Communism has, to the best of my knowledge, never been practiced on a national scale in its ideal form. When it has been employed it's been by men who used its structure to impose their will on citizens and persecute their enemies.
Yet we know that there was a time when humans lived in small tribes that practiced basic communism. Some modern tribes still do. I suspect the practice is more workable in groups where the members are related by blood or marriage, where the desire to ensure the survival of each member outweighs, for practical reasons, our inborn selfishness.
According to the Bible, the disciples formed a group with a common cause that should have been of more importance to them than there own needs and desires. Jesus encouraged his followers to adopt an essentially communal lifestyle. As recorded in Luke 3:1`0-11 (ESV),
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”Likewise Paul, in describing the early Christian communities, wrote in Acts 2:44-47,
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.The early followers of Jesus lived in communities, a word and concept that shares its origin with communes, communism and common.
Quite often theists will criticize atheism by contending that historically communistic countries were anti-theistic in both law and practice, that atheism was central to that form of governing. They point to Stalin and Pol Pot as examples of atheists employing communism to further their anti-theistic agendas.
This ignores the obvious truth that any belief about gods, that they exist or don't, can be used by the corrupt to gain power and authority over others. Hitler used his bastardized Catholic beliefs and the support of the Catholic church when it served his political purposes and he held no love for atheists. In a speech delivered in Berlin, October 24, 1933, he said:
"We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."He failed, just as he failed to eradicate Judaism and homosexuality, though not for lack of trying.
Atheism is not a necessary ingredient of communism. When it is employed by megalomaniacs and corrupt leaders to subjugate and abuse their citizens it is no more akin to the basic meaning of atheism than, when employed by those same sorts of leaders to those same ends, their corrupt concept of communism resembles the essentially empathetic and compassionate nature of that practice in its ideal implementation.
It's commendable when small groups of people ignore their instinct to hoard for themselves and instead share what they have with each other. It exposes the best of humanity when we care for those who lack among us. That's the basic motivation of charity.
The failure of communism on the large scale lies not with its unreasonable association with a lack of belief in gods but rather for its inability to eradicate a very human urge. Human greed and selfishness cannot be eliminated by laws or persecution. Those less-than-noble aspects of our humanity can only be controlled when each person understands that we cannot survive on our own, that we all need each other. We need to accept that our own needs will be met if we ensure that everyone's needs are met. We all need to care for one another.