State atheism

State atheism

State atheism is the official promotion of atheism by a government, typically by active suppression of religious freedom and practice. [ Protest for Religious Rights in the USSR: Characteristics and Consequences] , David Kowalewski, "Russian Review", Vol. 39, No. 4 (Oct., 1980), pp. 426-441, Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Editors and Board of Trustees of the Russian Review] State atheism has been mostly implemented in communist countries, such as the former Soviet Union, China, Communist Albania, Communist Afghanistan, North Korea, Communist Mongolia and Poland under communist rule also promoted state atheism and suppressed religion. [Wolak, Arthur J. 2004. "Forced out: the fate of Polish Jewry in Communist Poland". Tucson, Ariz: Fenestra Books. Page 104.] In these nations, the governments viewed atheism as an intrinsic part of communist ideology. However, whether such persecution is a result of state atheism is disputed by others. State atheism in these countries may include active (and, sometimes, violent) opposition to religion, and persecution of religious institutions, leaders and believers. The Soviet Union had a long history of state atheism, [Greeley, Andrew M. 2003. "Religion in Europe at the end of the second millennium: a sociological profile". New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.] in which social success largely required individuals to proclaim atheism and stay away from churches; this attitude was especially militant under Stalin. [By Pospielovsky, Dimitry, 1935- "The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia" Published 1998. St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 413 pages, ISBN 0881411795 page 257.] [Miner, Steven Merritt. 2003. Stalin's holy war religion, nationalism, and alliance politics, 1941-1945. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Page 70.] [Davies, Norman. 1996. "Europe: a history." Oxford: Oxford University Press. Page 962.] The Soviet Union imposed atheism over wide areas of its influence, including places like central Asia. [Pipes, Daniel. 1989. "The long shadow: culture and politics in the Middle East". New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction Publishers. Page 55.] The only country to officially ban religion was Albania under Enver Hoxha.

Religion under Communist regimes

It is often considered that the communist ideology explicitly advocates state atheism and the abolition of religion, According to Karl Marx the founder of the communist ideology, religion is a tool utilised by the ruling classes whereby the masses can shortly relieve their suffering via the act of experiencing religious emotions. It is in the interest of the ruling classes to instil in the masses the religious conviction that their current suffering will lead to eventual happiness. Therefore as long as the public believes in religion, they will not attempt to make any genuine effort to understand and overcome the real source of their suffering, which in Marx's opinion was their non-Communist economic system. [cite book | last =Marx | first =Karl | authorlink =Karl Marx | coauthors = | title = A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right | publisher =Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher | month =February | year =1844 | location = | pages = | url = | doi = | id = ] It is often thought that it was in the sense that what Marx advocated, that religion is used to control people, and that it was the "opium of the people". That this is and was the main reason that certain communist regimes past and present curtail religious freedom and ban religion altogether because they consider it a suppressive, subversive set of guidelines, and thereby attached the charge of sedition to certain religions.

However, atheist writer Sam Harris disputes that this is due to state atheism [ [ 10 myths and 10 truths about Atheism] Sam Harris] , and fellow atheist Richard Dawkins has stated that Stalin's atrocities were influenced not by atheism but by their dogmatic Marxism,cite book | last = Dawkins | first = Richard | authorlink = Richard Dawkins | coauthors = | title = The God Delusion | publisher = Houghton Mifflin | date = 2006-09-18 | location = | pages = Ch. 7 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 978-0618680009 ] and Dawkins opines that while Stalin and Mao happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of atheism. [ Interview with Richard Dawkins conducted by Stephen Sackur for BBC News 24’s HardTalk programme, July 24th 2007. [,1454,Richard-Dawkins-on-Hardtalk,BBC-Richard-Dawkins] ] Even so, there were regimes such as Enver Hoxha's Albania which set out to abolish all religion with the intention of making their country officially atheistic: Article 37 of the Albanian constitution of 1976 stated that "The State recognises no religion, and supports and carries out atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people." [Elsie, R. (2000). A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology, and Folk Culture. New York: NYU Press, p. 18. ISBN 0814722148. [] ]

