One major argument that apologists for religion like to make against proponents of secularism, humanism and religion is to equate all opponents of religion with Communism and the numerous crimes against humanity perpetuated by such monsters as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Fidel Castro. The best argument against these people of faith is a simple one, far from being a humanist or rationalist belief system, Communism was and is a religion.
Like all religions, Communism is irrational, dogmatic and based on faith rather than science. Just like Christianity and Islam, Communism had its Holy Books which were treated as Holy Scripture, namely the writings of Lenin, Mao, Marx and others–all of which were far from scientific. Karl Marx, who was treated by Communists as a genius, was actually a small-time journalist whose writings are a collection of prejudices, generalizations and editorializing. Marx held and promoted some beliefs which were later disproved by science, for example Marx taught that many human characteristics we now know to be inherited through genetics were caused by environmental factors. When scientists in 1930s Russia pointed this fact out, Stalin reacted by throwing the scientists into the gulag just like the Church imprisoned Galileo. Just like fundamentalist Christians who promote creation science, Stalin (himself the recipient of an “education” in a Christian seminary) backed a charlatan named Lysenko who came up with a completely false science of genetics that fit squarely with Communist dogma and then banned the teaching of genetics because it contradicted Communist dogma.
As with Christianity and Islam, Communism attracted followers by promising a pie-in-the-sky heaven to the faithful. The difference being that the Communist heaven would be sometime in the future when all people would be happy and equal under Communism rather than after death. This magical future was conveniently pushed farther and farther into the future so that Communist leaders could “explain” to the average people impoverished by their wonderful system why they hadn’t yet achieved utopia. It might also be pointed out that the Communists never actually said exactly how this utopia would be created–just as Christians and Moslems can present no evidence of life after death.
Like most religions, Communism operated on irrational faith; people in Communist countries had to have absolute faith in the Communist system and its leaders. Thinking for oneself was strictly verboten in Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and Ho’s Vietnam. Those who questioned Communism and its leaders were treated as heretics by the Communist state.
Far from being an example of the evils that occur when religion is removed in society, Communism is a perfect example of the excesses and horrors that result when religion is allowed to take over a society. The Communist Party acted just like the church had in Medieval Europe.
Just like the Church in Medieval Europe, the Communists tortured and killed those who refused to adopt the official faith. Just like the Church, the Communists promoted the belief that governmental authorities were all-knowing, all-powerful and sanctioned by God, and the idea that refusing to bow to authority was a sin.
Just like the medieval church, the Communist Party promoted the idea of saints, people whose total devotion to the Communist cause was a good and holy thing and entitled them to be worshiped. The difference was that the Communists substituted Communist leaders like Mao and Stalin for the saints. The Communists even revived the bizarre medieval practice of worshiping the dead bodies of the saints; they built massive mausoleums in which they placed the embalmed bodies of their dead leaders and forced their people to worship them.
Just like the Russian Orthodox Church, the Communists also created icons, pictures of Communist leaders whom people were to worship. In North Korea, for example, it is even a crime to destroy a picture of the late dictator Kim Il Sung.
The Communists also revived the horrendous medieval practice of the Inquisition, an official body to hunt down and eliminate heretics, in the form of the purge trials and the various secret-police forces. Hundreds of thousands of people in Communist countries were tortured, brutalized and murdered by such bodies.
Just like the church before them the Communists tried to force their captured enemies to repent their “sins.” After the fall of Saigon, 600,000 Vietnamese were forced into concentration camps called reeducation centers to learn Communist dogma. Just as the “First Holy Roman Emperor,” the religious fanatic Charlemagne, tried to forcibly baptize German pagans captured in his wars, captured American soldiers in the Vietnam and Korean wars were also forced to admit the “truth” of Communism.
As if bringing back the Inquisition wasn’t bad enough, the Communists also revived the witch hunt. Like other people of faith, the Communists blamed the failings of their system–not on their own loony dogma–but on hidden enemies who were secretly sabotaging Communism so as to prevent the Communists from creating a utopia. In 1930s Russia, tens of thousands of innocent people, many of them good Communists, were falsely accused of being foreign agents and “wreckers” who were sabotaging the Stalinist system, and then executed or thrown into the gulag–where many of them died from torture, forced labor and starvation. Those killed in this purge included several of the Red Army’s top generals who were falsely accused of being enemies by Communist courts using information provided by the Nazis (thus leaving Russia unprepared in 1941 when it’s real enemies attacked).
