Acton Institute Powerblog

Acton Commentary: How socialism causes atheism

Most socialists have been atheists, but does accepting socialist economic principles make believers more likely to become atheists? This week’s Acton Commentary, which is the cover story of the newest issue of Religion & Liberty, explores survey data and anecdotal evidence that a socialist worldview can lead believers to lose their faith.

A growing body of research reveals that as the welfare state grows, the church shrinks. Adam Kay of Duke University discovered that church and state have a “hydraulic relationship”: Events “that lower faith in one of these external systems (e.g., the government) lead to subsequent increases in faith in the other (e.g., God).” Another study found that increased welfare spending “in a specific year predicted lower religiosity one to two years later.” It concluded, “The power and order emanating from God can be outsourced to the government.”

The essay combines polls showing the surprisingly political reasons that “Nones” abandon their religion with personal stories and frank admissions from socialists and former Marxists – including Aldous Huxley, Michael Harrington, and Whittaker Chambers – that the desire for an earthly utopia replaced their belief in the kingdom of Heaven.

“There is nothing new in the Brave New World,” the essay states.

In a time when 26 percent of Americans are unaffiliated with any religion, and the number of atheists and agnostics in the U.S. has doubled in the last 10 years, people of faith can hardly afford to ignore their insights. Upholding the morality of a free and virtuous society could be the key to preserving freedom and preventing an entire generation from sliding into spiritual darkness.

You can read this week’s Acton Commentary here. You can download the latest issue of Religion & Liberty here.

(Photo credit: FibonacciBlue. This image has been cropped. CC BY 2.0.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson is Executive Editor of the Acton Institute's flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.