Communism and religion – historiographic and anthropological view

  • Kosta Nikolić Institute for Contemporary History, Belgrade
Keywords:
communism, religion, secularism, atheism, ideology, nationalism

Abstract

Marxism was not merely a teaching of historical or economic materialism; it was also a teaching about the rescue, a “Messianic mission”, of the proletariat, about a perfect society due in the future, a teaching of the man’s power and defeat of the irrational forces of nature and society. The features of the selected “People of God” have been transferred onto the proletariat. A logically contradictory blend of materialist, scientific-deterministic and non-moralist elements with the idealistic, moralistic and religious mythmaking elements has existed in the Marxist system. Marx created the proletariat myth and his mission was object of faith. Marxism was not merely a science and politics, but also a religion. His power was based on this. Communist atheism represented a type of “apophatic theology”, the next step of development that should lead to deletion of the theological component. The most significant features of this process were violence and totalitarianism. The energy of negation of the previous religious concept was transferred into affirmation of the new, terrestrial hierarchy. That is how the god-type leaders appeared quite rapidly as the state forms of the service and worshipping of God, which represented more than good conditions for the formation of personality cults. Just like all religions, communism is irrational, dogmatic and based on faith, rather than on science. Just like Christianity and Islam, communism had its own scriptures, the works of Marx, Lenin and Stalin. Just like most other religions, required irrational faith; the people living in communist countries had to cherish absolute faith in the order and its leaders, whereas the others were treated as classic heretics. Like in the Soviet Union, the totalitarian political power in Yugoslavia was imposed through sacralization of the Communist party and its leader. The most important elements in this process were the level of party Manichaeism, viewing of the party as the center of “holiness” surrounded by the sinister “mass of enemies”. A new faith was developed over time, which replaced the original tendency to have things improved. Communists were unforgiving in treating their political opponents as deadly enemies. Any connivance was experienced by the representatives of “new religion” as “intolerable weakness”. In the overly religious world at the turn of 20th century one of the instantly obvious characteristics of communism as ideology was the apparently clear lack of religiousness. When it turned out that “the plagues of communism had brought nothing more than death and poverty, totalitarian regimes and tyrants”, offending of atheists, especially after the world wars, by labeling them communists was widespread very much. And indeed, communism did not appear to have any gods, churches or holy books. Nevertheless a logical question came up why an apparently godless ideology has caused a catastrophe of such scale. The answer is more than simple: that ideology was far from atheistic, communism contains all the most specific features of religion, so it is no wonder it has brought so much pain, suffering and death.

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Published
2017-03-31