I have been watching a lot of documentaries on Vietnam, Russia and Marxism, and Religion debates here and there. I've come to a conclusion but I am not sure if it is true.

It seems to me that Marxist ideology, to grossly simply it, is basically a set of ideas that promotes siding with the common folk. In my mind that is very similar to Christianity back when it started. Perhaps that is the reason why both caught on during their times. Is this true?

  • Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. This question is not about philosophy as understood on this site, and it invites personal opinions on very vague intuitions, which is also off-topic. You can try History SE, but you'll need better formulations than "basically siding with the common folk" and "in my head it is very similar" to make it answerable. One can just as easily say that Christianity and atheism are "basically" very different.
    – Conifold
    Jul 10 '18 at 6:10
  • I made an edit which you are welcome to roll back or further edit. The question might be too broad or off-topic for this site. If it does get closed there may be other questions you have that might work here. Jul 10 '18 at 6:17
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    There are certainly some uses that can be found in comparing two different things, but I don't think questions like "Is X the Y of Z?" to be coherent or useful. Are there similarities between Christianity and communism? Probably there are some interpretations of specific passages that sound vaguely like supporting some of the practices of communism, but other than that I don't think the question makes any sense. You're also conflating Marxism and communism; they're different things. Comparing a religion to Marxism probably makes slightly more sense than to communism, but not much.
    – Not_Here
    Jul 10 '18 at 6:42
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    Christian communism is grounded on "evidence from the Bible suggesting that the first Christians, including the Apostles, established their own small communist society in the years following Jesus' death and resurrection". But this does not mean that we have solid historical evidence of it in the early history of Christianity. Jul 10 '18 at 7:23
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    "that promotes siding with the common folk." - yet, I must say, communism is against some kind of folk beliefs, accepting the position of atheism, for example. Also, christianity is not for absolute aconomic equality, Jesus repeatedly made people understand it. Rather, I'd say christianity is closer to milder forms of collectivism, not communism.
    – rus9384
    Jul 10 '18 at 13:40

Religion, and ideology, are loaded terms, difficult to define clearly, dependent on context, and frequently used pejoratively for whatever some other people do, not oneself..

Popper identified commonalities between Plato (who's thought actually underlies a lot of the metaphysics of Christianity as very much distinct from Judaism) and Marx. He does this, in declaring them Enemies Of The Open Society in that book. And many others have identified superficial commonalities between Marxism and religions. Few between say Rand's ideology and religions that require sacrifices to propitiate deities, though surely that case can easily be made.

Your characterization of Christianity seems, untenable. There are some comments about rich men and the eyes of needles, but that has to be understood in the context of spending rather than hoarding wealth. Christianity sides with those who uphold the correct creed, rich or poor, and everyone else can literally go to hell. Liberation Theology is sometimes described as a return to the values of Jesus, but more often as synchretism with communism.

You have to proceed carefully, with a clear definition of religion, narrow definitions from within cultures or practices, or broad anthropological ones that include say sports and hobbies.

'Catch on' is misleadingly vague. Communism was a popular philosophy across a chunk of the world, as was Liberation Theology. What is notably different is that one inspired Lenin's fanatical faction to take totalitarian control of an empire, while the other was ruthlessly suppressed with funding from the USA (although Pope Francis could be described as inheriting it's radicalism). Does that tell us anything about the ideas? Only their utility for taking political control. And that in fact, led communism to fail at achieving it's declared intentions, while arguably Pope Francis manifests a change in the discourse that political gains could not, like say in Venezuala..

In terms of driving energy of the popularity of egalitarian ideas, the book The Spirit Level makes an interesting and strong case https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6304389-the-spirit-level The poor in rich nations, suffer harms that the rich in poor nations do not even where their absolute standard of living is lower. They relate this to human biology and the social development of the brain, and the egalitarianism to which we evolved.

