We are glad to introduce to you the first atheistic magazine in Russia. As is known, in the former Soviet Union atheism was part of “communist” ideology and, quite naturally, it went out of fashion with the collapse of the Union. But as the Russian saying puts it “a holy place can never be vacant”, and the government did not hesitate to substitute Marxism-Leninism with Orthodoxy. The country was immediately seized with a religious boom, a true hysteria at the so called “spirituality revival”, which actually turned out to be the return of the wildest medieval times. And it is only now, in the year 2000, that a group of young scientists has managed to publish a magazine and open an atheistic site in the Internet.
Our main goal is to prevent the creation of a new totalitarian ideology in Russia, this time based on Orthodoxy. We hope to achieve that through informing the people of what is happening, through analysing the cooperative activity of the state and the Church, as well as through advocating democratic values, which are evidently incompatible with imposing any kind of ideology.
Education and science prove to have fallen the main victims of religious hysteria in Russia. It is their independence from the clerical influence only, that can enable the proper society development. Meanwhile the number of scientists in Russia, who have the nerve to call themselves atheists, is constantly decreasing. Orthodoxy gradually takes control over education, both secondary and higher. It goes without saying that accepting any dogmatic assertions, especially religious ones, is perilous for any branch of science, and in the field of education we can expect nothing but common brainwash, which does not differ much from what we experienced during the Soviet era.
Democracy in Russia is a rather imperceptible thing. One of the conditions which provide the existence of a democratic state is secularization alongside with the general possibility of thinking independently and rationally. It is the maintenance of rational approach to the world that our activity is going to be devoted to.
The following selection of publications in the “Zdravy Smysl” (“Common Sense”) magazine is meant to serve as a display of our activity. We also invite you to our site www.atheism.ru. We will be glad to exchange opinions with you and are looking forward to receiving any remarks about our undertaking. Any kind of support and attention from abroad to the current problems of Russia can be of help in the process of developing rational cognition and decreasing the amount of evil not only in this country.
The goals and aims of the “Russian Atheistic Society” (RAS), which is being created, are as follows:
To maintain the principles of a secular state and to prevent (by legal means) Orthodoxy from turning into the state religion.
To show the advantages of the scientific methods of cognition, and to form materialistic and atheistic outlook.
To spread the ideas of humanism and toleration.
To introduce the curriculums that can be helpful for a critical, sceptical and rational perception of various religious and mystical doctrines.
To give help, both social and psychological, to the victims of totalitarian sects and cults.
To fight any kind of charlatanism in science as well as profiteering on superstitions.
To create an organ of the press for publishing atheistic literature.
To hold public lectures and debates.
To collaborate with mass-media as well as with atheistic and anti-clerical organizations both in this country and abroad.
The state has always been backed by the church as far as fooling of the Russian people was concerned. Divinity as school subject was reckoned the best preventive measure against any liberal and revolutionary sedition. The process of social development has been proving the uselessness of this system throughout this century almost in all the countries of the world, but now Russian clergymen have their golden opportunity of returning to those times when the wildest obscurantism reigned in the country, with the connivance of the top officials.
The crisis of the educational system in this country is being discussed widely but almost all the time in vain. The “Pedagogika” (Pedagogy) magazine, which is the organ of the press representing Russian Academy of Science, has been devoting its pages to discussing this pitiful state of affairs for several years now. Such a trustworthy issue should have held debates on current problems, so that any conclusions of practical worth could be made and the line could be drawn at the pointless chattering. But the discussion itself turns out to be rather odd, to put it mildly.
For instance, as far as sexual education of the adolescent is concerned, instead of turning to specialists like psychologists and sociologists, the magazine gives floor to the defenders of orthodox piety. You cannot help smiling when you begin to read the article written by one of them, the clergyman Artemy Vladimirov by name, and as you read it further the smile grows into laughter which, in its turn, by the end of the article gives way to pessimistic thoughts.
First the clergyman turns to premonitions made by St. Neal who lived in the 16th century and managed to foresee the current state of affairs. “St. Neal foretold that such innocent and delicate creatures as our children would eventually surpass not only ordinary adults, but even demons in wickedness and cunningness”. Could you guess what would initiate the catastrophe? No less than sexual dissoluteness, which is allegedly destroying the school system in the States, France, Denmark, the Netherlands.
After that the respected clergyman begins to prove the poisonous influence of sexual education, such as, firstly, the mistake of describing masturbation to children as something harmless, secondly, the sin of carnal pleasures which means any association between a man and a woman but the marriage blessed by the Church and, finally, the unwillingness of the future Christians to serve the Church which would lead to lack of “intellectual or spiritual potential for educating people”.
