You Might be a Marxist If ... You Believe God Hates Capitalism


To all religious believers who have ever questioned the capitalist system:

One of the biggest intellectual frauds in capitalist society is the widespread belief that capitalism is compatible with the teachings of major religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Capitalists have a vested interest in getting you to believe that capitalism is a spiritually wholesome and irreproachable way of life in order to make you more willing to accept and uphold the system. If they can make you believe that capitalism is endorsed by the great religions and is part of God’s plan for the world, then they can get you to believe that anti-capitalism is a sin and that whoever opposes capitalism is an enemy of God, religion, and morality, and your personal enemy as well. The capitalists’ goal is to divide the working class against itself by pitting workers who are religious believers against workers who fight capitalism, whether those class-conscious workers are religious or not. This is a highly effective way to weaken working-class resistance to capitalism and to prevent the growth of solidarity among workers.

Marxists are well armed against this bogus belief because they understand that the ideological content of a society’s culture, which includes its religions, becomes permeated by the ideology of the class that owns and controls the means of production. In other words Marxists recognize that ruling classes have the power to corrupt and distort religion for their own selfish ends. These distortions are the source of many religious beliefs that are anti-progressive, anti-people, and anti-worker. Thus in a capitalist society, mainstream versions of the major religions are so steeped in the self-serving ideology of the capitalist class that they become little more than capitalist versions of those religions, teaching their adherents to believe that God loves capitalism and reserves special places in heaven for capitalists and obedient workers who cooperate with the system no matter what cruelties it inflicts on human beings.

Is it really true that the Buddha or the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam could love the capitalist system? Let’s look a little deeper into this question by considering the Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—also known as the ethic of reciprocity. Most of the major religions count some version of this rule among their fundamental teachings. If capitalism is really compatible with religion then its fundamental principles should agree with the Golden Rule. Here are a few versions of the rule as stated in the teachings of some major religions:

Buddhism: Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.18

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a

Christianity: In everything, do unto others as you would have them do unto you; for this is the law and the prophets. Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Islam: Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself. The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith

Baha’i Faith: Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself. Baha'u'llah, Gleanings

Confucianism: Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.
Confucius, Analects 15.23

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517

Jainism: One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated. Mahavira, Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. Lao Tzu, T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien, 213-218

Now let’s ask one simple question: Does capitalism agree with the Golden Rule, this basic ethical principle of reciprocity taught by so many of the world’s religions? We must first identify the fundamental principles of capitalism in order to see whether they agree with the ethic of reciprocity. What are those principles? It is often said that the basic principle of capitalism is “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” or “capitalism is about giving everyone an equal opportunity to succeed,” neither of which seem contradictory to the Golden Rule. The only problem is that these premises are absolutely false; capitalism has nothing to do with fairness or equal opportunity. Remember that capitalists have the means to poison the cultural environment with all sorts of false ideas to make capitalism seem more acceptable to the people. The idea that capitalism is about fairness and opportunity is one of those false ideas that have been fed to the people by the preachers of capitalist-friendly perversions of morality and religion. The fundamental principle of capitalism is exploitation of the worker, and that means an unfair day’s pay, an unfair day’s work, and unequal opportunities. It also means repression of workers at home and colonialism and imperialist wars abroad. That’s the complete opposite of the ethic of reciprocity. The capitalist doesn’t want to treat you the way he wants to be treated. He wants to take the whole pie and leave you with the crumbs, and if he has to lie, steal, and kill in order to get it, then he’ll do just that. He wants to exploit you, and in order to do it he imposes conditions on you and the entire working class that he would never agree to impose on himself. In fact, if capitalists started practicing the Golden Rule they would cease to be capitalists at all and the entire capitalist system would collapse. Thus the very existence of capitalism depends on having a class of people willing to flout, ignore, distort, destroy and spit upon the Golden Rule. Perhaps God could love and forgive the capitalist, but he could never love capitalism.

It is clear that capitalism is an outrage against the Golden Rule. But what kind of society would be in agreement with the Golden Rule? Clearly it would be a society without exploitation, oppression, poverty, or war. The New Testament Book of Acts describes just such a society created by the early Christians. It sounds to this writer like a society based on the Golden Rule.