Communist Albania

Albania was declared an atheist state by Enver Hoxha, [Sang M. Lee writes that Albania was " [o] fficially an atheist state under Hoxha..." [ Restructuring Albanian Business Education Infrastructure] August 2000 (Accessed 6 June 2007)] and remained so from 1967 until 1991. The trend toward state atheism in Albania was taken to an extreme during the regime, when religions, identified as imports foreign to Albanian culture, were banned altogether. [ Representations of Place: Albania] , Derek R. Hall, "The Geographical Journal", Vol. 165, No. 2, The Changing Meaning of Place in Post-Socialist Eastern Europe: Commodification, Perception and Environment (Jul., 1999), pp. 161-172, Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)] This policy was mainly applied and felt within the borders of the present Albanian state, thus producing a nonreligious majority in the population.

The Agrarian Reform Law of August 1945 nationalized most property of religious institutions, including the estates of monasteries, orders, and dioceses. By May 1967, religious institutions had relinquished all 2,169 churches, mosques, cloisters, and shrines, many of which were converted into cultural centers for young people. Many Muslim imams and Orthodox priests renounced their "parasitic" past. More than 200 clerics of various faiths were imprisoned, while others were forced to seek work in either industry or agriculture. As the literary monthly "Nëndori" reported the event, the youth had thus "created the first Atheist nation in the world." From year 1967 to the end of communist rule, religious practices were banned and the country was proclaimed officially atheist, marking an event that happened for the first time in world history. Albanians born during the regime were never taught religion, so they grew up to become either atheists or agnostics Fact|date=September 2008.

Old non-institutional Pagan practices in rural areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture, were left intact. As a result the current Albanian state has also brought pagan festivals to life, like the lunar Spring festival (Albanian: "Dita e Verës") held yearly on March 14 in the city of Elbasan, which is a national holiday.

The Soviet Union

State atheism in the Soviet Union was known as "gosateizm", and was based on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. As the founder of the Soviet state V. I. Lenin put it:

Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class. [cite web
last = Lenin
first = V. I.
title = About the attitude of the working party toward the religion.
work = Collected works, v. 17, p.41

Marxism-Leninism has consistently advocated the control, suppression, and, ultimately, the elimination of religious beliefs. Within about a year of the revolution the state expropriated all church property, including the churches themselves, and in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed (a much greater number was subjected to persecution). [ Country Studies: Russia-The Russian Orthodox Church] U.S. Library of Congress, Accessed Apr. 3, 2008]

In the 1920s and 1930s, such organizations as the League of the Militant Godless ridiculed all religions and harassed believers. Atheism was propagated through schools, communist organizations (such as the Young Pioneer Organization), and the media. Though Lenin originally introduced the Gregorian calendar to the Soviets subsequent efforts to re-organise the week for the purposes of improving worker productivity with the introduction of the Soviet revolutionary calendar had a side-effect that a "holiday will seldom fall on Sunday" [cite news
title=Staggerers Unstaggered
date=December 7, 1931
publisher=Time magazine

Although all religions were persecuted, the regime's efforts to eradicate religion, however, varied over the years with respect to particular religions, and were affected by higher state interests. Official policies and practices not only varied with time but also in their application from one nationality and one religion to another. Although all Soviet leaders had the same long-range goal of developing a cohesive Soviet people, they pursued different policies to achieve it. For the Soviet regime, the questions of nationality and religion were always closely linked. Not surprisingly, therefore, the attitude toward religion also varied from a total ban on some religions to official support of others.

Most seminaries were closed, publication of religious writing was banned. The Russian Orthodox Church, which had 54,000 parishes before World War I, was reduced to 500 by 1940. Although the great majority of Russia was Christian, according to the CIA Factbook, only 17 to 22 percent of the population is now Christian. [Cole, Ethan ['Closet_Christian'_Rumors;_Says_He_is_Atheist.htm Gorbachev Dispels 'Closet Christian' Rumors; Says He is Atheist] Christian Post Reporter, Mar. 24, 2008]

The People's Republic of China

The People's Republic of China was established in 1949 and for much of its early history maintained a hostile attitude toward religion which was seen as emblematic of feudalism and foreign colonialism. Houses of worship, including temples, mosques, and churches, were converted into non-religious buildings for secular use.

