Collapse of atheism in the former Soviet Union

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A Soviet propaganda poster disseminated in the Bezbozhnik (Atheist) magazine depicting Jesus being dumped from a wheelbarrow by an industrial worker as well as a smashed church bell; the text advocates Industrialisation Day as an alternative replacement to the Christian Transfiguration Day. see: Militant atheism

The dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991 was a watershed event in terms of the decline of leftism and the decline of the secular left (see also: Central and Eastern Europe and desecularization).

According to the University of Cambridge, historically, the "most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power."[1] Vitalij Lazarʹevič Ginzburg, a Soviet physicist, wrote that the "Bolshevik communists were not merely atheists but, according to Lenin's terminology, militant atheists."[2] However, prior to this, the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution established an atheist state, with the official ideology being the Cult of Reason; during this time thousands of believers were suppressed and executed by the guillotine.[3]

In 2003, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard published a paper by Assaf Moghadam entitled A Global Resurgence of Religion? which declared:

As the indications leave little doubt, Russia is showing clear signs of a religious resurgence. In fact, all seven criteria by which change in religious behavior and values are measured here confirmed that Russia is experiencing what could be called a religious revival. Since 1970, the nonreligious/atheist population has been on steady decline, from 52% in 1970 to 33% in 2000. Further, the percentage of this population is projected to decrease even further, possibly reaching the 20% mark in 2025. Between 1990 and 1997, belief in God has risen from 35% to a whopping 60%, while belief in the importance of God has climbed to 43% in 1997, up from 25% in 1990. More people have been raised religious in Russia in 1997 (20%) than at the beginning of the decade (18%), and 8.39% more Russians believed religion to be important toward the end of the 1990s, when compared to 1990. “Comfort in Religion” has also sharply increased within this time period, from less than 27% to over 46%. Finally, more and more Russians attend church services more regularly in 1997 than they did in 1990.

In the three Eastern European countries that were included in the WVS survey on belief in God, a drastic rise could be witnessed of respondents who answered this question in the affirmative. In Hungary, the percentage of believers in God jumped from 44% to 58% from 1981 to 1990, even prior to the collapse of the former Soviet Union. In Belarus, the number of people who believe in God nearly doubled over the course of the 1990s, from 36% to 68%, while in Latvia this figure almost quadrupled, from 18% to 67% in the same time period. Similar trends held true when it came to the importance of God, where there was a sharp rise in all three countries.[4]

Christianity Today indicated in 2017:

“The comeback of religion in a region once dominated by atheist regimes is striking,” states Pew in its latest report. Today, only 14 percent of the region’s population identify as atheists, agnostics, or “nones.” By comparison, 57 percent identify as Orthodox, and another 18 percent as Catholics.

In a massive study based on face-to-face interviews with 25,000 adults in 18 countries, Pew examined how national and religious identities have converged over the decades in Central and Eastern Europe. The result is one of the most thorough accountings of what Orthodox Christians (and their neighbors) believe and do.[5]

Pew Research indicated in a 2017 article entitled Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe:

In many Central and Eastern European countries, religion and national identity are closely entwined. This is true in former communist states, such as the Russian Federation and Poland, where majorities say that being Orthodox or Catholic is important to being “truly Russian” or “truly Polish.” It is also the case in Greece, where the church played a central role in Greece’s successful struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire and where today three-quarters of the public (76%) says that being Orthodox is important to being “truly Greek.”

Many people in the region embrace religion as an element of national belonging even though they are not highly observant. Relatively few Orthodox or Catholic adults in Central and Eastern Europe say they regularly attend worship services, pray often or consider religion central to their lives. For example, a median of just 10% of Orthodox Christians across the region say they go to church on a weekly basis.

Indeed, compared with many populations Pew Research Center previously has surveyed – from the United States to Latin America to sub-Saharan Africa to Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa – Central and Eastern Europeans display relatively low levels of religious observance.

