From Bondage to the Desert – 1.1 The Religious Character of Communist Ideology – 1

1.1.1 Marxism as Secular Religion

Feuerbach, the German philosopher who, together with Hegel, was the most significant influence on Marx’s thought, wrote in 1842: ‘We must become religious again. Politics must become our religion’.

Marx himself wrote to his devotees in obviously religious terms, borrowed from the Judeo-Christian tradition: ‘If you want to become one and whole, to be born again in harmony, you must first destroy the environment which makes you a divided being, alienated from yourself’.

Marxism displays a number of clearly ‘religious’ characteristics. It has:

  • its own dogma (e.g. the class struggle);
  • its own heretics (e.g. Trotsky);
  • its own initiation rites (e.g. receiving the red scarf of a Pioneer);
  • its own hymns (e.g. the Internationale);
  • its own martyrs (e.g. Zoya Kosmodemianskaya);
  • its own cult of the saints (e.g. Ché Guevara);
  • its own ‘prophets’ (e.g. Uncle Ho); and even,
  • its own ‘trinity’ (Marx, Engels and Lenin).

In this sense we may very well say that Marxism is a kind of ‘religion of revolution’.

The quasi-religious character of Marxism penetrates the consciousness of the masses through a whole set of symbols, initiation rites and the like. One author makes the interesting observation that ‘of all our modern European spiritualities, two things alone really interest the non-European worlds: Christianity and communism. Both of these, in different ways and upon clearly opposed grounds, are soteriologies – doctrines of salvation – and therefore deal in “symbols” and “myths” upon a scale without parallel except among non-European humanity’ (M. Eliade).

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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