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common .... Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Acts 4:32–35 

This is a society without capitalists, in which the people are unified rather than divided by class; where there is no poverty, exploitation, or war; where property is held in common, and where wealth is distributed to every member according to need. Consider in particular the statements about common property and distribution according to need. These principles are shared with the kind of society Karl Marx had in mind when he described communism in Section I of Critique of the Gotha Program:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour ... has vanished ... after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banner: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

All sincere religious believers and proponents of the Golden Rule should consider which form of society is more in keeping with the teachings of the great religions and the ethic of reciprocity: capitalism or the communism of the apostles and Karl Marx. And I respectfully ask all believers to consider that you may have more in common with Marx than capitalist distortions of religion have led you to believe.

Photo by Mikol, cc by 2.0

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • I agree there is a visible system in place. We are taught to almost stand on each others heads to rise up, all the time consuming products which make a profit for the 'bosses'. In a non western world tribe however we would still have people who had to gather the water, the food etc and if this was a non group activity would people fight over the best spot to harvest or to fish or firewood? would some be lazy and some be more active? Its a tricky one. I think a lot on this subject and infact feel devastated most of the time at the amount of lives stuck in this systematic cage in search of paper and metal for fulfilment or power or to swop for material goods, which a lot of the time they dont actually need, and which others have laboured for to do the same thing. We have enough food growing naturally to feed us all but people have chosen to put it in packages with false icons on the front to make a profit and make it sellable, and keep people working to buy it, children are referred to as kids, lower class children sold mass produced clothing made in some countries by other children, with random numbers on the front in some designs is our individuality just a t shirt with a number on the front? are we all just a number? adults invent characters for children to believe in and wear on their clothing and keep their parents working in order to purchase other goods with them emblazoned on the front, is this not false/idols i ask myself? stuffed animals? We have a loans system where we are in debt for things which are already available, yet people wont share. people make money selling harmful products to other people such as tabacco, and then make money selling products to help people quit smoking. I feel like we live in a society where everything is given a price in metal or paper and everything and everyone is given a wage price or told to put their talents up for sale or not use them. This worries me as a I have two small chidren who have to grow up in this world. It seems like an invisible slave system. I do believe we are each individual and some of us can run faster jump higher sing write poetry paint build etc but are our skills being utilised properly or are we all just being herded into groups to be sold too and kept in our place? It so hard to work out a way to move positively forward. Ghandi showed one can make a change in the world by being non violent, as did Jesus, and I dont think that harming other victims of the system (wheter they realise they are or not) is the right step forward. People are striving to find an identity through their work role. through what they wear. they now measure others identity on those things too, which is false. Its a hard situation. When my son and daughter were born the government gave them a 250 child trust fund voucher and a 50 pound one, as was given to most if not all children born in their year i think. My father who has worked as a labourer all his life gave me money for the children. I was emotionally torn apart not knowing what to do. to pay the money into the trust funds meaning my children would/might be stepping on the heads of others by governmental design or to not pay it and leave my children to possibly have to be stepped on, pushed into doing what they did not want to do. spend my fathers money myself....on what? It is very hard to find a way ahead. Jesus/one of the apostles said how can some of us sit at the table eating while others starved. He also said about the widow in the temple who gave one gold coin giving more then all the wealthy benefactors. Because what she gave was measured in love not monetary worth. He instructed his disciples to leave their purses behind and go and work the fields where work needed to be done in another writing, and told them to only take a roof over their head and what they were offered to eat as payment. We can do many wonderful things as a species, if we just cooperate, and stop trying to proove we are better in some way then each other because we have collected more paper or metal. Isnt that whats meant by love one another? My family are working class and they have bought my children clothing in the past from stores which mass produce and with these pictures on how can I say no i dont want this object you have slaved to give my child as a gift ? Im sure jesus had little need for the gold frankinscence and myrrh but he understood it was the givers that placed value on it. We all like to give what we can to those we love, if only we could all give to each other and spread that love wouldnt it be great? I am really struggling to find a way ahead in this society and have like most people fallen to destructive and negative behaviours because of the strain of it, which makes me feel sad. people want to get drunk to pretend its all not happening, begin self harming via cigarettes drugs etc to externalise the pain. Universities and some charitys are run like privatised businesses. Culture is up for sale, people are calling their children baby goats regularly. What can you do when you see the wrongness all around you. If you dont work for a boss, you have to claim benefits which others died to provide for you on mass, you then sink that paper and metal back into a bosses pocket again. If you become a boss you are still purchasing products keeping others working and funding another boss. Why must everything be sold. Celebritys arguably even sell themselves. T shirts sell with che gueveras face on, though he was against false icons. The national lottery most see as a hope of salvation, where a few random people get a load of paper and metal others have paid in, to exchange for more stuff workers are making and bosses are profiting from. I dunno all the answers but I do know that we are in a hard situation and it needs to change for all our sakes. I think communism was wrong in outlawing spirituality / religion everyone has a right to their God their belief, in taking that from them you are becoming almost as bad as the system which tries to take and rebuild peoples identitys to fit a mould which can be analysed and conquered/sold too. Cannot people do positive things learn to see each as limbs of the same body and search for a way forward for all, as if we hurt what is us we are infact hurting ourselves and our future generations in a way.its a negative cycle an eye for an eye does make everyone blind at times.

