Copyright
Robert Flint.

Socialism online

. (page 32 of 38)
Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 32 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


death in 1857 was so to transform his philosophy



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 43 ^

into a relio-ion that it would be adequate to the
task of organising and regulating all the activi-
ties and institutions of humanity. In Germany
Fr. Feuerbach,* Josiah Dietzgen,t Dr. Stamm,J
Julius Stern,§ and others, have presented sub-
stantially the same view.

In England it has found an advocate in Mr. Bax.
The following words of his are as explicit as could
be desired : " In what sense Socialism is not
religious will be now clear. It utterly despises the
* other world ' with all its stage properties — that
is, the present objects of religion. In what sense
it is not irreligious will be also, I think, tolerably
clear. It brings back religion from heaven to
earth, which, as we have sought to show, was its
original sphere. It looks beyond the present
moment or the present individual life, indeed,
though not to another world, but to another and
a higher social life in this world. It is in the hope
and the struggle for this higher social life, ever-
widening, ever-intensifying, whose ultimate possi-
bilities are beyond the power of language to express
or of thought to conceive, that the Socialist finds
his ideal, his religion. He sees in the reconstruction
of society in the interest of all, in the rehabilitation,
in a higher form and without its limitations, of the
old communal life — the proximate end of all present



* " Die Religion derZukimft," 1843-5.
t " Die Religion der Socialdemokratie," 3 Aufl., 1875.
t "Die Erlosung der darbenden Menscliheit," 3 Aufi., 1884.
§ "Die Religion der Zukunffc," 3 Aufl., 1S89, and " Thesen iiber den
Socialismus," 4 Aufl., 1891.



432 SOCIALISM

endeavour .... In Socialism the current antago-
nisms are abolished, the separation between politics
and religion has ceased to be since their object-
matter is the same. The highest feelings of
devotion to the Ideal are not conceived as different
in kind, much less as concerned with a different
sphere, to the commoner human emotions, but
merely as diverse aspects of the same fact. The
stimulus of personal interest no longer able to
poison at its source all beauty, all aflPection, all
heroism, in short, all that is highest in us ; the
sphere of government merged in that of industrial
direction ; the limit of the purely industrial itself
ever receding as the applied powers of Nature
lessen the amount of drudgery required ; Art, and
the pursuit of beauty and of truth ever covering
the ground left free by the * necessary work of the
world ' — such is the goal lying immediately before
us, such the unity of human interest and of
human life which Socialism would evolve out of
th(3 clashino- antao-onisms, the anarchical individ-
ualism, religious and irreligious, exhibited in the
rotting world of to-day — and what current religion
can offer a hisfher ideal or a nobler incentive than
this essentially human one ? " *

The attempts which have been made to identify
Religion and Socialism are not without interest.
They show us how social theorists the most hostile
to current Religion are constrained to acknowledge
that something of a kindred nature and power is



" The Religion of Socialism," pp. 52-3.



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 433

indispensable to the higher life of man and to the
progress and prosperity of communities ; that a posi-
tive faith which may not inappropriately be termed
religious is an essential condition of healthy develop-
ment. They testify also to an eagerness in their
authors to believe that a golden age, a time of bliss,
is near — one in which all antagonisms will be recon-
ciled, and all the wants of the human spirit satisfied,
which is itself of pathetic interest, springing as it
does from sheer hunger of soul. There is nothing
in their principles or in their arguments to justify
their optimism. Their wish is sole father to their
thought. Faith is seen still struggling to rise in
them, although they have cast away all its supports.

Criticism of the attempts referred to is not neces-
sary. While professing to preserve Religion, they in
reality suppress it. They would "abolish current
antagonisms " by sacrificing the spirit to the flesh
and the "other world" to this world; by denying
God and deifying humanity. The identification of
Socialism and Religion at which they arrive, assumes
the identity of Religion and Atheism. They neither
solve antinomies of thought nor reconcile antago-
nisms of life ; they neither remove intellectual
difficulties nor serve practical ends. Those who
have regarded them as great philosophical achieve-
ments have been deceived by equivocal terms and
boastful pretensions.

