Freethinking atheism leads to Communism?

By Rick W

This is not a reply to the usual Christian last-ditch effort of saying "Communists were atheists, and look how they behaved and what happened to them." Well, what I am about to state is that the radical Communist societies in which so many people were killed were/are more religious than atheist and that such figures as Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il Sung could not have held sway over their respective nations had their citizens been strictly freethinking atheists.

Repressive dictators usually have a "cult of personality" around them. This has long been the case, as kings were often thought of as divine rulers - either gods themselves or those who had been specifically chosen by God to rule the masses. Some of these kings might have been atheists and merely used the idea of God as a way to make the downtrodden masses fall in line (which most of the time, they happily did). However, I bet that most kings actually believed that they, themselves were God's chosen one, and so were just as consumed as their subjects with false ideas. Whatever the case, it seems that even in supposedly atheistic societies that were ruled with an iron fist, it was the "cult" that allowed this harsh rule in the first place, for if the masses stopped believing that their "great leader" was infallible, then revolution towards greater freedom would not be far away.

Let me give you all Wikipedia's opening sentence in the "Freethought" entry. "Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that beliefs should be formed on the basis of science and logical principles and not be compromised by authority, tradition, or any other dogma." Let me repeat that..."Authority, tradition, or any other dogma."

According to Wikipedia's entry on the "little red book", a book of Chairman Mao's quotations, the book "was essentially an unofficial requirement for every Chinese citizen to own, to read, and to carry it at all times under the latter half of Mao's rule, especially during the Cultural Revolution. At the height of the period, for people out of favor with the Communist party, the punishment for failing to produce the book upon being asked would range from being beaten on the spot by Red Guards to being given years of hard-labor imprisonment." In essence, Mao Zedong simply chose self-worship over other religions. Far from being atheistic, where science and logical arguments for and against things are lauded, China's new religion was "Mao worship". Mao's words were just as infallible as any god's, and questioning Mao was like questioning Mohammad in today's Saudi Arabia - punishable at times by death. There was no free inquiry. No open debate. Thinking that they were freed from the "opium of the people", they were in fact slaves to the belief that Mao was perfect, and his policies, like God's, must never be questioned. So in fact, this society was just as religious as any other, if not more so. Thankfully, China is much changed from how it was then, although there are still some "sacred" notions that should not be questioned.

Any society in which "freethought" was applauded would have balked at the idea that Mao Zedong was perfect. But in a highly religious society, where "Truth" is fed to people instead of gained individually, almost any idea - many propagated by tyrants - can hold sway.

Interestingly, Karl Marx himself came up with the phrase "cult of the individual" (now "personality cult") and stated that he had "antipathy toward any cult of the individual". Thus, these so-called Communist regimes, like Christians and Muslims today, picked and chose from Karl Marx's works to suit their own needs, but in the end, his works were merely used as justification. And the outward statement that religion was dangerous only served to pull religious people away from their past religions and substitute a new one in its place.

In conclusion, I would like to say that whenever someone states that a single book (like Mao's, the Koran, or the Bible) or a single person (Jesus, an imam, or Kim Jong Il) can give you "Truth" and that this "Truth" must never be questioned or tested, a true atheist would say, "Something that you will not allow to be criticized is probably not the real truth. For me to believe in its validity, there must be evidence, and criticism likewise based on evidence must not be stifled." Thus, I have come to the conclusion that while not all atheists are good people, and Stalin et al might have very well been atheists, their ideas and policies would not have gained ground if the populace were not willing to believe in a supreme "Truth" that was taboo to criticize. Thus, these so-called radical Communist regimes were much more religious than they ever were atheist.


Huey said...

Rick W said:

"Something that you will not allow to be criticized is probably not the real truth. For me to believe in its validity, there must be evidence, and criticism likewise based on evidence must not be stifled."

I love it! Do you mind if I use it?

Unknown said...

Go ahead, Huey!
-Rick W.

fjell said...

Very laudable article. Calmly stated, curt, and sensible. Unfortunately, the demographic on whom this will be lost because of their inability or unwillingness to criticize dogma are the very ones who need it.

