Are classless societies and religion mutually exclusive? I believe that this is one of the major hurdles of communism; that the only way to remove socioreligious classes would be to ban religion, but that would cause much fight-back. So has anybody come up with a non-atheistic alternative to the problem of religion in communism?

ADDENDUM: I asked related questions on some religious Stack Exchanges:

  • 5
    Which religion? For example, Hindusim advocates a strict caste system while Christianity has some very communist messages (Marc 10:23-25). You need to differentiate.
    – Philipp
    Apr 3 '16 at 17:31
  • 2
    By the way: Pope Francis was called a communist on more than one occasion. A while ago he tweeted: "Earnings and capital are not more important than the human person, but should be at the service of the common good.". Although he insists that he is not and only preaches the gospel.
    – Philipp
    Apr 3 '16 at 18:20
  • 3
    I don't see any reason that religion should have anything to do with social classes.
    – Bobson
    Apr 3 '16 at 19:46
  • 1
    @tox123 - Sports meets those criteria, too. It's highly competitive, and while I don't know of a war started in the name of sports, there have been many major riots. There's also both inter-team and intra-team hierarchies.
    – Bobson
    Apr 3 '16 at 21:20
  • 2
    @PhilLello - not really. Like many people, you seem to be fully confusing equality of opportunity (which is what the Declaration writers meant) with equality of outcome (which is what classless society implies). In comparison to Europe, US is far less class-oriented, especially less-european-tied areas (e.g. excluding East Coast and The South).
    – user4012
    Apr 5 '16 at 2:00

Anabaptists (especially of Munster) basically tried to build an officially-classless society. (of course, as is 100% the case when someone tries to do that, some animals got to be more equal than other animals even in Munster, but the sordid details of Van Leiden's excesses and abuses are more in scope for History.SE. You should listen to an awesome Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History" podcast on the topic as a good intro).

In addition, more generally, religions exist on a spectrum where the clergy is more or less separated and defined (including as a class).

In one corner you have religions like in Ancient Egypt, where priesthood were by definition higher caste.

In another, to the best of my knowledge, modern Wicca doesn't have a dedicated clerical class the way Druids existed back-when.

In another, you have Protestantism, which has made the communication between the deity and layperson much more direct than Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox Christianity did, culminating in some branches of Protestantism (especially with Anabaptist branch) where you basically have little need for a priest as a separate class. (I am not an expert, but Latter-Day-Saints seems to also devolve much of clerical stuff on community members).

In general, original Christianity - before becoming state religion after Constantine - has many classless/communist themes, in places. E.g. Acts 2:44. This obviously got perverted to an extent once the Roman Church merged with Roman state, but the concepts of vows of poverty, ascetic monks and such persisted even past that. Cardinal Barbarini may have been upper-class; but a random Dominican monk working the fields or doing some other menial work likely wasn't any different-class from regular peasants, aside from being able to read/write.

  • Caveat - I'm far from expert on any of the Christian denominations, so if any of the above is invalid please ping me.
    – user4012
    Apr 5 '16 at 1:56

The traditional Marxist perspective is that communisim and religion are incompatible, but this is not a "problem" because it is the collapse in religion that is one of the events leading to the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie. There is no "problem of religion in communism" because religion would be gone long before communism was established.

Here is how Marx and Engels imagined religion: In the past "god" was the only way of explaining the many mysteries. But in the capitalist period of history there was no need to believe in god. The fact that religion persisted was because the capitalists were using religion to justify the suffering of the workers. "You'll get your reward in heaven" is what the capitalists would say, and while the workers believed this they would be docile. Hence the slogan "Opiate of the masses". But inevitably the belief in god would die away, and as it did the workers would ask "what gives my life meaning" and the answer would be "my work", but work for many was a life of toil for little reward, while the capitalists benefitted. This is the core of the instability that would lead to revolution.

The workers, having won their freedom would not be religious. There would be no need to ban religion. It would be an aspect of an ancient culture that had no relevance to the communist society.


As I have pointed out previously, there are versions of communism that are religious and don't require religion to be removed. Only Marxist communism and certain versions of communism advocate for the elimination of religion. One must also remember that Karl Marx and other communist thinkers considered socialism to be a lower-stage of communism, so technically religious socialism can count a form of communism that exists before the final ideal, stateless society. There is Christian communism, where the first Christians lived in some proto-communist societies that many people wish to return to.

Acts 2:44-45, "All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."

Acts 4:32-35, "Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. ... 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Christianity was the expression of class conflict in Antiquity. -Kautsky, Karl (1953)

There is Islamic socialism, which is similar to the lower stage of communist production described by Marx that incorporates Islamic principles, including Gaddafism by Muammar Gaddafi and the ideology of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party.

tl;dr You can have religion and a society that fits the basic definition of communism: a theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.


By definition, Judaism cannot be a "classless" society in the sense that anyone can take on any role in society. For example, the Priestly class (descendant of Aharon the high priest) are the only ones who can serve as priests in the Temple and have special laws which are restricted to them. The Levites (tribe of Levi son of Jacob) did not inherit any land in the nation and were the only ones to take on certain roles within the temple.

The head of government must be the king who is descended from King David through the direct male line from all his successors.

I can answer only about Judaism because every religion would require a separate set of answers based on the beliefs and practices of that religion. As such, I would be unable to answer properly.

As a general system, any monotheistic religion implies a hierarchy under G0d and would require classes in a way similar to Judaism. Any pagan religion, believing in multiple deities would actually treat the "deitic race" as if they were super beings ruling over humanity. This in an of itself implies classes with the deities being in the position of a ruling class and every human part of the slave class.

  • 1
    While technically correct, this merely addresses that Judaism cannot be a classless society. That doesn't address a general question about religion overall.
    – user4012
    Apr 5 '16 at 1:47
  • @user4012 I added a brief note about religion in general that states that religion by definition cannot be classless.. However, I do not know enough about other religions to prove that point absolutely. I note that your answer speaks only about Christianity and also would be subject to your objection. Apr 5 '16 at 2:00
  • Also, extra technicality - the above only works when the Temple is around. Post-diaspora Judaism doesn't technically speaking require a clerical class in most cases (until the Temple is rebuilt); even though in practice in most Jewish communities the Rabbi is still "upper class" person by station.
    – user4012
    Apr 5 '16 at 2:08
  • @user4012 Even though the way I described it is the ideal that is used, the basis of Judaism still continues to maintain this even in the circumstances of the exile. We must consider those who study Torah and follow G0d as a higher "class" than the others. It is only because so many are ignorant of the ideal that they fall prey to the myths that pervade the current society. Apr 5 '16 at 2:27
  • It's not clear to me that this answer is talking about real classes in the Marxist sense.
    – Brian Z
    Aug 27 '20 at 22:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .