Chapter 5. Communism's Hostility To Religion
In the Qur'an, it is revealed that throughout history, cruel and tyrannical leaders have arisen who have denied God and religion. In one verse (28: 41), God calls them "leaders summoning to the fire." This kind of character typified by the person of Pharaoh in various accounts about Moses in the Qur'an. There have been other cruel rulers who opposed Prophet Abraham and the Companions of the Cave (a group of believers recounted in the Qur'an) and who, just like Pharaoh, killed people simply for having faith in God. It's possible to find these tyrannical characters in every era of history. These leaders of irreligion have committed similar acts of cruelty against their societies, used the same methods in trying to alienate people from religion, and led the unwary to destruction in this world and the hereafter.
Looking at ideologies of the last century that have brought the most trouble, pain, cruelty and brutality, we find merciless and irreligious leaders at their head. Those 20th-century leaders who most resemble Pharaoh as described in the Qur'an are the bloodthirsty, irreligious leaders of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and the fathers of their ideas, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Charles Darwin exercised leadership in irreligion in yet another way by his theory of evolution.
Communism's hostility to religion is beyond dispute. Look at the writings of any Communist ideologue, and you will find this expressed openly. Marx himself called religion the "opium of the people," described it as created by the ruling class to narcotize the poor, and proposed that religious belief must be destroyed if Communism were to advance. Engels wrote that human beings are descended from monkeys, claiming that religion developed as merely a stage in the process of evolution.
To destroy religion, what kind of policies do Communists implement? Lenin gave the first comprehensive answer.. In 1900, as leader of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party (later to become the Communist Party), he wrote an article titled "The Attitude of the Worker's Party to Religion," published in the Proletary magazine. In that article he wrote:
Social-Democracy bases its whole world-outlook on scientific socialism, i.e., Marxism. The philosophical basis of Marxism, as Marx and Engels repeatedly declared, is dialectical materialism, which has fully taken over the historical traditions of eighteenth-century materialism in France and of Feuerbach (first half of the nineteenth century) in Germany -- a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion. Let us recall that the whole of Engels's Anti-Dühring, which Marx read in manuscript, is an indictment of the materialist and atheist Dühring for not being a consistent materialist and for leaving loopholes for religion and religious philosophy. Let us recall that in his essay on Ludwig Feuerbach, Engels reproaches Feuerbach for combating religion not in order to destroy it, but in order to renovate it, to invent a new, "exalted" religion, and so forth. "Religion is the opium of the people" -- this dictum by Marx is the corner-stone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion.102
In 1905, he published an article entitled "Socialism and Religion" in the magazine Nozvaya Zhizn in which he called religion a "fog" that must be dispersed. In that article, he also described the atheist propaganda that Communists must spread against religion:
Our Programme is based entirely on the scientific, and moreover the materialist, world-outlook... . Our propaganda necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism; the publication of the appropriate scientific literature, which the autocratic feudal government has hitherto strictly forbidden and persecuted, must now form one of the fields of our Party work. We shall now probably have to follow the advice Engels once gave to the German Socialists: to translate and widely disseminate the literature of the eighteenth-century French Enlighteners and atheists.103
Note that Lenin said the battle Marxists much wage against religion has to start by disseminating "scientific literature" and the writings of the 18th-century Enlightenment atheists. "Scientific literature" means theories that impose materialism in the guise of science (such as Darwinism); and these "French Enlighteners" include Diderot and D'Holbach, who wrote materialist propaganda against religion long before Marx.
Among Communists, this method Lenin taught is still in use. If we examine certain publishing houses, scientific magazines and media institutions throughout the world, we clearly see that Marxists are behind publications that espouse Darwinist and Enlightenment philosophy.
Communism's Hidden Hostility to Religion
While Marxists are not in power, their currents of thought don't usually follow a definite aggressive policy against religion. It's even possible for some Communists to seem to show respect for religion and its adherents. What is the purpose for this moderation?
