Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The Proselytizing Nature of Marxism-Leninism

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

The Proselytizing Nature of Marxism-Leninism

Article excerpt

Political Ideology as a Secular Religion

Sociologists of religion define secularization as the sum total of the process of weakening of the social meaning of religion, as a process of the separation of people from religion, and as a process of changes within religion itself. In developed industrial societies, secularization proceeded under the influence of a series of deeply rooted changes in the structural nature of modern society, partly as a latent process, but also partly as a result of a conscious policy. [1] Similar processes of secularization were partly at work in socialist societies as well, but here secularization developed under different circumstances and with different consequences.

The basic difference between these two types of societies, in the opinion of many researchers, was to be found mainly in the fact that early socialist societies were primarily political societies. Secularization unfolded under the predominant influence of politics. Religious policies appeared to be a consequence of such consciously induced and accelerated secularization. Certain important political institutions acquired religious, parareligious, and quasireligious traits. Political ideology gradually turned into secular religion, while the political involvement of people acquired the character of religious devotion.

With the victory of the October Revolution in the U.S.S.R., radical changes came about in the official ruling ideology. Many researchers who have studied the cultural factors of development in that country supported the thesis that the Communists, by denying every religion, even the Orthodox, as the ideology of the ruling classes imposed the teachings of "scientific socialism as a surrogate for religion." The party behaved in the state almost as did the pope in the Roman Catholic Church. This was a means of simplification as well as of political instrumentalization of Marxism. "Militant Atheism" was supposed to substitute for religion in satisfying the psychological and spiritual needs of people to free themselves from uncertainty and doubt. [2] The claim that socialism has religious content is well established in social theory. Apart from Max Weber and Nikolai Berdyaiev, B. Russell, J. M. Bochenski, 3. Toynbee, and many others have also written about it.

Berdyaiev wrote in the Russian Idea that socialism had had a religious character with the Russians even when it was atheistic. According to him, "... an enemy of Christianity and of every other religion is not the social system of communism, which suits Christianity more than capitalism, but the false religion of communism with which they wish to substitute Christianity." [3] Berdyaiev was of the opinion that communism, not as a social system but as a religion, fanatically opposed every other religion, especially Christianity. Communism, he wrote, aspired to offer answers to "religious longings of the human soul" and to give purpose to life. [4]

Sergey Bulgakov likened the violent, intolerant, and exclusive manner of imposing Marxism to "clerical intolerance." He explained that this was the specific dictatorial and nihilistic psychological structure of the revolutionary adherents of this atheistic theodicy in Russia. [5] What Weber regarded as a prerequisite for every effective religion, namely, the sacrificing of the intellect, has in this case became the prerequisite for politics. Divinization and sacrilization on the one side and satanization and demonization on the other, as the basic religious mechanisms, became components or accompanying features of the political life and activities. [6]

Jakov Jukic wrote that the conflict of the two religions, secular and ecclesiastical, is always more implacable than other clashes, because such a conflict is one in which both views of the world comprise the whole person. The corollary of that is such a strong exclusiveness and extreme implacability. "It is the clash of two really different religions with completely opposed beliefs, dogmas, ethics, rites, eschatologies, apocalypses, institutions, and mass following. …

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