3. Another view as to the relation of Socialism to
Religion is that it is essentially one of harmony —
Religion and Socialism implying, supporting, and
supplementing each other.



2 E



434 SOCIALISM

This view prevails among those who accept Kehgion
In Its proper acceptation, and who at the same time
beheve, or fancy they beheve, in genuine SocIaHsm.
It Is prevalent, therefore, among so-called Christian
Socialists, whether actually Socialists or merely pseudo-
Socialists. The great majority of so-called Christian
Socialists are, in my opinion, not really Socialists.
They are simply good Christian men anxious that
society should be Imbued with the spirit and ruled
by the principles of Christ, and that Christ's Church
and its members should faithfully discharge their
duties to society. As all good and Christian men
must do, they wish to see all men happier than
they are, oppression of the weak by the strong and
of the poor by the rich prevented, hatred and strife
between classes ended, a better distribution and
better use of wealth attained, the ties of human
brotherhood universally felt, and righteousness
established In all the relations of life. And, therefore,
they are not unwilling to be called Christian Social-
ists. But real Socialists they are not. They do not
believe that all property should be either collective
or common. They acknowledge the right of the
individual to rule his own life, and not to be used
or abused as the mere instrument of Society. They
diflPer decidedly from real Socialists as regards the
signification of liberty, equality, and justice.

Those who tirst bore the name of Christian Social-
ists In England were Christians of a type as healthy,
beautiful, and noble as God's grace working on
English natures has produced. Maurice, Kingsley,
Ludlow, Neale, and Hughes deserve to be lovnigly



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 435

and reverently remembered by many generations.
The movement which they promoted was one in
every respect admirable. And the name which they
gave to it had at least the merit of expressing
clearly why they so named it. This was because they
held that Christianity and Socialism were in their
very natures closely and amicably connected. It
was because they believed that all social disease and
disorganisation were caused by disobedience to the
divine laws ; that Christianity was as pre-eminently
the power of God unto social as unto personal salva-
tion ; and that by Socialism ought properly to be
meant the Christian view or doctrine of the life of
society — just Christianity considered in its applica-
tion to the purifying and perfecting of that life.
Nothing less than Christianity, they felt, could over-
come and expel the evils of the reigning industrial
system, and bring about even such an economic
organisation of any commonwealth as must be
effected if God's kingdom is ever to be established
in it ; and equally they felt that so long as Christian-
ity was unduly confined to churchly or ecclesiastical
spheres of action, and did not go forth courageously
to conquer the entire world to God, to imbue with
the spirit, and subject to the law of Christ, trade and
commerce and the whole of ordinary life — so long,
in other words, as Christianity was separated from
what they understood and wished others to under-
stand by Socialism — it must be untrue to itself,
unworthy of its origin, feeble and despised. Hence
and thus it was that they conjoined Christianity and
Socialism, and regarded "Christian Socialism" as



436 SOCIALISM

the embodiment of "a new idea" which had entered
into the world in the nineteenth century, and was
as distinctive of it as that which gave rise to
Protestantism had been of the sixteenth century.
In the sixteenth century Christianity required to
take the form of Protestantism ; in the nineteenth
century it ought to manifest itself as Socialism.*

To the so-called " Christian Socialism " of Maurice
and Kingsley in itself we are far from objecting ;
but we cannot admit that " Christian Socialism "
was a proper name for it, and hence cannot see in
the existence of the movement which was thus
designated any reason for thinking Christianity and
Socialism to be naturally and harmoniously allied.
Canon Vaug'han has said : " The ' Christian Social-
ism ' (as it was styled) with which the honoured
names of Maurice and Kingsley were identified forty
years ao-o, and the much more recent movement of
the Catholic and Protestant Churches of Germany
in a similar direction — these are enough of them-
selves to prove that Socialism, rightly understood,
has no necessary connection with religion and un-
belief "t But where is the proof? The "Christian
Socialism " of Maurice and Kingsley supplies none
unless it was not merely so styled, but truly so
styled, really Socialism, Socialism rightly understood.
And that is what it certainly was not. Maurice and
Kingsley did not teach a single principle or doctrine
peculiar to Socialism. The })ortion of the teaching



* J. M. Ludlow in the introductory paper to the " Christian Socialist."
t "Questions of the Day," pp. 251-2.



