Religion and the Modern State

By Christopher Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND
COMMUNISM

THE conflict between Christianity and Marxism —between the Catholic Church and the Communist party—is the vital issue of our time. It is not a conflict of rival economic systems like the conflict between Socialism and Capitalism, or of rival political ideals—as with Parliamentarism and Fascism. It is a conflict of rival philosophies and of rival doctrines regarding the very nature of man and society.

The importance of this conflict was by no means clearly realized by the founders of Communism themselves. Catholicism was something quite outside the orbit of Marx's thought. He seems to have regarded it, not as a dangerous rival, but as a dying force which belonged essentially to the past. In his historical theory Catholicism is bound up with feudalism: it is the ideological reflection of feudal society, and consequently it had little significance for the modern world, save in a few backward regions where the social structure was that of a past age. The real enemy in Marx's eyes was not Catholicism or Christianity, but the power that had, so Marx believed, already dethroned God and set up a purely secular culture and new secular standards of value—the power of Capitalism.

In Marx's view, the whole structure of society is determined by economic production, and consequently it is justifiable to define a state of society by its economic character. But it may also be defined sociologically by its characteristic social type, and this is what Marx does

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