The fact is that so far the Orthodox Church has been spending all “spiritual potential” it possessed on keeping the people ignorant. When in 1963 the seminary students were allowed to go to the University, the clergymen managed to disaffirm it. And it was clerical censorship, that banned publishing the works of Hegel and Feuerbach, Hugo and Leskov, Flaubert and Tolstoy.
But as referred to by father Artemy, the word “education” seems to acquire some new meaning. For instance, according to his words and the “new” natural study he appeals to, the adulterer’s cells can penetrate the unlucky girl’s body and stay there for decades thus causing various congenital diseases in her future children.
And as father Artemy concludes, a sexually educated person is not capable of controlling himself which leads to a wide range of crimes and also to political, economic , moral and spiritual death.
After all that gibberish the only wish the reader might have, is to look into the calendar to check whether he or she is still at the beginning of the 21st century or the times of Giordano Bruno and the fires burnt by inquisition have returned. It may occur to the reader that the quoted article is nothing but a parody or that “Pedagogika” is a humorous magazine. Alas... Nothing of the kind.
After describing the heartrending scenes of depravity, the clergyman switches his attention to seeking its social cause. It makes him feel uneasy that “young teachers deliberately take their pupils as equals instead of lifting them up to their own level” and that schoolchildren do not wear uniform any more.
The reader can be surprised that the points of view on sexual education are shared by orthodox and “communist” ideologists, but it is not by chance. The fact is that respect towards the freedom of sexual relations is reckoned one of democratic principles, a feature of secular society. Certainly, it is essential to remove some negative consequences of the sexual revolution, but it should not be done by methods put forward by allies of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. It is sexual education that can counterbalance the depravity, and not the repression against the adolescent. Prostitution and depravity have always existed and it is through no fault of education, but through social diseases and hypocritical principles advocated by father Artemy and the like.
Despite all the drawbacks of the sexual revolution it has achieved something fundamental: it stated once and for all that a marriage of convenience (that is not based on love) is much more amoral than any sexual relations before marriage or between unmarried. The freedom obtained by the adolescent and the collapse of the orthodox model of the family where the woman was treated as a slave to the man are the main source of our moralists’ anger and they are really unscrupulous in the choice of means to browbeat the society.
Unfortunately, such statements as those quoted above can be found not only in the speeches of those preachers’, who use democracy and freedom of speech to destroy or mutilate democratic achievements, but they are also pronounced by some academicians of the Russian Academy of Science, who in their turn do not restrict themselves to the sphere of morality. They set the goal of “spiritual renovation of society” through altering the secular character of education in Russia.
Those “scientists” believe that education in the new century will be based of the “synthesis of science and religion”. Science should cooperate with belief, or otherwise the former will perish as “knowledge is dead without belief”. Statements like that can only prove, that it is the person who makes them that is dead for science. No science can exist on the ground of religion – just imagine a physicist trying to explain the principles of quantum mechanics as the force of Providence.
This alteration of science (or its submitting to religious belief, in other words) is meant to form “ one’s internal motivation, based on one’s belief into the necessity and moral impeccability of such behaviour, which is connected with the realization of the possibilities and ways of the spiritual life of one’s soul after one’s physical death”. That means that a person can behave properly and deserves to be a scientist only in case if he or she will be punished or, on the contrary, rewarded in the afterlife. At the beginning of the century Plekhanov wrote that “society had to take care that its members learned to take the requirements of morality as something quite independent from any supernatural creatures”. And now morals are again being connected with religion.
Such innovation in pedagogy require some support from prominent scientists. You cannot find any gibberish of the kind in the works by outstanding figures in the field of pedagogy, such as Dewey and Makarenko. That’s why the theoretical base for those innovations has been discovered, for instance, in the works by K. P. Pobedonostsev, which in a nutshell, meant that for a peasant knowledge is nothing but a burden, as his main occupation is to pray and praise the czar. And if he becomes too educated, it can result in a mutiny. It is difficult to imagine such an educational doctrine nowadays. Nevertheless it is exactly this doctrine, though slightly altered, that the state policy in the sphere of education is based upon.
It was written in the 2nd issue of “Pedagogika” in 1999 that “the 19th century of public education in Russia was the century of the fight the orthodox clergy led against nihilism or the depravity of the spirit”. Actually it was the other way round as “nihilists” (the article meant by that term all the anticlericals ranged from Decembrists and liberals to Bolsheviks) were engaged in public education while the orthodox clergy were all for the law which restricted the course of education to 4 grades for 80% of the people.
