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Atheism and Communism

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Religious people often argue that communism is an atheistic system, and communism has killed millions of people. Therefore, atheism is dangerous. However, this argument is logically fallacious and historically inaccurate. Here, we go through some of the claims and discuss them.

Communism is an atheistic worldview.
Marx and Engels did consider religion to be "the opium of the masses," [1] but that's not the whole story.

Actually, there is such a thing as Christian communism. Christian communists believed that the first communist communities emerged as a result of Jesus's teachings. There are Bible verses which have "communism" written all over them. See the Christian communism Wikipedia article for more information about Christian communism.

Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were all atheists.
There is no denying that. If you keep reading, you will realize that's beside the point.

Communism is responsible for the worst crimes in the 20th century.
That's right, and anyone who denies it is a monster or very, very uneducated. The Black Book of Communism estimates a death toll between 85 and 100 million.

So you have just admitted that atheism has killed 100 million people.
No. By far the most casualties were due to faulty bureaucracy, incompetent planning, and... an economic utopia detached from reality. State atheism did not kill these 100 million people. To get a realistic number of the direct casualties of aggressive state atheism, you need to consider church burning, killing religious figures only.

Communists persecuted believers.
Religious communities were indeed persecuted. That's yet another claim that no (honest and educated) atheist will deny. There's no reason to deny it, because this claim in itself has nothing to do with atheism in general. For one, persecution of religions was only a small part of communist governance. Communism is essentially a rearrangement of wealth to achieve a perfectly egalitarian society.

The Soviet anti-religious campaign began in 1929. According to Wikipedia, 85.000 Orthodox priests were shot in 1937. The anti-religious enthusiasm dropped as a result of Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941). It is estimated that between 1917 and 1964, 50.000 monks have been executed. As you can see, we have numbers in the ten thousands here; a small number compared to the sum of all casualties (100 million) of the Soviet era. Seeking out political dissenters and suspected spies was simply more important than persecuting believers.

Communism gives us an idea what an atheistic society looks like.
You cannot use communism as a general anti-atheist argument. Communism is a genocidal, militant ideology that became an atheist system for historical reasons. The Christian communist ideology could have prevailed, and they also believed in the major tenets of communism, excluding fervent anti-religious campaigns of course.

There are hardly any atheist today who promotes violence against religion. Chances are, if you ask an atheist whether churches should be destroyed and believers should be executed, he will give a definite no. Just because some psychopaths, who happened to be atheists, in the 20th century believed in a system that killed 100 million, does not mean atheists want to burn down churches or make anti-religion legislation.

The large majority of atheists are humanists. Most atheists believe in a secular state, that is, one where the state does not favor one religion over another. And of course, one can choose to not have a religion. So if a secular atheist becomes the head of state, he is not a threat to religion. He will simply not make legislation that favors one religion over another. Good news for you if your religion is the minority.

Why are you defending communism?
I'm not. Communism is a demented ideology. I'm just showing why using communism as an all-encompassing ace-in-the-sleeve argument against atheism does not stand its ground. Just because communist leaders were atheists does not mean atheists approve of their "contributions." Not back then, and certainly not today. The decisive majority of atheists are secularists, which is neutral in religious affairs, not aggressive, violent atheists such as Stalin or Mao. If there's an aggressive atheist candidate running for election in your district, he will never get elected, even if atheists are the majority in the district. Because atheists do have morals, they just don't get it from the Bible. There are instructions in the Bible that overlap with humanist morality, and there are passages that do not.

References

  1. (Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right)

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