Solzhenitsyn’s Warning: Communism always begins with Atheism

Jeremiah 2:31   “Why do My people say, ‘We have dominion; we will come to You no more?”

The Templeton Award honors individuals who have devoted their lives to helping us understand who God is and how humanity understands purpose and ultimate reality. As Sir John Templeton explained, all of us search for answers to the big questions: “How large is God? How are finite beings related to the infinite? What was God’s purpose in creating the universe? How can we be helpful to one another?”

When he received the Templeton Award in May 1983, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn delivered his famous speech ‘Godlessness: The First Step to the Gulag”. Thirteen years earlier, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature for his courageous stand in bringing world attention to the horrors of Stalin’s Communism. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and expelled from the Soviet Union when he published his seminal work in 1973, ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, not returning to Russia until its collapse in 1994.

As a Christian, Solzhenitsyn’s Templeton Address explained how the communist takeover began with Russia’s indoctrination into atheism, with the goal of eliminating God and Christian morality from society.

As we study sections of his speech below, we not only understand this week’s verse from Jeremiah, where in 600 BC Israel had forgotten God, but we can see the same Russian atheistic mindset of Stalin working in Vladimir Putin as his invasion of Ukraine unfolds before our eyes. Here is Solzhenitsyn’s warning to us:

“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that is why all this has happened.’ Since then, I have spent 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 8 volumes of my own. 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 is why all this has happened.

In its past, Russia was steeped in an Orthodox Christianity… faith was the shaping and unifying force of the nation. But in the 18th century Russia felt the first whiff of secularism; its subtle poisons permeated the educated classes in the 19th century and opened the path to Marxism. It was Dostoevsky who said the “revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.” That is absolutely true. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.

The West has yet to experience a Communist invasion; religion here remains free. But today it too is experiencing a drying up of religious consciousness. Imperceptibly, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West has ceased to be seen as anything loftier than the “pursuit of happiness”. The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed; banished from common use, they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short-lived value.

It has become embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual human heart before it enters a political system. Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism. If a blasphemous film about Jesus is shown throughout the United States, reputedly one of the most religious countries in the world, what further evidence of godlessness does one need?

Or why should one refrain from burning hatred, whatever its basis–race, class, or ideology? Such hatred is corroding many hearts today. Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society. This fanning of the flames of hatred is the mark of today’s free world. Indeed, the broader the personal freedoms are, the higher the level of prosperity or even of abundance–the more vehement, paradoxically, does this blind hatred become. The developed West demonstrates by its own example that human salvation can be found neither in material goods nor in merely making money.

Here again we witness the single outcome, for the same reason: Men have forgotten God. All attempts to find a way out of the plight of today’s world are fruitless unless we redirect our consciousness, in repentance, to the Creator of all: without this, no exit will be illumined, and we shall seek it in vain.”

As we watch atheist, Communist Russia invade Ukraine, pray we will heed Solzhenitsyn’s warning.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance _ Article #491

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