But the backward educational projects prove to be fraught with much more dangerous consequences, and this can be observed in the following conclusion: “the future of the education in Russia is tightly connected with the moral development of the pupils according to national ideals, with forging national self-consciousness, based on spiritual tradition of the people, as well as on their realization of the duty to the state ... which is of top priority if compared to one’s personal rights and interests... This puts the personality into the frame of a healthy social behaviour”.
The strong accent made on the “national” as well as the submission of a person to the state is at odds with the basic statements of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, let alone the Declaration of Human Rights and thus we can observe the picture of a typical totalitarian state. According to this ideologist and the like, any individuality should be suppressed by the state interests, that is by the interests of the government, a limited group of people. Such a unification was made in the czar Russia, in schools at the times of Stalin and in Hitler Germany. It is such statements and not sexual freedom or atheism that becomes the last degree of moral and intellectual depravity, as Dobrolyubov once pointed out. .
More and more pseudoscientists appear in society, ready to fulfil the projects of eliminating free-thinking in the very beginning of one’s life that is at school. And, no doubt, the Orthodox Church is not only supporting but appears as the main creator of those antiscientific and antilegal theories, the main force of their implementation. “Orthodoxy has been representing the national ideology since the dawn of the history”, the magazine goes on to say. But in consideration of that it is all the more surprising that monasteries used to possess serfs, and went in for commerce, and that many clergymen just before the revolution were active participants of the massacres of the Jews and the intelligentsia. Nowadays the Church has learned to merchandize tobacco and alcohol (these commerce is blessed and encouraged by the state). It seems to use the experience gained in the past.
After studying the articles published in the “Pedagogika” magazine and the statements of some public figures, one is under the strong impression that the secular education is on the edge of being eliminated. In December of 1998 a round table was organized on the subject of “the state policy in the sphere of school education and the upbringing of the growing generation”. The debate was turned into the propaganda of the orthodox education, as necessary for the development of “the national idea”. There could be heard statements like this: “According to the polls, society needs including religious culture into the secular system of education”, “there is actually only one confession in Russia, and it makes 80% of the population”, “education and science will always fall the first victims of the revolutionaries, rebels and reformers”.
Maybe the reader still hopes that the notorious magazine is a disappointing exception in Russian educational system, which remains secular on the whole. Then he or she hopes in vain. The editorial board of the magazine is formed by the academicians of the Russian Academy of Education, who tried recently to introduce into the high school curriculum the subject which is called “The Elements of Christian Psychology”, which was apparently meant to explain that masturbation, nihilism and atheism lead to degradation of an individual. The project has failed so far, but there is still the possibility of its implementation.
The process of religious fooling of the children is already in full swing. There appear schools with so called national component or Russian schools, which see their main goal as “upbringing the adolescent on the traditions of the Russian people, its history and the Orthodox culture”. As it is only the Orthodoxy, according to these conceptions, that can unite the people and help them to survive the plight, defend the enemy and after that forgive them and give a hand. The Orthodoxy is also called the fundament of interethnic tolerance and agreement. And again we are thrown back to the times of the czars, with the little exception that the place of the monarchy is taken by the state.
Alongside with the model schools there appear model textbooks, which are meant to displace those with “elements of militant atheism”. For instance, the high-school text-book, published in 1998 and edited by the deputy minister A. F. Kiselyev, advocates the quoted above ideas of the exceptional historical role of the Russian people, which was chosen for them by the Almighty.
Thus, we can clearly observe the attempts of the Orthodox Church together with some officials in the sphere of education to revive ancient Russian traditions of brainwash and of using religion as the means of bringing the children up as cowed and incapable of thinking for themselves, so that they become an easy aim for any nationalist and chauvinist propaganda. Russian educational system can suffer an overhaul which is fraught with a long-term delay of the country’s moral and cultural renovation.
By Alexander Belyakov.
Nowadays in the minds of the people the concrete historical facts are displaced by a number of myths, which describe the past of the Church and religion to their advantage. So, let us analyze some of the false statements reckoned by clergymen as universal truth.
First of all, the adepts of Christianity are sure that it was their religion, which, alongside the imagined belief in some distant salvation, awarded the people with such a precious human value as morality. But it cannot be true! Actually, the laws of morality form the inevitable condition of any human society. They appeared in the world dozens of centuries ago as a result of people’s evolution and were forced into existing by the necessity of working out some rules of social life. They could not be received as a gift from heaven. Religion only put them down and introduced to the people as its own invention. Besides, the Christian Commandments have quite little in common with moral principles which can be called really applicable for all the times and people.
Then we are told that it was Christianity which favoured the world with modern civilization, technology and science. That is a clearly observed corruption of the facts. We just have to remember that the ideological reign of Christianity in Europe established in the 5-6th centuries and the technological progress which gave birth to the modern civilization dates back to 15-16th centuries. This progress was caused by quite secular reasons and was enabled in the course of Renaissance by the revival of ancient traditions, existing before Christianity.
Christian apologists state that without religion there would not exist any culture, arts and creativity. That is another pompous triviality, which can be refuted by the fact that such great minds as Byron, Bernard Show, Bertolt Brecht, Balzac, Anatole France, Robert Burns, Maxim Gorky, Stanislaw Lem, philosophers like Diderot, Feuerbach, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, scientists like Laplace, Lalande, Monge, Bechterew, Erich Fromm, Niels Bohr, Bertrand Russell and many others, though rejecting religion, managed nevertheless to create the bulk of the world’s cultural and scientific heritage.
We are made to believe that Christianity has been contributing to the establishment of morality, human ideals, and mercy throughout its history. That is no more than another farfetched fact. As far as the Orthodox Church is concerned, it revived the tradition of capital punishment in the medieval Russia and was an active participant of massacres and executions as monasteries and convents used to serve as prisons. And they were especially cruel towards their ideological opponents. Thus democracy has nothing to do with religion, though some clergymen cannot give up the attempts of referring to the latter as to the mother of democratic principles in society.
One of the most farfetched statements is the myth about Christianity peacefully putting an end to slavery. Actually, neither the practice nor the theory of this religion have ever said a word against such a pitiful event in the history of mankind as slavery. Religion, which came into being in the times of slavery and was always getting on quite well with it, which told the slaves to suffer and endure the suffering, never tried to liberate those enslaved. Maybe that is true only of Dark Age? Nothing of the kind: when the most pious countries of the Christian world colonized other continents and brought to America millions of enslaved, equalized with the cattle, the Church turned out in the cold. Moreover, it justified slavery by the Biblical myth about Ham, the forefather of the Africans who was allegedly doomed to serve his brothers. The Orthodox Church saw in line with the others and did nothing to lighten the burden of the Russian serfs, being itself the biggest feudal.
We indulge in illusions that the Roman Empire, which was the symbol of tyranny and oppression, was also ruined by the Church. The statement is groundless as the Empire thrived for 2 centuries after the establishment of Christianity there and its Eastern part survived for another thousand years. What appears much more interesting is the question why the barbaric tribes, which brought the Empire to the end, had been getting along with it quite well while being pagan and attacked it only after their conversion to Christianity. Thus, the role played by religion in the elimination of the Roman Empire is quite unworthy and the traditions set by the early Christians were developed later during the era of the Crusades and religious wars.
As far as the contribution of the Christian Church to the fight against fascism during the World War II is concerned, many statements are very much exaggerated. It would be difficult to find a person in his or her right mind who would believe that the victory was won thanks to a religious procession of the year 1941 and not at all due to the collectives efforts of millions of fighters. It is difficult to say how the Orthodox Church would have acted if it found itself on the territory occupied by fascists, but Western Churches preferred to collaborate with the fascist regimes both in Italy and in Germany.
Orthodox ideologists assert that Bolsheviks’ repressions against religion and the Church had no parallel in the history of any other country. That stands no reason. If the Soviet state set itself the goal of eliminating the Orthodox Church as such, it would have fulfilled the task by banning the institution itself and all the ceremonies connected with it, as it was done in the Albany of the 60-s. First of all, dozens of churches had been destroyed and had given place to other churches, houses, fire observation towers and what not, long before Bolsheviks came to power. Now the mayor of Moscow has launched the campaign on implanting the traditions of Orthodoxy and monarchy, the culmination of which has become the restoration of the Temple of the Savior, destroyed at the dawn of the Soviet era. To raise funds for building this construction, enormous both in size and tastelessness, the city authorities have imposed a kind of tithe on all the municipal and commercial enterprises which depended on the mayor.
