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Thread: Is Communism a Religion?

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    Is Communism a Religion?

    DrZoidberg got me curious with his post from another thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    ... It's not like Communism has some similarities with Christianity. It's virtually identical. Just with symbols switched out.

    While atheistic secularists anywhere else don't. How often do atheists on this board defend themselves with references to scripture? Communists do it all the time.

    There are historical reasons for why Communism is like this. It's modeled on Calvin's community in Geneva.
    Is this why Communism is perceived as being anti-christian and anti-religion generally, because it is a competing religion? There isn't any love lost between competing religions and religious sects, generally speaking, so communism would fit with the model here. There are lots of other similarities but I'll leave it at that for now. It makes sense to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    ... There are lots of other similarities...
    But what are the all-important distinctions?

    For one thing, religion's a metaphysical appeal to the whole entire universe for an answer to existential questions/crises. The belief-system of a religion is cosmic in scale. Usually nature's perceived as the problem to be solved (it has a lot of suffering in it) and so the answer entails transcending it.

    Does communism do that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    ... There are lots of other similarities...
    But what are the all-important distinctions?

    For one thing, religion's a metaphysical appeal to the whole entire universe for an answer to existential questions/crises. The belief-system of a religion is cosmic in scale. Usually nature's perceived as the problem to be solved (it has a lot of suffering in it) and so the answer entails transcending it.

    Does communism do that?
    My first reaction is that communism is not anti-science, as most religions are. So communism uses science to advance itself and therefore does not need a religious mythology. Communist China is a good example. But the Communist Party is all controlling and is responsible for directing all the science and takes all credit. Communist China is also authoritarian and does not tolerate religions that exist in many other countries under democratic governments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    But what are the all-important distinctions?

    For one thing, religion's a metaphysical appeal to the whole entire universe for an answer to existential questions/crises. The belief-system of a religion is cosmic in scale.
    That's a quirk of the specific religions that historically won the proselytization contest. Animism doesn't appeal to the entire universe; it's satisfied ascribing mental qualities to particular mountains and trees. "O Tiber, Father Tiber, to whom the Romans pray: A Roman's life, a Roman's arms, Take thou in charge this day."

    Usually nature's perceived as the problem to be solved (it has a lot of suffering in it) and so the answer entails transcending it.

    Does communism do that?
    It has a more limited scope; but within its scope it does it. Human nature and economics are the problem to be solved, and it transcends them with a project to create Soviet Man and a metaphysical appeal to an unobservable it calls "value" that operates much like "qi" in Chinese folk medicine.

    (And of course, that's leaving out Stalin's whole infamous foray into ideologically-driven biology...)

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    DrZoidberg's point is obvious nonsense, but I do think that there is some fertile ground to tread in terms of looking at how civil government co-opt and even function as religious substitutes. Well-known sociologist Robert Bellah built his career on observing the ways that his native United States both was and wasn't a "Christian Nation", poignantly observing that patriotism and religious fervor are more alike than different. He posited that any nation-state with suffiicent hegemonic control over the common culture eventually developed a "civil religion": an apparatus of State that borrowed the structure, nature, and sometimes even the names and rituals of religion to establish political control and invest the state with a sensation of timelessness and inevitablity. His original article "Civil Religion in America" (1967) is easily found and well worth a read if you are interested in the subject.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Does communism do that?
    Yep, fundamentally it's a reaction to uncertainty. We devise systems that purport to move us closer to equilibrium. Communism as an ideal strikes out the competitive nature of the world and guarantees that everyone is secure. It no longer makes sense to appeal to God, so we appeal to government / politics.

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    Elder Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    There may be several versions of communism.....

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    The answer to the question is going to depend on who you ask. Imo, if communism is a religion, it's a religion designed and supported by atheists, at least in the historical sense. Like all human mythology, communism may sound good, but it's always turned out to be disastrous when it's been instituted. Humans as a group aren't motivated by the idea that everyone should equally share the wealth. Plus, the leaders of communist movements usually take far more than their share, while suppressing the rest of the people. Just look at North Korea for the best example.


    https://encyclopedia2.thefreediction...itant+Atheists

    The League of Militant Atheists comprised workers, peasants, students, and members of the intelligentsia. Organizations were founded at plants, factories, kolkhozes, and educational institutions. By early 1941, the league consisted of approximately 3.5 million working people of 100 nationalities. The number of groups reached 96,000. Guided by Leninist principles of antireligious propaganda and by the party’s decisions on these principles, the league dedicated itself to ideological struggle against all forms of religion and the development of a scientific world view among working people. It disseminated propaganda on the natural sciences and atheism, offered believers individual counselling, and trained propagandists and atheist agitators. It also published scientific and popular scientific works and a number of periodicals, founded museums and organized exhibitions, and conducted scientific research in the field of atheism and criticism of religion. Working under the motto “The struggle against religion is a struggle for socialism,”
    If one believes that any hard core belief system that wants to suppress those who disagree with them is a religion, then you could make the case that communism is an extremist secular religion, but I think that's a bit dishonest. Imo, communism is just an extremist economic system that never works out very well when put into practice. As I said before, humans aren't naturally the type of species that does well with a share and share alike mentality. It might have worked out well in Hunter Gatherer Society, or any communities made up of small groups that were related to each other or shared a common bond. It doesn't work out in the modern world, where we have divided ourselves into various groups who often hate each other.

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    I can accept that communism isn't a religion, but I think it does need to be classified similarly to religion.

    If idealistic religious and political beliefs are very similar, how would we class them together? Maybe you could call them both idealistic belief systems. Then you need to start looking at the common elements between the two sub-types. Probably something like: faith, disinclination for empiricism, desire to resolve dissonance or discomfort.

    There are broadly two ways to resolve dissonance: attacking real problems, and adhering to belief systems that justify life outcomes. Communism in particular is popular because it absolves the believer of responsibility - if the system is broken then what happens in my life isn't my fault. Very similar to religion - if it's all God's plan then my mistakes were meant to be, and I don't need to work to fix them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    There may be several versions of communism.....
    When I think of communism today I think of China. Much of what rousseau just said applies to China though I would mention authoritarianism as being a major commonality.

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