Page 3, 7th July 1944

7th July 1944
Page 3
Page 3, 7th July 1944 — Anti-religion--not merely practical policy but integral to Communism

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Locations: Moscow, Rome, Kiev


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Anti-religion--not merely practical policy but integral to Communism

People. Church and State in Modern Russia. By Paul B. Anderson. (S.C.M. Press, 6s.) The Truth About Religion in Russia. Edited for the Moscow Patriarchate by the Metropolitan Nicholas of Kiev, Professor G. P. Goorgievsky and Archpriest A. P. Smirnov. Translation supervised by the Rev. E. N. C. Sergeant. (Hutchinson. Its.)


ONCE again the Student Christ

ian Movement Press puts us deeply in its debt: this time for what seems to the present reviewer the best, clearest and most convincing account yet of religion in Russia since the revolution. The book is not a history but " an effort at understanding the interrelationships between people, church and state, as they have developed since 1917.'

One thing that stands out very clearly is that anti-religion in Soviet Russia is not merely a practical policy, a phase that may pass with time, but a necessary, integral part of Communism. Lenin himself has said that the objection to religion is not primarily the iniquities of professing Christians (or others) but that, in Mr. Anderson's words, " the premises upon which the whole religious edifice is built are but images and reflections of human concepts." The loudly-welcomed agreement of Stalin to the election of a patriarch is seen to be little more than the confirmation of a situation already recognised in 1927. There is in Russia legally freedom of religious profession, of worship, of " living with Christ in one's heart," but " no freedom for the evangelical commission to preach the gospel to all nations, not even to the Russian people " or, it may be added, without contrary coercion to obey God rather than man when there is a con flict of duties. Indeed, I infer from what Mr. Anderson writes on page 107 that at some future time official hostility to religion may be expected to become more pronounced, clear and actively violent.

MR. Anderson writes with an excel" lent calmness and objectivity, free from that suggestion of " raving " that still disfigures so much writing, on both

sides, about Soviet Russia. Only on one point does he seem less than fair and accurate, when he gives the impression that the entering into communion with Rome of certain Orthodox dioceses in 1595 was brought about, and in parts of eastern Poland has been maintained ever since, " by force " and against the will of all the people concerned.

This book is not didactic in intent, but it certainly contains lessons and warnings for Western Christians. How, for example, in 1922 churchmen in Russia were manceuvred into appearing to make a stand, not on some high spiritual issue, but on the confiscation of ecclesiastical property. And the boundless harm that can be done by equivocal use of the term The Church: making it designate ecclesiastical authorities only, or the clergy only, or some group or section, or even a single individual, cleric or layman, whom it may be convenient to represent as typifying the certain mind of the whole Church. We are not always careful enough on this point ourselves. MR. Anderson makes several refer" ences to the report issued by the Moscow patriarchate in 1942, which is now available in English under the title The Truth About Religion in Russia. This title is not clearly descriptive. Only the first forty-two pages are directly concerned with Russian Orthodox Christianity in relation to the Soviet government; the remaining 132 pages deal principally with the Russian Church and the war and with the outrages of the nazi in

vaders. As she late Patriarch Sergius says in his foreword:

" This book is primarily a repudiation of the so-called 'crusade' of the fascists, in which they have had the effrontery to advance a specious claim to liberate ' our nation and our Orthodox Church from the bolsheviks. But at the same time an answer is given to the broad question of whether our Church conceives of itself as persecuted by the bolsheviks, and hence whether it asks anybody for liberation from such persecution." The book is a curious and fascinatting collection of articles, documents, letters, sermons, appeals, reports, by clergy and lay men and women, dealing with various topics arising from the present situation arid mostly written in a rather fervid style, expressing loyalty to Russia and the Soviet regime and denouncement of " fascism " and its crimes. It is likely that its perusal will leave the English and American reader more bewildered and uncertain than ever concerning the truth about religion in Russia; some of the statements of ecclesiastical leaders seem to be in flat contradiction of the known facts of after-revolution history. Mr. Anderson to a considerable extent supplies the answers: and I venture to say that it is impossible to make sense of important parts of the Moscow publication without reading People. Church and State in Modern Russia at the same time.

The second book has sixty-four pages of illustrations, which add to its interest but also, one must suppose, to its price, which is high.

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