• Communism, Atheism, and “Atheism is Dead”: Responding to a Christian Challenger

    Several months back I’d written a fairly popular post responding to the common charge that atheism was the motivating factor in the Communist atrocities. The truth is that I’ve been debating this point with several Christians for years. One Christian apologist in particular wrote a multi-part series responding to my rebuttal to one of his propaganda pieces about atheism’s alleged link to Communism. Despite the fact that I responded directly on the post in question the author has never replied. And this was three years ago, and prior to his moving his blog to a new location!

    Here is my four part response I placed in the comments section of his now defunct blog to which the Christian author has never responded:

    Mariano, your attempts at a rebuttal makes no sense, and you also ended up proving how little you actually know about Communism. Since I don’t feel like posting an individual rebuttal at each post I’ll just address a few things here.

    First of all, you continuously argue how you quote the Communists and how they support your interpretations about how they were influenced by atheism through you only use quotes referring to evolution and materialism, but as I’ve said before atheism is not synonymous with evolution and materialism. So it’s impossible for you to claim that it was atheism by your use of those quotes. Why? It’s very simple. First of all, atheism is simply a lack of theism, or belief in god/s, which means that even a religion can be atheistic. Ever hear of Buddhism, in which many sects have no belief in any gods and many believe in reincarnation? Or what about Animism, which is a religion that believes there is a non-material, or “spiritual component” to living things that makes them alive? So, here are just two examples of religion that are atheistic, but have immaterial beliefs. Sorry to burst your bubble, but atheism is not the same thing as materialism.

    Second, due to the millions of religious individuals and authorities who believe in theistic evolution, clearly evolution isn’t necessarily “atheistic.”

    And now I come to your taking out of context of several of the Communists you quote. This proves that they did not believe what you attribute to them because they are referring to something else. For example, you quote Marx as saying the following:

    “Note that Marx’s statement explains how Marx considered atheism to be related to evolution and Communism, ‘Darwin’s book of Natural Selection…contains the basis in natural history for our view…a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history.'”

    Sorry, but you clearly don’t understand the context in which Marx was speaking. He was not saying that he based his beliefs upon evolution. This was simply Marx trying to find a legit scientific theory to confirm his flawed (pseudo) scientific theory about history. Because Darwin’s theory of natural selection spoke of a struggle in nature, Marx felt this was a theory he could use to give credence to his belief in the class struggle.

    Allow me to quote the Socialist and Marxist Anton Pannekoek from his 1909 work Marxism And Darwinism to help back up this fact:

    “As soon as Darwinism made its appearance, the proletarian vanguard, the Socialists, hailed the Darwinian theory, because in Darwinism they saw a corroboration and completion of their own theory; not as some superficial opponents believe, that they wanted to base Socialism upon Darwinism but in the sense that the Darwinian discovery, – that even in the apparently stagnant organic world there is a continuous development – is a glorious corroboration and completion of the Marxian theory of social development.” (emphasis mine)

    You also quote Lenin as saying, “The philosophical basis of Marxism, as Marx and Engels repeatedly declared, is dialectical materialism…a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion.”

    You also don’t understand what Lenin was referring to when he mentions materialism. The Communists believed in Dialectical materialism, which is the belief that history follows the path of class struggle. That’s it. It doesn’t refer to the more common idea of materialism, in that all that exists is matter, as you seem to believe. And why is it hostile, at least to Lenin? Because, as I’ve stated over and over, and as you even quoted yourself, “Whatever helps the world Communist revolution is good; whatever hinders it is bad”, meaning, whatever helps the Communists achieve their revolution is good, anything that stunts it is bad, and religion became a stumbling block to their plans so they went on the attack. This has nothing to do with atheism, but advancing their plans for socialism; their ideology. Some Communists believed that religion caused people to focus too much on the afterlife and not enough on this life. Because of this, they believed that religion would hinder their attempts at reforming society in the present because no one would care to try if they just had to wait for death to go to heaven. Of course, Engles condemned the idea that religion should be prohibited in socialist society (http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1909/may/13.htm), so clearly Communism is not necessarily “hostile” to all religion.

    To quote Lenin on the subject:

    “The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching…It must be linked up with the concrete practice of the class movement, which aims at eliminating the social roots of religion…It means that Social Democracy’s atheist propaganda must be subordinated to its basic task – the development of the class struggle of the exploited masses against the exploiters.”

    As Lenin himself states, the combating of religion was to advance the class struggle, the very basis of Marxism – not atheism. Of course, you make use of this quote but completely butcher it, when you write:

    “The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching…eliminating the social roots of religion.”

    You completely left out the explanation about why they did this! Because of their belief in the class struggle, or Dialectical materialism.

    Even Lenin said the following, allowing for freedom of religion. As it can be clearly seen, it was a debatable issue about how to treat religion, but to say that Communism was completely hostile to all religion is false.

    “Religion must be declared a private affair. In these words socialists usually express their attitude towards religion. But the meaning of these words should be accurately defined to prevent any misunderstanding. We demand that religion be held a private affair so far as the state is concerned.

    But by no means can we consider religion a private affair so far as our Party is concerned. Religion must be of no concern to the state, and religious societies must have no connection with governmental authority. Everyone must be absolutely free to profess any religion he pleases, or no religion whatever, i.e., to be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule. Discrimination among citizens on account of their religious convictions is wholly intolerable. Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated. No subsidies should be granted to the established church nor state allowances made to ecclesiastical and religious societies. These should become absolutely free associations of like-minded citizens, associations independent of the state. Only the complete fulfillment of these demands can put an end to the shameful and accursed past when the church lived in feudal dependence on the state, and Russian citizens lived in feudal dependence on the established church, when medieval, inquisitorial laws (to this day remaining in our criminal codes and on our statute-books) were in existence and were applied, persecuting men for their belief or disbelief, violating men’s consciences, and linking cozy government.” (Lenin – Socialism and Religion, 1905)

    Some religious denominations were even allowed, such as Islam, which ‘experienced official co-option from agencies such as Spiritual Administration of the Muslims.’ At one point, ‘the Russian Orthodox Church was enlisted to support Stalin’s government in the country’s defense – support which it unreservedly granted by naming Stalin as divinely appointed, just as it had done under the Russian tsars.’ (http://www.makingmyway.org/?p=36)

    Stalin even opened churches at one point and ordered those under him to stop any religious persecution!

    If it were truly atheism that drove their actions, why is it that you’ve been unable to find any quotes to back up your claim? All the quotes you’ve cited have been taken out of context as I’ve shown in these few examples. Further more, if it was this “atheism” that drove their actions then why the huge discrepancies between the Communists’ beliefs regarding the status of religion in a socialist society? Even Lenin expressed ideas of religious tolerance, as did Engels. Why was this? As I’ve stated before, it was because of their ideology and their attempts to get the masses to accept it. They tried different tactics over the years trying to find the most effective method. Of course, as history has shown, many of Marx’s theories have been proven flawed and their ideas were unworkable. But to lay this at the feet of atheism is an enormous historically inaccurate argument.

    You also argue that “[t]he reason that Hitler turned to Martin Luther was not, or not solely, that Luther had written some anti-Semitic works but because of that which was most important to Hitler; Luther was a German[…]”

    Hmmm, really now? If that was the case, why did the Nazis, during their rallies and campaigns, publish Luther’s anti-Semitic ravings and put on exhibit Luthers’ “The Jews and Their Lies”, and in a glass case no less??? Clearly, Hilter admired Luther for far more things than his being a German. (Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happened in Germany, by John Weiss; 34)

    Finally, you argue:

    “Lastly, note that if, for example, evil is done in the name of Christianity I can point to absolute standards of good, evil, Christian theology and doctrine and absolutely condemn that evil. But, if an atheist were to admit that evil was done in the name of atheism to what would they appeal to call it ‘evil’ in the first place? What could they claim was violated? To what would they point in claiming that it was a misuse of atheism?”

    Absolute standards of good and evil? From where? That’s not possible since even what christians believe is moral has changed through the ages. Even Deacon Duncan, someone who seems to be a fellow author on your website at http://www.alltimetruths.com, wrote a piece called “On Christian morality” Dec. 28th, 2009, (http://www.alltimetruths.com/?p=4751) in which he states in the two beginning paragraphs:

    “I have a couple things I’d like to say about the oft-rehearsed claim that modern morality, and indeed all morality, comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition and/or its God. We often hear this claim voiced as a rejection of atheism, as though we would have no basis for our moral judgments without faith in God. I and others have frequently (and easily) refuted this claim by citing sources of morality that Christian apologists are simply ignoring. But today I’d like to go a step further and point out that Christians don’t even get their own morality from Jewish/Christian sources, nor would it be a good thing if they did. Modern believers like to attribute modern virtues to their traditional morality, but if we examine it thoughtfully, it turns out to have a foundation that is irretrievably flawed and corrupt.

    My first point, that Christians do not actually get their morality from the ancient moral codes of the Jews and early Christians, can be easily demonstrated by comparing the moral standards of today to the moral standards that were normal and normative in the major Biblical periods. Despite denouncing moral relativism, and claiming to have an eternal and absolute standard of morality in the Bible, we can see from Scripture itself that believers’ moral standards have changed quite a bit over the years.”

    Morality is relative – even religious morality. Relative to the time, place, etc., so this argument gets you nowhere. There are secular systems of morality that are perfectly capable of being able to define what is “evil.”

    And speaking of a lack of morality, it was not some lack of morality which caused the Communists to act as they did. As I tried to explain to you over and over it was their ideology (which was not based on atheism as I’ve shown, and you’ve utterly failed to prove due to your quotes being taken out of context and other misinformation) which was premised upon the class struggle, as was everything else!

    One last quote, this one by Peter Singer from his book, Marx: A Very Short Introduction:

    “The belief that Marxism contains no ethical judgment derives from some comments made by Marx and Engles. In The Communist Manifesto, for instance, morality is listed together with law and religion as ‘bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests.’ (CM 230). It is true that for Marx morality is part of the ideological superstructure of society, is determined by the economic basis, and serves to promote the interests of the ruling class. But it does not follow from this that all morality is to be rejected. What has to be rejected is morality that serves the interests of the ruling class. This includes all dominant moralities up to now. Once communism has been established and classes have disappeared, however, we can pass beyond class morality, to what Engles called ‘a really human morality’.” (82) [Emphasis mine]

    As I’ve shown you cannot get away with arguing that atheism is synonymous with evolution and materialism since even religions that contain beliefs in an immaterial world are atheistic (contain no beliefs in any gods) and the Communists were working with their ideology premised on the class struggle. Like all other apologists you’ve failed to find a link between Communism and atheism and your quote mining of several Communists shows just how desperate you are to find such a link. But as I demonstrated, you don’t understand the context in which they were speaking. I think that’s all I will bother to address. Your so called case has been dismantled.

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist