Hat Tip/:] Faith of the Fathers.
- Benedict Xvi’s Prayer Intentions for January 2013 (deaconjohnspace.wordpress.com)
Hat Tip/:] Faith of the Fathers.
By Peter Kreeft
Among the many opponents of the Christian faith, Marxism is certainly not the most important, imposing or impressive philosophy in history.
But it has, until recently, clearly been the most influential. A comparison of 1917, 1947 and 1987 world maps will show how inexorably this system of thought flowed so as to inundate one-third of the world in just two generations — a feat rivaled only twice in history, by early Christianity and early Islam.
Ten years ago, every political and military conflict in the world, from Central America to the Middle East, turned on the axis of communism vs. anti-communism.
Even fascism became popular in Europe, and is still a force to be reckoned with in Latin America, largely because of its opposition to “the specter of communism,” as Marx calls it in the first sentence of his “Communist Manifesto.”
The “Manifesto” was one of the key moments in history. Published in 1848, “the year of revolutions’ throughout Europe, it is, like the Bible, essentially a philosophy of history, past and future. All past history is reduced to class struggle between oppressor and oppressed, master and slave, whether king vs. people, priest vs. parishioner, guild- master vs. apprentice, or even husband vs. wife and parent vs. child.
This is a view of history even more cynical than Machiavelli’s. Love is totally denied or ignored; competition and exploitation are the universal rule.
Now, however, this can change, according to Marx, because now, for the first time in history, we have not many classes but only two — the bourgeoisie (the “haves,” owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (the “have-nots,” non-owners of the means of production).
The latter must sell themselves and their labor to the owners until the communist revolution, which will “eliminate” (euphemism for “murder”) the bourgeoisie and thus abolish classes and class conflict forever, establishing a millennium of peace and equality. After being utterly cynical about the past, Marx becomes utterly naive about the future.
What made Marx what he was? What are the sources of this creed?
Marx deliberately turned 180 degrees around from the (1) supernaturalism and (2) distinctiveness of his Jewish heritage to embrace (1) atheism and (2) communism. Yet Marxism retains all the major structural and emotional factors of biblical religion in a secularized form. Marx, like Moses, is the prophet who leads the new Chosen People, the proletariat, out of the slavery of capitalism into the Promised Land of communism across the Red Sea of bloody worldwide revolution and through the wilderness of temporary, dedicated suffering for the party, the new priesthood.
The revolution is the new “Day of Yahweh,” the Day of Judgment; party spokesmen are the new prophets; and political purges within the party to maintain ideological purity are the new divine judgments on the waywardness of the Chosen and their leaders. The messianic tone of communism makes it structurally and emotionally more like a religion than any other political system except fascism.
Just as Marx took over the forms and the spirit of his religious heritage, but not the content, he did the same with his Hegelian philosophical heritage, transforming Hegel’s philosophy of “dialectical idealism” into “dialectical materialism!” “Marx stood Hegel on his head,” the saying goes. Marx inherited seven radical ideas from Hegel:
Monism: the idea that everything is one and that common sense’s distinction between matter and spirit is illusory. For Hegel, matter was only a form of spirit; for Marx, spirit was only a form of matter.
Pantheism: the notion that the distinction between Creator and creature, the distinctively Jewish idea, is false. For Hegel, the world is made into an aspect of God (Hegel was a pantheist); for Marx, God is reduced to the world (Marx was an atheist).
Historicism: the idea that everything changes, even truth; that there is nothing above history to judge it; and that therefore what is true in one era becomes false in another, or vice versa. In other words, Time is God.
Dialectic: the idea that history moves only by conflicts between opposing forces, a “thesis” vs. an “antithesis” evolving a “higher synthesis.” This applies to classes, nations, institutions and ideas. The dialectic waltz plays on in history’s ballroom until the kingdom of God finally comes — which Hegel virtually identified with the Prussian state. Marx internationalized it to the worldwide communist state.
Necessitarianism, or fatalism: the idea that the dialectic and its outcome are inevitable and necessary, not free. Marxism is a sort of Calvinistic predestination without a divine Predestinator.
Statism: the idea that since there is no eternal, trans-historical truth or law, the state is supreme and uncriticizable. Marx again internationalized Hegel’s nationalism here. Militarism: the idea that since there is no universal natural or eternal law above states to judge and resolve differences between them, war is inevitable and necessary as long as there are states.
