Why Were the Communists Usually Also Atheists?

I’ve been wondering, why is it that just about all the Communist dictatorships were also de facto atheistic or downright anti-religion (Stalin, Pol Pot)? What similarities or complementing factors led to this synergy?

At this point, I can only conjecture some reasons:

1) Traditional religions get in the way of the new religion of Leader Worship.

2) Religion proposes a higher moral authority than mere fallible man (whether God or the law of karma), which undermines the control of the Party.

3) Religions come with an existing set of immutable laws and an absolute moral code, which interferes with the State’s fascist policies (i.e. the state comes first, Thou Shall Not Murder be darned).

4) Religion attributes a higher, spiritual purpose for humanity, which conflicts with the Communist higher purpose of The Greater Good (again, the state comes first, 8 million Ukrainians be darned).

5) Monotheistic religion generally rejects or is antipathic towards evolutionary theory, something that is seen as a challenge to the Social Darwinist policies carried out by Communist regimes.

If anyone has more solid info, please feel free to share.

See also my comparison/contrast between early Christianity and Communism.

13 Responses to “Why Were the Communists Usually Also Atheists?”

  1. cheee Says:

    Chamberlain’s enduring legacy.

  2. Chris Says:

    What you are saying is a bunch of propaganda spread by the USA, Christians who want to push their religion and uneducated people spreading general ignorance. I am a democratic socialist and an atheist and 95 out of 100 times I am called a communist because I don’t believe in “God”, it’s amazing how superstitious people are when you are of a different opinion. In any event most communist countries are not atheist rather they are not Christian which demonizes them more to the USA. Just one note before I give you a list Buddhists are atheists.

    Lao People’s Democratic Republic is Buddhist

    Socialist Republic of Vietnam is Buddhist

    Republic of Cuba as it would happen is Christian (Catholic to be exact)

    Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Buddhist

    People’s Republic of China Buddhist, Taoist and ancestor worship

    Cyprus has a communist government is is Orthodox Catholic

    Nepal became a communist state in 2008 and is Buddhist

    The former Soviet Union was primarily Orthodox Christian

    I have heard your theory many times before but there are a lot of holes in it.

  3. Scott Thong Says:

    Thanks for sharing Chris. I have noted before that Buddhists are technically atheists, and I must clarify here that the atheists I mention are those who reject all forms of metaphysics.

    I suppose I had in mind the classic stereotypical mid-20th Century totalitarian Communists such as the Soviets (atheist state from 1928-1939, Society of the Godless and Stalin’s persecution), Cambodia (outlawed religion and slaughtered monks), China’s heavy persecution of all religions until recently, North Korea’s iron grip on religious practises…

    While many Communist states past and present ‘officially’ accept religion, the reality is quite different. (These are Communist states after all, ‘official’ is a synonym for ‘party propaganda’, e.g. actual vs reported USSR farm output).

    Freedom of religion is judged on a totally different scale from the West – if I can be arrested and threatened for being part of an independent church instead of the official Beijing-approved one, is that really acceptance of religion?

    After all, ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’ and all that…


  4. dorcas Says:

  5. Ron Says:

    Name one dictator who openly stated they were acting exclusively under the banner of atheism? To date, every single one was driven either by political ideology, a thirst for absolute power, or some combination thereof. Little wonder that any competing power structure (organized religion) would be severely curtailed or outlawed.

    And why limit the discussion to just the USSR, Cambodia, and China? What about all the other dictators who weren’t atheists? Guys like Marcos (Catholic), Pinochet (Catholic), Qadhafi (Muslim), Khomeini (Muslim), Suharto (Christian), Perón (Catholic), Bokassa (Catholic), Idi Amin (Muslim), Pavelić (Catholic) or Hitler (Catholic).

  6. Scott Thong Says:

    Uh, because I am trying to work out why atheism and communism went hand in hand so often because I really don’t know the solid reasons why? Though I see you at least agree with one of my conjectures.

    I could conjecture that religious dictators often genuinely believed or cynically claimed themselves to be authorized by their deity – from the Chinese imperial Mandate of Heaven to Western Monarchy to Ahmedinejad’s Mahdi to Joseph Kony’s delusions of grandeur.

  7. Ron Says:

    Then I would say you’re starting with a faulty premise. The first question to ask is what common attributes are shared by all dictators and work forward from there.

  8. Mad Bluebird Says:

    The facts is that the infamous KARL MARX was a biggoted antichristian ranting red pig

  9. Anton Says:

    Religion is much more than a set of metaphysical and theistic beliefs, it is a communal social institution and a whole way of life. Religion has been used for the past 6,000 years of human history to legitimize the status quo and to uphold the social order. Ayatollah Khamenei and his council of mullahs believes that it is Gods will that he rule Iran. There was a similar concept in medieval europe called the divine right of kings. In ancient egypt the Pharaoh was considered to be a God in human form, I could go on and on but you get the idea. Communism’s ideal is a classless society with material and social equality. Thus, in order to achieve this one must oppose things like religion which exploits non-falsifiability to justify social and material inequality. In the words of an Afghan Mullah: “only God decides who is rich and who is poor”.

  10. Pager Says:

    Revolution: Castro cheers Obamacare

  11. Scott Thong Says:

    Excellent dissertation, Anton! Now that’s what I’m talking about! Thanks for the info.

    As I have previously said elsewhere, I believe classless communism to be an excellent ideal. However, in practise it does not work due to human fallibility (the monotheist would call it ‘sin’). That is why totalitarian Communist states so often turned out to have even more indoctrination, brainwashing, ignorance of evidence (Lysenkoism), and social/material inequality between Party leaders and the proletariat.

  12. Scott Thong Says:

    Ron, that would be too general a question. Anton has demonstrated that my line of questioning can yield the correct, specific results.

  13. SCOTT THONG: Debunking Norway Shooter Anders Breivik’s Usage of Bible Verses in His Manifesto | simonthongwh Says:

    […] 2) Self-declared Communists and atheists – The highest death toll in all of human history belongs to Communists, killing more in 100 years than the other 6000+ years combined… And as I ponder, Why Were the Communists Usually Also Atheists? […]

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