Why do both communist people and communist states oppose religion so much, sometimes with violence and arson. There are many other secular non-communist states in the world that do not have such a strong hatred of and opposition to religion. They neither oppose nor support religion, and do not use extreme practices to try to eliminate it.

Communist states, particularly the Soviet Union, have tried to eradicate every bit of religion that have existed since their revolutions. China's Cultural Revolution had also attempted to eliminate remnants of traditional and capitalist elements, including historic artifacts, but also religious and cultural sites.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow, during its demolition in 1931: enter image description here

Chinese Cultural Revolution propaganda: enter image description here

  • 4
    Probably an oversimplification, but historically, "the church" was often a huge political foe (still is in many parts of the world). Communism "works better" when there's only one political party in charge.
    – user1530
    Aug 7, 2015 at 1:40
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    They oppose church. And of course there's even christian communism. I suggest reading Wikipedia. Aug 12, 2015 at 21:55
  • Karl Marx called religion "opium for the people", so for system based on marxism religion could be legalization of drugs.
    – convert
    Jan 24 at 15:31

3 Answers 3



  1. The key founders of Russian Communism have openly declared that the Marxism and religion are „incompatible“. Namely, Marxism has declared the lines of conduct which are opposite to Orthodox Christianity, the most popular religion of the Russia;
  2. Marxism, at least, as it has been understood by Russian Bolsheviks, was a dogmatic, non-scientific belief, hence, a direct competitor to many world's religions of the time.
  3. The Russian Orthodox Church has been adopted by KGB during the times of WWII, when it became apparent that Marxist ideology is not sufficient for controlling the masses.

Yielding the Floor to an Ideologist

First, a note on terminology.
Below, the quotes mistakenly (or deliberately) mix two terms: Marxism (an ideology) and Communism/Socialism (a ruling regime, or a type of a government). The question also contains this mistake. Communism (a regime) can't oppose religion in general, but Marxism (an ideology) can.

Nikolai Bukharin, one of the key ideologists of Russian Communism and prolific author on „revolutionary theory“, wrote in his book, The ABC of Communism (1919):

Chapter 11: Communism and Religion
§ 89. Why religion and communism are incompatible

Many weak-kneed communists reason as follows: 'Religion does not prevent my being a communist. I believe both in God and in communism. My faith in God does not hinder me from fighting for the cause of the proletarian revolution.'

This train of thought is radically false. Religion and communism are incompatible, both theoretically and practically.

In practice, no less than in theory, communism is incompatible with religious faith. The tactic of the Communist Party prescribes for the members of the party definite lines of conduct. The moral code of every religion in like manner prescribes for the faithful some definite line of conduct.



As I mention in another answer, Marxism is an ideology of class supremacy. Proletariat supposed to be the "master class", while others are "lower" ones.

However, the majority of proletarians were not familiar with Marxist ideology. There was also no goal to teach them with the details of Marxism. As a result, the vast majority of them simply believed that Marxism is right without knowing Marxist ideas in any depth, just the same way as in Tsarist Russia they believed in Christianity while sincerely thinking that Jesus Christ was a Russian, not to mention the deeper aspects of Christianity.

So, there was no place for two competing ideologies, equivalent to each other in most aspects, as it was understood by the overwhelming majority of the population.

Adoption by KGB

However, in 1940s the Stalin's regime has decided that suppressing the religion is not effective:

After Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort.Wikipedia

By the last years of the „Soviet Union“,

"Not a single candidate for the office of bishop or any other high-ranking office, much less a member of Holy Synod, went through without confirmation by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the KGB" — Wikipedia

Nowadays, the KGB officer codename „Mikhailov“ is allegedly the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.

  • 2
    Great answer, but why do you often start your answers with "TL;DR" ? What does that mean?
    – Bregalad
    Aug 6, 2015 at 7:34
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    They usually said Marxism was scientific
    – Anixx
    Aug 6, 2015 at 11:53
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    @Bregalad TL;DR stands for "Too Long; Didn't Read". I used it in meaning, "here's a short answer if you don't want to read the full one which is really long".
    – bytebuster
    Aug 6, 2015 at 13:04
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    @bytebuster Wow. Why don't you just say "summary" or something like that?
    – Bregalad
    Aug 6, 2015 at 18:49
  • @Bregalad Well, because "Summary" does not assume an indirect apology for writing a lengthy answer that could probably be reduced without losing content, and someone may think I'm too lazy to make an effort to. :-)
    – bytebuster
    Aug 6, 2015 at 19:08

I do not know for China but in Russia Orthodox Christianity had long tradition of supporting monarchism, schauvinism, anti-semitism, nationalism etc.

It was one of the leading sources of inspiration for pogroms, persecution and forced assimiliation of ethnic minorities crushing on the workers protests etc.

Every worker's protests were crushed with mounted thugs, often, cossacks, with whips and icons.

Black hundreds rallies: enter image description here

enter image description here

Persecution of the Jews was also justified with religious motifs and the priests very oftern made hate speach declarations against not only Jews, but also against Ukrainians, Poles etc.

It was more or less consensus among the left at the beginning of XXth century that religion brings in inter-ethnic strife and represents danger to the inter-ethnic peace in Russia.

  • 2
    This does not seem to attempt answering the question, why the Kommunist regimes opposed religion. Also, schauvinism and anti-semitism seem to be common attributes of both communist and tsarist regimes of the Russia. Following the logic of this answer, they supposed to be loyal allies.
    – bytebuster
    Aug 8, 2015 at 21:06
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    @bytebuster by the time when anti-semitism and nationalism infiltrated the soviet ideology persecution of religion had been already over. Return of nationalism was accompanyed with rising the influence of the church.
    – Anixx
    Aug 13, 2015 at 5:04
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    @bytebuster where and by whom were the pogroms? Was it following Soviet ideology? It is known that the Whites did much more pogroms than the Reds. These pogroms could be a sound motivation for persecution of religion by the government by the way (along with the instituted death penalty for active anti-semitism in the criminal code).
    – Anixx
    Aug 13, 2015 at 7:06
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    @bytebuster indeed. And that article is about pogroms in Russian Empire (the quoted paragraph speaks about the period 1881-1917) where the authorities were both anti-semitic and agressively Christian.
    – Anixx
    Aug 13, 2015 at 7:33
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    @bytebuster what should I read in the footnotes? The section «1917-22» says the Bolshevik government persecuted the anti-semites and stopped pogroms.
    – Anixx
    Aug 13, 2015 at 7:53

One aspect not explicitly mentioned by the others, and why a country like the People's Republic of China is still wary of religion it doesn't control even though it has strayed quite far from dogmatic Marxism:

The Church power is a power that is not within the control of the state or the Party. It is perceived as competing, and therefore a threat to any totalitarian regime.

For the same reason, organisations like traditional scouting are also distrusted or outright banned in totalitarian regimes: the Party provides its own mass association for kids to bond and explore nature, controlled by the Party. For example, the Freie Deutsche Jugend had this role in East Germany (it is now a tiny fringe organisation, that somehow did not get disbanded like the others). Similarly, the communists had mass organisations for sport, work (labour unions), and even allotment gardeners, all under the control of the Party.

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