Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]

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The Western Mail, April 12th, 1933

EASTER IN A GODLESS COUNTRY

Renewed Persecution of Christians

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By GARETH JONES

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Easter 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. 

The 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. 

When 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. 

RELIGION LIKE A NAIL 

From 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.”

That 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 NEW POLICY 

Thus 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. 

Atheism 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. 

“LETTERS FROM GOD” 

Religious 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.”

According 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.” 

The 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.  

“Why are there missionaries in the world?” they ask; and they reply, “The missionaries are there because the capitalists and the imperialists have sent them.” 

CHILD ATHEISTS 

Thus 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, “No.” 

But 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 not believe.” 

The hearts of the Russian people often remain Christian while their lips utter vilifications against God.  Religion has not been crushed. 

NEW SECTS

There 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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