Saturday, December 31, 2016

Russia Ends 2016 with a Civic Religion Lacking Any Foundation in Faith, Soldatov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 31 – Russia now has a civic religion, Russian Orthodoxy, that lacks any foundation in religious faith because the Russian state is hostile to both genuine believers and committed atheists, viewing them as threats to the stability of the Putin regime, according to Aleksandr Soldatov of the religious affairs site, Portal-Credo.

            “If in 2014-2914, the world around [Russians] was destroyed to quickly and irreversibly that it caused shock,” the religious affairs expert says in his year-end roundup, “then in 2016 this destruction became something viewed as normal and passed into a phase of ‘stagnation’” (

                “A new ‘banalization of evil’” has occurred in Russia with the Russian-Ukrainian war, he writes.  And one of the consequences of that is that “there are ever fewer people on the post-Soviet space” whose lives are informed by religious faith or who believe in “the possibility of any ‘religious rebirth’ in general. And this too is the banalization of evil,” Soldatov says.

            Many used to talk about “’spiritual ties’” but “now one must write about the Yarovaya law,” whose inspiration and application has undermined faith even if it is intended to strengthen religious organizations. Unfortunately, he continues, the appearance of this law follows “a definite ‘logic of history.’”

            “Before 1917, religion was the official ideology of Russia, and this was ‘pre-secularism.’ After 1917, the official ideology of Russian became the denial of religion, and this was ‘secularism,’ often extremely bloody.” One of its consequences was the birth of a church ready to put “religion in the service of atheism,” the precursor of the current leadership.

            According to Soldatov, “after unsuccessful attempts at ‘a return to origins’ in the early 1990s, everything finally took its place: the forerunners lived up to their mission and a time of the triumph of Orthodox atheism” occurred, one that reflected what Moscow wanted when it organized the new patriarchate in 1943.

            Consequently, “if before 1917, the Russian state prohibited its subjects to be atheists and after 1917 to be believers, now it prohibits both the one and the other. Is this an absurdity, a paradox, or a nonsense? No: welcome to the never seen before reality of ‘post-secularism’!”

            As reflected in the Yarovaya laws, Russian state policy is “equally hostile both to convinced atheists and convinced believers.” The regime views both as potential obstacles to the mobilization of the population by means of convincing its members that they can only do so if they do not insist on their own beliefs but simply accept those the state requires.

            “In order to avoid cursed fanaticism which is now held to be equivalent to extremism and terrorism, what is needed is a religion without dogma and atheism without nihilism” – but with a commitment to avoid getting involved in politics except to support whatever the regime wants when it wants it.

            This “post-modernism and post-secularism Russian style,” Soldatov says, is one in which “the private life of ‘the little man’ is not without fear but without serious plans, hopes and prospects.”  It is in fact “the life of a vegetable,” supported by the regime’s force structures to keep things in line.

            The Moscow Patriarchate, “acting within the limits of the paradigm of ‘post-secularism,’ does not try to influence politics or get involved in theological disputes. As a completely pragmatic organization, which the Kremlin finds especially valuable, it quietly extends its trade network” but does nothing to promote faith.

            “It is obvious,” Soldatov concludes, “that in such an unfree political society, it cannot act without official approval” and that includes allied “’Orthodox activists’” who may appear independent but in fact are doing the work of the regime but not that of the Lord in their attacks on others.

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