James Connolly


Labour, Nationality and Religion


Chapter V
God or Mammon

In his fifth lecture our reverend critic simply refurbishes and places upon exhibition all the individual opinions of individual Socialists he can find antagonistic to religion, and tells us that their individual opinions are orthodox Socialist doctrines. After having for four weeks beaten the air in a wild endeavour to convince us that the Church is and always was against Socialism, that Socialists were and are beasts of immorality, uncleanness and treason, he affects to be horrified at the idea of those Socialists thinking and saying harsh things about the religion whose priests have been so busy slandering and vilifying them. We would say to him, and all others, that if the pioneers of the Socialist movement were indeed freethinkers, so much the more shame to the Church that, by neglecting its obvious duty, left freethinkers to do the work in which churchmen ought to have been their leaders

Sufficient to remind our readers that, even according to the oft-repeated assertion of Father Kane, Socialism means a state of society in which the will of the people should be supreme, that therefore Marx and Bebel and Liebknecht and Vandervelde and Blatchford were not and are not working for the establishment of a system in which they would be able to force their theories about religion upon the people, but for a system in which the people would be free to accept only that of which their conscience approved. In the light of that central truth how absurd seems the following passage:

Now, in Socialism there are principles which no real Catholic can hold. First, Socialists hold that private ownership is in itself wrong; that, no Catholic can admit. Secondly, Socialists maintain that the child is the property of the state as against the father’s right; that, no Catholic can admit. Thirdly, Socialists recognise divorce as a breaking of the marriage bond; that, no Catholic can admit. Fourth, Socialists limit and confine religion to mere personal private worship; that, no Catholic can admit.

We have seen that saints and Popes denounced private ownership of the means of life. We challenge the reverend father to produce from any Socialist congress or party a declaration that Socialists desire to take the child from the father or mother, but we will produce many declarations that it is the right of the state to help fathers and mothers to support their children, and, finally, we flatly deny, and brand as an unqualified falsehood, the statement that the Socialist programme declares for the breaking of the marriage bond. Our reverend and holy critics make it appear that the Socialist idea of society must be responsible for the other ideas held by some of its sponsors. Why not apply this to the Catholic Church then? When King Edward VII of England ascended the throne he swore that the Mass was blasphemous and idolatrous; and when he died the Vatican went into mourning. Did the Vatican believe that the institution of monarchy was not to be blamed for the official declarations of its supporters? And if so, why blame Socialism for the private, non-official, declaration of a few of its supporters?

Recently there died in Europe a king – King Leopold of Belgium – whose private life was so disgracefully immoral that it was the scandal of Europe. A married man with a grown-up family, he kept a Parisian actress as his mistress, and led so scandalous a life that the females of his family refused to follow his body to the grave. Yet when he died the whole official Catholic world went into mourning for him. He was more of a representative of the institution of monarchy than any private individual can ever be of Socialism; but the Rev. Father Kane or his Holiness the Pope did not therefore deliver sermons against the wickedness of supporting kings. And what is true in these two striking examples is also true of kings, nobles, and capitalists all the world over. In the United States the divorce rate for 100,000 of the population rose from 23 in 1880 to 73 in 1900. Between 1887 and 1906 the total number of divorces was 945,625. This enormous increase of divorces was almost entirely among the classes least affected by Socialist teaching – the middle and upper capitalist class. That is to say, among the class our reverend opponent is defending. Why all this howl about supposed Socialist theories of divorce, and all this silence about the capitalist practice thereof?

Is there any logical connection between Socialism and atheism? This question has two aspects; first, does atheism logically lead to Socialism? and, secondly, does Socialism logically lead to atheism? As regards the first question it is very evident that a wealthy atheist is little likely to be a genuine Socialist. For him his wealth and pleasure will be the only objects of his worship, and he will not sacrifice them in order to secure the honour of being a Socialist labourer. But with the atheist who is penniless it is quite another matter. For him there is no moral law, because there is no law without a lawgiver, and there is no lawgiver but God; hence, there is no right that can restrain him from taking all the wealth on which he can lay his hands, and Socialism supplies him with the means of doing this. A beggar atheist is a Socialist, unless he be a fool. The answer to the second question is not so clear. Does Socialism logically lead to atheism? If we understand Socialism exclusively in its real and essential sense as a social system, which would give exclusively to the state all ownership of capital, of means of wealth production, and kindred powers, with also the exclusive right of distribution and administration of such goods, then we admit that Socialism is not logically the same thing as atheism. However wrong a man may be in ethical or economic matters, he may yet be right in recognising God. This, however, is vague and abstract. Is Socialism logically incompatible with Catholicity? To this we must fearlessly answer thus: a true Catholic cannot be a real Socialist. Understand what this does not mean and what it does mean. It does not mean that the Catholic who calls himself a Socialist is thereby a heretic. It does not even follow that a Catholic who is a real Socialist is thereby a heretic; but it does logically follow that a real Catholic cannot be a real Socialist. Do not push this statement unfairly towards one side or towards the other.

When he makes the damaging admission he does in the point we have put in italic type, our reverend friend knocks the feet from under his own case; and when he goes on to wriggle still further in an attempt to cloud the issue he reveals that his purpose is not to discuss Socialism so much as to traduce it. He admits that logically there is no connection between Socialism and atheism, and yet his whole discourse was a long-drawn-out attempt to prove such a connection. In what other walk of life would a man be tolerated who indulged in such senseless hair-splitting as the foregoing, or in such vilification as the following?

What will you then have in your Socialist paradise? A herd of human cattle, some of them intelligent, educated, cultured, a very suspected lot in the Socialistic state, most of them, practically all of them, a Godless, unprincipled, immoral crowd. In our Christian commonwealths there are many criminals, but they are the exception. They are an offence against our principles and rebels against our right. Under Socialism criminals would be the authorised spokesmen of your principles and the ruthless henchmen of your lawlessness. Again and again, without God there is no morality, and without morality there is only left the God of the Socialist – irreligion, immorality, degradation of the man and suicide of the nation.

Note the words, “Under Socialism criminals would be the authorised spokesmen of your principles.” He has repeatedly asserted that under Socialism the will of the people would rule, and now he asserts that the people would choose criminals as their spokesmen. Yet such a thing as a Socialist criminal is practically unknown in the records of the police courts of the world. Can any sane man believe that if the "means of wealth production and kindred powers’ were common property the people would be so debased by the enjoyment of the full fruits of their labour that they would elect criminals to be their spokesmen and rulers? Or that a man cannot worship God unless he concedes the right of a capitalist to three-fourths or more of the fruits of his labour? Or that a people cannot love their country if they own it as their common property? Or that a nation would commit suicide if it refused to allow a small class to monopolise all its natural resources and means of life? Or that the nation which refused to allow a class to use the governmental machinery for personal aggrandisement to stir up wars and slaughter thousands of men “made in the image of God” for the sake of more profits for a few, that the nation which should refuse to allow this would be “powerless in the moral order”, and hastening on to decay? Yet it is this monstrous farrago of nonsense Rev. Father Kane attempts to establish in his fifth lecture.


Last updated on 12.8.2003