Nonetheless, the comeback of religion in a region once dominated by atheist regimes is striking – particularly in some historically Orthodox countries, where levels of religious affiliation have risen substantially in recent decades.[6]

Growth of Protestantism in Russia

See also: Growth of Protestantism in Russia

A large number of missionaries operating presently operating in Russia are from Protestant denominations.[7]

According to a survey conducted at the end of 2013, 2% of surveyed Russians identify as Protestants or another branch of Christianity.[8]

Russia Watch in an article entitled Is Russia Turning Protestant? wrote:

Russia’s Justice Ministry has registered 14,616 Orthodox parishes, 4,409 Protestant parishes, and 234 Catholic parishes. But Anatoly Pchelintsev, a religion specialist and professor at the Russian State Humanitarian University, estimates that for every registered Protestant congregation, there are at least two unregistered ones.

Pchelintsev, who edits the Religion and Law publication here, concludes that Russia has about 15,000 Protestant congregations, roughly equal to the number of Russian Orthodox ones. He says the number of Catholic parishes is roughly the same as the official number.

In Siberia, long a land of dissenters and discontents, there are believed to be more Protestants in church on Sunday mornings than Russian Orthodox. On one recent visit to Khabarovsk, the second largest city of the Russian Far East, I went to a packed Baptist church, only a kilometer from a sparsely attended Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The massive Cathedral had been built with federal funds.[9]

Evangelicalism and Russia

According to the Christian Broadcasting Network:

The Orthodox Church's biggest competitors are the evangelical, charismatic congregations, which are experiencing tremendous growth.

"So many Russians are leaving the Orthodox Church and joining the charismatic churches and they don't like it," Ryakhovski said.

Ryakhovski gave CBN News a document produced by a leading Russian research group and backed by the Orthodox Church. The paper was titled, "Ways to weaken the potential of neo-Pentecostal sects and to help their victims."....

Once a persecuted minority, evangelical Christians in Russia and the surrounding countries that once made up the former Soviet Union, are now exerting more influence in society by displaying what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.

"People are looking for meaning, they are looking for authentic lifestyles, authentic relationships," Sipko told CBN News. "And so in the midst of all the economic and social changes, we have the opportunity to demonstrate what a personal relationship with Jesus is like."[10]

Soviet atheism

See also: Soviet atheism and Militant atheism and Atheism and communism and Soviet Union and morality

Vladimir Lenin wrote regarding atheism and communism: "A Marxist must be a materialist, i. e., an enemy of religion, but a dialectical materialist, i. e., one who treats the struggle against religion not in an abstract way, not on the basis of remote, purely theoretical, never varying preaching, but in a concrete way, on the basis of the class struggle which is going on in practice and is educating the masses more and better than anything else could."[11]

Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was asked to account for the great tragedies that occurred under the brutal communist regime he and fellow citizens suffered under in Russia.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offered this explanation:

Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.'

Since then I have spend well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.' [12]

The persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union was the result of the violently atheist Soviet government. In the first five years after the October Revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were murdered, many on the orders of Leon Trotsky. When Joseph Stalin came to power in 1927, he ordered his secret police, under Genrikh Yagoda to intensify persecution of Christians. In the next few years, 50,000 clergy were murdered, many were tortured, including crucifixion. "Russia turned red with the blood of martyrs", said Father Gleb Yakunin of the Russian Orthodox Church.[13] According to Orthodox Church sources, as many as fifty million Orthodox believers may have died in the twentieth century, mainly from persecution by Communists.[14]

In addition, in the atheistic and communist Soviet Union, 44 anti religious museums were opened and the largest was the 'The Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism' in Leningrad’s Kazan cathedral.[15] Despite intense effort by the atheistic leaders of the Soviet Union, their efforts were not effective in converting the masses to atheism.[16][17]

Recommended books

  • Dimitry Pospielovsky, (December, 1987), A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Antireligious Policies, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0312381328
  • Dimitry Pospielovsky, (November, 1987), Soviet Antireligious Campaigns and Persecutions (History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice and the Believers, Vol 2), Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 0312009054
  • Dimitry Pospielovsky, (August, 1988), Soviet Studies on the Church and the Believer's Response to Atheism: A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory and Practice and the Believers, Vol 3, Palgrave Macmillan, hardcover: ISBN 0312012918, paperback edition: ISBN 0312012926

