Under the rule of communism, churches were burned, priests were killed, and religious texts were burned. What Hitler did to the Jewish Religion, Stalin did to Christianity in the Soviet Union. Ironically, Stalinism and Christianity have more similarities than differences. Because they are both ideologies which seek to control every minute of the lives of their members, communism and religion are constantly fighting for the control of each person, as they do not co-exist well, though their foundations and methods are nearly identical.
The Bible, like the Communist Manifesto, was a book written as a “self-evident truth” that was misused by the Christian church to micro-manage the lives of its members as well as to justify flagrant human rights violations. Marx did not write his manifesto with the intent for someone to force a proletarian revolution the way Lenin did, but as a text to allow the world to understand the inevitable ideology of the future. While the Bible’s exact authors and their reasoning is a bit less known and more complicated, it is not unlikely that the “prophets” wrote it also as a simple truth, not purposely as a system to control the world and collect money from pseudo-willing participants. The Bible may be the strongest and most influential text in the whole world, even though it constantly contradicts itself, as people do not think logically when they think of religion, while Marx’s writings appeal to the average person’s meager logic.
Of course, if Jesus was the bringer of the untold truths of the world to Earth and Marx realized the untold truths of communism, then that makes Marx the “Jesus of today” and so when Lenin is called the “Marx of today” and Stalin the “Lenin of today,” than by transition, Stalin was a modern day Jesus, spreading sorrow across the world (or atleast the USSR). Stalin and Jesus may have always been portrayed as idealistic, fair men, but more realistically, Orwell portrayed them as “Big Brother” in his masterpiece, 1984. So often, this omniscient persona is interpreted as a reference to a communist dictator such as Stalin or Lenin, but with closer study, he is also be a clear symbol for Jesus or God. The physical depiction of Big Brother as a “black-haired, black-moustachio’d” (Orwell, page 18) man may match Stalin’s description better than God’s typical depiction, but all depictions of God are merely speculative anyway. The actual physical appearance is not as important as much as how often Big Brother is depicted; in the world that Orwell created Big Brother is clearly the most commonly painted person, just as God is in the real world. “Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful,” (Orwell, page 219) as God is omniscient and omnipotent. Whether this sort of comparison is Orwell’s way of comparing communism and religion, or just proving how much power a dictator such as Stalin has since he can control the media does not eventually matter. Orwell was an intellectual writer voicing his discontent with the communist party, and surely if he were alive still, he would likely be voicing an equal discontent about the all-powerful cartels that are organized religions.
The language in 1984 portrays a religious “worship of Big Brother” (Orwell, page 27) with constant references to “orthodoxy” as a commitment to The Party just as today the word would be used to describe a devotion to a church. “Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness,” (Orwell, page 57) describes the blind following the regime expected, the same blind following many churches have. Even several virtues in Orwells society match up with the outdated, and possibly misinterpreted rules of Christianity: “There was a direct intimate connection between chastity and political orthodoxy,” (Orwell, page 140).
In Orwell’s text, religion had been eradicated all together, as it almost was in the USSR. Most ex-Soviet countries boast atheism rates of well over fifty percent, as a result of the Communist eradication of its biggest competitor, religion. My father, Petr Lukes, was telling me recently of his memories of the day John F. Kennedy died. Lukes was sitting in class (in what is now the Czech Republic, then part of the Soviet Union) when he learned of Kennedy’s death, and he recalled all of his teacher’s crying, “It was a similar sentiment as when Princess Diana died,” he said. More relevantly, he recalled that he was sitting in his weekly Religious studies class when he found out about Kennedy’s passing. “That was the last year we had that class. The next year it had been abolished because of Stalin’s regime and we were no longer able to freely discuss religion. We did learn about Stalin a lot then, only good things though.” The school’s curriculum had been changed to mold the children’s beliefs about the world in a way that benefitted the regime, just as in the Orwellian world. There was no room for both communism and religion in the classroom, nor in the Soviet Union.
Violence existed as a secondary control measure. Communisms main control measure was the promise of equality, which kept most people in check, as long as they believed they were being treated equally. Christianity’s main source of power is the belief in an omniscient God who will damn you to hell if you do not follow his guide-lines. Both these “controls” only keep people in check after they have been indoctrinated, which can either occur through family and community pressures, or violent forces. The USSR require violence to maintain control as its indoctrination is not quite as strong as that of the church, who only requires violence when it seeks to further its hold in the world, such as during the Crusades. Stalin and Lenin were both ruthless killers, exiling to Siberia all those who threatened their hold on power, causing famines to starve away the power of their opposition in the Ukraine, and flat out murdering anyone who blatantly opposed them, thus the fear of these sociopathic monsters became an even stronger counter insurgence measure than the violence itself. In Christianity, it may not be the top of the pyramid, the Pope, doing the murder or sending the order each time, but this conviction has long been used as a justification for hatred and killings such as the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, and those committed by the Ku Klux Klan.
Of course, all these murderers believed their killings were right and the “will of God,” just as Stalin’s hired assassins and interrogators truly believed what they were doing was necessary for the revolution. The revolution was an ideal, an unrealistic utopian society where greed did not exist, and everyone was happy and equal. The revolution was basically supposed to be a “Heaven on Earth” where everyone could coexist, as long as they followed the rules blindly. The revolution was founded on religious zeal and demagoguery that sought to convert everyone and kill all the “unorthodox,” (Orwell) just as Christianity has done in the past. In Danton’s Death, Danton believed in the revolution while he did Rose-Pierre’s killings, but as soon as he lost faith, he knew he could not stand the burden of having such flagrant and cruel acts on his hands. Such blind and unrelenting faith is extraordinarily dangerous as it allows individuals to overlook the logical and moral reasoning behind their actions since “Orthodoxy means not thinking,” (Orwell, page 57) and thus permits and facilitates violent acts against humanity. As Marx says, “religion is the opium of the people,” and people have less control over themselves when they are high on opium. If religion is opium, what does that make communism? Methamphetamine? Bath salts? Krokodil? Krokodil may actually be a good match for Stalinism as it is a cheaper and less effective alternative to opium and heroin with much worse side effects, common among lower-class Russians.
Communism and religion are both skilled con-artists, both capable of walking into a bar with nothing and leaving the next day with millions of followers, even intellectuals, and all their money. Their tactics may be different but the results are typically the same, and people feel they have to give up their money, and do so almost willingly. The communist may have to scare his followers into giving up all their properties with a bit of physical violence if they do not believe that everyone should be, in fact, equal while a priest can just imply the threat of eternal damnation to hell. In most of the Christian churches, it is common for a sinner to be told to do several “Hail Mary’s” and then donate a significant chunk of their savings to either charity, or, more likely, the church itself. And since everyone is a sinner, it is no wonder the Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest organizations in the world and the Pope traditionally sits on a gold throne. For an ideology that is so focused on “helping thine neighbor” the Church is exceedingly and very visibly hypocritical. Stalin’s regime was also wildly hypocritical and full of corruption, but the discrepancy between the living conditions of the upper-level communists and the citizens was much more veiled to prevent a proletariat uprising, precisely like the one that Marx foretold would originally lead to a communist society. Since communism was started through an unnatural revolution forced by Lenin without a preceding industrial revolution, it was destined to fail. Human greed also makes it impossible for communism to succeed in the long run as more than a transitional form of government.
In modern economics, a common core statement is that greed is good, because without it there is not a motivation for success and creation, and thus society will never evolve and improve. In communism, there is no room for improvement and the world is stuck in a non-evolving state, as greed and innovation are not rewarded under communism as they are under capitalism. Without these motivating factors, no one even feels the need to work, and eventually people just sit at home all day relying on the government to pay for their food, which is no longer available because no one is growing it. Similarly, in religion, hard work is not rewarded either. Rather than working harder, people tend to pray harder. Rather than working every day of the week to provide for themselves and their families, people tend to take Sundays and holidays off to go to church, believing that they will be rewarding in the inevitable afterlife for their worship. While in practical circumstances, under either communism or religion, a typical person would still work out of necessity, the motivation for harder work was gone, as practical greed was eliminated, leaving only the ebbing remains of the motivation they working class once felt, with the idea of an “American dream” more of a fairy tale than a practical possibility.
The end of Stalinism and the dismantling of the Soviet Union was actually one of the greatest occurrences of the so called “American dream.” When the federal governments privatized their estates, they were forced to sell off all the once publicly owned companies at ridiculously low prices, allowing anyone with a little bundle of cash saved up and half a mind for business to boom into a millionaire entrepreneur nearly overnight, assuming they worked hard enough. In Czech Republic, circa 1989-1993, several transitions were going on. Communism was falling, Czechoslovakia was splitting into two sovereign states, and my parents were beginning their careers as entrepreneurs. Without a days’ worth of business training, Petr Lukes and Jana Sobotova launched themselves into the worlds of imports, exports, real estate, steel production, and even into the energy business with all their might. This “rags to riches” story involves a waiter and an elementary school teacher banding together to create an empire comprised of just about every business they could buy, as they worked eighteen hour days to make their “American dream” a reality. Some call their success good luck, but it was not. It was thanks to the fall of the USSR that Lukes and Sobotova were able to succeed, and perhaps one day, if Christianity happens to fall, or at least lose some of its power as an organized religion, other people will have similar stories to tell. There may not be as many opportunities at Christianity’s fall as at the fall of Communism, but many people will search for fulfillment in their jobs rather than at their church, leading to a major bump in job performance.
Fast forward a few years to when many people in the ex-Soviet states held large amounts of money, while those who did not seize the opportunities before them were living in the shambles: the newly formed proletariat became exceedingly distrusting of the upper-class as a result of their brainwashing under communist rule. Distrust was essential under communism, where every third person could be a spy for the government, like the “thought police” in 1984, and people were taught to believe that anyone who has more money than average had got it by theft, extortion, or some other form of corruption. In Czech Republic, just about every millionaire was put on some sort of trial for some sort of crime in a court filled with the judges that remained from the communist era. None of these people had actually committed treason, or tunneled funds, or been part of a Ponzi scheme as the courts suggest in their drawn out trials, but the courts bias allowed them keep extending the trial, so even if the defendant was not proven guilty, they could still be facing millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees as well as possibly be stuck in a holding cell as they await their trial up until President Klaus’s 2012 amnesty, which, among its provisions, pardoned defendants who had suffered through a trial longer than eight years. The negative effects of communism on the judiciary systems and on the mentality of the people remains relevant today. The frantic distrust of anyone different parallels the ridiculity of the Salem Witch Trials, where the courts were influence by the Church’s bias, though they were not on such a large scale as the Chekist Trials under Lenin. This sort of bias is particularly useful when censorship has not caught up to the times.
Like in 1984, under communism and under the Church’s rule, everything is censored in a way that benefits the ruling group’s absolute hold on power. The Catholic Church’s capital in the Vatican City is entirely censored. Visitors must uphold a “modest dresscode” which basically bans shorts and skirts, short-sleeved shirts, and anything un-Godly, to protect the sanctity of the city, and the innocence of the people. Catholic Schools ban books pertaining to sex, witchcraft, or anything opposing religion. Of course, the Church cannot censor everyday life, so it indoctrinates its members to believe only what they learn in church, and so, due to cognitive dissonance and belief perseverance, orthodox followers are able to ignore all the facts and proof and information that could contradict the Bible, such as Evolution, the Big Bang Theory, and the benefits of stem cell research. The communist party may not instill as strong of a belief in its followers that such belief perseverance is possible, so the party relies on its effective censorship methods. Under Stalin’s rule, most of the Soviet Union did not receive any news from the outside world, with the only newspapers available being compiled by the communist party itself to further indoctrinate its followers. This sort of censorship is not limited to Stalinist communism and Christianity, but occurs also in Chinese communism and in Islam. In Saudi Arabia, an Islamic nation, the religion is the law, so the censorship is as complete as it was under Stalin though it is more and more difficult for such censorship due to the existence of the internet, while in China, even the internet is very highly censored. When one controls the media, school system, and information flow in such a biased way, the people cannot help but be indoctrinated, which is why there is so much distrust in the ex-Soviet union of the wealthy and so much distrust in the Religious majority world of atheists.
Atheists are so often thought of as in the same vein as communists, and since they are not a cohesive group, they lack the ability to improve their reputation. Aside from the fact that both do not believe in the existence of a god, communism and atheism have no commonalities. Atheism is a passive state which simply takes the idea of a higher power out of the picture, whereas communism actively takes the idea of a god and symbolically murders it in order to thwart the churches power among the people and get rid of all the hope that could potentially start a revolution. Christianity, unlike atheism, actively takes all the gods present in other religions and fervently kills the belief that they could possibly exist, just as communism does. So, in the grand scheme of things, atheism is like the passive middle man who is just minding his own business but ends up killing in the war between communism and religion.
Communism fell while religion thrives for various reasons, including the human need for “something more” and religions ability to indoctrinate deeper than communism. Of course, Stalinism and the USSR may have fallen but that does not mean communism is dead; in addition to China and North Korea’s communist rule, the long term psychological effects of communism in the Eastern Block live on, leaving the ex-Soviet states prone to further coups, revolutions, and hostile takeovers. While “Saint Stalin” may have died and been overthrown, his teachings live on in the world, ready to be picked up again.
With Christianity and Stalinism being such opposing forces, using very different rhetoric to preach seemingly different ideas, most people do not make the connection between them. Yet both these ideologies are just power hungry organizations that started out as innocent, even benevolent, “self-evident truths” that were taken advantage of and corrupted. Neither Marx, nor Jesus, nor the writers of the Bible are really at fault for what happened afterwards with their ideologies as a foundation, but they all facilitated the mass murders of innocent people around the world. Religion, in its intrinsic and internal form, is harmless, as is the belief that everyone is socioeconomically equal, but when these beliefs have been acted on and organized, the results have been devastating. While these two ideologies are incessantly at war, they are two sides of the same sharp sword, and in the hands of an evil dictator, a sword is a very dangerous weapon.