Общество безбожников (Society of the Godless)
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 2:44 PM [+]
While Christopher Hitchens may think that religion is the real propagator of the world's atrocities (and indeed many equally in ignorance would agree), in truth little can compare to what militant atheists managed in Soviet Russia. Clearly humans have no need for religion to find reasoning for killing one another.
The true story of state sponsored militant atheists wiping out hordes of Christians is untold in America and it is a shame, and surprising given the propaganda value it would have had during the cold war. The persecutions by pagan Rome and imperialistic Islam cannot compare to what the atheists in the last centuries wrought upon the Church, and indeed even Hitler's twisted crime against the Jews is dwarfed by the 80 or so years of Soviet trials, executions, and gulags.
But, amidst the Church the story remains alive...and perhaps that is where it best remains. I wonder if, more and more, our predominant culture would prefer not to think of such matters as the non-religious slaughtering the religious because it rather goes against the popular meme of the world only now coming out from under the murderous tyranny of Christianity into the light of secularism. (Which of course is no real light at all and may end being a persecutor itself given time to grow and bear fruit.)
Yesterday we celebrated the feastday of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. For us, it took a sort of prominence over St. John's relics being translated because our patron is, of course, one of those new martyrs. They have many lessons to teach us...and while it may be hard to imagine a government sponsored "Society of the Godless" churning out anti-religious propaganda, turning churches into museums to marvel at the pasts "superstitions", imposing all manner of restrictions on the Church, and filling the schools with the atheistic wisdom of the age, it none-the-less happened and continued to happened well within most of our lifetime.
Could it happen again? I'll do you one better than that: it will happen I again and it will be worse - as unimaginable as that might seem. I'm not claiming to be a prophet here (though I do have some ideas about how it will happen), I'm simply noting that our Lord told us to expect to be hated and to be persecuted. I suspect if you think hard enough about the current cultural climate you can envision what issues will find us particularly hated.
Is it really so hard to imagine the government eventually coming to believe that making our children conform to our religious practices is a violation of their rights? As they (the government) believes they have a greater and greater vested interest in how exactly we raise our kids? A strong ingrained sense of individual freedom still exists here in the US to largely prevent this from expanding too much, but as I've noted before the government does seem to perpetually be approaching us and asking that we let them provide for us ("we are here to help you" or "we are here to protect you"). In many places in Europe, personal freedoms are being absorbed by the collective, such as in Belgium. (Pay close attention to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child declaration.)
Anyway, I've no wish to let my evolving libertarian politics come too much into this post...because there is something more important to be considered here. We as Christians should expect to be persecuted and if we aren't we are either amidst some sort of lull or we've become a bit too friendly with the world. The precious new martyrs of Russia overtly faced the mouth of the lion seeking whom he may devour. But, for we here today, are we any less amidst a society of the godless? The subtlety of it is particularly dangerous and we have a choice to be a martyr every single moment of the day (thanks to Fr. C's homily yesterday on our task of everyday martyrdom....God help us to see this truth). In time, the simmering of our current culture's hatred of Christ's Church may once again boil over into providing baptisms in blood.
Here is a wonderful Icon of the New Martyrs with clickable details.
St. Nicholas Parish in Dallas has an rather extensive list of the martyrs and their stories.