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Communism to Theism

Communism to Theism

MARCH 23, 2024

/ Articles / Communism to Theism

by Marvin Olasky

Life is good. Michigan professors love my Marxist analyses. I plan to stay at U of M and get a PhD. The university library subscribes to Pravda, the Moscow newspaper. My Russian knowledge is good enough for me to read about “unyielding war against religious patterns of thought.” I’m an addict who favors “suppressing, once and for all, of those relics from the past,” as Pravda puts it.

On Halloween, students in Nixon masks stalk the Diag, the walkway cutting across the central section of the University of Michigan campus. The next day, November 1, 1973, begins as normal with my reading of Pravda in the library. Then I offer Marxist views in a literature class, eat hamburgers in the dining hall, and am back in my room just before 3 p.m. to sit in my red chair by the window and read Lenin’s famous essay “Socialism and Religion.”

I’m feeling on top of the world, in line with Lenin’s belief that religion is “opium for the people. . . . Spiritual booze in which the slaves of capital drown their human image.” Lenin argued often that God is a “figment of man’s imagination,” so Communists “must combat religion—this is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently Marxism.”

Suddenly, without warning, on an ordinary day, figment becomes fact. New thoughts bombard my brain: What if Lenin is wrong? Why am I sure that God does not exist? Why have I turned my back on him? Mixed up in that is a sense that it’s bizarre to hate America and love Russia, since my own grandparents came to the exactly opposite conclusion.

For eight hours I sit in that chair, unwilling to move. Every hour brings a glance at the clock and surprise that I am still stationary. It’s hard for me to convey the strangeness, the otherness, of this experience. No drugs, no dreams, just sitting in the chair, hour after hour, suddenly thinking Marxism is wrong. At three o’clock I’m an atheist and a Communist. At eleven p.m. I’m a believer in a God of some kind. Hardly born again, but no longer dying.

At eleven, finally, I stand up, go outside, and wander around the cold and dark campus for the next two hours, trying to make sense of those eight hours. I can’t figure it out immediately. Years later I read in the Westminster Confession of Faith that God “is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call [some] by his Word and Spirit out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ.”

Sometimes that happens all at once. Sometimes that takes years. Sometimes, as in my case, part happens all at once and part is a slow train coming. My faith in Communism is gone, so after three days it seems right to visit the University of Michigan law student who heads the Communist Party chapter in Ann Arbor. I tell him I’m out. He denounces me as “a bourgeois individualist” and uses other ideological expletives.

For the next three weeks, I still go to the university library, this time to read not Pravda but books by former Communists. The most helpful is Witness, published in 1952. In it, Whittaker

Chambers describes the Communist vision that attracted him in the 1920s and me decades later: “It is not simply a vicious plot hatched by wicked men in a sub-cellar. . . . It is, in fact, man’s second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ It is the great alternative faith of mankind.”

Watch or listen to our interview with Marvin Olasky here!

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