In the early years of the People's Republic, religious belief or practice was often discouraged because it was regarded by the government as backward and superstitious and because some Communist leaders, ranging from Vladimir Lenin to Mao Zedong, had been critical of religious institutions. During the Cultural Revolution, religion was condemned as feudalistic and thousands of religious buildings were looted and destroyed.

This attitude, however, relaxed considerably in the late 1970s, with the end of the Cultural Revolution. The 1978 Constitution of the People's Republic of China guarantees "freedom of religion" with a number of restrictions. Since the mid-1990s there has been a massive program to rebuild Buddhist and Taoist temples that were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution.

The Communist Party has said that religious belief and membership are incompatible. Party membership is a necessity for many high level careers and posts. That along with other official hostility makes statistical reporting on religious membership difficult. There are five recognized religions by the state: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholic Christianity, and Protestant Christianity. [cite web
title= White Paper--Freedom of Religious Belief in China
publisher=Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America

Most people report no organized religious affiliation; however, people with a belief in folk traditions and non-religious spiritual beliefs, such as ancestor veneration and feng shui, along with informal ties to local temples and unofficial house churches number in the hundreds of millions. The United States Department of State, in its annual report on International Religious Freedom, [cite web
title=Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom
publisher=U.S.Department of State
] gives possibly the most reliable statistics about organized religions. In 2007 it reported the following (citing the Government's 1997 report on Religious Freedom and 2005 White Paper on religion): [cite web
title=International Religious Freedom Report 2007 — China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)
publisher=U.S.Department of State

:*Buddhists 8%. According to other sources at least 50%.:*Taoists, unknown as a percentage. According to others at least 30%.:*Muslims, 1.5%, with more than 45,000 Imams. Other estimates state at least 2%.:*Christians, Protestants at least 2%. Catholics, about 1.5%. Total Christians according to 2008 different polls: 4%.

It should be noted, however, that statistics relating to Buddhism and religious Taoism are to some degree incomparable with statistics for Islam and Christianity. This is due to the traditional Chinese belief system which blends Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, so that a person who follows a traditional belief system would not necessarily identify him- or herself as either Buddhist or Taoist, despite attending Buddhist or Taoist places of worship.

Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge

Pol Pot suppressed Cambodia’s Buddhist religion: monks were defrocked; temples and artifacts, including statues of Buddha, were destroyed; and people praying or expressing other religious sentiments were often killed. The Christian and Muslim communities were among the most persecuted, as well. The Roman Catholic cathedral of Phnom Penh was completely razed. The Khmer Rouge forced Muslims to eat pork, which they regard as an abomination. Many of those who refused were killed. Christian clergy and Muslim imams were executed. [ [ Pol Pot - MSN Encarta] ] [ [ Cambodia - Society under the Angkar ] ] Forty-eight percent of Cambodia's Christians were killed because of their religion. [ [ Rusija tibet tibetas spain russia maskva moscow komunizmas comunismo Lietuva Lithuania genocide communism genocidas holocaust holokaustas stalin lenin marx marksizmas partija ... ] ]

Mongolian People's Republic

In 1936, and especially after Japanese encroachments had given the Soviets enough reason to deploy Soviet troops in Mongolia in 1937, a whole-scale attack on the Buddhist faith began. At the same time, Soviet-style purges took place in the Communist Party and in the Mongolian army. Mongolia's leader at that time was Khorloogiin Choibalsan, a follower of Joseph Stalin who emulated many of the policies Stalin had implemented in the Soviet Union. The purges lead to the almost complete eradiction of Lamaism in the country, and cost an estimated 30,000-35,000 lives.

Democratic Republic of Afghanistan

Once it came to power, from the period it ruled for, 1978 to 1992, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan moved to suppress religion, it implemented state atheism, replacing religious and traditional laws with secular and Marxist ones. Men were obliged to cut their beards, women couldn't wear a burqa, and mosques were placed off limits.

External links

* [ Keston Institute: Resources for the Studies of Communist Countries and Religious Affairs]

ee also

*Communist terrorism
*Society of the Godless
*Religious persecution
*Religion in Russia
*Religion in China
*Religion in the Soviet Union
*Religion in Poland


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