Equally farfetched are the accusations of abolishing the liberty of conscience as the Bolsheviks did not have much to abolish after the atrocities in the Russian Empire where people were forced to attend religious services. The swing of repressions against the Church did not outnumber those against Trotskyists, kulaks, cosmopolites and so on. And as for the “robbery of the Church” of the 20s and 30s, there was nothing unusual about it either, as some kind of secularization was done in due time almost in all the European countries. Protestant states went through it 5 centuries ago in the course of Reformation; in 1873 Bismarck’s government followed the example with Kulturkampf; in France all the religious schools as well as those belonging to monasteries were closed in 1901 and in 1905 the separation of the Church from the state was legalized once and for all.
And finally about the trump card of the modern adepts of Orthodoxy, which they use in their appeals to ethnic Russians. This trump card is the view on this religion as the immemorial belief of our forefathers, something inseparable from the history of the Russian people. It goes without saying that the most ancient belief among the Russians was Slavic paganism, some features of which can still be observed in cultural traditions of the people. When ancient Russia was converted into Christianity, Prince Vladimir did not have the slightest notion that he was choosing as the state religion one of the versions of Orthodoxy and that 6 centuries later, in 1653 Patriarch Nikon would notice the discrepancies between the ceremonies and launch the reform of the Church, which in its turn would result in a turmoil. Since the times of Peter I the Church has become part of government as it was headed by ordained generals and the clergy had to report to the authorities the information received by them at confessions. And the unworthy tradition was not broken during the times of Bolshevism. Thus Russia has tried in the course of its history at least 4 beliefs: paganism, Old Belief (that before Nikon’s reform), Nikonianism and communism. Maybe it means that in the new century this country has the right to choose none of previous, but some totally new belief. To put things at their simplest: it should choose proper tolerance and true liberty of conscience.
Inquisition in Russia.
By Sergey Solovyov.
It is generally believed that there was no inquisition in Russia, but it is the official point of view, supported both by the state and the Church. Still it existed in this country though not for a long period of time. The scale of heretical movements in the Europe of the 13th century made the Catholic Church create the system of inquisition, which included religious authorities as well as secular ones. It had to fight anti-religious movements in towns as the literate citizens were more apt to soul-searching, and besides the Church caused their dissatisfaction being the feudal. Spanish inquisition was the most notorious of all for its extreme cruelty.
In Russia the first heretics appeared only in the 14th century (as the country fell behind in its development due to the Tatar yoke), in Pskov and Novgorod, which remained the centres of heretical movement up to the 16th century, being geographically and economically closer to Europe. At the end of the 15th century their influence on the lesser clergy, educated merchants and even on some boyars was growing more and more obvious.
The movement itself resembled those in Europe and was the first attempt of the educated citizens to break the limits set by the Church. The heretics rejected worshipping icons, thought it indecent for the Church to be a landowner, and criticized the hierarchy of the Church as something contradicting the principles of equality proclaimed by the Gospels. And they grasped their golden opportunity of opposing the Church in the incident concerning the “end of the world” predicted to happen in 1492 (the year 7000 according to the Church calendar). Surely, the premonition failed to come true, which stroke the authority of the official Church a blow. Some of the country’s great minds advanced a thesis of free will, which is rejected in Orthodoxy if compared, for instance with Catholicism. Certainly, the Church could not put up with the fact that is was losing influence over those at power, and besides by rejecting Church landowning the heretics played into the hand of the grand prince, who was looking forward to taking the land away from the monasteries.
Thus it became a question of life and death for the Church to start punitive actions against the heretics and they did not fail to use the experience of the West in all the executions and massacres.
Soon the grand prince Ivan III realized that he should not have jumped to conclusions in dealing with heretics, as with all those ideas of free will they could not help to create the official ideology of the centralized state. It was only Orthodoxy that could serve him a good service in this case, uprooting any sprouts of individuality. Actually, the czar and the Church made a tacit deal (for 4 centuries as it turned out later): the czar did not prevent the clergy from making short work of the heretics and the clergy pledged themselves to put their full support behind the monarchy. Ivan III had to put up with the Church as a landowner but for that he gained a powerful system of ideological control, which was used by those at power in this country up to the beginning of the 20th century.
The days of heretic movement in Russia were counted as they did not have any support from the grass roots, and free will was a dangerous privilege, which very few possessed. At the synod of the year 1503 heretic movement was condemned and the most active heretics were sentenced to death. Wholesale tortures helped the clergy to find other participants of the movement, which did not contradict the traditions of inquisition either. The sprouts of free will in Russia were uprooted.
In the second half of the 17th century the union of the Church and state did quite well in fighting Old Belief, but in this case the Church was suppressed and in the times of Peter I even enslaved by the state. Thus, since the 15th century it has been providing the “spiritual guide” of this country, being itself in the servile position.