Thursday, June 16, 2016

It couldn't happen here, could it?

From Religious Culture: Faith in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia, by Jerry Pankhurst, in Russian Culture, 2012.

Socialization objectives.

 The atheistic socialization agenda included a wide range of positive incentives. Proper behavior and attitudes were reenforced by legitimate authority and thus carried a positive emotional charge. Atheistic socialization had as its ultimate goal what Soviet writers called "a scientific atheistic worldview," which included the following elements:

 (1) Strong scientific training awaited all students, starting from the earliest grades. Science was always taught as the indubitable and entirely sufficient way of understanding the world that left no room for alternative orientations. All other perspectives, most notably religion, were said to be incompatible with science and distorting of reality.

(2) A special emphasis was placed on the notion that humans make their own futures. There were no supernatural forces or divine entities which had any relation to the world. In Marxian terms, science was the surest basis for building the future because it recognized the true nature of the world.

(3) Atheistic socialization required teaching about the history of freethought and atheism, as well as about "religious obscurantism" that undermined the progress of science.

(4) Atheism had to have its "positive heroes" -- Charles Darwin, Galileo, Copernicus, and others. The abundant literature on such characters served an important socialization goal of creating "reference idols" to encourage the youth in particular to emulate atheistic values. [39]

(5) Movies and newspapers, television and radio, literature and painting -- all forms of mass culture had to be upgraded in content, so as to woo the population away from religious spectacles. For instance, during the Easter holidays the state would show especially popular programs on TV and keep movie theaters open into the late hours to keep the populace from attending all night Easter services.

 (6) Atheist propaganda was carried out by a sprawling set of agencies and organizations, such as the Museum of Religion and Atheism and Knowledge Society, [40] which printed pamphlets and books, offered public lectures and presentations. Through all these socializing institutions and practices the authorities sought to provide models of atheist behavior and attitudes for average Soviet citizens, to turn them into "good atheists" intolerant of religioznoe mrakobesie (religious obscurantism). But the same outcomes could be, and sometimes had to be, accomplished through other means, like punishments and costs inflicted on the believers to discourage them from practicing proscribed behavior.

 Social Control Imperatives.
Soviet believers who evaded the socialization efforts mounted by the state had to bear excessive costs for their religious activities. The state did everything it could to "overcome" religion peaceably, to make it "wither away," but when its "constructive" efforts failed, it was ready to deploy a vast array of social control devices to stamp out religious customs.

Here are some of the more important social control venues favored by the Soviet state:

(1) Forbidding formal religious education for children, that is, any group classes, Sunday schools, etc.

(2) Hindering the participation of children in religious activities by pressuring and intimidating clergy, parents, and children themselves (usually in school).

 (3) Controlling baptism rites, i.e., requiring a formal "registration" and a "permit" for a baptism ceremony.

 (4) Ridiculing or criticizing believers in the public press.

 (5) Intentionally and actively seeking out believers and attempting to "reeducate" them. School teachers played a particularly important role in this regard, as did Pioneer and Komsomol cadres, Party and trade union activists at the workplace. Adults could also be force into one-on-one sessions with atheist activists.

(6) Publishing and disseminating antireligious propaganda through literature, lectures, newspaper articles, radio, and television programs. The Knowledge Society has to be singled out here for its relentless efforts on behalf of "scientific atheism," though the trade unions, party cells, atheist clubs, and antireligious museums did not lag far behind.

 (7) Manipulating religious leaders so as to limit their personal influence and ability to organize and disseminate religious influence.

(8) Limiting the prospects for appointment and job advancement for religious believers. Since most high level positions required party membership, believers were naturally excluded from advancement to such levels. In some cases, believers were denied routine pay increases and promotions because of their "backward views." Though this was not universal practice, it encouraged believers to be less visibly active religiously or hide their faith altogether, and it intimidated those who were not active from becoming so. In these and perhaps other ways, the Soviet state barred children from sympathetic exposure to religion and punished those who defied the state and sought to exercise their nominal constitutional rights. Needless to say, children who passed through this elaborate system of antireligious propaganda were less likely to become religious adults, while those who persisted in their religious beliefs and practices could expect their life options to be severely curtailed by the state.

21 comments:

John Moore said...

Religion is much more totalitarian than atheism. After all, religions tend to have sacred texts and dogmas. Religious leaders insist you must believe what those texts and dogmas say. In atheism, by contrast, the only "dogma" is that there's no dogma.

It's possible the U.S. government could one day become totalitarian and try to root out religion. But if it did, that government would not be atheistic. It's a misuse of the vocabulary to suggest atheism could be totalitarian.

----

OK, I know what you guys are going to say - under my definition, a person who looked at the facts and drew his own conclusion and decided to believe in God would still count as an "atheist." And isn't that itself a misuse of the vocabulary?

You're right. It's just that atheists today assume nobody in their right mind would freely choose to believe in God. All god-believers must surely be misled by dogmatic authorities! So that's also part of the definition of atheism, at least for now.

