Pope Francis on Christianity and Communism, and my views as a Christian and a Communist

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Pope Francis himself said:
 
“I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the centre of the Gospel… Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, 20 centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: ‘but then you are Christian'”
 
“The option for the poor (liberation theology) comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It’s the Gospel itself. If you were to read one of the sermons of the first fathers of the Church, from the second or third centuries, about how you should treat the poor, you’d say it was Maoist or Trotskyist.”
 
“It it has been said many times and my response has always been that, if anything, it is the communists who think like Christians. Christ spoke of a society where the poor, the weak and the marginalized have the right to decide. Not demagogues, not Barabbas, but the people, the poor, whether they have faith in a transcendent God or not. It is they who must help to achieve equality and freedom”
 
I am extremely critical of the Catholic church as an organization. I do not approve of the Catholic church or some of the popes more reactionary views. I do however, feel that he is right about this. I have the unique experience of being both a Christian and a communist. They do not contradict one another, on the contrary, my Christianity and my communism nurture and define each other. It is because I am a Christian that I have become a communist. It is the only view, in my mind, that is in sync with the message espoused by Christ.
 
The flag of true Christianity is not an American flag with a thin blue line and an arrow through an LGBT+ symbol. No, the flag of true Christianity is a red flag with a cross and a sickle.

To my fellow Christians and people of faith, an open letter from a Christian Socialist

When I drive my car, I see that people either have the Jesus fish on their car or the Darwin fish with legs. Well then, I must ask, why not both? An expression of the total acceptance of the Darwin fish, that all humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor, and, at the same time, the acceptance of the Jesus fish because religion and science are not mutually exclusive insofar as one does not subjugate reason to faith. Why, WHY must you object to the subjugation of your faith to reason?
 
I tell a grim warning, that our religion will die out in a few generations if you refuse to accept rudimentary, basic, undeniable scientific fact. It will die out completely if you cling to your outdated myths. It will die out completely if you cling to literalist interpretations of creation which are, in actuality, and because of their fundamentalist interpretation, illusions. Let’s not beat around the bush here, to think the earth is 6000 years old is an illusion, a fog of scientific denial and ignorance of material reality.
 
If your God is but an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance, and not the totality of the scientific endeavor, the force that set all matter into motion, then in 500 years or perhaps even less we will have disproven your foolish notion of ‘God’ and along with it all faiths that refuse to accept scientific fact will go into the dustbin of history.
 
Even more problematic is those that use my faith, and religion generally, to tell the oppressed and exploited people of the earth to work hard, accept their oppressive conditions, to be pacifists and refuse to change their conditions here on earth in hope of a better life after death! What mockery of the Christian legacy is that? No! True Christianity is an emancipatory doctrine firmly rooted in the principle that the meek shall inherit the earth, it is an emancipatory doctrine of liberation! Both liberation in the spiritual sense and thereby, necessarily, of those in this life here on this earth from poverty, oppression, and exploitation everywhere!
 
It is absolutely, positively, and irrevocably incompatible with capitalism, feudalism, and all class society, as well as all forms of systematic oppression and exploitation beyond their historical necessity. And it is against capitalism even more so than feudalism because of its foundations in the sins of greed, gluttony, and pride. It is not to be used as a tool to numb the pain of those who are oppressed but to rouse them up in an open and unrestrained fight against the oppressors and exploiters of the earth!
 
To promote Christianity is one thing, but the realization of the impossibility of secular Judeo-Christian ethics being the foundation of our social structure is another. As Christian Socialist James Connolly said, “We know that Christianity teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but we also know that if a capitalist attempted to run his business upon that plan his relatives would have no difficulty in getting lawyers, judges and physicians to declare him incompetent to conduct his affairs in the business world… Personally I am opposed to any system wherein the capitalist is more powerful than God Almighty. You need not serve God unless you like, and may refuse to serve him and grow fat, prosperous and universally respected. But if you refuse to serve the capitalist your doom is sealed; misery and poverty and public odium await you. No worker is compelled to enter a church and to serve God; every worker is compelled to enter the employment of a capitalist and serve him. As Socialists we are concerned to free mankind from the servitude forced upon them as a necessity of their life; we propose to allow the question of all kinds of service voluntarily rendered to be settled by the emancipated human race of the future.”
Even to you self-proclaimed pacifists, when you assert that your religion, your church should be embodied in, officialized and have power over the state do you not realize what you are doing? The state is that organ in a given society that has a sole, absolute, and legitimate monopoly on violence. It is an inherently repressive institution whereby one class subjugates another by the police, the army, the courts, etc. In other words, by the barrel of a gun. What Christian, in their right mind could claim to be a pacifist and support anything but strict state secularism? And even those like me who are not pacifists, you cannot in your right mind support the state in capitalist society, a tool used to hold down the oppressed and not the oppressors. A tool used solely to keep the poor and bondage by enforcing and prolonging their exploitation.
 