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 437

of the French Socialists which they inculcated with
such iutense conviction and great effectiveness was
the 23urely Christian, not the distinctly Socialistic
portion. In condemning selfishness, in inveighing
against the abuses of competition, in urging recourse
to co-operative association, and in preaching justice?
love, and brotherhood, they followed a good example
which these Socialists had set them, without com-
mitting themselves to the acceptance of any speci-
fically socialistic tenet. When they maintained that
social reorganisation must be preceded by individual
reformation; that trust in State aid or legislation was
a superstition ; that self-help was the prime requisite
for the amelioration of the condition of the work-
ing classes ; that co-operation should be voluntary
and accompanied by appropriate education ; that so
far from private property being robbery, it was a
divine stewardship ; and that men could never be
joined in true brotherhood by mere plans to give
them self-interest in common, but must first feel
that they had one common Father : they struck at
the very roots of Socialism.

The combination of Socialism with Kelig^ion even
in the form of Christianity is certainly not im-
possible. It has actually taken place. There are
unquestionably so-called " Christian Socialists " who
are at once sincere Christians and genuine Socialists.
Those who profess themselves to be Christian Social-
ists are apt to be led by the motives which induced
them to do so, and even by their very profession
itself, far beyond such so-called " Christian Social-
ism " as that of Maurice and Kingsley. Some of the



438 SOCIALISM

Cliristian Socialists at present in England display
none of the jealousy of State interference with indi-
vidual rights, or of the respect for the institution of
private property, shown by those whose successors
they claim to be. Witness the Rev. Mr. Headlam.
There can be no doubt that he has managed to
combine in his mind and doctrine Christianity
and Socialism. This, however, is no proof that
they are naturally connected. The mind of man
can make the most unnatural and irrational com-
binations. The actual conjunction of belief in
thorough-going Socialism with faith in Christianity
is, consequently, no proof that they are naturally
connected, or rationally and harmoniously related.
Mr. Headlam believes in a Socialism which aims at
robbery on a gigantic scale, and in a Religion which
forbids all dishonesty. What does that prove ?
That Socialism and Christianity are closely akin ?
No ! Only that Mr. Headlam, like all other men,
may regard incompatible things as consistent.

In Germany both the so-called " Catholic
Socialists " and the so-called " Protestant " or
"Evangelical Christian Socialists" made from the
first excessive concessions to Socialism. Such repre-
sentatives of the former as Bishop von Ketteler,
Canons Moufang and Haffner, and Abbot Hitze, and
such representatives of the latter as Dr. Stocker
and Todt were at one in inviting the State to
intervene for the protection and aid of the working
classes to an extent which could hardly fail to intro-
duce a very real Socialism. The Protestant and
Catholic Socialists of Germany have been charged



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 439

with seeking to outbid each other ; they have
obviously been influenced by the desire to counter-
act the prevalent revolutionary and anti-religious
Socialism. They agree in encouraging the State to
extend and increase its already exorbitant power
and activity. The leading Catholic Socialists of
Austria (Baron von Vogelsang, Count von Kiifstein,
Fathers Weiss and Costa-E-ossetti), demand from
the State such an organisation of industry and such
regulation of the relations of capital and labour as
would leave little room for individual liberty or
enterprise. Certain French Catholic writers have
recently been advocating the same policy.

These movements show that both Catholic and
Protestant Christians may lapse into socialistic
aberrations, but not that they can do so without
declension from Catholic and Protestant doctrine.

