boson.

Katatori-kun:
Christianity was not "designed" for any purpose whatsoever.

No purpose whatsoever. Because when people create new religions, they do it for no purpose whatsoever. Sure.

Evidence?

http://www.zompist.com/meetthepoor.html

This does not support your point. Evidence that the Bible is concerned with the poor does not prove that the Bible was "designed to attract the poor".

Insulting? Yes. Ignorant? Not really.

No, it is literally ignorant. You have demonstrated that you lack knowledge of Christian scholarship movements. Lacking knowledge is the definition of ignorance.

 

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