Like many other anti-religious thinkers since the French Revolution, Marx adopted the secularism, atheism and humanism of l8th century “Enlightenment,” along with its rationalism and its faith in science as potentially omniscient and technology as potentially omnipotent. Here again the forms, feel and function of biblical religion are transferred to another god and another faith. For rationalism is a faith, not a proof. The faith that human reason can know everything that is real cannot be proved by human reason; and the belief that everything that is real can be proved by the scientific method cannot itself be proved by the scientific method.
A third influence, on Marx, in addition to Hegelianism and Enlightenment rationalism, was economic reductionism: the reduction of all issues to economic issues. If Marx were reading this analysis now, he would say that the real cause of these ideas of mine was not my mind’s power to know the truth, but the capitalistic economic structures of the society that “produced” me. Marx believed that within man thought was totally determined by matter; that man was totally determined by society; and that society was totally determined by economics. This stands on its head the traditional view that mind rules body, man rules his societies, and society rules its economics.
Finally, Marx adopted the idea of the collective ownership of property and the means of producing it from previous “utopian socialist” thinkers. Marx says, “The theory of communism may be summed up in the single phrase: abolition of private property.” In fact, the only societies in history that have ever successfully practiced communism are monasteries, kibbutzes, tribes and families (which Marx also wanted to abolish). All communist governments (such as that of the U.S.S.R.) have transferred ownership to the state, not to the people. Marx’s faith that the state would “wither away” of its own accord once it had eliminated capitalism and put communism in its place has proved to be astonishingly naive. Once power is seized, only wisdom and sanctity relinquish it.
The deepest appeal of communism, especially in Third World countries, has been not the will to communalism but “the will to power,” as Nietzsche called it. Nietzsche saw more deeply into the heart of communism than Marx did.
How does Marx deal with the obvious objections to communism: that it abolishes privacy and private property, individuality, freedom, motivation to work, education, marriage, family, culture, nations, religion and philosophy? He does not deny that communism abolishes these things, but says that capitalism has already done so. For example, he argues that “the bourgeois sees in his wife a mere instrument of production.” On the most sensitive and important issues, family and religion, he offers rhetoric rather than logic; for example: “The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed correlation between parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting….” And here is his “answer” to religious and philosophical objections: “The charges against communism made from a religious, a philosophical and, generally, from an ideological standpoint are not deserving of serious examination.”
The simplest refutation of Marxism is that its materialism simply contradicts itself. If ideas are nothing but products of material and economic forces, like cars or shoes, then communist ideas are only that too. If all our ideas are determined not by insight into truth but by the necessary movements of matter if we just can’t help the way our tongues happen to wag — then the thoughts of Marx are no more true than the thoughts of Moses. To attack the grounds of thought is to attack one’s own attack.
But Marx sees this, and admits it. He reinterprets words as weapons, not as truths. The functions of the words of the “Manifesto” (and, ultimately, even of the much longer, more pseudo-scientific “Capital”) is not to prove what is true but to encourage the revolution. “Philosophers have only interpreted the world; the thing to do is to change it.” Marx is basically a pragmatist.
But even on this pragmatic level there is a self-contradiction. The “Manifesto” ends with this famous appeal: “The communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!” But this appeal is self defeating, for Marx denies free will. Everything is fated; the revolution is “inevitable” whether I choose to join it or not. You cannot appeal to free choice and at the same time deny it.
There are strong practical objections to communism as well as these two philosophical objections. For one thing, its predictions simply have not worked. The revolution did not happen when and where Marxism predicted. Capitalism did not disappear, nor did the state, the family or religion. And communism has not produced contentment and equality anywhere it has gained power.
All Marx has been able to do is to play Moses and lead fools backward into the slavery of Egypt (worldliness). The real Liberator is waiting in the wings for the jester who now “struts and frets his hour upon the stage” to lead his fellow “fools to dusty death” the one topic Marxist philosophers refuse to face.
Kreeft, Peter. “The Pillars of Unbelief — Marx” The National Catholic Register, (January – February 1988).
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Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. He is an alumnus of Calvin College (AB 1959) and Fordham University (MA 1961, Ph.D., 1965). He taught at Villanova University from 1962-1965, and has been at Boston College since 1965.
“In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth!”
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and across the world,
Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new: Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heart lives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdalene and the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peter and the other Apostles.
Right down to our own time – even in these days of advanced communications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news, on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone that had been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers who testified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, the Lord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in the Upper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).
The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.
Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth.
“In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice.” To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart of the Church, the “heavens” respond fully: the hosts of angels, saints and blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet it was for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin, including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own. So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation, it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a time of suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom, justice and peace.
May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the light of the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence. In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid. In the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person. May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugees from various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dear to them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that the pressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concerted response in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort and appreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplary witness in this regard.
May peaceful coexistence be restored among the peoples of Ivory Coast, where there is an urgent need to tread the path of reconciliation and pardon, in order to heal the deep wounds caused by the recent violence. May Japan find consolation and hope as it faces the dramatic consequences of the recent earthquake, along with other countries that in recent months have been tested by natural disasters which have sown pain and anguish.
May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those who suffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May the proclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust.
Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.
Happy Easter to all of you!
At the end of the private meeting between the Holy Father Benedict XVI and U.S. President George W. Bush, the Holy See and the Office of the President of the United States of America released a joint declaration:
President Bush, on behalf of all Americans, welcomed the Holy Father, wished him a happy birthday, and thanked him for the spiritual and moral guidance, which he offers to the whole human family. The President wished the Pope every success in his Apostolic Journey and in his address at the United Nations, and expressed appreciation for the Pope’s upcoming visit to “Ground Zero” in New York.
During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed: the respect of the dignity of the human person; the defense and promotion of life, matrimony and the family; the education of future generations; human rights and religious freedom; sustainable development and the struggle against poverty and pandemics, especially in Africa. In regard to the latter, the Holy Father welcomed the United States’ substantial financial contributions in this area. The two reaffirmed their total rejection of terrorism as well as the manipulation of religion to justify immoral and violent acts against innocents. They further touched on the need to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights.
The Holy Father and the President devoted considerable time in their discussions to the Middle East, in particular resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict in line with the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, their mutual support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and their common concern for the situation in Iraq and particularly the precarious state of Christian communities there and elsewhere in the region. The Holy Father and the President expressed hope for an end to violence and for a prompt and comprehensive solution to the crises which afflict the region.
The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the well being of their families.
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict urged the world Monday to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction.
In an annual speech to Vatican-based diplomats outlining the Holy See’s foreign policy priorities, Benedict also called for continued diplomatic efforts over Iran’s nuclear program.
“I wish to urge the international community to make a global commitment on security,” he said.
“A joint effort on the part of states to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and make it more effective.” The Pope backed continuing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, which the U.S. and it allies fear is aimed at building atomic weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
“I should also like to express my support for continued and uninterrupted pursuit of the path of diplomacy in order to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, by negotiating in good faith, adopting measures designed to increase transparency and mutual trust,” he said.
There has been speculation that the United States or Israel might launch a military strike against Iran.
Benedict also told the foreign ambassadors that measures must be taken to reduce conventional weapons and to deal with the humanitarian problems caused by cluster weapons.
Cluster bombs open in flight and scatter dozens of bomblets, some of which fail to explode and pose a risk to civilians even after a conflict has ended.
In his speech, the Pope also condemned the frequent attacks suffered by Iraq’s Christian community, saying the country needs to undertake a constitutional reform that will safeguard the rights of minorities.
Benedict touched on many of the world’s crises, appealing for peace and dialogue in hotspots including the Middle East, Kenya, Sudan’s Darfur region and Myanmar.
Francis Rooney, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, said the Pope’s message showed that the Vatican and the United States have the same foreign policy goals.
“We both place great importance on stopping the spread of terrorism and violence, aiding Christians who are under threat in many parts of the world today, and seeing an end to poverty and hunger which plague so much of Africa,” Rooney said in a statement.
Benedict noted that this month marks the 10th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s historic pilgrimage to Cuba, and recalled how his predecessor “encouraged all Cubans to work together for a better future.”
“I should like to reiterate this message of hope, which has lost none of its relevance,” Benedict said in his speech, which was delivered in French.
The Pope also reached out to countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican and urged them to establish ties. He did not name the countries but the mention is seen by diplomats as referring especially to China, with which Benedict is attempting to restore diplomatic relations severed after the 1949 communist revolution.