Socialism as Religion
In perusing the philosophic documents relating to theoretical and practical socialism, one glaring theme running through the corpus of books and tracts is how transcendental traditional religion is an unvarnished blight upon the face of humanity. Acolytes of socialism have long deemed that by affixing our consciousness on the unseen hereafter, we affect a certain materialistically defined nihilism: eschewing the certain gains that could have been constructed for the benefit of Man in the concrete now for the intangible kingdom of hope and whimsy promised by arcane and discredited traditions. Socialism thus, in the vast majority of its forms, interprets the cultivation of our search and longing after God as, at best, a narcotic towards despair, and at worse, a retrograde abstention from the obligations of our humanist morality to affect a paradise derived from our own reason towards the sanctity of our own temporal ends.
It was from this secular humanist morality that Robert Owen derived his understanding of Ethical Socialism and formulated his experiments in constructing Utopian communities in Britain and in a fledging America. In purchasing property from a religious community, Owen dubbed the experiment "New Harmony" and proceeded to fabricate his little society based upon humanist liberty and egalitarian tenets while deconstructing institutions such as marriage in the service of a worldly human happiness. New Harmony, however, proved to be a colossal unsustainable flop, even with large amounts of Owen's business capital infused into the project. Rather than labor for the common weal, the residents were more interested in meetings and parties, preferring idleness to the dreary compulsions of farming and the cottage industries that had sustained the former religious residents. As the entire enterprise ground to a dismal halt through lack of initiative and faction, New Harmony, along with the hundreds of American secular socialist experiments, proved incompatible with success because they were fundamentally incompatible with human nature. Holding wives, children, commodities, and property in common appeared to not resonate with this flourishing genius of social interaction. Robert Owen eventually , in an attempt to add content to his vague egalitarian ethic, created institutions called "Halls of Science" -- a secular "church" that applauded man's existential fraternity and goodness, replete with hymnals and pulpit exhortations for the bolstering of his brave new world of materialist harmony.
It would be through "science" and not ethics that socialism would achieve its ultimate "success and notoriety," as Marx and Engels would eventually arise as the twin prophets of the Materialist Revelation. While G.W.F. Hegel, the philosopher of Idealism, had pantheistically deified History as "the march of God in the World," Marx postulated a similar inevitable determinism in the evolutionary materialist universe, and in standing Hegel on his head, announced that socialism and finally communism itself would become, by historical necessity, the secular end state of man -- although this secular predestination would imprint an unmistakably religious character on the edifice. Accordingly, Marx following Rousseau held that men had originally existed in a happy state of nature and only with the advent and rise of inequality, stemming from coercion and private property, had humanity become the unhappy slaves of capital, sustained by the opiate of transcendental theology. It was only through inexorable historical struggle, mediated by righteous violence, that mankind would throw off its shackles and enter into a heaven on earth after first passing through a time of tutelage known as the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Through this metamorphosis, a new being would arise, purified by labor and educated to virtue: throwing off the stagnant restraints of a nihilistic religion and allowing mankind the free reign of his enormous powers -- -rendering everyman an Edison and an Einstein and transforming the world into a veritable primordial garden where all desires were met and dreams attained. It would be here that the state would wither away and the great culmination of history would introduce an awakened humanity to unfettered autonomy and collective bliss.
Residing beneath the tenets of Scientific Socialism and its historical inevitability lays the simplicity of its doctrine. Since the end state of human society is determined, men are essentially powerless to either bring to fruition or impede this political and moral necessity. Therefore, ushering in the new utopia is a foreordained dialectic of abstract forces working behind the scenes. In this ideological worldview, there is no need to affect personal repentance or to cleanse oneself of moral impurities. In fact, the socialist religion would require no transcendental moral content at all because what had been traditional notions of right and wrong -- good and evil, would become extinct and pass away from the horizon of memory. Any religious-like devotion, however, would be directed to the State and to the vanguard, whose talents were irreplaceable in remaking human personality in the crucible of correct thought and unquestioned loyalty to socialist evolution through labor.
Socialism has quite fittingly been termed "the God That Failed," and as in all dream castles, an incorrect perception of first principles lies at the feet of its failure. Combining the idea of a plasticity of fundamental human nature with the dynamic hubris of secular intellectuals who believed they could bring about the City of Human Peace, Socialism allowed the scientific twentieth century to become the backdrop to more than one hundred million deaths: all reserved for souls who would not take on the determined shapes prepared for them by their enlightened masters. Those who eschew religion for the scientifically divined regime of enforced collective equality, at the expense of rightly understood freedom, should consider that the ultimate character of the socialist dream is a religion based upon fait -- but a faith where man bows down to a graven image of self. The Primordial Garden, the Chrysalis of Personality, the Predestined and Inevitable fate of Man -- are all secular themes clumsily borrowed from the Christian lexicon as broad strokes of utopian longing in service to transforming a perceived human misery -- answering the perennial questions of human meaning and leaping over the chasm of nothingness that everyone who even remotely wrestles with being must embrace.
In effect, socialism postulates a moral structure on insufficient foundations. Beginning from a non-moral beginning and utilizing an amoral process, it hoped to arrive at a moral endpoint through a reasoning that reduced justice, mercy, nature, happiness, and even a shadow of transcendental longing as wholly subservient to determined historical necessity. In retrospect, one could not have designed a more thorough system of slavery: a religious fervor with Man as the object; a Second Coming without a Messiah. Devoid of moral content and without a lasting legacy, nothing remains in its camp but the myriad of unmarked graves stretching out across a century of muddled ideological passion while projecting its unlearned lessons into the ominous future like curling fingers of fire.