There exist, simply, too many souls who have no inclination to bother grappling with the status quo, regardless what and where that status quo may be, whether in Norway or in George Orwell's 1984, and who literally mightn't possess the cerebral gear to do so even if they dimly suspected something had finally necessitated it.

To return, though, to the thrust of your article, I have to hand over the virtual mic to MC Hitchens, who, as per usual, has already delivered a delectable, memorable quote re: the (strawman) Communist/Atheist connection:

When the worst has been said about the Inquisition and the witch trials and the Crusades and the Islamic imperial conquests and the horrors of the Old Testament, is it not true that secular and atheist regimes have committed crimes and massacres that are, in the scale of things, at least as bad if not worse?...

To begin with a slightly inexpensive observation, it is interesting to find that people of faith now seek defensively to say that they are no worse than fascists or Nazis or Stalinists. One might hope that religion had retained more sense of its dignity than that.

Oh, Christopher, you're wasted (as are you, Rick) on the ones who need you least...

Hellbound Alleee said...

Collectivism kills freethought.

Anonymous said...

for the horde

Anonymous said...

The fallacy in the original post is that the analysis ignores that the fundamental component of expressed in the 20th Dialectical Materialism.

This view is expressly atheistic; communism, per se, does not have to be atheistic and the concept has been around for over 2000 years.

Futher, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and thousands of their key followers expressed a raging contempt for religion which led directly to their atrocities...the worst in world history. (Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press)

Anonymous said...

"dialectical materialism
n. The Marxian interpretation of reality that views matter as the sole subject of change and all change as the product of a constant conflict between opposites arising from the internal contradictions inherent in all events, ideas, and movements."

Like agnosticism, doesn't appear to say anything about the existence/non-existence of deities.

a rational response said:
"Futher, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and thousands of their key followers expressed a raging contempt for religion which led directly to their atrocities...the worst in world history. (Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press)"

As the original article showed, the communist regimes in question weren't actually atheistic (or secular humanist if you prefer), they simply substituted a human for a deity as an entity worthy of unquestioning worship and following. In all reality, it wasn't atheists killing religionists, it was Lenin worshipers killing worshipers of other men/ideas.

Anonymous said...

A Rational Response,

So, one facet of their personality/ideology, their atheism, (and that facet ALONE) led those individuals to commit atrocities?


That's not rational. It's stereotyping. It's a strawman fallacy directed against atheists. You're choosing the single piece of their ideology that promotes your theistic views and are refusing to consider the whole.

Try again.

Reggie said...

Yes Monk, their hatred of religion caused their attacks on believers.

As for sterotyping, I learned all about it on this site.

Anonymous said...


You make me laugh. Considering that the arguments of the Christians posting here have already been assaulted like a pedophile in prison, you simply CAN'T be serious when you say a person's hatred of religion makes them commit 'atrocities'.

You're a funny guy. You make me laugh.

As for learning all about stereotyping on this site: hilarious. You mean out of the whole wide world, your first encounter of stereotyping was on THIS website? Astounding. I can't even breathe, I'm laughing so hard. With all the mass media coverage in today's world, where a single death can be hyped to the point that thousands more are killed as a result, one would think you had encountered stereotyping elsewhere. But I suppose not.

Hilarkious. Simply hilarkious.

Anonymous said...

"Mao's words were just as infallible as any god's, and questioning Mao was like questioning Mohammad in today's Saudi Arabia - punishable at times by death"
Exactly like questioning the Bible was in the Dark ages - punishable by death. A fact that today's Christians are only to quick to dust under the carpet.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brother Reggie!

You must not get out all that much.

Thanks for discrediting your faith even more with your critical comments, and making all of the other fundie nuts look really bad.

I guess that is your way of showing the love of "Jesus".

I'm also sure that your "Jesus" would approve of your behavior.

Of course I do understand why you can't demonstrate a "Christ Like Image" since it's impossible to have someone (Christ) living in you, who really doesn't exist in the first place.


Anonymous said...

Hi again, Reggie!

"As for sterotyping, I learned all about it on this site."