As to Catholic doctrine, that has been set forth in
its relation to the labour and social question with
an authority which no Catholic will dispute, and an
ability and thoughtfulness which all must acknow-
ledge, by the present Pontiff, Leo XIIT., in a great
historical document, the Encyclical : " Rerum
Novarum." There Socialism as a solution of the
social question is tested by the standard of Catholic
doctrine, and judged accordingly. The judgment
pronounced on it is one which leaves no room for a
Catholic becoming, without the most manifest in-
consistency, a Socialist in the proper sense of the
term. It is an express condemnation of the
absorption of the individual or the family by the
State, of the communisation of property, and of the



44° SOCIALISM

equalisation of conditions, which are the distinctive
characteristics of Socialism ; an express condemna-
tion of Socialism in itself as uncatholic and un-
christian. In his Encyclical the Pope recognises no
such distinction as that of a true and a false
Socialism, but treats as false all that is truly
Socialism.*

The Protestant view regarding the labour and
social question is almost identical with that so
skilfully presented by the Pope as Catholic, and
can only cease to be so by ceasing to be Christian.
Catholics and Protestants hold as Christians a
common deposit of truth absolutely essential to
the welfare of society and of the labouring classes ;
and they can neither consistently nor wisely sur-
render a coin of it for one which has come from the
mint of Socialism.

Christianity and Socialism, then, are not so
related as those who are styled Christian Socialists

* objections may, I think, be legitimately taken to the affirmation in
the Encyclical of the right of the labourer to a minimum wage. Its chief
defect, perhaps, is want of explicitness. Does it mean that the employer
of labour is bound to pay to those whom he employs wages which although
not more than necessary to their reasonable and frugal comfort, are yet
more than he can pay without producing at a loss 7 I do not suppose that
the Pope intended to affirm this ; but he has been so understood, and in
consequence claimed or blamed as a Socialist. For the allegation that he
has sanctioned the theory that wages ought to be determined by wants I
can perceive no grounds.

It may here be added that the social question as related to Christianity
on the one hand and to Socialism on the other, has been judiciously and
ably treated by some of the Catholic clergy, and especially by some of the
Jesuit fathers — e.fi., V. Cathrein, A. Lehmkuhl, Th. Meyer, &c. See Die
Sociale Frage, beleuchtet durch "die Stimmen aus Maria-Laach." The
widely-known work of Dr. Ratzinger, " Die Volkswirthschaft in ihren
sittlichen Grundlagen," 1881, is eloquent and interesting, but not infre-
quently unguarded and extreme.



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 441

imaefine. What is called Christian Socialism will
always be found to be either unchristian in so far as
it is socialistic, or unsocialistic in so far as it is truly
and fully Christian.

4. The relation of Socialism and Keligion has
likewise been represented as naturally one of
antaofonism.

This is the view most prevalent even among
Socialists themselves. It is the view generally, and
indeed almost exclusively, accepted by Social
Democrats. The doctrine of Social Democracy is
based on a materialistic conception of the world.
Its advocates assail belief in God and immortality
as not only in itself superstition but as a chief
obstacle to the reception of their teaching and the
triumph of their cause.

This view is regarded, of course, by religious
Socialists as a serious error. They deplore it as a
misfortune that Socialism should have been con-
joined with a philosophical hypothesis which
inevitably brings it into conflict with religion.
They deny that there is any necessary or logical
connection between the economic and the atheistic
teaching of the Social Democrats ; and affirm that
a true Socialist ought in consistency to be a religious
or even Christian man.

Nor in so judging are they wholly mistaken.
Socialism in every form, that of Social Democracy
included, contains principles which can only be fully
developed in an atmosphere of Religion. Its best
features in all its forms are of Christian derivation
and can only attain perfection as traits of Christian



442 SOCIALISM

character. Socialism is not essentially or necessarily
atheistic. It is not the compulsion of mere logic
which has constrained Social Democrats to commit
themselves to the advocacy of Materialism. Historical
and practical considerations, the social considerations
under which their scheme of Collectivism origfinated
and took shape and the services which Materialism
seemed adapted to render in propagating it, were
doubtless those which had most influence in leadinof
them to do so.

Nevertheless the union of Socialism with
Materialism must be acknowledged to be a very
natural one. Were it not so it would not be the
common fact it is. Had Socialists not had some
strong reasons for resting their economic proposals
on materialistic presuppositions they would not have
done this, as they could not fail to be aware that
they must thereby evoke the opposition of the whole
Christian world. They must have deemed the creed
of Materialism so especially favourable to the success
of their Socialism as to justify the risks and dis-
advantages to their cause obviously inseparable from
allying it to an atheistical philosophv.

