Atheism and American ruling class

By V.M.Mohanraj

Being an atheist I am delighted that Atheist Alliance International has recently been accorded "consultative status" with the UN. As an NGO, therefore, it has now the right to participate in the UN Human Rights Council as well as in various other UN and human rights agencies. This, I may point out, is an indication of the wide acceptance of atheism among the many and varied peoples of the world. But the ruling class, the class that owns the means of production, in all countries, even those countries that claim to be secular as for example America, have never been at ease with atheism. The ruling class of America has always been trying to ensure that the people remained religious and naturally, as we shall see presently, even American Constitution was framed with that in view.

In fact, the increasing popularity of atheism in recent years has scared the ruling class all over the world as a law passed recently by Saudi Arabia shows. This phobia, however, is not a new phenomenon. Its genesis lies in the 19th century after the agrarian, handicraft economy changed to one dominated by industry and machine manufacture. In other words, it manifested itself when the capitalist system supplanted the feudal system.

Karl Marx who flourished in those times witnessed all around him the wretchedness of the class of industrial workers that this system had brought forth. They had no choice but to sell their labour to subsist under the prevailing social system while the ruling class lived in luxury. He also saw the role religion played in helping maintain this unjust social set up. Which prompted him to write "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." He wrote this in the introduction of his work, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Incidentally, this critical study did not see the light of day during his life-time but the introduction was published in his journal, Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher. In those two sentences, he succinctly brings home to the readers the fact that religion reflects the misery of the masses and at the same time acts as an opiate that creates an illusion of happiness, induces a euphoric drowsiness that would help them forget the sufferings they have in the world of reality. And that would preclude them from rising in revolt against their oppressors, which was the reason for the ruling class in propping up religion and instilling in them belief in god.

Capitalism had struck deep roots in Europe by the 18th century thanks to the Industrial Revolution of 1760 creating a class of workers whose living conditions were not very different from that of the slaves -- or at best serfs -- of olden days. In fact, they were mostly slaves in England until slavery was abolished by an act of parliament in 1833. The European colonists, especially the British that came to the New World as traders had settled there overcoming the violent opposition of the indigenous people. The British and those who came from mainland Europe massacred the indigenous tribal population, resulting in their near-total extermination that was nothing but systematic genocide.

Consequent upon the decimation of the tribal society by the Europeans, the old order was completely destroyed without any possibility whatsoever of its revival. And the colonists unconsciously laid the foundation of a new social order that had all the elements of the society which prevailed in Europe since the Industrial Revolution. The social history of the United States of America may be said to have begun about that time, although it emerged as an independent nation only in 1783 with the exit of the British imperialists following their defeat in the American War of Independence. Naturally therefore, the entire superstructure that came up on the foundation laid by the early settlers could not be anything but what was in Europe, particularly England at that time.   

Consequently, it had the characteristics of the society that existed in England because it was transplanted as it were, in America by the British imperialists. The entire labour force, therefore, comprised slaves brought from Africa as was the case in Europe then. Despite many slave (labour) uprisings, it was only in 1865 that slavery was abolished in the US. Nevertheless the living conditions of the workers (erstwhile slaves) did not improve and the ruling class had to face frequent labour unrest. So taking the cue from the experience of their European counterpart, the American ruling class decided to inculcate religious precepts in workers.

That is reflected in the Constitution that it drew up. No wonder many political leaders and Christian priests have been averring that the Founding Fathers expected the US Constitution "to be understood as a Christian document of governance for a Christian country," based on God's word. But they do not specify which god. There are myriad gods in the world as every religion has its own god or gods, not taking into account those gods of yore that have been frozen and preserved as mythological characters. Obviously the god referred to by the Christian priests could be none other than the Christian god and not the god or gods of any other religion, including those of the other two Abrahamic religions.

However by the First Amendment the Constitution guarantees the freedom to espouse any religion and prohibits Congress from making any law restricting the establishment and practice of religion. In other words, there is absolute freedom of religion, which is precisely what the ruing class wants! Nonetheless this, read with the clause in Article VI of the Constitution that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States," is so to say a back-handed concession to the principle of separation of Sate and Church. And secularism in America is limited to that. The First Amendment to the Constitution that enshrines the principle of religious freedom, for example, does not speak of the freedom to reject religion. In other words, this Amendment does not give American citizens the constitutional right to be an atheist and to preach atheism. To put it differently, the Founding Fathers being representatives of the ruling class naturally thrust religion down the throats of the people!