It is interesting in this light to consider the massive and accelerating rises in inequality in recent decades, and the potential for this to drive instability - as indeed may have influenced the fall of the Roman and White Russian empires. Many say the real core of Marx's analysis, and the lingering and difficult to answer problems we are still posed with, is the issue of https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surplus_value especially in light of the social infrastructure for increases in this.


Not even remotely correct

Marxism is...

...a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Marxism uses a methodology, now known as historical materialism, to analyze and critique the development of capitalism and the role of class struggles in systemic economic change.


...includes a variety of schools of thought, which broadly include Marxism and anarchism (anarcho-communism), as well as the political ideologies grouped around both. All of these share the analysis that the current order of society stems from its economic system, capitalism; that in this system there are two major social classes; that conflict between these two classes is the root of all problems in society; and that this situation will ultimately be resolved through a social revolution.

...while Christian Theology is...

...summarized in creeds such as the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. These professions of faith state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, descended into hell and rose from the dead in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust in him for the remission of their sins.

So one is analysis and critique of society, one is an ideology (albeit sometimes stemming from the first), and one is a religious belief that you will be redeemed from sin by someone else's atonement.

So you are comparing — not even apples and oranges — but apples vs. pie vs. sausage.

  • So the though that came to me was this. Go back 2020 year when Jesus started talking about Christianity. He knew the miracle talk he was giving was not true but people believed him, why? Was it because he was siding with the common, poor folk? What was the extra message that got people to switch from Judaism? Don't think about the Christianity that was re branded by generations of empires and such, but the "catchy" message that got people to follow him. That message, which I refer to is what I mean that at it's core is maybe common in Communist ideology.
    – ArmenB
    Jul 10 '18 at 21:14
  • @word salad? I am not saying Jesus message was not clear, I think I am being very direct with my point. For example, I will not be able to gather followers by going around and saying I am son of god and etc. There was another message particularity a message that sided with the common that actually hooked people in. does that make sense?
    – ArmenB
    Jul 10 '18 at 22:04
  • Mm, apple & sausage pie..
    – CriglCragl
    Jul 27 '18 at 14:41
  • "religious belief that you will be redeemed from sin by someone else's atonement" - not true teaching of Jesus, rather this tradition (yes, tradition) was inspired by those who claimed (but failed) to be his followers.
    – rus9384
    Jul 27 '18 at 15:36
  • @rus9384 That does not matter. That is deep core of Christianity. John 3:16 and John 3:18 is what separates Christianity from other religions and simple humanistic creeds of kindness, generosity, forgiveness and reciprocity that you find all across the planet and all of human history. Fun note: did you for instance know that the Parable of the Good Samarian is not so much a call for generosity and empathy as it is an anti-xenophobia tale? This is because in the region that Jesus supposedly operated, Samarians were the "nasty foreigners".
    – MichaelK
    Jul 27 '18 at 15:43

Two points might be noted :

The open-texture of religion

We can say that early Christianity was a religion while Communism is not but 'religion' is vague and general term. Communism is certainly no form of theism or deism but there is a messianic element in Communism which corresponds to a similar element in early Christianity.

Early Christianity, Communism and eschatology

Christianity is a religion with an eschatology. It is directed toward the future and makes binding statements about what is to come and declares this to be the standard of all action in the present. It under- stands itself as the religion of new and eternal man. Communism lays claim to a similar program. It offers a total world view and claims to solve the basic questions of life and to render human existence mean- ingful. The eschatological element pervades the Communist world view and becomes its source of strength, as Berdiaev said in Wahrheit und Liige des Kommunismus.7 It should be an awakening for present- day Christendom that a leading Marxist philosopher of our time (Ernst Bloch, Das Prinzip Hoffnung, 1959) undertook to analyze man's hope and its tremendous historical dynamics and final goal. (Paul J. Friedrich, 'Some Recent Works on Communism and Christianity', Slavic Review, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Jun., 1963), pp. 321-328 : 327.)

Minimal similarities

Because the intellectual context and conceptual content of early Christianity and modern Communism are so different, I don't think the points of similarity draw out any very cogent connection.

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