Monday, November 09, 2009

A Lesson from the Fall of the Wall

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. And many lessons abound from that event and the era it represents.

The commentators will be replete with political, social and economic warnings and lessons. Human interests and human rights will be forefront in the news.

But what of the religious lessons to be garnered from all this?


I was fortunate to have six years of Russian language and culture in my later school years. I am even more fortunate to know of others who lived behind the Iron Curtain.

Morality was hitting rock bottom. People stole from each other. Others lied regularly. Men would abandon their families just to escape the bleak existence. Kickback and governmental corruption was wide-spread. Indifference was commonplace.

Did the fall of the wall change these societies? Not much. After fifty years of communistic indoctrination, old habits die hard. Morality is still low in large parts of the Eastern Block. And a different morality has filled the old social vacuum: pornography and the mob dominate now.

Why? There are multiple causes, to be sure. But one cause is arguably fundamental: communism was godless. Atheism was the launching point and cornerstone of international communism. Besides other similar assertions (here), Lenin summarized Marxists' attitudes well:

"We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism."

Lenin, The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion

Religion was stifled for generations. Ministers and churches were openly persecuted at the worst of times and subtly undermined through espionage and oppressive laws at the best of times. Religion was not welcomed. In Russia proper this atheistic attitude dominated for almost eighty years.


The lesson is simple. History has show-cased the failure of atheism in the guise of communism.

Unfortunately, for many communists today history only shows the failure of the proper implementation of communistic principles. Their commitment is so strong that historical and empirical evidence will not change their fundamental beliefs, only their expectations and methods. And their communistic goals and methods had already changed over the decades. But one thing did not change: they were atheists to the last.

Materialism and atheism tend to go hand in hand. In case of the communists, it was dialectical materialism (influenced by Hegel's thesis-antithesis-synthesis movement of history). If the world is only material and man only a complex biological animal, then man can be reduced to biology. And the men who can discover, and ultimately manipulate, the basal biological principles of man can perfect man. This readily leads to totalitarianism.

The lessons of today's commentators will likely not include the atheistic element of communism. That's too bad. What this country needs is an open discussion on the real-life implications of materialistic atheism. Without it, we will learn very little from the fall of the Berlin wall.

For more info: Connection between atheism and communism, here. A review of a current atheist book, here.

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