    Posted by samantha kirwan, 05/27/2012 10:27am (12 years ago)

  • Good article and I agree that there are 1,000 more coincidences with Marxism and religion than between big scale capitalism and Christiantity etc.

    Posted by Patrick Powell, 04/26/2011 11:28am (13 years ago)

  • Finding a path that avoids the corruptions of both Marxist and religious idealism is the unfinished quest. If one assumes that both agree on the ends, then it might be time to merge the two into one and start a revolution of a different kind that history has never seen before!
    It may already be getting started?

    Posted by Robert Landbeck, 04/21/2011 5:33pm (13 years ago)

  • DAVID S. PENA points out how the Golden Rule is imbedded in the religions of the world. But throughout history most religious have not observed or upheld the Gold Rule when it comes to their opposites. Historically the Golden Rule, as interpreted, has been applied to like minded people and not to those outside the 'tribe'.

    In its secular ways capitalism has transcended the divisions and tribalism of religion and made the meaning and practice of the Golden Rule more universal. On the other hand, Marxism was never able to accomplish the transcendency that capitalism could.

    Posted by airth10, 04/21/2011 12:46pm (13 years ago)

  • Intriguing topic!

    I would say, let's count the ways that people under the name of Marxism have ignored and trashed the "Golden Rule". Think of labor camps and gulags, and how people under it were persecuted for their religions, and the property confiscated.

    The forsaking of the Gold Rule has not been strictly the domain of any one sociopolitical/socioeconomic movement. It's forsaking is chiefly in the realm of humankind no matter what system it lives under. So I think if you compare one on one, you will find that capitalism, for all its faults, has done more to uphold the idea of the Gold Rule than Marxism, or any other governing system.

    Capitalism has maintained the principle and contained the erosion of the Golden Rule better than any other governing system, hence its ascendency. Capitalism has not done it alone. It's done in conjunction and combination with its partner democracy, something that got very lost among all the schools of Marxism.

    Posted by airth10, 04/21/2011 11:05am (13 years ago)

  • Just take a look at what happened on Wall Street, and how nobody's gone to jail for it. And take a look at all the billion dollar corporations in America that pay ZERO in taxes, and tell me we have a capitalistic democracy that works. If the tax code was written fairly, and not to favor the elephants in the room that control the oligarchy, we wouldn't be taking money away from the likes of Head Start. We might even be thinking in humane terms like some do about healthcare.

    Posted by Pollypinks, 04/20/2011 12:46pm (13 years ago)

  • Great article, but how would you respond to a line like:

    "Proverbs 16:26 GNT A laborer's appetite makes him work harder, because he wants to satisfy his hunger."

    Posted by johnrad, 04/09/2011 4:41am (13 years ago)

  • In response to JustWonderin', I did not say Marxists were hostile to religion. In fact, I said the opposite.

    However, if you are familiar with Marxism, then you know that Marx was a scientific materialist. Materialism is in complete opposition to the religious world view. As Marx said:

    "All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice."

    Marxists should welcome the chance to work side by side with people who are religious. People with different world views work toward the same goals all the time.

    I welcome the chance to work with members of the religious community. That does not mean that I want to water down my understanding of Marx's actual thinking.



    Posted by Eric Brooks, 02/21/2011 11:59pm (13 years ago)

  • I consider myself a revolutionary communist, a Marxist, and an atheist but I've never bought in to Marx and Engels's idea that religion will wither away with the disappearance of class society. I can imagine specific religions withering away (and there are historical examples of this), but I can't imagine religion per se disappearing.

    Posted by Dave, 02/17/2011 7:28pm (13 years ago)

  • David, wow! A great commentary, the bible versus emphasize the importance of why the human race should embrace communism. The bible is the honest truth and if every single solitary breathing soul adheres to the GOLDEN RULES or the laws of the land by the prophets, our world would be a brighter, cleaner, loving place.

    Posted by Belladonna, 02/16/2011 11:01pm (13 years ago)

1 2 3 next »

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments