We do not Fight Religion

From Karl Polanyi
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Text in Hungarian to translate into English

“We don’t fight religion…” More recently, there are freethinkers who speak like this. We do not understand István Tisza and his colleagues. True, they don’t fight religion either, and they also call themselves free-thinkers. We are thinking of Zsigmond Várady, who is considered free-thinking by the public from the perspective of his past, because he has not yet learned that the freedom of thought in the parliamentary air depends on the current threshold of government capacity.

For us, for free thinkers, the career of Zsigmond Várady is indifferent. However, they are not indifferent to the views that it covers with the authority of its past and that are apt to confuse our program and our goals. If religion is “the noblest flower of the soul” that should not be harmed, then why are those who cover the arable land of mankind with its plantations sinful? Or are only the “excesses” of the church rut, but is his particular vocation beautiful and sublime? A mere philosophical debate is perhaps a question of atheism that is not worthy of the interest and control of human society? Isn't this the source of anti-clerical and democratic action? So what is the unified axis of the atheist worldview?

Religion unites man’s lower instincts against his higher aspirations. From the weakness of our thinking, we build a castle against the power of our thinking. It diverts attention to non-existent things and diverts it from existing ones. He cultivates in us the instincts of the servant following the foreign will when he does not subject the determination of the will to the decisions of the intellect. He disturbs the pleasures of our senses by contempt and, with his suspicion of liberating our vile instincts, suffocates in us the purified, elevated pleasures of our senses. The unconditionality of morality replaces the bargains of reward and punishment and thus makes the individual inwardly irresponsible, like the God who created him. Religion is a system of servitude of will and thought, unclean sensuality, and morality without responsibility. The feeling of fear left in the animal line and the nightmare of the imagination distorted by fear - the foundations of religion. It is a set of worthless, doomed instincts that must be lost if humanity is to be freed from the curse of its low past.

It is impossible to fight directly against religious feeling and religious superstitions. Anti-alcoholics don’t hurt the drunk either, because you can’t talk sober to the drunk. We, too, [119] are helplessly opposed to religiosity itself, because if we had an argument with a Haeck with every woman in prayer, the woman of prayer would have the last word. But we do not fight against religiosity either directly because religiosity does not have its own, independent life force. As a scattered phenomenon, like poetry, it can act on its own, but as massively, constantly, and above all as oppositely as in today’s societies, it could never develop on its own and never stop. The conditions of religiosity must be abolished, because without them there would be no religiosity, and in turn there will be religiosity until only these conditions have ceased.

Religiosity was built directly on the foundations of authority. There are scientific and moral systems behind it. Religious cosmogony, descent and psychology, religious social science and history are all false systems, but they are authoritative in their antiquity and completeness. These are similar to the physiology, heredity, cortana, and pharmacology of alcoholics, whose scientific commonplaces had to be destroyed by anti-alcoholics in order to undermine the authority of alcohol grain. The prestige of moral systems of equal value also contributes to these scientific proofs. Religious morality is the false moral view that measures a person’s right and valuable action from the perspective of religion and that is why these superstitions themselves are said to be valuable. Just as the friends of sobriety had to cope with the whole authority of alcohol morality, surrounded by the ideologies of masculinity and national virtus, so we, free thinkers, have to contend with the morality of religion, which is elevated in the vision but not in the stunnedness of thought.

So we can only fight against religiosity by confronting systems of knowledge and evaluation about religion. And we don't just need arguments against them. It is only when we point out the interests attached to the systems of religion that we have reached the point on which this building rests and from which it can be overthrown. The institution of the church, for the sake of a minority, is one of the mighty pillars of these rotten systems. The enemies of drunkenness, too, to draw our analogy further, found themselves behind the scenes of alcohol science on the bastions of alcohol capital. Thus the atheistic theory of free thought becomes practical anti-clericalism.

But the church is merely the nervous system of the class state that moves it, but which is nourished by this organization. He who fights against the church finds himself confronted with the class state and thus atheism becomes general political behavior. It depends on the consistency of the individual after he has stopped at this point. The deepest understanding suggests to him that political power relations are functions of economic systems and otherworldly slavery will be shaken by the great masses of mankind only with their earthly slavery.

[120] We live and fight for the purified thoughts and purified morals of atheism. It is rooted in the deepest justification of our social action, the unified solution of our theoretical and practical issues. And our faith in our truth, our ultimate determination, is made reverent by the feeling that defending and proclaiming our worldview makes us comrades in all the great cause of humanity. P. K.

Text Informations

Original Publication: “Mi nem küzdünk a vallás ellen” in Szabadgondolat, 1.3, 1911 p. 118-121
KPA: 01/07 (4 p. ; copy of the original)
Other Languages:

Lg Name
FR Nous ne combattons pas la religion