Socialism Is a False Religion. That’s Why It Kills the True One. Every Time.
Two of the leading Democratic candidates for president are pretty openly socialist. The rest won’t cop to the label, but favor identical policies. More government giveaways, not just for citizens but anyone who shows up, after sneaking across the border. More taxes and redistribution. Greater control in Washington of more aspects of our lives. More power for the secular state, and therefore less freedom or funds for private citizens and their churches. A pink fog of domination, floating across the country, choking out our choices.
Why should this disturb us not just as citizens but as Christians? The answer isn’t that socialism always produces economic disaster. That’s true, of course. And we shouldn’t wish impoverishment on our neighbors or our families.
Socialism Replaces God and Kills the Church
But as I’ve argued for some time, the worst effects of socialism have nothing to do with economics. The cancer it spreads is spiritual. Back in 2017, I considered why the U.S. is at once more violent, more competitive, and more religious than other Western lands.
Religion, violence, fertility, and the free market all go together. Socialism doesn’t just suppress one of those things, but all of them inextricably and at the same time. That’s why most of the nations in the European Union simultaneously:
- Ban guns.
- Smother the free market in a tangle of restrictions.
- Cushion people from economic risk through cradle-to-grave government programs.
- Suppress patriotism and flood their citizens with foreigners.
- Forbid capital punishment.
- Marginalize religion. And
- Produce fewer babies than corpses every year.
This combination of qualities isn’t an accident:
Why do these things move together, most of the time? The answer is not economic or political, but religious. Faith answers many needs in the human heart. But its primal function is this: It’s an answer to the obvious fallenness of the world. To natural evils, like death. And scarcity. And suffering. And violence.
Imagine Job of the Bible Complaining to Bureaucrats
In a socialist society,
You never confront an economic crisis that might drive you to your knees in desperate prayer for help. You toddle on down to the local welfare office and file a claim for your entitlement. No criminal is really evil, so you can’t go and hang them. They simply need rehabilitation — such as the Swedes are offering dozens of ISIS fighters, who came back and filed for welfare benefits. No need to bear children who will someday look after you when you’re old, sick and feeble. The state will take care of that, and when you are too far gone it will euthanize you like a senile Persian cat. You trade the stink of diapers for the promise of the needle … .
In other words, the State replaces God as the all-Provident Father. And unlike God, it’s neither just nor merciful. But at least you’re not a sinner dependent on its mercy. You are a beneficiary, and you have entitlements. It’s the job of the State (and your smarter, luckier, or more industrious neighbors) to give you your rights. And if it doesn’t? You don’t kneel and pray. You go out and protest, and vote for a different leader who will make sure you get what’s yours.
What Made Britain Godless
Now I’ve seen striking confirmation of my theory from two unexpected sources: a British doctor and the former chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II.
“The Church of England mistakes a kind of soft socialism for being prophetic. That’s disastrous. It’s wrong and it’s useless.” That’s a quote from Dr. Gavin Ashenden, once royal chaplain. He recently converted to Catholicism, but admits in his fascinating podcast with intrepid journalist Damian Thompson that Rome has similar problems. Especially under Pope Francis.
In Britain, all through the 19th century, many earnest Christians decided that socialism was more just than the free economy. They lent socialism the church’s moral authority, not realizing they’d never get it back. That they were making acts of charity, trust in God, and prudent adult self-reliance socially irrelevant.
The Real Church of England Is the National Health Service
Combine Ashenden’s observation with the following, by physician and social critic Theodore Dalyrymple: “In England … the National Health Service is the closest thing we have to a religion.”
Dalyrymple recalled a headline in the mainstream newspaper The Guardian.
The NHS is our religion: it’s the only thing that saves it from the Tories. The assumption, of course, is that it ought to be saved and that any doubt about its virtues is heresy. … The NHS is now a sacred cow which no politician dares slaughter. The myth is believed as an orthodox Muslim believes in the sacred nature of the Koran.
The writer recalled a poetry group full of educated Britons whom he encountered. When they talked politics: “The NHS was their main concern. ‘Will it be safe?’ one of them asked. ‘It’s the thing nearest our hearts,’ said another.”
A New Cult and Creed
Dalyrymple goes on to show via statistics that the NHS is far from the salvific institution which voters believe it is. Health care in Britain before the NHS arrived wasn’t notably worse than comparable countries in Europe. And it’s not any better in Britain now than in such other countries.
But what interests me is the strange religious dimension here. Why do even Tory voters in Britain succumb to it? He observes that
the religious veneration in which [the NHS] is held by the population is an extraordinary political phenomenon, a superstition that would be worthy of a chapter in an updated version of Charles Mackay’s great book of 1841, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.
The NHS makes everyone equal. It binds up wounds, heals the lame and blind, and rescues people from death. No wonder it seems like a savior.
The Ark of the Covenant: Social Security
We Americans shouldn’t throw stones. Over here, the Social Security system has much the same cultic status. It’s the political Ark of the Covenant: touch it and die. No matter that it’s a Ponzi scheme doomed to collapse. Nor that it depends on people having large families, but is skewed toward benefiting the childless. Indeed, by making retirees dependent not on their kids but on the government, it likely suppresses the birth rate. So Social Security saws off the limb on which it sits. Today, some “conservatives” seriously suggest that in order to save Social Security, we must admit tens of millions of immigrants who will vote for abortion, socialism, and gun bans. When you have made an idol, you serve it no matter the cost.
The NHS in Britain, and Social Security here, just begin to suggest what a golden calf socialism makes of the government. It produces the kind of Caesar worship which early martyrs willingly died rather than join.
As Jesus told us, we cannot serve two masters. A system which uses the prisons and bayonets of the State to seize our neighbors’ wealth and distribute it to the most politically powerful is the worst form of Mammon ever to walk the earth. Not just in the immediately toxic form socialism took in Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba and Eastern Europe. Perhaps the slow, subtle secularizing poison we see here in the West is even more dangerous.
John Zmirak is Senior Editor at The Stream, and co-author of recently released The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration.