The Convergence of Marxism and Christianity

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THE CONVERGENCE OF MARXISM AND CHRISTIANITY: IMPLICATIONS FOR PHILIPPINE DEMOCRACY by Victor Aguilan, Th. D. Silliman University Divinity School Paper presented to the 35TH PHAVISMINDA CONFERENCE Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan May 24 – 26, 2012

In the struggle for Philippine democracy, two sectors have played a vital role: Christians and Marxists. During the Marcos dictatorship, the Communists led an armed opposition against the dictatorship with the objective of establishing a national democratic (ND) society. Progressive Christians1 opposed Marcos’ authoritarian regime because of grave human rights violations and demanded the restoration of democracy. Eventually, the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship led the two to converge. In their struggle for democracy and social liberation in the Philippines, Filipino Marxists and Christians started building alliances. A number of theologians began to reflect on these alliances between Marxism and Christianity. In 1982, the “theology of struggle” was the name embraced by a group of Christian activists in the Philippines, who committed themselves to social transformation of Church and Philippine society. It has appropriated Marxist critique of Philippine society, an ideology perceived as antithetical to Christian beliefs. Marxism has transformed the way theologians understand the nature of the Church, State, politics, and democracy. This paper will examine the relationship of theology and social theory that exists between the Theology of Struggle (TOS) and Marxism. The two main research questions of this paper are: 1) what are the convergence and divergence between the two perspectives?; and 2) what are the implications for Philippine democracy? To answer these questions, the paper will discuss the following: 1) Marx’s theory of religion and politics; 2) the contribution of Marxism to the Theology of Struggle (TOS); and 3) a proposal as to how the convergence of the two perspectives in ToS could enrich Philippine democracy. MARXIST CRITICISMS OF RELIGION The Marxist criticism of religion is based on a materialist philosophy which is opposed to idealist philosophy. Marx’s materialism is called "historical materialism" or the "materialist conception of history." The fundamental thesis of historical materialism can be summed up in a sentence: "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness."2 It emphasizes the existence of the material world independent of the ideas and perceptions by which one has become aware of it and any other ideas or ideal or spiritual entities which may be imagined to exist. It, therefore, does not accept the existence of God or supernatural beings.

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Hence religion is a human construction, a human enterprise, a creation or invention of human beings. Marx said, Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is indeed man's selfconsciousness and self-awareness so long as he has not found himself or has already lost himself again. But, man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, it enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.3 Marx’s criticism of religion belongs to the projectionist school. Influence by Feuerbach, who is remembered today as the author of the Essence of Christianity, whose main thesis in his works was that...
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