Yet, the twentieth century found a strong wind of atheism wafting across America. The ruling class was appalled that many people had been blown away by this cool breeze and as days passed by more and more people were being swayed by it, swelling the ranks of the atheists. Rattled by this development they came out with a plan to meet this threat. Hence in 1956 the government adopted "in God we trust" as the official motto of the country, replacing the earlier motto, E pluribus unum that the Founding Fathers had adopted soon after the country became independent. The new motto was an adaptation of a phrase from a line -- "and this be our motto: In God is our trust" - in the lyric of the national anthem composed in 1812. The modified form of it that formed the new motto was actually the battle cry of the Pennsylvania Infantry of the Unionist army in one of the battles of the American Civil War. Americans always swear by the sanctity of whatever was recorded by the Founding Fathers and refrain from even amending some of the Articles in the Constitution that are glaringly undemocratic and anachronistic today. Yet significantly they did not hesitate to change the motto! Why? Because the ruling class knew it was a palliative as it were, that would help keep the disaffected toiling masses from questioning the injustice inherent in the society.

It is to show how cunning American ruling class is - as of course the ruling class in every country has always been -- that I have briefly gone into the history of this motto. I surmise they must have expected that they would draw flak from the people who might look upon the change of the motto as an affront to the Founding Fathers. The reason why they chose this phrase for the new motto was perhaps to mollify the people and to obviate the possibility of their objection to the change because the source of this motto reminded them of a memorable battle in American history. Subsequently the new motto was inscribed on coins and currency notes.

The brainwashing of the people does not end with that. It is imperative that a Christian priest invokes the blessings of god before the swearing-in of a newly-elected president who has to place his hand on a copy of the Bible as he takes the oath of office. And the inaugural session of a newly elected Congress commences with a prayer by a priest. What is amusing is that the president - why, every political leader -- concludes his or her speech saying "God bless America." So wherever the people turn they hear of god! The ruling class, thus, has been constantly dinning god in the people.

Conservatives had gone a step further. They tried to rewrite school textbooks, particularly in science and history. They objected to teaching children the Theory of Evolution because they said it contradicted the biblical theory of creation. If the state insisted on teaching Darwin's Theory, they wanted children to be taught what the Bible says about creation also as another theory on the origin of the universe. They did not seem to understand the harm being caused to children by teaching myths as scientific theories as it warped the young minds. Their objective was to ensure that children developed belief in god by exposing them to religious dogma at that impressionable age so that they would not ever become even agnostics or skeptics, let alone atheists! Nonetheless by the middle of the 20th century as stated above, atheism was slowly but steadily gaining ground in America.

Frightened by the creeping advance made by atheism, the Louisiana State passed a law making it mandatory for public schools also to teach creationism along with the Theory of Evolution. This was objected to by rationalists who thought it was replacing science with myths and challenged it in the court of law. That was the famous Edward vs. Aguillard case of 1987. The case went up to the US Supreme Court, which struck down the law on the ground that it contravened the Constitution because 'the law was intended to advance a particular religion'.  

It was in order to circumvent this verdict that the anti-Darwinists propounded the theory of intelligent design. They claim that the processes of nature can be explained better by intelligent design than by natural selection. They hasten to distinguish it from creationism and see intelligent design not only in nature and natural laws but to some extent in certain features of living things as well -- in short, in the structure of cosmos itself. The proponents of this theory assert that it is inferred on the basis of scientific evidence and not based on the Bible or any other religious text; hence it is not a myth.

The scientists condemn it as a pseudo-scientific theory. Nevertheless, the adherents of the theory do not attempt to define intelligent design but stress that no God or any supernatural Being is identified with intelligent design; hence belief in god is not necessary to understand an intelligent design. The whole argument is fallacious. The very term intelligent design presupposes a designer that is intelligent and it cannot be an amorphous or a material entity. It has to be a Being - supernatural, of course -- that has the attribute of intelligence and exists somewhere beyond our senses. The ruling class thus succeeds in fooling rationalists and atheists by smuggling in God by the back door to keep the masses in a state of mental torpor. 


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov