Realistic Communism

Communism and Religion

Historically, communism has been strongly associated with atheism, the belief that there is no god. Karl Marx was staunchly atheistic, and famously called religion “the opium of the people,” only invented to exploit them. The Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China both were historically huge proponents of religious persecution. This nearly-ubiquitous persecution by communists has led some to believe that communism and religion cannot coexist.

However, there is nothing inherently atheistic about communism. Many early American colonies were largely communist and Christian, while Christian communist societies such as the Hutterites still exist. Rojava has socialist leanings, and many Muslim countries have socialist parties. Even China has begrudgingly allowed its own government-controlled forms of Buddhism and Christianity.

This atheistic bent of communism is largely historical. Europe has historically been a Christian continent, so when thinkers embittered by and opposed to Europe’s ways envisioned a new way of life, they questioned everything and discarded all authority. During the Enlightenment, philosophers rejected everything which they could not prove with just their own reasoning. The faith required for religion was a non-starter. When Karl Marx was raised under such teachers and adopted such philosophy, he was naturally opposed to religion himself.

There are some practical conflicts with communism and Christianity however. On the face of the matter they may sound in agreement: Christianity calls everyone to love his neighbor as himself, to give selflessly to those in need, and for no man to regard anyone as above any other, which is quite similar to communism’s goal of a moneyless and classless society. However, Christianity also calls for obedience to authority, which is at odds with a proletariat revolution. Christianity endorses a government to punish evildoers, while communism believes in a stateless society. And the most irreconcilable problem is in their differing views of humanity.

Communism was born out of humanist thought and fundamentally believes in mankind. It believes that most of life’s problems are caused by the people in charge oppressing the workers. If the government were removed, resources allocated efficiently, and the people trained to work hard, share, and not discriminate, the world would almost be a utopia. Christianity on the other hand believes this world is irreparably broken and that a perfect life can only be reached in heaven. While it acknowledges some policies may make this world better or worse, it believes in God, not man. Most denominations believe man is inherently sinful and can only live right through God’s grace. Therefore, no matter how much power is spread out and people are trained to share and work without compulsion, they believe people will ultimately be greedy, selfish, and lazy and that any real communist system will fail. So while they may not be opposed to it morally, they believe communism is just not realistic.

Admittedly however, not all religions or even Christian denominations believe that, and many Christians believe communism can work on a small scale among fellow believers consistent with that logic. Many people have just never reason through their beliefs. While communism and religion commonly have some serious conflicts, it is still possible to believe in both.