I saw a piece in The Guardian this morning that actually made me laugh. When I realized the author was serious, I laughed even harder.
I am not a lecturer in politics in the University of Kent at Canterbury, nor a research fellow at the Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies. I am not a frequent visitor to Central and Eastern Europe, Russia nor Asia. I am not any of those things, but when I see someone who is those things, and he seems to be misrepresenting the facts in order to further his own particular religious agenda, I’m going to fucking call him on it.
Adrian Pabst has written a piece entitled “Christianity ended the Cold War peacefully” in which he proposes that what brought down the Iron Curtain was religious resistance, not the stagnant economy, not the failed war in Afghanistan, not the increasing democratization of the satellite republics which was weakening the central government, not the USSR’s trade gap which resulted in its eventual bankruptcy. Religion, it seems, is what brought down the mighty bear.
Adrian’s subtitle for his piece is “Religion brought down communism and it is religion which will help us resist naked capitalism, too”. I’m pretty sure that he’s aware of this fact, but for the sake of accuracy, I feel it necessary to point out that the Soviet Union was not a communist state. Did you ever see the letters СССР? That third С stands for Социалистических, which means ‘Socialist’. Throwing around the word ‘communism’ like that gives me the impression that you’re channeling Joe McCarthy. [If you use the phrase ‘red menace’ I’ll know it for certain.]
Adrian starts his piece with this line, “The Velvet Revolutions of 1989 are commonly associated with the uprising of secular liberal dissents against atheist Communist regimes.” Now he’s using two scary words together! I’m finding it more difficult to take this guy seriously with every sentence that I read. The Soviet Union was officially an atheist state from 1928 until 1939. Religion was definitely persecuted during that time. The Soviet Union became a secular state after those times, and it remained so until its dissolution. There was no “atheist Communist regime” to rise up against. I would like to point out that the first socialists drew many of their principles from Christian values, against ‘bourgeois’ values of profiteering, greed, selfishness, and hoarding. They saw the worth of those values, but saw no need for the religious trappings that came with them at the start.
Why did socialist states like the Soviet Union dislike religion? You don’t have to be a rocket scientists to understand that it was all about power and control. You don’t have to look outside the United States today to see the power and control that is wielded by religion. The Soviet leaders saw religion as competition. They wanted the people to worship the state, not some deity or idol.
Adrian puts forth the argument that the Orthodox Church was a “core pole of resistance against the official state ideology of ‘scientific atheism’” Oh my! There’s that scary ‘atheism’ word again! He then states, “In turn, Patriarch Alexy II and the church were decisive in defeating the attempted putsch in August 1991 by KGB hardliners against Gorbachev.”
What did Алексий II do that was so decisive? Basically, he issued what amounts to a strongly worded letter. During the attempted coup he denounced the arrest of Mikhail Gorbachev, and excommunicated the plotters. [I’m guessing that they weren’t regular churchgoers to begin with.] He publicly questioned the legitimacy of the ГКЧП. He called for restraint by the military, and demanded that Gorbachev be allowed to address the people. He issued a second appeal against violence and fratricide, which was amplified over loudspeakers to the troops outside the Russian ‘White House’ half an hour before they attacked.
Do you know what one of the actual decisive events of the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt was? The failure of the ГКЧП to arrest Boris Yeltsin when they had the opportunity was very decisive. They fucked themselves on that one. Major Evdokimov, chief of staff of a tank battalion of Tamanskaya motorized infantry division who had orders to guard the White House declared his loyalty to the leadership of the Russian SFSR. Yeltsin climbed one of the tanks and addressed the crowd. It’s my opinion that that kind of thing was a bit more decisive than the words of the Orthodox Church.
Adrian then shifts to what happened to the world after the Cold War ended.
We now know that the end of the Cold War was followed by a new unipolar world order based on essentially secular values of individual freedom, value-pluralism and liberal democratic capitalism, as Antony Lerman has remarked. Arguably, the parallel rise of religious fundamentalism is largely a reaction against the triumphalist arrogance of the secular west and the new ideology of militant atheism.
I think I see Adrian’s big fear showing through now. He’s deathly afraid of atheists! Does this man actually expect us to believe that the spread of religious fundamentalism has only been going on since the early 1990’s? Does he actually expect us to believe that the spread of religious fundamentalism is a reaction to us terrible secular westerners being so smug and arrogant, shouting from every rooftop that we won the cold war? [Wait a minute. Wasn’t he telling us before this that religion won the cold war?] Does he actually expect us to believe that the spread of religious fundamentalism is a reaction against this terrible specter of militant atheism, the new ideology that is so threatening to the believers?
Adrian then attempts to blame the economic crisis (among other vague, nebulous bugaboos) on the secularists.
However, the post-1989 secular consensus is already unravelling. The ongoing economic crisis once again highlights that the primacy of individual freedom over communal justice is undesirable and unsustainable. Similarly, value-pluralism alone can neither secure the integration of religious minorities nor solve ethical questions like assisted suicide because it negates universal principles such as cultural cohesion around religion or the sanctity of life.
Since when is ‘cultural cohesion around religion’ a universal principle? Adrian continues; misdirecting and assigning more blame.
Finally, the spread of capitalism has produced regimes that are neither liberal nor democratic. In Central Europe and beyond, communism mutated into ethno-nationalism, supported by fundamentalist Christians and Muslims on the Balkans and elsewhere. In Russia (and China), global market democracy evolved into authoritarian state capitalism.
Who the fuck ever told Adrian that capitalism was supposed to bring about liberal, democratic regimes? I think he’s just making shit up. Of course, there’s that word again: ‘communism’. I’ve got some news for you, Adrian: That ‘ethno-nationalism’ was there all along, but it was held in check by the totalitarian regimes. Your bogeyman, communism, didn’t mutate into anything. The different cultural and religious factions were bigots all along. The difference now is that they don’t have anyone to repress their bigotry.
Adrian goes on to try to explain how religion is going to save all of us from the evil totalitarian capitalist secularists who want to rule the world. He ends his crusade with this:
Twenty years after the collapse of atheist communism, 2009 has seen the failure of secular capitalism. There is now a unique opportunity to enact a new socio-economic settlement centred on human relationships, families and communities rather than the binary, secular logic of the individual and the collective. Together with other faiths, Christianity in Europe will be a formidable intellectual, cultural and social force in arguing for alternatives to the post-1989 secular consensus.
There he goes again with the ‘atheist communism’ schtick. I’d also really like to know what the hell ‘secular capitalism’ is supposed to mean. The earliest forms of merchant capitalism that took root between the 8th and 12th centuries are sometimes referred to as ‘Islamic capitalism’. [And with very good reason!] Is there a special ‘Christian Capitalism™’ that I don’t know about? Is it much different from ‘Catholic Capitalism™’? Do the ‘Protestant Capitalists’ refuse to do business with the ‘Catholic Capitalists’? The only people who seem to use the phrase ‘secular capitalism’ with any frequency are people pushing a religious agenda.
For some reason, I don’t think that Christianity in Europe will be a formidable intellectual, cultural and social force. I’m more of the opinion that Christianity in Europe will be a marginalized, impotent, powerless shell of its former self. Secular governments will continue to be secular governments. Greedy corporate bastards will get what they’ve got coming to them, but I seriously doubt that it will be due to pressure from any religious group.
The world changes. Governments change. Social mores change. Religion always seems to want to stay the same though. There always seems to be dogma standing in the way. Various religious groups have done wonderful things for societies around the world. Various religious groups have done vile, despicable things to other societies around the world. The Iron Curtain fell because the system that had held it up for so long was broken. Don’t try to grab the moral high ground when it simply doesn’t belong to you.
Christianity is not some panacea that will cure the world of all its ills. It’s had nearly two thousand years to prove itself, and if it can’t even provide moral guidance for its priests, deacons, and ministers, let alone its simple adherents, how the fuck can you claim it’s going to save us all from greed and deceitfulness on the part of some corporate big-wigs now?