The answer to this question can be found among the writings of Lenin. In "The Attitude of the Worker's Party to Religion," he wrote that, starting with the interpretations and practices of experts like Marx and Engels, war must never be openly declared against religion. This was an unnecessary "gamble of a political war." 104 Other materialists (for example, the anarchists or "bourgeois atheists") had voiced hostility to religion and initiated anti-religious campaigns. Lenin found their activities simple and naïve. He rejected the accusations of "moderation" and "inconsistency" these people leveled against Marxists and stated that the "Marxist tactics in regard to religion are thoroughly consistent, and were carefully thought out by Marx and Engels." 105
Lenin continued this moderate stance until the Communists came to power in 1917. But after this, his moderation disappeared and replaced it with widespread oppression of religion and religious people throughout the Soviet territory. Earlier, Lenin had stated thatCommunists must not openly declare themselves to be atheists and must even accept believers in religion into their ranks. But once he came to power, he followed a much different path. In The Harvest of Sorrow, the American historian Robert Conquest describes some of the main points of Bolshevik religious policy:
Priests and clerics were declared, under another article (65) of the 1918 Constitution, to be 'servants of the bourgeoisie' and disfranchised. This involved their receiving no ration cards, or those of the lowest category; their children were barred from school above the elementary grade; and so on.
... A law of 8 April 1929 forbade religious organizations to establish mutual assistance funds; to extend material aid to their members; 'to organize special prayer or other meetings for children, youths or women, or to organize general bible, literary, handicraft, working, religious study or other meetings, groups, circles or branches, to organize excursions or children's playgrounds, or to open libraries or reading rooms, or to organize sanatoria or medical aid.' In fact, as an official comment put it, church activity was reduced to the performance of religious services.
On 22 May 1929, Article 18 of the Constitution was amended; instead of 'freedom of religious and anti-religious propaganda' it now read 'freedom of religious worship and anti-religious propaganda'; at the same time the Commissariat of Education replaced a policy of non-religious teaching in schools by orders for definitely anti-religious instruction... .
... Collectivization 'usually involved the closure of the local church as well'. Icons were confiscated as a matter of routine and burned along with other objects of religious worship. A confidential letter from the Western Provincial Committee on 20 February 1930 speaks of drunken soldiers and Komsomols [members of the Communist youth organization] who 'without mass preparation' were 'arbitrarily closing village churches, breaking ikons, and threatening the peasants'.
The closures applied to all religions... .
... Moreover when churches were closed, this did not mean that religious work was permitted outside them. The closure of nine major churches in Kharkov was accompanied by a decision 'to take proper steps to prevent prayer meetings in private homes now that the churches are closed'.
The Kazan Cathedral in Leningrad was turned into an anti-religious museum... .
... The St Sophia Cathedral and other churches in Kiev were turned into museums or anti-religious centres. In Kharkov, St. Andrey's was turned into a cinema; another into a radio station; another into a machine-parts store. In Poltava, two were turned into granaries, another into a machine repair shop... .
... In the collectivization evangelical leaders in the villages were excluded from the kolkhozes and denounced as kulaks; and most of them were deported.106
After the Bolshevik revolution, Lenin's tactic of "being moderate towards religion" turned into fanatical hostility. As we saw earlier, to Lenin, the famine of 1920-21 that cost millions of lives would weaken people's faith in God.
