Western Mail, April 12th, 1933
IN A GODLESS COUNTRY
Persecution of Christians
Mr. GARETH JONES
in the Soviet Union is a period of renewed anti-religious propaganda.
When a Christian festival occurs the Society of Atheists booms out its
anti-God publicity with increased vigour. At Christmas and Easter
time there are mocking processions in the streets which revile the beliefs
and rites of Christianity.
methods of the Atheists have, however, changed since 1930, and the
persecution of religion is now in its fourth period. In the first
period, from 1917 to 1921, religious people were persecuted by violent
methods, such as terror, and innumerable priests were killed or sent to
the prison islands of the North and to Siberia. When the New
Economic Policy was introduced in 1921 a period of comparative toleration
began, which was interrupted from time to time by outbursts of
persecution, such as the trial of and death sentence upon the Catholic
Archbishop Cepiak, in 1923.
in 1928, however, the period of toleration ended and Stalin began on his
course of rapidly turning Russia into an industrialised Socialist State by
the Five-Year Plan, religion was again submitted to violent persecution.
LIKE A NAIL
1928 to 1930 force was applied to the crushing of all religious sects and
creeds. None was spared. The attack was not only against the Orthodox
Church which had been a pillar of Tsarism, but against Baptists,
Evangelists, Mohammedans, and the innumerable sects which had arisen.
That attempt to crush religion by force in 1928 to 1930 failed.
Lunacharsky, once Commissar for Education, summed up the failure pithily
when he stated: “Religion is like a nail: the more you hit it the deeper
it goes in.”
saying has guided the anti-religious policy of the Bolsheviks since 1930,
when the fourth period began, and the dominant note had been, “We must
fight religion by more subtle methods, by science and by propaganda.”
the Atheists have now declared themselves against physical force and
state: “We are for the ideological form, of struggle, for deep cultural
propaganda.” Lecturers tour the country to show that religion is
unscientific, that religion is mere superstition, that religion: is
symbolic of dirt, disease, and drunkenness, while Atheism brings electric
light, the aeroplane, and the tractor.
is associated with the correct teaching of biology, geography, physiology,
chemistry, and other sciences. Religion is associated with all that
is medieval, such as witches, charms, curses, water-sprites and ghosts.
Why do the Communists fight against religion? Their policy is guided
by the slogan, “Atheism is a weapon of class-warfare.” Because
there has been renewed class warfare since 1928, the battle for Atheism
has been waged with greater energy. The Communists claim that the
classes which they are destroying are not dying without a struggle and
that they are using religion as a weapon to wreck the building of
Socialism. religion as a weapon to wreck the building of Socialism.
Religion as a weapon to wreck the building of Socialism.
people, the Communists complain, are fighting against the Socialist
collective farms. The priests have been writing letters which they
purported to have come from God, stating, “I, God, tell you that the
collective farm is the work of the Devil.”
to the Communist, religious peasants have been warning the others that if
they entered the collective farms they would go to hell. The
Communists complain that the religious peasants have been agitating
against scientific methods, and that they are still in favour of: the
three-field system, because, as they say, “Even God is for the
three-field system, because God is for the Trinity, and the Trinity is
symbolic for the three-field system.”
Communists state that the religious festivals do harm to agriculture and
that the peasants drink so much during these festivals that they do not
‘work for many days and, thus wreck the spring sowing. The
Communists are against religion because they claim that religion upholds
the old capitalist world and that the churches are merely tools of
Rockefeller, Ford, and Deterding.
are there missionaries in the world?” they ask; and they reply, “The
missionaries are there because the capitalists and the imperialists have
the Bolsheviks are attempting to crush religion. Although they have
stated that they wish to abandon forceful methods, thousands of preachers
and priests are now half-starving in prison. How great, has their
Success been? Among children the .propaganda. and the teaching in
the schools have undoubtedly had a great effect. If you ask Russian
children, “Do you believe in God?” most will answer emphatically,
there are many young people who believe in God. One Russian girl
told me that she believed in God, but that she was going to join the Young
Communist League. “How can you join the Young Communist League
when you believe in God?” I asked. She replied, “Of course I
can. I shall pretend to be a Communist and make wonderful Communist
speeches, but all the time I shall believe in God,” and she added a
phrase which impressed me deeply, “For what my lips say, my heart need
hearts of the Russian people often remain Christian while their lips utter
vilifications against God. Religion has not been crushed.
has been a religious revival in the last year. Numerous sects have
sprung up. Personal religion has grown. Deep human emotion is
taking the place of ceremony. Mr. Hessell Tiltman was quite right
when he said: “They may shoot every Christian in Russia and men and
women there will still nurse the image of God in their hearts. Long
after the last anti-God poster has faded on the hoardings, the last lesson
in Atheism been given in the schools, and the present Soviet leaders are
no more, the1ove of God will be found in. Russian hearts. For the
Communists, who are so fond of quoting the proverbs of Lenin, have
forgotten one proverb that Lenin did not write, but the truth of which is
attested by all history. That proverb runs: “The blood of the
martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
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