Friday, April 18, 2008

The Twin Towers of Atheism

There are two separate stories in David Satter’s excellent book, Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union (Knopf, 1996). There is the story of how the Soviet Union maintained its system of terror against its own citizens; this story is told by the victims, many of whom Satter knew personally. He does an excellent job in presenting the victims’ stories, stories that bear repeating. Solzhenitsyn, of course, has already done yeoman’s work in depicting the plight of the millions upon millions who were victims of the Communist regime.

The second story that Satter reports is one that has not received as much attention, and it concerns the citizens who remained loyal to the Soviet Union while their friends and family members were sent to the Gulag and psychiatric hospitals. What did they think? Why did they finally cease to believe in the Soviet system? This makes for a very interesting story. Satter went throughout Russia in both the pre-glasnost days and the post-glasnost days. Besides talking to victims of Soviet terrorism, he talked to the average Russian ‘Joes,’ the ones who had never been sent to prison or to psychiatric hospitals.

What Satter reports is, at first reading, unbelievable; but after reflection, it squares with what one knows about history and human nature. What Satter found was that the average Russian Joe supported the Soviet regime; he believed the official lie. Russians were willing to put up with bread lines and cramped housing because their government told them conditions were worse everywhere else. They believed the Afghans had invited the Russians into their country to protect them, and they believed that Lenin was a saintly, heroic man.

It was glasnost that changed everything. Gorbachev had no intention of unleashing the forces that would topple the Soviet Union. He was a typical Communist party hack. He thought he could use glasnost as a policy to defeat his enemies within the party, but when the information flow started, when devoted teachers discovered that everything they had been teaching for years was a lie, when citizens learned that Lenin was not a saint but a man with the blood of millions on his hands, when Soviet citizens actually started to visit Western countries – well, then the sacrifices the citizens had made during the years of communism seemed to be worthless. If they were not building the socialist utopia, what were they doing? Where was their metaphysic? Glasnost destroyed the Soviet Union. And the man who ushered it in for his own political reasons, Gorbachev, went down with it.

Echoing what Dostoyevsky and Berdayev have said about the Russian people, Satter maintains that the Russian people need a messianic religion. Russian Orthodoxy was replaced by messianic communism. When the belief in communism was taken away from them with glasnost, the Russian people went looking for a new god:
“In this context, glasnost could not but destroy the Soviet system. It was not that any one revelation proved critical for the regime. It was rather that the very idea of truthful information could only shatter the system of collective delusion that treated the regime as the ultimate arbiter of truth and the Soviet system as the realization of mankind’s historical destiny, in which each citizen was privileged to take part. In creating the Soviet Union, the Bolsheviks accepted all three temptations rejected by Christ in the wilderness. But they gained the loyalty of the Soviet people by hiding the fact that they did so in the interests of Satan. The Soviet Union fell because when the long-deceived Soviet people realized, as a result of glasnost, who they had been serving in reality, they threw off their mental bondage to an evil system and began seeking other gods.” (p. 418)
Satter makes no predictions as to what new gods the Russian people might seek. There are anti-Western, Russian nationalist factions that talk about building their own ‘Star Wars’ missiles and conquering Alaska. There are the Western-style materialists, the former Communists, and a tiny minority of Solzhenitsyn-style, Orthodox Christians.

And that last point is the significant one. The majority of Russians did not reject communism in order to return to Christianity, they rejected communism for American jeans and Big Macs. A patriotic Russian Christian now faces, in the seductive American heresy, a more subtle and potentially more dangerous adversary than communism; the American democratic heresy is more dangerous than Russian communism because the American heresy destroys the will to resist. The Russian communists assert, “There is no God,” and send those who contradict them to prison. And in prison many break, but those who don’t become like steel.

In contrast, the rulers of our American democratic oligarchy do not deny the existence of God. Instead they co-opt Him (1): God exists and he is a democratic, racially egalitarian, universalist god. The seductive logic of that assertion tends to produce hapless jellyfish, who flop around and proclaim their contentment. And in order to assure their government and themselves of their “Christianity,” the democratic jellyfish spout racial egalitarian and universalist cant whenever they are asked to speak.

So, we have our own “delirium” in this country. And we need to resist it just a fiercely as the Christian remnant in Russia resisted communism. If we view books such as Satter’s merely as cautionary tales about the evils of communism, we miss the point. The moral of the Russian communist story is that man cannot live without God. And the addendum to the American democratic story is that man needs the living God, not a phony, democratic, multi-racial caricature of God.
(1) One gets a picture of two devils sent out from hell to try and corrupt the souls of men. One devil is sent to Russia and one to the United States. The Russian devil goes head-on against God and introduces Marxist atheism. He gets C- results. Satan is not very pleased with him. On the other hand, the American devil does not tackle God head-on. He uses the name of God to sell all his Satanic ‘isms’ – like capitalism and racial universalism. When he reports back to hell, he receives an A+ and is given a promotion.

Labels: ,