Lenin, with his rebellious spirit against God and religion, lost his mental balance and suffered great pain. God returned to Lenin in this world some of the cruelty he inflicted on people with his hostility to religion. The Qur'an (58:5-6) speaks of the terrible recompense that such cruel people will receive on the Last Day:
Those who oppose God and His Messenger will be subdued and overcome as those before them were also subdued and overcome. We have sent down Clear Signs. The disbelievers will have a humiliating punishment. On the Day God raises up all of them together, He will inform them of what they did. God has recorded it while they have forgotten it. God is a Witness of all things. (Qur'an 58:5-6)
When Stalin rose to power, he was just as anti-religious as his predecessor. He displayed his hostility by killing millions of believers, destroying religious institutions and places of worship, and by initiating endless atheist propaganda. One of the most important weapons in Stalin's propaganda attack was the theory of evolution. In his autobiography, he wrote:
In order to disabuse the minds of our seminary students of the myth that the world was created in six days, we had to acquaint ourselves with the geological origin and age of the earth, and be able to prove them in argument; we had to familiarize ourselves with Darwin's teachings.107
In the book Anarchism or Socialism?, Stalin pits Darwin against Cuvier, a creationist scientist and founder of the science of fossils. He writes, "Marxism rests on Darwinism and treats it uncritically, i.e., the Marxists repudiate Cuvier's cataclysms."108
Maoism's Hostility to Religion
Mao, Leninism's and Stalinism's representative in China, nurtured hostility to religion and implemented it in his policies. One of his comments on religion he clearly displays his fanaticism:
... [B]ut of course, religion is poison. It has two great defects: It undermines the race . . . [and] retards the progress of the country. Tibet and Mongolia have both been poisoned by it.109
When Mao came to power, he instituted a war against religion and its practitioners. But this was done in "secret," as Lenin's Communists had done. The Communist party initiated a policy called the "Three self movement," meaning that all religious institutions must be structured so that they could be "self supporting, self administrating, and self organized." This policy appeared to be based on granting freedom of religion, but it was actually a campaign designed to destroy religion completely. All religious institutions and places of worship throughout the country—Confucian and Buddhist temples, mosques and Christian churches—came under the control of state controlled management bodies. Within a short time, these religious institutions became "Maoist propaganda centers." A statement given to the American International Commission on Religious Freedom on March 16, 2000 by a Chinese Christian by the name of Harry Wu says:
But because Mao Zedong could not allow any citizen of China to hold allegiance to any authority outside the Communist Party, under Mao these government-run bodies allowed no religious activity. Throughout the three decades that Mao ruled China, the organizations of the "three self movement" worked with the Chinese Communist Party to eliminate religion and to promote the ideology of the Communist Party. Maoism became China's only legal religion, and Mao's "Little Red Book" its primary religious text.110
Both the Uyghur Muslims in eastern Turkestan and the Buddhists of Tibet became targets of bloody brutality. The Chinese Communist Party tried to control them by reducing their populations and destroying their religious beliefs. Other Communist regimes in Asia continued Mao's hostility to religion. In the genocide committed against their own people in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge targeted the minority Cham community of Muslims with particular cruelty. The Black Book of Communism describes the brutality they inflicted against the Cham:
In 1973, mosques were destroyed and prayers banned in the liberated zones. Such measures became more widespread after May 1975. Korans were collected and burned, and mosques were either transformed into other buildings or razed. Thirteen Muslim dignitaries were executed in June, some for having gone to pray rather than attending a political rally, others for having campaigned for the right to religious wedding ceremonies... . The more fervent were all but wiped out: of the 1,000 who had made the pilgrimage to Mecca, only 30 survived these years. Unlike other Cambodians, the Cham frequently rebelled, and large number of them died in the massacres and reprisals that followed these uprisings. After mid-1978 the Khmer Rouge began systematically exterminating a number of Cham communities, including women and children... [It is calculated] that the overall mortality rate among the Cham was 50 percent. 111
In Albania, Enver Hoxha's dictatorship, another Communist regime, displayed Maoism's hostility to religion. Albania came out of World War II as a satellite of the Soviet Union, but during the Sino-Soviet conflict of the 1960s, Albania sided with China and became the representative of Red Chinese Maoism in Europe. Enver Hoxha closed all places of worship (mosques as well as Catholic Churches in the north of the country) and even forbade people from worshipping in their homes. Declaring your belief in any religion became a crime, and those who disobeyed the prohibition were subjected to various kinds of oppression and torture. Enver Hoxha, believing he could eradicate all religious belief by implementing these methods, announced that he had founded the first State in the world that was truly atheist.
