In Burgos - the old capital of mediaeval Castilla and home of Spain's dubious national hero "El Cid" - during the festival of the San Lesmes (the city´s patron saint) over the weekend I was struck (as I have so often been in my travels around Spain) by the tremendous attraction that Catholicism exerts on a aesthetic level in this part of the world, despite sharing in the manifest intellectual bankruptcy of all religion and blind-faith based ideologies.
Even a cynic such as myself cannot help but be impressed by the visual grandeur of it all - a grandeur with which evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism simply cannot hope to compete (although perhaps High Church Anglicanism comes a little closer to matching it). It would seem that the Roman Catholic Church understood better than its rivals the importance of offering something more tangible and concrete than the promise of heavenly salvation, which was why it was able to sink such deep and enduring roots in the soil of the Old Roman Empire. Like 19th century Social Democracy, Catholicism achieved hegemony not so much through evangelical fervour but rather through the slow permeation or co-option of every facet of mass, popular culture.
Possibly this is why evangelism (in both its religious and Leninist variants) has been unable to offer anything other than the most fleeting of challenges to the Old Religions - of Saint Peter and of Kautsky and Bernstein - despite the obvious deficiencies and internal contradictions of both. Perhaps the best option for the anti-capitalist left in its efforts to capture the imagination of the working class is also to cultivate, as another blogger has recently suggested, a sense of the irrational and marvelous - as opposed to the standard devices of logic and reason.
Perhaps, like Unamuno's San Manuel Bueno, we should accept that at the end of the day what matters not so much what people believe but rather the objective function that belief fulfils?