What else is there to say? I admit wholeheartedly that the atheist’s criticism of religion is correct up to and excluding the point where it dictates the necessity of atheism. Take a look in the mirror, when I read the works of Karl Marx on issues such as religion, I, a religious person, find myself agreeing with him. What does that say about our faith? That it was Marx, a brilliant man no doubt, but an atheist, who first discovered and unveiled the laws that dominate human society and the capitalist economy at large? It was Marx, not a man of God, who correctly discovered such things. What does that say about us? Take a look in the mirror damn it! If you truly care about your faith, subjugate it to reason and scrutiny. Reject any and all literalist interpretations, especially those of creation, and stop using it as a tool to keep the oppressed and exploited people’s of the earth in bondage! Turn all organized religion upsidedown from a tool of the oppressor to a tool of the oppressed. You think religion is powerless and pacifistic, but in reality, it is a weapon. For centuries it has been used to hold down the oppressed. Now let it be used to encourage the oppressed to hold down the oppressors until the systematic exploitation of man by man is no more! What more can I say?

Christianity and Socialism (With a section by James Connolly)

Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to enter into the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. This is absolute, there are no exceptions. You cannot be a kind exploiter or a generous thief. It is one or the other. There is some room for a gray area for the moral, but ineptitude is the state of the moral capitalist. If a capitalist set up his business in a way that attempted to please God he would at once be found insane and made a joke of by his business rivals. It is impossible for such a man to exist. Exploitation is exploitation. There is no generous exploitation, no just injustice. This is absolute. This is not to say people cannot change. For they certainly can, such is the foundation of Christianity. But to continually exploit the poor for personal profit and to serve God at the same time is impossible. This is inseparable from the Christian faith. Christ spoke more of material wealth and greed than anything else. Christianity is supposed to be the religion of the exploited and oppressed, not the exploiter and the oppressor. Let’s take it back to its roots, a religion of radical emancipation of the poor and oppressed.

James Connolly outlines this general sentiment quite well in his work Socialism Made Easy. He does a much better job explaining the necessity of socialism to the Christian faith than I. I have included his section on Religion below:

BUT SOCIALISM IS AGAINST RELIGION. I CAN’T BE A SOCIALIST AND BE A CHRISTIAN.

O, quit your fooling! That talk is all right for those who know nothing of the relations between capital and labor, or are innocent of any knowledge of the processes of modern industry, or imagine that men, in their daily struggles for bread or fortunes, are governed by the Sermon on the Mount.

But between workingmen that talk is absurd. We know that Socialism bears upon our daily life in the workshop, and that religion does not; we know that the man who never set foot in a church in his lifetime will, if he is rich, be more honored by Christian society than the poor man who goes to church every Sunday, and says his prayers morning and evening; we know that the capitalists of all religions pay more for the service of a good lawyer to keep them out of the clutches of the law than for the services of a good priest to keep them out of the clutches of the devil; and we never heard of a capitalist, who, in his business, respected the Sermon on the Mount as much as he did the decisions of the Supreme Court.

These things we know. We also know that neither capitalist nor worker can practice the moral precepts of religion, and without its moral precepts a religion is simply a sham. If a religion cannot enforce its moral teachings upon its votaries it has as little relation to actual life as the pre-election promises of a politician have to legislation.

We know that Christianity teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves, but we also know that if a capitalist attempted to run his business upon that plan his relatives would have no difficulty in getting lawyers, judges and physicians to declare him incompetent to conduct his affairs in the business world.