Were they mistaken in thinking thus ? I believe
that they were not. But for the prevalence of
materialistic views and tendencies Socialism would
assuredly not have spread as it has done. It
is only when the truth of the materialistic
theory is assumed that the socialistic conception of
earthly welfare, or social happiness, as being the
chief end of human life, is likely to appear to
be reasonable. If there be no other life for men



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 443

than that which they live in the flesh, then, but
only then, is it natural to conclude that their sole
concern should be to get while on earth all the
happiness which they can. A philosophy which
maintains the existence of God, the supremacy of a
Divine moral law, the reality of an unending life,
plainly cannot forward the designs of those who aim
at the entire subjection of the individual to society
so consistently or eflectively as one which affirms
that there is nothing supramaterial, nothing higher
than man himself, no life beyond the grave, no
absolute good. The adherents of Social Democracy
have not erred in thinking that Religion with its
hopes and fears, Theology with its doctrines of the
invisible and eternal, and Spiritual Philosophy with
its theses based on speculative and moral reason, are
serious obstacles to the realisation of their plans.
That they will come to dissociate their Socialism
from Atheism and Materialism is, in my opinion,
extremely improbable. For, although they would
thereby disarm the hostility of many who are at
present necessarily their opponents, they would
also immensely decrease the immber of those who
would care for, or could believe in, their Socialism.
It is only on those who are without religious faith
that socialistic schemes exert a strong- attractive
and motive force. The most completely socialistic
schemes are those which are freest from the contact
and constraint of relio-ion.*

* The following extract from a paper of the Right Rev. Abbot Snow,
O.S.B., may partly confirm and partly supplement the preceding observa-
tions, and also be of interest as showing tlie relation of Socialism to Religion



444 SOCIALISM

We have come, then, to the following conclusions
as to the relation of Socialism to Relio-ion. It is
not a merely casual relation, a merely possible or
accidental connection. Socialism, in seeking a satis-
factory organisation of society, aims at what can
only be accomplished with the aid of Religion, and
when full justice is done to it. If it misconceive
the nature of Religion, take up a false attitude to-



as viewed by a thoughtful Catholic writer : " To a Catholic his faith and his
religion are paramount ; for them he will sacrifice goods and life if necessary,
placing his eternal welfare above temporal prosperity. Until he ascertains
the position of his faith and religion in the new society proposed by
Socialism, a Catholic will instinctively be suspicious of the absence of
religion in the advocacy of social schemes, and anticipate danger to his
faith. So that whether Socialists are loudly hostile to religion, or whether
they passively suppose that religion and belief in God will pass away, or
whether they simply ignore religion, a Catholic can scarcely associate with
them in their schemes without having his faith undermined to a greater or
less extent. The danger may be the better understood by explaining the
tendency of Socialism to ally itself with theism and religion. These points
may be briefly noticed. In order to reconstruct society on a socialistic
basis the accumulation of power and wealth and land, now in the hands of
a comparative few, must be sequestered and secured for the common good.
Precautions must also be taken to prevent the recurrence of the irregularity.
The condition of the masses must be raised, poverty and want must
disappear, labour must be regulated, the general welfare must be adjusted
so as to secure happiness and content to all. To attain this involves
certain theories or principles to justify the revolution. The present notions
of rights, duties, and justice require modification. The end and object
being the general good of all men and to secure equal rights and position
to all, the leading idea in socialistic theories is mankind taken collectively,
the human race in general, or, as they call it, the solidarity of humanity.
Whatever tends to the good of mankind generally, is good and right ; what-
ever tends to the advantage of the individual at the expense of the com.
munity, is evil and wrong. Each one is bound to labour for the community
and not for his own aggrandisement, and his goodness or badness depends
on the fulfilment of that duty. The highest aim of all good men should be
to increase the temporal prosperity and happiness of all collectively. Thus
the whole range of thought and effort is limited to material prosperity in
this life. In this state of things it is evident that religion and the next



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 445

wards it, or fail to assign due importance to it as a
social force, it must necessarily be a defective and
false theory of society.



Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 32 of 38)