GROVE CITY, PA — September 18, 2020 — “If someone calls it socialism,” said the Rev. William Barber at an August 2019 conference of the Democratic National Committee, “then we must compel them to acknowledge that the Bible must then promote socialism, because Jesus offered free health care to everyone, and he never charged a leper a co-pay.”
The Rev. Barber is not alone in that sentiment. There are flatly too many people right now praising to or sympathetic to socialism and/or Marxism. Some attempt to make an explicitly Christian case for communism, as seen in a stunning article in July 2019 by the leading Jesuit publication, America Magazine, titled, “The Catholic Case for Communism,” as if Christians have common cause with Karl Marx and his atheistic-materialist philosophy.
Having just published a book whose title suggests just the opposite, namely, The Devil and Karl Marx, it pains me to see that anyone would believe that communism is compatible with Christianity specifically or religion generally. Such a notion is astonishing not only given the church’s longtime intense opposition to communism, but also given the intense opposition to Christianity by the founders and disciples of communism. Those founders exhibited an intense opposition to Judaism as well, and they harbored some ugly views of Jews and, still more, of blacks. Those latter views were based in part on an atheistic-materialist commitment to Darwinian evolution that made those founders quite racist.
Where to start? Well, for Marx, the starting point was religion.
“Communism begins where atheism begins,” said Karl Marx. “The criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism.”
Marx framed man as not edified or uplifted by religion but in a “struggle against religion.” This is a “struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.” This is why people crave religion as a kind of drug: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions,” averred Marx. “It is the opium of the people.”
And again, for Marx, it all begins with religion. That’s the foundation that must be razed. Religion was among the things he wanted to abolish, along with property, family, “all morality,” and more.
As for “social justice” Christians who invoke communism as somehow consistent with Christian social teaching, well, Marx begged to differ. “The social principles of Christianity preach cowardice, self-contempt, abasement, submission, humility,” scowled Marx. “The social principles of Christianity are hypocritical.”
Georg Jung, a Marx contemporary and close friend, said that “Marx calls Christianity one of the most immoral religions.” Jung viewed Marx as a theological-philosophical revolutionary who was attempting to overthrow the entire social system, not just an economic system.
Indeed he was. Marx in the Manifesto said that communism represents “the most radical rupture in traditional relations” and seeks to “abolish the present state of things.” Imagine that. That is no small objective. And neither is this rather grandiose goal stated at the close of his Manifesto: “They [the Communists] openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”
Note the utterly revolutionary ambition: “the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”
Marx and Engels closed their Manifesto with this exhortation to future revolutionaries: “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.”
That objective has been seized by Marxist revolutionaries still today, whose desire seems to be to tear down rather than build up.
Obviously, this has no resemblance to Christianity—as Marx and friends knew. In fact, Marx’s partner, Friedrich Engels, acknowledged that. One contemporary said of Engels: “He held, of course, that Christian socialism was a contradiction in terms.”
Of course. That was part of the creed of communism. Vladimir Lenin declared that “any worship of a divinity is a necrophilia,” insisted that “there is nothing more abominable than religion,” and demanded: “Everyone must be absolutely free to … be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule.”
Nikolai Bukharin, founding editor of Pravda, stated: “A fight to the death must be declared upon religion take on religion at the tip of the bayonet.” According to Bukharin, “Religion and communism are incompatible, both theoretically and practically…. Communism is incompatible with religious faith.”
Karl Marx was likewise unimpressed with the faith of his family—Judaism.
“The Israelite faith is repulsive to me,” sneered Marx in 1843. In his awful 1844 essay “On the Jewish Question,” Marx raged: “What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Haggling. What is his worldly god? Money.” The Jew, Marx snarled, had become “impossible.” He chillingly concluded: “The emancipation of the Jews, in the final analysis, is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”
Marx particularly disliked a Jew who was part black. He referred to his fellow German socialist Ferdinand Lassalle as “the Jewish [N-word].” He and Engels debated over Lassalle’s hair and cranial formation: “It is now perfectly clear to me that, as the shape of his head and the growth of his hair indicates, he is descended from the Negroes.” Marx allowed for an exception: “unless his mother or grandmother on the father’s side was crossed with a [N-word].” Marx mocked: “This union of Jew and German on a Negro base was bound to produce an extraordinary hybrid.”
We see here the Darwinian roots of Marx’s (and Engels’) sordid attitude toward humanity. They viewed human beings as made not in the image of God—the imago Dei—but in the image of apes.
Both Marx and Engels made fun of Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, who was partly Cuban, which, by Marx’s logic, meant he was partially infected by “Negro blood.” Marx denigrated his own son-in-law as “Negrillo,” or “The Gorilla.” (Paul would kill himself in a suicide pact with Marx’s daughter—alas, Marx lost two daughters in joint suicide pacts with their husbands.) Engels figured to Marx that Paul possessed “one-eighth or one-twelfth [N-word] blood.” When Lafargue attempted to run as a political candidate for a council seat in a Paris district that contained a zoo, Engels made sure he took a shot at Paul in a letter to Paul’s wife: “Being in his quality as a [N-word], a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district.”
These views are, obviously, thoroughly un-Christian.
To Marx and Engels, Darwin was the figure to look to, not God—who, after all, didn’t exist. God was dead. In fact, when Marx died in March 1883, Engels looked to Darwin. Staring at Marx’s cold coffin, which bore not a cross but two red wreaths, Engels in his eulogy invoked not God but Darwin, hailing the scientist for dealing such a grand blow for materialism and atheism. He would likewise hail Darwin in his eulogy for Marx’s wife, Jenny: “The place where we stand is the best proof that she lived and died in the full conviction of atheist Materialism,” averred Engels, soberly staring at a pile of dirt. “She knew that one day she would have to return, body and mind, to the bosom of that nature from which she had sprung.”
Engels exhorted the atheist faithful to take pride and joy in their shared conviction that the vivacious Jenny was now reduced to mere worm food.
And yet, Darwin was hailed by leading Marxists in god-like language.
“Darwin destroyed the last of my ideological prejudices,” Leon Trotsky triumphed. Trotsky said the “facts” about the world and life and its origins were established for him via this “certain system” of evolutionary theory. “The idea of evolution and determinism,” he wrote, “took possession of me completely. Darwin stood for me like a mighty doorkeeper at the entrance to the temple of the universe. I was intoxicated with his … thought.” Trotsky historian Barry Lee Woolley explained: “Trotsky took up the faith of Marx and Darwin. The conversion experience was genuine and thorough.”
This is what we would expect of an ideology that fashioned a golden calf, a material idol, forged and focused on money, property, gold. It was not about the soul. The key to the communist-Marxist utopia would be economics. Solve the economic problem, communists believed, and you would solve the human problem. They speak as if man truly does live by bread alone (Christ corrected Satan on that one). As Pope Benedict XVI said, the fatal flaw of communists and socialists is that they had their anthropology wrong. They did not adequately understand man. As Augustine said, we all have a God-shaped vacuum that God alone can fill; not a dollar-signed vacuum. We crave the divine manna of heaven.
Alas, the Marxism that Karl Marx bequeathed is very much a reflection of his impoverished worldview. This materialistic-atheistic ideology would beget over 100 million deaths in the 20th century alone, not to mention a war on faith, family, property, and more. It still rages. And religious people should certainly reject it.
—Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and chief academic fellow of the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City College. His latest book (April 2017) is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. He is also the author of 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative. His other books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.