He would not be half as certain of reaching Heaven in the next world as he would be of getting into the ‘bughouse’ in this.

And, as for the worker. Well, in the fall of 1908, the New York World printed an advertisement for a teamster in Brooklyn, wages to be $12 per week. Over 700 applicants responded. Now, could each of these men love their neighbors in that line of hungry competitors for that pitiful wage?

As each man stood in line in that awful parade of misery could he pray for his neighbor to get the job, and could he be expected to follow up his prayer by giving up his chance, and so making certain the prolongation of the misery of his wife and little ones?

No, my friend, Socialism is a bread and butter question. It is a question of the stomach; it is going to be settled in the factories, mines and ballot boxes of this country and is not going to be settled at the altar or in the church.

This is what our well-fed friends call a ‘base, material standpoint’, but remember that beauty, and genius and art and poetry and all the finer efflorescences of the higher nature of man can only be realized in all their completeness upon the material basis of a healthy body, that not only an army but the whole human race marches upon its stomach, and then you will grasp the full wisdom of our position.

That the question to be settled by Socialism is the effect of private ownership of the means of production upon the well-being of the race; that we are determined to have a straight fight upon the question between those who believe that such private ownership is destructive of human well-being and those who believe it to be beneficial, that as men of all religions and of none are in the ranks of the capitalists, and men of all religions and of none are on the side of the workers the attempt to make religion an issue in the question is an intrusion, an impertinence and an absurdity.

Personally I am opposed to any system wherein the capitalist is more powerful than God Almighty. You need not serve God unless you like, and may refuse to serve him and grow fat, prosperous and universally respected. But if you refuse to serve the capitalist your doom is sealed; misery and poverty and public odium await you.

No worker is compelled to enter a church and to serve God; every worker is compelled to enter the employment of a capitalist and serve him.

As Socialists we are concerned to free mankind from the servitude forced upon them as a necessity of their life; we propose to allow the question of all kinds of service voluntarily rendered to be settled by the emancipated human race of the future.

I do not deny that Socialists often leave the church. But why do they do so? Is their defection from the church a result of our attitude towards religion; or is it the result of the attitude of the church and its ministers toward Socialism?

Let us take a case in point, one of those cases that are being paralleled every day in our midst. An Irish Catholic joins the Socialist movement. He finds that as a rule the Socialist men and women are better educated than their fellows; he finds that they are immensely cleaner in speech and thought than are the adherents of capitalism in the same class; that they are devoted husbands and loyal wives, loving and cheerful fathers and mothers, skilful and industrious workers in the shops and office, and that although poor and needy as a rule, yet that they continually bleed themselves to support their cause, and give up for Socialism what many others spend in the saloon.

He finds that a drunken Socialist is as rare as a white black-bird, and that a Socialist of criminal tendencies is such a rara avis that when one is found the public press heralds it forth as a great discovery.

Democratic and republican jailbirds are so common that the public press do not regard their existence as ‘news’ to anybody, nor yet does the public press think it necessary to say that certain criminals belong to the Protestant or Catholic religions. That is nothing unusual, and therefore not worth printing. But a criminal Socialist – that would be news indeed!

Our Irish Catholic Socialist gradually begins to notice these things. He looks around and he finds the press full of reports of crimes, murders, robberies, bank swindlers, forgeries, debauches, gambling transactions, and midnight orgies in which the most revolting indecencies are perpetrated. He investigates and he discovers that the perpetrators of these crimes were respectable capitalists, pillars of society, and red-hot enemies of Socialism, and that the dives in which the highest and the lowest meet together in a saturnalia of vice contribute a large proportion of the campaign funds of the capitalist political parties.

Some Sunday he goes to Mass as usual, and he finds that at Gospel the priest launches out into a political speech and tells the congregation that the honest, self-sacrificing, industrious, clean men and women, whom he calls ‘comrades,’ are a wicked, impious, dissolute sect, desiring to destroy the home, to distribute the earnings of the provident among the idle and lazy of the world, and reveling in all sorts of impure thoughts about women.

