Many times in my life I’ve heard this statement by people who claim to be atheists: “Religion is the cause of all war”.
A close cousin to this belief was addressed in John Lennon’s anthem, “Imagine” in which he blamed both religion and patriotism for war, and dreamed of the day when everyone would just forget all about them both, so we could all live in peace and harmony.
All together now…aaaah!
To be sure, some wars have been fought in the name of religion, but certainly not all. Others have been caused by nationalistic fervor. Still others were caused by arguments over food or resources or land, or by a simple thirst for conquest and power. It’s my contention that war does not ultimately originate from religion or patriotism, but from the depths of human nature, and another conveyor of that nature is atheistically inspired philosophy.
A few weeks ago I posted an article titled “If There Is No God”, in which I briefly considered the consequences of living in a world without God. Among other things I made the assertion that atheistic philosophies are just as guilty of war and violence in the history of man as is any religion. In fact, if you think about it, death, struggle and violence are vital parts in the engine of evolution: they are “nature” at work. To be an atheist you have to believe in death and violence, even if you simultaneously dream of a utopian society. I mentioned people like Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot as being the perpetrators of mass suffering thanks to the atheistic philosophies they followed.
I decided I wanted to put some flesh onto my assertion, since it’s really not enough to just make accusations without any backing, as a few readers of the article rightly suggested.
FINDING KARL MARX
Whether you think that Karl Marx gets a bad rap for the miseries that occurred in the century and more after his teachings became known, or that the horrors of 20th Century Communism can be at least partially blamed on him, there is no question whatsoever that many if not all of the violent and repressive revolutionaries of such nations as Russia, China and Cambodia saw his writings as a major influence in their actions. Marx may well not have envisaged or wished for misery and murder on the scale that it occurred, but ideas do have consequences.
While it’s true that Lenin, Stalin, Mao and others each re-interpreted Marx to suit their own set of conditions, there is no doubt that they were all, in their own ways, Marxists. In a series of four or five parts, I will endeavor to document these points. I will also demonstrate how Marx’s beliefs and theories were in turn shaped by Darwin’s theory of evolution, and atheism, as reflected in those of his students and admirers who acted upon his words. This fact is proudly proclaimed by those who are serious about socialism: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/jun2009/dar1-j17.shtml Surely, to be consistent with evolution, those who believe in it (as in “faith”) should allow varieties of humans to thrive in their own ways, since some are better at using their creativity, their business skills and their brains, and they have more energy and drive. How can we point at finches and say, “oh yes, this variety is better at adapting to its surroundings and so it’s thriving”, and yet claim that all humans should be muzzled, shackled and controlled at the same level?
ME AND SOCIALISM
Having trodden on several toes already, I need to give a little personal history, and some clarifying remarks here. I am not attempting to do battle with socialism in this article, but I found socialism to be an unavoidable subject in the course of my argument. I am not a rabid hater of a welfare state or of the idea of making a fairer society which is more livable for the weak and poor among us. I am not wealthy by any standards, in fact, I have very little in the way of monetary wealth or property, and I am in debt (who isn’t?).
I was raised by my wonderful Christian Dad to think “Socialism” at a time when men like Harold Wilson and James Callaghan were running my country. When Margaret Thatcher ran for election in Britain, there was a huge poster in my home town, which read “Labour isn’t working.” It was a dig at the governing “Labour and Socialist Party”, referring to the one million who were unemployed at the time. I remember hearing her say that she would “make people want to work” Within a year or two of Mrs.Thatcher and her henchmen being in office, three million were unemployed. She slashed away at entire industries, and each job vacancy received hundreds of applications, while her ministers and admirers blamed the job-seekers for being lazy. Many Americans see Thatcher as a great leader, as did those in Britain who were doing well for themselves. But for the many who were struggling to pay her new taxes and find a job and pay the bills and consequently to keep their families in tact, it was her party’s arrogance and callousness which turned at least one generation away from capitalism for life.
Therefore, I am not a stone-hearted conservative. However, when I began to study the atrocities of men like Stalin and Pol Pot, I had to look at Communism. When I looked at Communism I found Marx. When I found Marx I found Socialism, and further back than that, I found Darwin. In Darwin, Marx and the Marxist dictators and their hatchet-men I found atheism – not its origin of course, but its naked manifestation into the world of ideas. Darwin’s and Marx’s threads of influence are woven through the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and into the present time.
THE BIBLE, WAR, AND SOCIALISM
The apostle James said “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives….” (James 4:1-3). James even addressed the problem of the selfish rich, making it very clear that their judgment is coming, and he said “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter” (James 5:4-5).
Strangely, James and Marx are in close agreement here. James blamed greed, selfishness and desiring what other people have as the causes of fighting and therefore of war. Marx wrote passionately about class struggle all through history, about greed and the selfishness of the ruling classes. However, the prescriptions for such abuses by these two men are in total opposition. For the believer, God is the avenger and the only one who can judge righteously (Romans12: 17-21). In bringing this to the believers’ memory, Paul said “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (verse 21). Marx, upholding the cause of the Communists, said “The Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things”. ”They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions” “WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES UNITE!” (From “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, January 1848, English Ed of 1888)
Jesus said “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you”…”if you love only those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:44-46). That’s not to say that it’s wrong to defend your country when attacked by a tyrant-it isn’t, but Christ’s advice for those who are oppressed was never “kill the *******s!” When the time for his crucifixion came, he told Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews…” (John 18:36). There is no condoning of force or violence or war in the New Testament. If anyone wages war or revolution in the name of Christ, except in defense, they are not living as Christians, or “Christ ones”. It’s claimed by some that the God of the Old Testament (who is the same as the God of the New, by the way), was war-like and blood-thirsty.
The reality is that God told the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites from the land because the wickedness and depravity of the Canaanites was so extreme that God saw no alternative: they were even burning their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods (Deuteronomy12:31). Doesn’t that sound like the kind of thing that would get NATO plenty of public support in our day? I say they deserved what they got. Some people claim that Jesus was a socialist. But what Jesus taught was not some government-led redistribution of wealth and power so that wealth would be taken from some and given to others: Jesus taught voluntary, generous giving to those in need, and it wasn’t just the wealthy who were expected to be generous. Some, though not all, wealthy people have earned their wealth by working hard for it. To take it away from them would be theft. For that reason alone communism and radical socialism are, to my mind, ungodly concepts. In the parable of the talents which represent God-given abilities or gifts, we find that one man received five, another two, and another one. They didn’t all receive the same amount (Matthew 25:14-30).
Each man, whether given one, two or five talents, was expected to make good use of what he had been given. None was encouraged to take from another, and none could make an excuse for not making use of what he had. In Acts chapter 2, in reference to the early church, we find that “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45). This is not socialism or communism. There are no gangs of curates going around stripping the wealthy of their stuff and giving it to the poor. There’s no church government demanding that anyone hand over anything. Instead, the believers willingly and spontaneously sold their possessions and gave generously. Unfortunately, most preachers of today will not encourage their flock to be so generous, for fear of upsetting the ones who pay to keep the building fund on track and the wages paid.
NEXT WEEK IN PART 2: MARX, ENGELS AND DARWIN MARX AND THE CHURCH MARX’S MARCHING ORDERS