Again, it's possible that a wannabe-atheistic government could pass laws curbing the power of certain dogmatic authorities, and there's nothing wrong with that. It just can't be taken to extremes like in the old Soviet Union, or else it becomes its own worst enemy, an anti-dogma dogma.

Atheism is inherently moderate. How can you carry out drastic actions if it's just your personal opinion, or if you're unsure? On the other hand, religion tends to take things to extremes. People do drastic actions because some high authority figure told them it was OK.

That's why religious people have nothing to fear from a truly atheistic government. Totalitarianism is our enemy, not atheism.

Ilíon said...

^ It's impossible to reason with those who give themselves mermission to lie.

Miguel said...

"You're right. It's just that atheists today assume nobody in their right mind would freely choose to believe in God. All god-believers must surely be misled by dogmatic authorities! So that's also part of the definition of atheism, at least for now."

What the fuck

grodrigues said...

"Atheism is inherently moderate. How can you carry out drastic actions if it's just your personal opinion, or if you're unsure?"

This from the same guy that wrote:

"You're right. It's just that atheists today assume nobody in their right mind would freely choose to believe in God. All god-believers must surely be misled by dogmatic authorities! So that's also part of the definition of atheism, at least for now."

Expletives deleted.

B. Prokop said...

"all forms of mass culture had to be upgraded in content, so as to woo the population away from religious spectacles. For instance, during the Easter holidays the state would show especially popular programs on TV and keep movie theaters open into the late hours to keep the populace from attending all night Easter services."

It doesn't require atheism per se to accomplish this. There are few things which enrage me more than when a priest will rush through Mass in order to not miss the opening kickoff of "The Big Game" on some Sunday - and even admit to doing so during his sermon. (And yes, I have seen this happen!)

Jezu ufam tobie!

Chris said...

" Religion is much more totalitarian than atheism.....religions...have...dogmas"

But, atheism entails the " dogma that there's no dogma".

A contradiction, perhaps?

Cal Metzger said...

Yeah, because atheist persecution of Christians in U.S. society is the thing we have to really be vigilant about:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/us/in-seven-states-atheists-push-to-end-largely-forgotten-ban-.html?_r=0

http://christiannews.net/2014/06/01/u-s-navy-denies-atheists-application-to-become-military-chaplain/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/in-atheists-we-distrust/

Not to mention all the real discrimination that still occurs towards various races, genders, sexual orientations, etc. There are a lot of Christians in the U.S. who should really try and get over themselves.

Legion of Logic said...

Based upon statements by the leaders of the New Atheist movement, Christians should not be allowed to teach their kids about God. Religious belief should be considered a mental disorder. Religious people should not be granted prominent positions. And so on. I've been told personally by New Atheists that Christians should not be able to hold office or executive positions in business.

The only, single, solitary reason that these atheist zealots don't impose their beliefs on Christians is because they are far too tiny a minority. Otherwise, they dream of what VR posted about in the OP.

Ilíon said...

"A contradiction, perhaps? "

Atheism is a contradiction generation machine.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Based upon statements by the leaders of the New Atheist movement, Christians should not be allowed to teach their kids about God."

Is there a citation you have in mind?

What's your position on parents who refuse to let their children receive medical treatment? In other words, is there a point at which a broader society has an interest in how a parent's beliefs can influence the treatment of their children?

Legion: "Religious belief should be considered a mental disorder."

I know that terming religious belief a "mental disorder" inflames discourse, but as a non-believer there is no way that I can see how religious belief doesn't fit the description of a delusion. I do think it's a mild delusion with most people, but delusional it remains.

Legion: "I've been told personally by New Atheists that Christians should not be able to hold office or executive positions in business."

As someone who is labeled a "new atheist" all the time, I would like to say that I don't agree with that stance for many obvious reasons.

I do agree with others, though, who express what I think Ben Carson was trying to say about Muslims as President -- that an Islamist (one who wants to enforce Sharia, and do away with the separation of Church and State) is unfit to be President. And that's because a President is sworn to uphold the Constitution, and Islamist beliefs are in direct opposition to some parts of the Constitution.

Chris said...

Atheism is a belief- the belief that there is no God. (Yeah, I know " lack of belief" and all that jazz. How anyone can say that with a straight face is amusing at best. )There are plenty of people, past, present, and future who hold to the atheist dogma. Dogmas of many kinds can,and have, given rise to tyranny.

grodrigues said...

"I know that terming religious belief a "mental disorder" inflames discourse, but as a non-believer there is no way that I can see how religious belief doesn't fit the description of a delusion. I do think it's a mild delusion with most people, but delusional it remains."

If the proposition "God exists" is not a proposition over which reasonable people can or could disagree, but rather that those that do assent to it are necessarily delusional (even if mildly), then it follows that those that do assent suffer from a medical condition. And once one accepts this, and since ideas have consequences, this has its own consequences. More could be said here (in particular, they are not responsible for their condition; since it is a medical condition, it cannot be reasoned out of, but must be treated with whatever means are available; etc.), but to pretend that this is not a direct route to oppression and totalitarianism is, to hand back the insult, a typical blindness of atheism in general, an infantile disease of the intellect, and Mr. Metzger in particular, a certified moron -- and I know "moron" tends to inflame the discourse and be seen as an insult, but it is not an insult to say what everyone know to be true.

