An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Quite accidentally I stumbled upon this article found in the "Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion" entitled Forced Secularization in Soviet Russia: Why an Atheistic Monopoly Failed. Unfortunately it requires a subscription to Blackwell Synergy (which I'm lucky to have as a work benefit), but the abstract is available and I wanted to share some thoughts about it anyway.
First, it has created in me a real interest in further investigation of the work of the "Society of Militant Atheists" and their efforts to convert the Russian people to what they called "scientific atheism." While the author of this article is obviously approaching the matter as a sociologist, he none-the-less hits on a very important point, which is that despite all of their efforts and support from the government the atheists could not wholly capture the hearts of the people. In other words, what they were selling didn't fit the people's needs.
The Communist party believed that the work of their atheist evangelists should have been easy. They had everything in their favor: government support (readily available even with the gun), the government education system actively indoctrinating the youth, persecution and subjugation of the Church, and even use of church property and materials. Philosophically they felt that with the advent of ever expanding scientific knowledge, economic equality, and the establishment of the socialist utopia (everyone's needs met by the government) that religion would die out by simple Darwinian natural selection...let alone the extensive efforts of what was essentially the church of atheism.
They even tried establishing atheist/socialist "holy-days" in place of the 12 great feasts, they established rituals for birth, marriage, and death. They preserved the body of Lenin to show that science could overcome corruption far better than God could for his Saints, they "assaulted heaven" with their rockets in order to announce they could not find God. They mocked the church and religion with all the vehemence and often unguided fury of a Dawkins or a Hitchens or a Carlin. They examined Holy Water with scientific instruments to show it had no special properties. But in all of this and more, they simply showed their own ignorance of what religious faith is really all about. They thought if they could provide for our needs and educate us and our children then we would see the light. In time of the old order of economic suffering and ignorance they would say "it is not surprising that they cling...to religion."
Some might say that they failed only in as much as they failed to create the utopia they sought; that perhaps if they had had economic success then they might have seen a larger percentage of people embracing their secular religion. But one might point to the west where scientific enlightenment is king and arguably the people experience the greatest widespread distribution of wealth in the world...and yet at least belief in God remains a majority endeavor, but to what productive end? Other issues of greater depth are at play in the west that I would like to and will contemplate later.
The fact remains, the socialists of Russia believed that they could not only get the Czar to give up his throne, but also God Himself...and replace Him with the State which would then provide all the people's needs. But, man shall not live by bread alone...or so I am told. The communists apparently didn't get this, and even in the midst of capitalism's ridiculous wealth generation, people are still starving...though obese.
Sometimes I worry about where our secularized world (and country) is headed today, with its better science and its apparently more and more convincing materialist world view arguments, its far better and extensive entertainment based indoctrination system - however mindless, the extent to which our desires are so confused with our needs, a government that wants to care for our every need, and a government that feels the establishment clause necessarily implies secularism. I worry, sometimes, if where the socialists failed with their far more deliberate efforts, we might succeed through a Darwinian sort of dumb luck?