Communism and the Irreligious Systems Revealed in the Qur'an
At the root of the characteristics of the Communist system is its anti-religious ideology. The reason for its brutality and dullness is this same crazed hostility toward religion.
Religion is part of the way of living and thinking that God has given the human beings He created. The best life for Man is one based on religious belief; because the One Who knows the human spirit best is our Lord Who created it. Only a system founded on religion can give peace, while systems rejecting religion will inevitably bring pain, sorrow, fear and insecurity. Above all, these systems opposing all religious truth, trying to force people live in contradiction to it, constitute an even greater danger. Historically, Communism has been one of the most striking examples of just such a system.
Interestingly, Communism shows important similarities to the godless systems that God has described in the Qur'an. Comparing the godless system of Pharaoh given in the Qur'an with some other systems of our age, we see a great similarity.
The Passion for Big Buildings
One common characteristic of all irreligious administrations is their seeking to captivate onlookers with grandeur. Their haughtiness and humiliation of other people are expressed in various ways.
As an example, God tells in the Qur'an about Pharaoh's administration in Egypt in the time of Prophet Moses. In his pride, Pharaoh opposed both God and His apostle Moses, while subjecting his own people to oppression. An example of Pharaoh's arrogance was his command to have a "high tower" built. The Qur'an (28:38) reveals Pharaoh's command to Haman, one of his closest man:
Pharaoh said, "Councilmen, I do not know of any other god for you apart from Me. Haman, kindle a fire for me over the clay and build me a lofty tower, so that perhaps I may be able to climb up to Moses's god! I consider him [Moses] a blatant liar." (Qur'an 28:38)
This desire for a "high tower," an expression of Pharaoh's pride, is also reflected in Communist dictatorships' passion for "big buildings." Beginning with the Soviet Union, all Communist states constructed excessively large state buildings as symbols of the regime's strength and endurance. For a long time, the palace built by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in Bucharest retained the title of the world's largest building. Yet this palace has a very cold and joyless appearance; size was its most important consideration and it remains an expression of the "superiority complex" of Communist ideology.
In the Qur'an, God reveals some actions that brought destruction upon their perpetrators, including the removal of people from their homelands. For example, those who denied God threatened the prophets that were sent to them: "We will drive you from our land unless you return to our religion..." (Qur'an, 14:13) As is told in verse 22:40, they tried especially to remove Muslims; "those who were expelled from their homes without any right, merely for saying, 'Our Lord is God'…"
Communist regimes have engineered the greatest forced migrations, and Muslims have been the target of most of them. In Stalin's time, first the Crimean Turks and later, many other Muslim peoples were forced to leave their lands overnight and were dispatched, hungry and miserable to the most barren regions of Russia. Hundreds of thousands of innocents died on the way, and those who survived to reach their destinations died of hunger, infectious diseases, and freezing cold.
The Destruction of Freedom of Belief
As told in the Qur'an, one characteristic feature of Pharaoh's administration was its outlawing freedom of belief. The system determined what kind of beliefs people could hold. Pharaoh's question to the magicians who believed in Moses shows this clearly; "Have you believed in Him before I authorized you to do so?" (Qur'an, 7:123) Again, while speaking to his people, Pharaoh said that he taught the people the truth they needed to know, and that they shouldn't search for any other truth besides what he taught them:
"I only show you what I see myself and I only guide you to the path of rectitude." (Qur'an, 40:29)
Pharaoh's modern representatives are the Soviet Union and all the other Communist regimes of the 20th century that attempted to establish totalitarian regimes. In any totalitarianism system, society is totally shaped by the State. People are physically governed by State oppression and mentally by propaganda. The model of Pharaoh's totalitarian system, as described in the Qur'an, was revived in the 20th century by dictators like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. The Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha, as we mentioned earlier, forbade his countrymen from practicing any religious faith. He closed all places of worship and advertised the government he'd founded as the "world's first atheist State."