And as this Irish Catholic Socialist listens to this foul libel, what wonder if the hot blood of anger rushes to his face, and he begins to believe that the temple of God has itself been sold to the all desecrating grasp of the capitalist?

While he is yet wondering what to think of the matter, he hears that his immortal soul will be lost if he fails to vote for capitalism, and he reflects that if he lined up with the brothel keepers, gambling house proprietors, race track swindlers, and white slave traders to vote the capitalist ticket, this same priest would tell him he was a good Catholic and loyal son of the church.

At such a juncture the Irish Catholic Socialist often rises up, goes out of the church and wipes its dust off his feet forever. Then we are told that Socialism took him away from the church. But did it? Was it not rather the horrible spectacle of a priest of God standing up in the Holy Presence lying about and slandering honest men and women, and helping to support political parties whose campaign fund in every large city represents more bestiality than ever Sodom and Gomorrah knew?

These are the things that drive Socialists from the church, and the responsibility for every soul so lost lies upon those slanderers and not upon the Socialist movement.

For more Connolly check out: Marxist.net (CWI source)

Also, there is a section on Marxists.org

A Christian Socialist’s attack on the Modern Church

Christ spoke more on money and greed than any other topic in the New Testament. The teachings on this topic by Christ are absolutely fundamental to Christianity, yet it is all but ignored by the modern church in American and European society today. Now I profess that I am a Christian and a socialist, a communist and in most every regard a Marxist. Though I am rather unorthodox in both arenas as I will be the first to admit. Contrary to what you may say I am no revisionist. I am an intellectual by nature and as such I cannot help but viciously attack the modern church for its inherently bourgeois character and reckless defense of the capitalist system. Let us look at what Christ himself has to say on the ‘virtues’ of greed and wealth as they are so often portrayed in capitalist society:

Mark 10:17-27

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Why is this verse so savagely ignored in the church today? To say that it is not would be absolutely absurd. Rockefeller for instance was said to be a devout Baptist yet the church never confronted him about this terrible sin he was committing. This sin was his parasitic lifestyle, his merciless exploitation of the poor and the working class, the amassing of an unfathomable fortune on a systemic basis that was irrevocably and undeniably incompatible with the Christian faith. Now I do not say that Rockefeller is in hell, I cannot judge him and make such an accusation. Only God can do that. But the absurd contradiction still exists and cannot be ignored. My fellow Christians hear me when I say to you that you are either with God or Mammon!

As I have previously stated, in the New Testament Jesus offers more wisdom and has more to say about money and greed than any other subject besides the “Kingdom of God.” How are alarm bells not ringing in the church today? Indeed it is true what Marx said, “The ruling ideas of each age have only ever been the ideas of its ruling class.” In other words the accepted ideas of any period are only ever those that serve the dominant economic interests. Religion, and organized religion to be more specific, is by no means exempt from this. By that I mean its teachings and interpretations of even the most basic fundamentals of a given faith are perverted by the ruling class in a given epoch. Religion, like any other idea, evolves in order to defend the prevailing economic order. Whether it is slavery, feudalism or capitalism. All of these are perversions to the Christian faith. They are to never be defended but merely tolerated by the religious body in question and only insofar as they are necessary stages of human development in a given period of time.

One of the worst perversions of the Christian faith by the bourgeoisie is the advent of the dreaded ‘prosperity gospel’ which defends the hoarding of material wealth and the idolatry of money. The irony of this it’s essential founding in Luke 4: 7 in which Satan says to Christ, “If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine.” Indeed how can a Christian not but scoff at a ‘Christian’ theology that founds and justifies itself on the words of the devil himself? This I shall never know.

But this is absolutely fundamental, how long has our religion been perverted by the ruling class of any particular epoch in the last 2 millennia in order to exploit the poor, to keep them in chains with the promise of a better life after death? You cannot look at modern Christianity today and tell me it is not a perversion of Christ’s teachings. I am not a socialist for religious reasons. I am a socialist on a material, logical, matter of a fact basis. But regardless I must ask, how can a Christian not advocate for a society that truly reflects the values of their given faith? How can a Christian defend an economic order that represents everything that is contrary to his/ her faith? Capitalism is irrevocably incompatible with Christianity. Let me say that again, capitalism is irrevocably incompatible with Christianity! Of course when it first came about during the Calvinist reformation it was never intended to be what it is today by the religious thinkers of the time. Yet here we are in a world run solely on everything Christ preached against! Christians I urge you to read Marx if you are in good faith, cling to your faith and see that while this thinker may have been wrong on religion and other minor philosophical matters and interpretations of materialism, he is absolutely right on economic ones.

The society he envisioned and advocated (though he wrote very little on the future) is the same type of society followed by the early apostles in the book of Acts. He was a militant Atheist as everyone knows, but he never advocated the abolition of religion by force, merely that it would become unnecessary in such a society. This is a disagreement we have, but it is trivial in the grand scheme of things. I slam the early church for not having such an ideology originate from a Christian thinker. That the mechanisms of historical processes and the economic laws of capitalism were revealed by an atheist and not by a follower of God. But that guilt falls solely on the early church and it’s bourgeois nature. Don’t just read Marx, read James Connolly. Connolly was a devout catholic and a Marxist. He founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party and led the good fight for Irish independence. He argued as I do that not only can a Christian be a socialist, but that they must be! You will see his face on the right of the header of this blog as he has inspired my thinking greatly. So I write this in his name, in honor of such a great man.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/index.htm

Connolly’s Socialist Party on Religion: A Model for any Socialist Organization

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I have posted this image here before but I think it deserves another post because to me it is so fundamental. I think one of the Bolsheviks biggest mistakes was foregoing this principle, the Bolshevik Party accepted religious members but the party itself was inherently atheistic. On this issue I side with the party of Connolly and the early German party. Marxist materialism to me is an analytical tool, why insist upon matters of God as absolute fact? Criticize religion, yes! Please do by all means! Religious fundamentalism is something I despise as much as the next person. Replace ‘religion’ itself with ‘religious fundamentalism’ and I’ll agree with everything Marx has to say on the issue.
 
Firstly it is a mistake to insist on such matters as any business of the state, secondly from a strategic point of view it is simply guaranteeing that you will increase bourgeois and religious reaction towards socialism tenfold. State atheism is one of the key factors that led to the fall of communism in Europe. You cannot prohibit religion in the same way that you cannot prohibit drugs or alcohol, the state cannot insist upon one theological belief or lack thereof. State secularism must be the policy of any future socialist policy, on religion it must take the attitude of Connolly.
 
Go back to Marx, his belief was that communism would make religion superfluous, NOT that it was something to be prohibited or done away with by any means of force, except when the church and state are merged and in that case- even I support such actions. He believed that religion is the reaction to the human suffering brought about by class society. That removing the root cause of this suffering would remove the need for something like religion to appease that suffering. I do not share in this view. Religion is yes used by the ruling class to solidify its rule. But will it ever go away? I certainly do not think so, even in a thousand years people will still find reason to believe in a higher power or system of beliefs that there is something better after death. The reasons people cling to religion are not merely class antagonisms or the suffering brought about by the bourgeoisie, this to me is absurd.
 
Of course I agree that such a belief system should not and cannot reinforce systematic suffering and oppression here on earth, in this sense Marx’s criticism of religion is correct. Instead of upholding atheism, having such neutrality on this issue will cause religion to first rebel against any change to the social order as it always does. But then it will act as it has in all previous epochs- as a force which solidifies the new ruling class which is the proletariat and thereby defend the destruction of class society. In this way religion acts not in opposition to socialism but wholly in support of it- not merely out of self interest but because this ideology returns itself to its ideological roots.
 
Has class society not tainted religion in every possible way? Has it not been forced defended systems fundamentally based on greed, extortion, violence, and theft, systems that betray its own ideology in the name of self preservation? Has it not been obliged by the material conditions it finds itself in to reject the very founding principles of the faith itself? The abolition of class society is the abolition of its poisonous effect on all things including its poisonous effect on religion. The call for socialism is thus a call for religion to turn back to its ideological roots, in Christianity in particular that is the call for the rejection of greed, selfishness and even the state itself.
 
“Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a Socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the State? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.” – The Communist Manifesto