Exactly, in the sense of the word’s original meaning in early Christianity as images (eikon in Greek) of saints and prophets. The five are the prophets of communism, which is in essence a secular religion, with all of the main features of an irrational belief system.
First, as dramatically shown in the communist-led rally, communism has its version of Christianity’s prophets. NPAs (New People’s Army) of course don’t pray to Mao, as Christians neither do to John the Baptist, or St. Luke. Mao, Marx, Engels, Stalin, and Lenin are not their gods, but the communists’ revered prophets, perfect humans who saw how a classless society would be created on earth.
Second, scriptures. Just like the three great religions of the book – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – communism has its “holy” books, such as Marx’ Das Kapital, Lenin’s State and Revolution, Mao’s “Selected Works.” The Filipino communist “holy” book is party founder Jose Sison’s, “Philippine Society and Revolution” (PSR). (That’s despite its being a plagiarism of the late Indonesian communist leader Dipa Nusantra Aidit’s “Indonesian Society, Indonesian Revolution.”)
It’s what is in these books that determine what’s true or false, not logic and evidence. Data that fit in with what is in the books are true; those that don’t, are false. It is from these books that justifications for party dogmas are formulated.
Sison just didn’t present the “objective conditions” of Philippine society: he had to invoke Mao’s “Specific Characteristics of the Chinese People’s Revolution.” And when the late Popoy Lagman challenged Sison’s protracted-people’s war strategy, he
hurled a hundred quotes from Lenin, even his most obscure works.
Similarly, listen to a fundamentalist arguing against the Reproductive Health bill, and you’ll be peppered with quotes from the Bible.
Third, Catholicism has its College of Cardinals. The Communist Party has its Central Committee. Both bodies choose—at least theoretically—who would head their organization. Documents these bodies issue (like the CPP”s “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Carry the Revolution Forward” or like those coming from the Second Vatican Council) are supposed to be believed without question by its members or else, they are expelled, “heretics” in the case of Christianity, “splitists”, in the case of the Philippine Communist Party.
Fourth, both Christianity and communism are essentially millenarian ideologies: For Christianity, a Kingdom of God will be established somewhere in the future overcoming the powerful forces of Evil. For communism, the “inexorable march of history” will create a classless society despite the forces of capitalism and the ruling class.
Marx’ ideas even closely parallel Christian eschatology. For Christianity, as narrated in Revelations, an Anti- Christ will first fool men and rule over them, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will trample on mankind before the Christ’s comes to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. For Marx, capitalism will first develop into Imperialism ruling the world, until the faithful, led by the Proletarian Party, defeats it to establish a classless society. The Anti-Christ for Marx? The democratic socialists proven right in the Scandinavian countries now.
If you’ve listened to the late NPA spokesman “Ka” Roger Rosal, to communist mouthpieces in Congress, to Bayan Muna’s Teodoro Casino and Anakpawis’s Rafael Mariano, you would have sensed a distinctive arrogant certainty, born out of their millenarian belief. It’s the same certainty you would hear also form Christian fundamentalists like “Bro.” Eddie, “Bro” Mike, and “Fr.” Quiboloy.
Fifth, both have their martyrs, and their names are glorified to inspire the faithful. The communist urban assassination group is named after labor-leader-turned-NPA Alex Boncayao. Leadership of guerilla fronts are named after NPA martyrs killed in firefights with the military, e.g., the Melito Glor Command (Southern Luzon), Menardo Arce Command (Southern Mindabnao), Rodante Urtal Command (Northern Samar).
Sixth, both have their rituals. For instance the head of the communist party unit officiates the wedding of members under him, in which the hammer-and-sickle flag drapes them as they declare that they will be as faithful to each other as to the
“Party and the People.” (The wedding rings? In my time, the bride gave the groom an Armalite 5.56 mm bullet; he gives her a .45 mm.) Both have their special days and you’d be condemned if you don’t celebrate them: May 1 International Labor Day of course, the NPA’s March 29 founding, and Dec. 26 the founding of the Communist Party which is of course also Mao Tse Tung’s birthday.
No wonder priests have quite easily embraced communism to become the Party’s die-hard leaders, as in the case of National Democratic Front chairman Luis Jalandoni and Santiago Salas of the NDF’s Eastern Visayas chapter who even prefers to be called “Father.” All they had to do was to replace the names of the categories in their minds, “Masses” for God, PSR for the New Testament, “the ruling class” for the Devil.
But communism is violent, and uses arms to further their ideology, unlike Christianity, you’d argue. Well, until it became a dominant religion, its proselytizing was, to paraphrase Mao, through the barrel of the gun—as the Christianization of South America and the Philippines were.
Communism and religions are similar in that they try to satisfy one of deepest needs of a human being: the need to transcend himself, to feel as if he were part of a greater whole.
This likely was an evolutionary need, as success in doing so has a pleasure reward—a feeling of contentment, happiness, and even ecstasy. Humans— with their feeble physique— would have been brought to extinction by bigger predators if they didn’t learn to band together, with each member expected to sacrifice his life so his band of hunters would survive. Feeling that one is part of something bigger also creates the illusion that one is immortal, which would have prodded our ancestors to do everything he could to survive nature and beat his predators.
For Christianity particularly, this feeling of transcendence is acquired by believing one is part of a God’s Kingdom and well, even a Cosmic God, which is after all the point of the ritual of “eating Christ’s body and drinking his blood.” An Islamic suicide bomber would likely feel a kind of ecstasy in the seconds before he blows himself up thinking he will soon be an atom of God. (Or does he rather look forward to having his way with the 72 virgins the Koran says are the reward of the martyr.)
For communists, the feeling of transcendence is simulated as being one of the Proletariat who will usher in a classless society, the real heaven on earth. The mind is a trickster: NPAs dream of a proletarian classless heaven, where they will even perhaps meet Mao.