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: "...and Mr. Metzger in particular, a certified moron -- and I know "moron" tends to inflame the discourse and be seen as an insult, but it is not an insult to say what everyone know to be true."

I thought this was funny, and fair. Not technically correct ("certified"?), but not beyond the bounds of what I'm saying here.

But no pretending on my part; I'm saying what I think, and not couching terms. It's true that what we surmise about one another has consequences, and I'm not here to say otherwise.

But I'm not so sure that all delusions come with a compulsion to treat. I think there are many mild delusions (one's inflated sense of self-importance, for instance) that are by-and-large common and relatively benign.

Legion of Logic said...

"Is there a citation you have in mind?"

Ignoring the low hanging fruit of people like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, here is a Huffington Post article of identical sentiment.

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5814484.html

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Ignoring the low hanging fruit of people like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, here is a Huffington Post article of identical sentiment."

Okay, thanks for the link. I have no idea who the writer is, btw, but he seems kind of like a your garden-variety self promoter. So while I agree that the article is pretty vapid, I doubt that he has any real audience or following.

Most of what I see here is atheists saying that it's really unfortunate that parents can indoctrinate their children with hateful beliefs, and that they (surprise!) focus on religious beliefs. But does that mean that you, and other religious believers, have no opinion on what other parents teach their children?

Legion of Logic said...

"But does that mean that you, and other religious believers, have no opinion on what other parents teach their children?"

Sure. But consider the following three statements a parent could conceivably teach their kids:

1. There is a god and he sent his son to die for us.

2. There is a god and he commanded us to slay his enemies in jihad.

3. People who disagree with affirmative action in universities are bigoted racists.

The problem with these atheists is that they would consider 1 and 2 to be ideologically related and out of bounds to teach children, but it is in fact 2 and 3 that are the most similar due to the identification of enemies to hate. There is absolutely nothing objectionable about 1 like there is 2 and 3.

If the problem is parents teaching hate to kids, then these atheists should say so and stop lazily painting all religion with a wide brush. Otherwise, I begin to suspect that what is really going on is they just don't like god-belief, regardless of how benign.

Legion of Logic said...

"But does that mean that you, and other religious believers, have no opinion on what other parents teach their children?"

Sure. But consider the following three statements a parent could conceivably teach their kids:

1. There is a god and he sent his son to die for us.

2. There is a god and he commanded us to slay his enemies in jihad.

3. People who disagree with affirmative action in universities are bigoted racists.

The problem with these atheists is that they would consider 1 and 2 to be ideologically related and out of bounds to teach children, but it is in fact 2 and 3 that are the most similar due to the identification of enemies to hate. There is absolutely nothing objectionable about 1 like there is 2 and 3.

If the problem is parents teaching hate to kids, then these atheists should say so and stop lazily painting all religion with a wide brush. Otherwise, I begin to suspect that what is really going on is they just don't like god-belief, regardless of how benign.

Cal Metzger said...

@Legion, I agree that there is a difference in the kinds of things parents teach children, and that some things are more benign than others.

But do you think none of us should express an opinion about some parents teaching that "There is a god and he commanded us to slay his enemies in jihad."?

I will express my opinion that I am opposed to parents teaching their children the above. I am an atheist. Are you saying that Christians won't agree with me that parents shouldn't teach their children that "There is a god and he commanded us to slay his enemies in jihad."?

Legion of Logic said...

I agree that we should be opposed to parents teaching that because it directly teaches kids to hate. New Atheists feel the exact same way about the first example as they do the second, which is where they go off the deep end.

Joe Hinman said...

all the talk about atheism being moderate and being nonpoisonous. atheists are not all part of a movement there is organized atheist movement. it has an ideology, it seeks to create the illusion of personal opinion when in reality it's a form of brain washing.

When I was a sociology major back in the bicentennial year, the stone age, one of the profs I has the honor to study with was Anson Schupe. He has since become a big name in sologcialogy of religion. he argued there is no such thing as actual brain washing TWiki;s really a form of socialization. My site atheist watch has been dedicated to showing how much of the new atheist movement is based upon a Fromm socialization created on the net.It's based upon ideology and the real effects are essentially a from of brain washing. it has them all spouting the same slogans.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "I agree that we should be opposed to parents teaching that because it directly teaches kids to hate. New Atheists feel the exact same way about the first example as they do the second, which is where they go off the deep end."

I don't think that I come across very often the kind of "new atheists" that you must. It seems that there are charlatans, self-promoters, etc. who glom onto whatever looks promising, and it seems that new atheism must have attracted some of these. CJ Werlman, that guy who wrote the article in the link to Huffington you provided, these guys just seem like your garden variety self-promoters, who seem transparently focused on becoming a leader (of something!) rather than real intellectual examination.