It must also be noted here that it didn’t take the Russian Communists long to revive another old evil of the church: anti-Semitism; by the early 1950s, Stalin was blaming Russia’s problems and his own bad health on the Jews. Just as the Medieval Christians blamed plagues and the black death on Jews secretly poisoning wells, so Stalin blamed his ill health on Jewish doctors who were trying to poison him.
In the 1960s, Mao went Stalin one better. When the Chairman’s brutal attempt to create the Communist heaven on Earth, the “Great Leap Forward,” failed miserably, resulting in the worst famine in human history, Mao blamed–not himself or his faith–but the Chinese people for not having enough faith in Communism (much as Hitler had blamed the German people and not his own incompetence, arrogance and stupidity, for his defeat in World War II). Mao then turned vast numbers of Communist fanatics, known as Red Guards, loose to punish the Chinese people for not showing enough faith in Mao and Communism. Just as the Medieval witch hunters burned little old ladies at the stake for owning cats, Chinese people were beaten up and terrorized for such crimes as owning birdcages or wearing makeup in the so-called Cultural Revolution. Many great treasures of China’s past were destroyed by Communist thugs during the Cultural Revolution (just as the Taliban blew up Buddhist statues in Afghanistan).
The excesses in Soviet Russia and Red China have been repeated in almost every other Communist country. Almost every Communist regime has behaved like a religion that is in a manner completely irrational and paranoid. The major difference between the Communist fanatics and the Christian fanatics of the inquisition was that the Communists had access to modern technology, weaponry and systems of government that enabled them to kill far more people far more quickly. Had the inquisition access to the same technology as the Communists, its body count would have rivaled that of Stalin and Mao.
Far from being an example of what happens when religion, faith and God are removed from society, Communism is a perfect example of what happens when society is turned over to religion. People are deprived of their basic freedoms, science and scholarship are suppressed, and average people are tortured and murdered for not displaying sufficient faith.
It must also be said here that Christianity did little or nothing to stop Communism or the horrible crimes the Communists committed against humanity. Russia was the most religious country in Europe in 1917 yet the Church was unable to stop the Bolshevik takeover. If Christianity is such a powerful force for morality, why couldn’t the Orthodox patriarchs and bishops have simply ordered the Russian people not to follow Lenin and Stalin’s orders? Why weren’t the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church able to appeal to the piety of Joseph Stalin, himself a product of an Orthodox seminary, and get him to recant Communism? Far from protecting Russia’s people from Communism, the Orthodox Church did little but have the Russian people sit and pray to icons for the end of the Communist system.
It was not the Orthodox Church or its leaders that formed the main resistance to Communism in Russia, it was humanists and rationalists who refused to bow to irrational Communist beliefs. For example, the great scientist, Andre Sakarov, and many other Russian intellectuals, refused to go along with the Communist assault on the human mind. Later on, more enlightened and intelligent Soviet leaders, such as Mikhail Gorbachev, undermined Communism by allowing people to question and challenge its basic assumptions. Just like Christian and Islamic dogma, Communist dogma can’t stand up to a close examination based on reason and the scientific method.
It was the secular, democratic, capitalist societies in the United States, Japan and Western Europe–which are based on humanistic and rational values–which ultimately proved to be the undoing of Communism. The irrational, faith-based, Communist system simply couldn’t compete with the rational, secular United States and its allies. By basing their societies on faith rather than on reason, thus being in no position to change or adapt their system to meet future challenges, the Communists thereby sowed the seeds of their own destruction–except, of course, in countries such as Vietnam and China where Communist leaders have quietly abandoned Communism and adopted capitalism in order to preserve their own skins and line their own bank accounts.
Far from being an example of a godless society, Communism is a perfect example of the dangers which religion poses to human freedom and humanity’s future. Those Americans who want to establish an official religion should take a hard look at the history of Communism, for any country that establishes an official religion and a faith based system will end up just like the Communists–in the ash heap of history.