The Idolization of Leaders
In the Qur'an (28:38), God tells us that Pharaoh tried to make himself a god in the eyes of the people, as can plainly be seen in Pharaoh's words to those around him: "Councilmen, I do not know of any other god for you apart from me." Egyptian history shows us how its pharaohs described themselves as "gods in this world."
Communist regimes wielded the same kind of psychology. Dictators such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and North Korea's Kim Il Sung initiated programs of mass brainwashing to make themselves seem as gods in the eyes of their peoples. This "cult of personality" was an expression of the policy of "idolizing the leaders."
This tendency towards idolization started first with Lenin, leader of the first Communist revolution in Russia. Indeed, some of the writings Lenin left behind show a noticeable "aura of religion"—but a religion of idols. Lenin organized the Communist Party as a kind of non-religious sect. Upon his death, Party members held a huge ceremony in which they addressed Lenin's corpse with liturgical words such as: "Comrad Lenin, we swear we will carry out your orders."112 Lenin's body was mummified, like an ancient Egyptian pharaoh's, and placed in an elaborate tomb.
Stalin and Mao followed Lenin's example. Both leaders had giant statues of themselves erected in every city of their countries, trying to produce a portrait of their people's "god-leader." Mao wrote The Little Red Book, and every Chinese citizen was responsible for reading this "holy" book and implementing its precepts in his life. Many Chinese still visit the statues of the "Great Helmsman" erected in every part of the country, and on Mao's birthday there are mass suicides.
In North Korea, Kim Il Sung was also idolized after he came to power. He was known as the "Sun of the People," who believed he could lead them along the right path without ever making a mistake. The same thing happened with Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnam's Communist dictator.
The system of oligarchy is "minority rule," in which political power rests in the hands of a limited group. A look into the Qur'an shows that godless systems have a basically oligarchic structure. When we examine the many verses that speak of "the chiefs of the nations," we see that these people have taken all political power into their own hands, governing society according to their own ideas. When we look at the verses relating to Pharaoh, we see that his administration was an oligarchic class, composed of advisors, magicians and soldiers. In order to keep the people bound to Pharaoh's administration, the magicians controlled their thinking. The soldiers ensured the same control by brute force.
Communist regimes are the modern counterpart of the godless oligarchic system mentioned in the Qur'an. Communists started out by offering "power of the people," but in every country where they came to power, they established minority power relying on domination. All political power in the country passed into the hands of a party that bore the name of the "proletarian party" or Workers' Party, but had no relationship with the workers. The decision-making mechanisms—known as the Communist Party Central Committee and the Politburo, together with the General Secretary over them—retained all the power and used it mercilessly. In Communist regimes, all the supposedly "democratic" mechanisms, such as elections and party congresses, were only a show.
The "Destruction of Crops and Breeding Stock"
When describing the quality of godless administrations in the Qur'an (2:205-206), God draws our attention to something very important:
When he holds the upper hand, he goes about the earth corrupting it, destroying (people's) crops and breeding stock. God does not love corruption. When he is told to heed God, he is seized by pride which drives him to wrongdoing. Hell will be enough for him! What an evil resting-place! (Qur'an 2:205-206)
Notice that "going about the earth corrupting it" and "destroying crops and breeding stock" in these verses precisely describe the slaughters and collectivizations implemented by Communist regimes of the Soviet Union, Red China, and Cambodia. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot forced an atmosphere of chaos and terror on their countries. By implementing Lysenko's evolutionist nonsense, they destroyed all the products of agriculture, killed countless numbers, and nearly erased a whole generation. Later, this same verse reveals that the people who perpetrated this were arrogant and irreligious. This description perfectly fits these dictators, who regarded themselves as gods.
Communists believe that the world is advancing constantly through evolution, and that older societies were less advanced than our modern ones. For this reason, they try to belittle the holy books revealed through ancient prophets thousands of years ago. Fourteen centuries ago, however, the Qur'an revealed their ideology and spiritual disposition as ignorance, deceit and psychological depravity. No matter how much Communist leaders may count themselves at the most advanced stage of history, they share much in common with Pharaoh, back in the time of Prophet Moses.
Actually, history shows no "advancement" of human intelligence or psychological make-up. People thousands of years ago had the same characteristics as those who live today. From a cultural and technological point of view, there have been both advancements and regressions. For example the technology in the time of Prophet Solomon, and the technique the Egyptians used to build pyramids are yet unknown. From their surviving pieces of art, some civilizations seem to have accumulated very advanced cultures and technologies, but there is never constant progress.
But as we said at the beginning, God has created human beings of different types of make-up, with certain particular ways of thinking. Among them, history develops according to rules that God has determined. The Qur'an (33:62) says that God's pattern (Sunnah), or the natural and social rules that God has imposed, have never changed:
"This is God's pattern with those who passed away before. You will not find any alteration in God's pattern." (Qur'an 33:62)
People's commitment to such a brutal, dark and barbarous ideology as Communism caused them to suffer unimagined torments. Those who believed in Darwin's perversion and chose godlessness, prepared their own end. In one verse (Qur'an, 30:41), God describes this:
Corruption has appeared in both land and sea because of what people's own hands have brought about so that they may taste something of what they have done so that hopefully, they will turn back. (Qur'an, 30:41)
Corruption has appeared in both land and sea because of what people's own hands have brought about so that they may taste something of what they have done so that hopefully, they will turn back.
Nobel laureate Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, a passionate critic of Communism, captured in his writings these divine rules' social nature. In a speech delivered in London in 1983, the Russian author stated why disaster had fallen on his people:
Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."
Since then I have spend well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."113
Communism happened because people forgot God. It is a living example that shows how merciless, brutal and barbarous a godless society can be, and what kind of society materialist philosophies like Darwinism give birth to. Looking at the misery Communism has brought, we can understand the great difference between a society with religious moral values and one with none. And this is the means whereby we will understand that, for human salvation, the only solution is to live a life founded on religious moral values.
But as long as people keep denying God and wandering into these philosophies distant from the morality of religion, Communism and other perverted ideologies will find a place to exist. As the verse above says, if people do not want "corruption to appear in both land and sea because of what their own hands have brought about," first they must distance themselves from these ideologies and draw others away from them as well. To achieve this, people must be acquainted with the scientific invalidity and the dark side of Darwinism, accepted as scientific support for the ideologies that have inflicted all this misery on humanity.
In this 21st century, one of the most important duties for people of intelligence, conscience, perception and insight is launching an intellectual struggle against "the disease of materialism and naturalism," as the great Islamic scholar Bediuzzaman called it.
102. Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press Cambridge, p. 556
103. Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press Cambridge, p. 560
104. Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press Cambridge, p. 574
105. V.I. Lenin, The Attitude of the Worker's Party to Religion, Proletariat, No.45, May 13, 1909
106. V.I. Lenin, Socialism and Religion, Nozvaya Zhin, No.28, December 3, 1905
107. V.I. Lenin, The Attitude of the Worker's Party to Religion, Proletariat, No.45, May 13, 1909
108. V.I. Lenin, The Attitude of the Worker's Party to Religion, Proletariat, No.45, May 13, 1909
109. Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow : Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine , Oxford University Press, New York, 1986, p. 138.
110. J. V. Stalin, E. Yaroslavsky, Landmarks in the Life of Stalin (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing house, 1940), pp. 8-12.
111. J.V.Stalin, Anarchism or Socialism?, From J.V. Stalin, Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954, Vol.1, p.302
112. White Paper, Office of Tibet, London, February 2, 1996
113. Statement of Harry Wu Before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, March 16, 2000