The Socialist Interregnum and Buddhist Resurgence in Laos
Communist revolutionaries in general have been hostile to religion, especially after seizing power. This mandate comes in part from a tendentious reading of Marx and Engels’ statement in the Communist Manifesto that “religion is the opium of the people,” and arises from the fact that communist revolutionaries have usually been radical modernists, on the side of science and progress and against “backward feudal beliefs.” In an earlier essay on Buddhism and revolution in Laos I referred to this attitude as “secular fundamentalism” (Evans, 1998a), and in Asia we have seen outbursts of it in China during the Cultural Revolution and during the brief reign of Pol Pot in Cambodia. While less extreme versions of this attitude have been the broad standpoint of communism, its national and local manifestations have been very different from one another. The dethroning of the Christian church’s worldly authority by science in Europe gave secular fundamentalism there a sharp and uncompromising edge. Faced by an almost monolithic monotheism, its target was clear and unambiguous. Elsewhere, however, revolutionaries were immersed in societies where beliefs and practices were diverse and boundaries were ambiguous.
KeywordsBuddhist Teaching Buddhist Practice Religious Affair Secular Education Communist Manifesto
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