A seventeen-year-old boy once said that “union with Christ imparts an inner exaltation, comfort in suffering, calm trust, and a heart full of love for humankind.” He believed that true hope while living in a painful world is “childlike union with Christ and God, which alone makes life more beautiful and exalted.” The direction of his life seemed clear when he wrote those words in a short essay entitled “The Union of the Faithful with Christ.”

This young man’s devotion did not last, however. He eventually became a bitter enemy of all religions and is probably responsible for spreading the doctrine of atheism to more people than anyone in the history of the world. To him religion was the “opium of the masses”—something people use like a drug to make them feel better in a world of sorrow and woe.

His name was Karl Marx, co-author of The Communist Manifesto. Though this book made little impact in his lifetime, the communist ideology in the last one hundred years has engulfed much of the world. And, although many college students who are taught Marxism are unaware of this, at the core of Marxist teaching is atheism. According to this philosophy, all that exists is matter. There is no God, no spirit, no hereafter and no right and wrong in communism. Spiritual beliefs are just illusions.

We may never know what happened inside of a young man’s mind that caused him to go from praising God to hating Him. Countless pages have been written about that. But one thing that surely contributed to his resentment for religion was his college education. There he learned the skeptical views of earlier German philosophers like Kantand Hegel whose writings are very influential to this day. But young Marx was not satisfied with repeating what others said. Priding himself as an original thinker like all philosophers vainly imagine, he devoted his life to formulating the political and economic system known as communism.

To some extent, then, this young man fell into the trap Paul warned about: “Evil company corrupts good habits” (I Cor. 15:33). Some Christians at Corinth listened too much to Greek philosophy and ended up saying that there is no resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:12)! How could they do something so radical and ridiculous? Athens was not far from Corinth. It was in Athens that Stoic and Epicurean philosophers made fun of Paul for teaching life after death (Acts 17:16-34). They said this was impossible. The church at Corinth had imbibed the intellectual pride of the worldly wisdom of the Greeks (I Cor. 1-3). When Paul said, “Evil company corrupts good habits,” he was not just talking about the danger of young people hanging out with the wrong crowd and learning to sleep around or do drugs. He was warning about what happens when people, especially young people, are indoctrinated with a false worldview. Young Marx may have hated God in the end anyway, but his educational environment sure didn’t help.

College professors are not all bad, but as a whole state-run universities have become increasingly hostile to belief in God and the Bible. Can you guess what is one of the most widely-used textbooks in those schools of higher learning? The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frierick Engels.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).

-Kerry Duke