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EDUindex News

The conservative critique of communism.

The conservative movement was united in its opposition to communism. The arguments ranged from economic and political to the theological. It was obvious we were facing an illiberal mindset – actually a police state to be exact. Yet the drawbacks of life under communist rule failed to sink the socialist dream for many intellectuals. A deeper understanding – a philosophical orientation – was required to underwrite a firm and long-term opposition. The traditionalist conservatives provided one such explanation, in broad philosophical terms that could be understood by the average person. They argued that communism was morally evil because it abandoned the source of morality: God. Many ex-communists who embraced God, like Whittaker Chambers, became major figures of the early conservative movement. This line of thought was their stock in trade.
Communism abandon’s religious faith for the false faith of man’s rational mind, says Chambers. “It is the vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world. It is the vision of man’s liberated mind, by the sole force of its rational intelligence, redirecting man’s destiny and reorganizing man’s life and the world.” “If man’s mind is the decisive force in the world, what need is there for God? Henceforth man’s mind is man’s fate.” “It is in striving toward God that the soul strives continually after a condition of freedom.” 13
Now most people know someone who is not religious – whether they are an atheist or not doesn’t matter – who nevertheless lead honest respectable lives. How can Chambers’ simplistic explanation even temp any thinking person? Many secularists are pro-freedom while many religious have given up freedom for the security and safety of authority. The historical correlation isn’t between liberty and religion but liberty and secular-oriented reason. Both individual liberty and secularism arose together during the last 300 years after centuries of religious domination. Most of history consists of the rule of the crown in close association and sanction of religious authorities. One would be quite skeptical that the religious critique of communism could gain such a prominent position in the conservative literature. Yet, it is ubiquitous – particularly among traditionalists.
The traditionalists didn’t achieve this philosophical triumph on their own – it was handed to them on a silver platter. For decades, post-modern philosophers had argued that values (i.e. ethics) could not be founded in fact. In fact, they argued, no arguments can support one system of ethics over another. If there is no law-giver, then there is no law. God is dead, was the oft heard post-modern reframe, no ethics is possible in a barren materialistic world of mere physical objects. You are now in God’s shoes; make the rules as you please. With such a confession, the traditionalists needed do little but point to the resultant horrors of the 20th century totalitarian movements.
For the conservative, given the false alternative of relativistic secularism and the moral absolutes of God, the choice was crystal clear. God is the answer. But who’s God and what does he say? The history of religion is replete with different Gods and theologies. As recent as the 17th century Europe fought wars over religious differences. Currently, there are more Christian sects than one can count. They disagree on any number of details – perhaps almost all details except the inspiration of Jesus’ message. And Jews don’t even need Jesus while Muslims find Jesus a flawed prophet that pales in comparison to the infallible Mohammad. Is there any necessary component of a well-formed religion? Is there anything more to religion than some nominal belief in some kind of God? Or if religion is more substantial, how does one demand fidelity and uncritical assent (faith) to specific eternal transcendental verities yet remain tolerant of the multitude of conflicting visions of the truth?