See also

References

  1. Investigating atheism: Marxism. University of Cambridge (2008). Retrieved on July 17, 2014. “The most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power. For the first time in history, atheism thus became the official ideology of a state.”
  2. Vitalij Lazarʹevič Ginzburg (2009). On Superconductivity and Superfluidity: A Scientific Autobiography. Springer Science+Business Media, 161. Retrieved on July 17, 2014. “The Bolshevik communists were not merely atheists but, according to Lenin's terminology, militant atheists.” 
  3. Multiple references:
    James Adair (2007). Christianity: The eBook. JBE Online Books, 461. Retrieved on July 18, 2014. “Although the Civil Constitution called for religious liberty, which was extended to Jews as well as Christians, many revolutionaries pushed for the establishment of a new state religion, either the Cult of Reason (atheists) or the Cult of the Supreme Being (Deists). Changes to the calendar eliminated references to Christian holidays, and even the ancient seven-day week, and a list of officially recognized saints included such famous thinkers such as Socrates, Jesus, Marcus Aurelius, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. A period of political persecution, often with religious overtones, broke out, known as the Reign of Terror. Thousands of people were executed by the guillotine, including many of the original leaders of the French Revolution.” 
    William Belsham (1801). Memoirs of the Reign of George III. to the Session of Parliament ending A.D. 1793, Volume 5. G.G. & J. Robinson, 105–6. Retrieved on July 18, 2014. “In allusion to the monstrous transactions of this portentous period, it has been eloquently and energetically observed, 'that the reign of atheism in France was avowed the reign of terror. In the full madness of their career, in the highest climax of their horrors, they shut up the temples of God, abolished His worship, and proclaimed death to be an eternal sleep:—in the very centre of Christendom, Revelation underwent a total eclipse, while atheism, performing on a darkened theatre its strange and fearful tragedy, confounded the first elements of society, blended every age, rank, and sex, indiscriminate proscription and massacre, and convulsed all Europe to its centre, that the imperishable memorial of these events might teach the last generations of mankind to consider religion as the pillar of society, the parent of social order, and the safe-guard of nations.'
    "It is wonderful that, amid the horrors of this dismal period, while 'the death dance of democratic revolution' was still in rapid movement, among the tears of affliction, and the cries of despair, 'the masque, the song, the theatric scene, the buffoon laughter, went on as regularly as in the gay hour of festive peace.'”
     
    William Kilpatrick (2012). Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West. Ignatius Press, 57. Retrieved on July 18, 2014. “Actually, it's helpful to think in terms of two Enlightenments: the Enlightenment that cut itself off from God. The former led to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the abolition of slavery, and the civil rights movement. The latter led to the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the suppression of church by state, and the godless philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche and their offspring—National Socialism and communism. More recently the abandonment of God has led to the regime of cultural relativism that regards rights as arbitrary constructions.
    "It's this second Enlightenment tradition that Cardinal Ratzinger referred to when he wrote, 'The radical detachment of the Enlightenment philosophy from its roots ultimately leads it to dispense with man.' Actually this transition happened not 'ultimately' but almost immediately. The first instance occurred when Enlightenment worship of abstract 'reason' and 'liberty' degenerated quickly into the mass murders committed during the antireligious Reign of Terror in France. 'Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name', said Madam Rolande as she faced the statue of Liberty in the Place de la Revolution movements before her death at the guillotine. She was one of the early victims of a succession of secular systems based on rootless notions of 'liberty', 'equality', and 'reason'.
    "As many historians have pointed out, the atheist regimes of modern times are guilty of far more crimes than any committed in the name of religion. Communist governments alone were guilty of more than one hundred million murders, most of them committed against their own people.”
     
  4. A Global Resurgence of Religion? by Assaf Moghadam, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University
  5. Pew: Here’s How Badly Soviet Atheism Failed in Europe. Christianity Today, 2017
  6. Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe, Pew Research, 2017
  7. US State Department Religious Freedom Report on Russia, 2006
  8. 2013 End of the Year Survey - Russia WIN/GIA
  9. Russia Watch, Is Russia Turning Protestant?, 2014
  10. Russian Evangelicals Leery of Orthodox Church
  11. http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1909/may/13.htm
  12. http://www.icr.org/article/stalins-brutal-faith/
  13. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,150718,00.html
  14. In Memory Of The 50 Million Victims Of The Orthodox Christian Holocaust by Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
  15. http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2008/12/merry-anti-christmas.html
  16. http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2008/12/merry-anti-christmas.html
  17. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bpl/jssr/2004/00000043/00000001/art00003?crawler=true