Religion under Communism

Steven Pfaff

in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780195390049
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Religion under Communism

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During the twentieth century, various communist governments undertook concerted efforts to secularize their societies through means of force and persuasion. These governments can be understood as regimes that combined Marxist-Leninist one-party rule with state ownership of the means of production and central planning. They attempted to regulate religious markets by intervening in both the supply of and the demand for religion, pursing policies that can be characterized as combining the strategies of regulation and substitution. Religion was to be substituted with “scientific atheism,” a key feature of communist ideology. Atheist or intentionally secular ceremonies and rituals replaced religious ones both in public and in private life. By regulating the market, the communist regimes sought to control the supply of religion. Ultimately, however, the success of the communist project depended on eliminating people's demand for religion. This article examines religion under communism, focusing on state regulation, scientific atheism, and the dynamics of supply and demand.

Keywords: religion; communism; state regulation; scientific atheism; supply and demand; religious markets; substitution

Article.  7704 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Industry Studies ; Labour and Demographic Economics

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