Unlike the esteemed trancelation, I am quite convinced that you learned it on this site....from all the OTHER christian trolls who float through here trying to cram each of us into little boxes.

As for our original discussion, I'm sorry, but I'm not buying your position. It's far too simplistic, and there's no way to prove it is anything more than speculation. For clarification, I am not arguing that these individuals were NOT atheists and anti-religious. I simply don't buy that that one aspect of these individuals was the cause--or even the CATALYST--of their atrocities.

Those individuals were about control, and they picked up some pointers from both religious and secular sources. They used the brainwashing and indoctrination tactics of religion without overtly calling it religion. Their religion was the state, and their dogma was the methods they used to keep that control, that power. Power is its own religion and makes its own ideology and dogma as it goes along.

Those people worshipped power. Where god or atheism or theism or any other "ism" would have been of use to acquire and maintain power, it would probably have been used.

Think about it. To say that their atheism was the sole cause of the madness of their regimes is absurd, no matter what side of the religious argument one stands on.

As I said before, try again.

Anonymous said...

I'm esteemed?

More like A-STEAMED!


Anonymous said...

I think that it should be pointed out that Hitler himself was a devout christian. Now people will say that he was not a true christian because of the things that he did. This holds no water because he murdered 6 million jews why? He hated them becuase they had more power than he at certain times in his life or the had more money than he at times in his life. Maybe or could it be that he followed a long tradition of the catholic church and assumed that jews were chirst killers and they should be punished who knows in the end he was a christian and he was also a dictator. He did the things he did because he could and no one even tried to stop him.
As to the communists they did the things they did in order to retain their power and position over the masses. The people did not question their masters. They had no power they had no means in which to fight back. I think that people once they are controlled are willing to allow things to happen because of their feeling of powerlessness. Look at America we have a President now that uses depleted uranium weapons in his war in Afganistan and Iraq. They did it the first gulf war and they are doing it now. After the first gulf war the UN made it a war crime to use these weapons however or leaders have insulated themselves from any criminal procedings thus far. Now is it because our president is a christain that he is committing crimes against defenseless people? is it because he is an atheist that he is doing this? No he is doing it because he can. None of the american people myself inculded have come out and said anything about this or even tried to make a change. We are letting this government do what it will and this is the same thing that happend in these countries. They let it happen they were willfully ignorant and so are we. It is not a matter of religion if there were a god this being would not let these things happen to beings that this god supposedly loved and cared for. It is a shame that people want to follow blindly into the night any leader or god that will do things or let things be done that they know in their own minds are wrong.
Who is to blame for all atrocites and genocides in this world? Us, me and you because we do not pick up a gun or rally people around the world to say to our leaders that enough is enough we are not going to allow you to line your pockets with our blood. We are not going to allow you to kill anymore people just to maintain a position that you neither deserve or respect. It is time for all people religious and non-religious to stand up and tell these people we only have this one samll planet and we only have this one life we need to work together and stop all of the hate and violence towards people just because they are different from us or they choose to worship another god.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree that unrevisability (that is, an unwillingness to revise it in the face of evidence) makes a belief irrational. Counterexample: 2+2=4, who would revise this in the face of apparently contrary evidence? Instead we would say that there is something wrong with the evidence. There are beliefs we are simply unwilling to revise, atheist or not.

W.V. Quine famously (among philosophers, that is) noted that beliefs at the center of our web of belief are the ones we would be least willing to revise. All of us have beliefs that are in this position in our web, and in terms of these beliefs we interpret our experiences.

TheJaytheist said...


It is not a dogmatic belief that we hold the outcome to be four. It is logic.

If it could be shown that the logical outcome of 2+2 equals something other than four, I would have to make a revision(or an exception at least)in order to remain within reason. However, if the logic behind the outcome of the non-four answer is shown to be in error the answer will remain four in order to remain in reason.

Untill there is found a logical exception to the outcome(4), there would be no reason to suggest that another outcome is more correct.

Anonymous said...

Balony! I am a religious sceptic, but I am no believer of Marxism. Of course I also dislike Republican conservatism.

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