Peter Hitchens, brother of well-known Atheist Christopher Hitchens, experienced the persecution of Christians at the hands of Soviet Communist government. He connects what happened in the 20th century to what is happening now:

Soviet Communism used the same language, treasured the same hopes and appealed to the same constituency as Western atheism does today1

What he means is that the same war against Christianity that existed in the Soviet state, exists today; and that similar tactics are being employed.

For example:

  • In Rawanda, new legislation that requires pastors have a degree from an accredited school and prohibits pastors from directing their congregants take up the spiritual discipline of fasting for an extended period of time have led to the closure of 8,000 churches.
  • Canada courts have disallowed Trinity University, a Christian university, from opening up a law school because the university asks its students to adhere to a traditional view of gender and marriage.
  • In Ohio, parents lost custody of their child because they did not allow their daughter to obtain “treatment” to become a boy, like she wanted.
  • And in my home state of California, there is a bill being considered that would make it “an unlawful practice prohibited under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual”. This would impact Christian counselors and pastors ability to minister to congregants dealing with gender dysphoria.

Our culture is increasingly looking like the anti-religious environments of Communist regimes of yesterday. I bring this to your attention to convince you that the friendliness toward the Christian lifestyle is running thin and to understand our culture’s motivations for its narrowing acceptance. We might wonder why there exists such animosity towards Christian principles. The answers for both Communist societies and our current culture have many similarities.

Religion stops progress

For those of us who did not live through the Cold War, it might be difficult to see the connection between Communist principles and religion. At the heart of Communism is utter contempt for all religions. It views religion as a roadblock to national and economic progress. During the Communist rise in the USSR, Vladimir Lennin remarked on his Marxist-communist ideas regarding religion:

Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression, which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over-burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence, of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters, just as inevitably, gives rise to the belief in a better life after death, as [the] impotence of the savage in his battle with Nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like….Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught, by religion, to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward2

In other words, religion forces its adherents to focus on otherworldly concerns, whereas  Communism fundamentally forces its adherents to focus on worldly concerns. The well-being of the Communist state is all there is to work towards. As Lenin points out, there is no room for religious concerns. They impede progress.

Christopher Hitchens (Peter’s well-known Atheist brother) seems to agree with Lenin:

“religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred and contempt, and I claim that right”3

In the Soviet socialist republic, religion stopped national progress. However, in today’s culture — yes, here in the United States — religion is seen as an impediment to social progress. The “separation of Church and State” that our constitution instituted has morphed since its institution. The intentions of the Founders’ to not allow the State to intrude on the religious liberties of US citizens has been morphed into a state crackdown on religious life. In the past, events like the Scopes Trial highlighted the wave of modernity using government to relegate religion. That 1925 removal of a ban on teaching Evolution represented progress towards social acceptance of modern views.

The more recent impediment to social progress is the Christian stance on homosexuality and transgenderism. Perhaps it’s the country’s history of racial hostility that causes many to feel like all lifestyles should be accepted without question. Its this veil of racism that causes Christians to be seen as homophobes; the 21st century equivalent of 19th century racial xenophobes.

More likely, the traditional Christian view of gender is a hindrance to the social progress towards complete individualism and secularization. That is, the view that every person has the right to do and be whatever they want, especially against ancient religious norms, like that of the Christian faith.

What the Iron Curtain and the Rainbow Flag (the symbol of homosexuality/transgenderism) both represent is a desired annihilation of religion. There is a social framework that Christianity promotes, of which the family order (husband, wife, children) is a primary component; as is the Church and civil authorities. Socially liberal ideologies aim to undermine all of that. Peter Hitchens once said, “the left’s ideas – by their nature – undermine conscience, self-restraint, deferred gratification, lifelong marriage and strong, indivisible families headed by authoritative fathers.”4

Your faith is a stumbling block, and it must be removed.

The New Militant Atheism

Can America ever get to the point where religion is treated so contemptuously that our government actively persecutes Christians? The Soviet’s various constitutions upholding religious freedom was as laughable as that of our own culture. Officially, much like China and other countries today, the people of the USSR could hold any belief they want, much like our COEXIST bumper stickers today promote. But government activity promoted a militant atheism, much like our culture does.

The Soviet Union used several tactics to attempt to eradicate Christianity. Although millions of Christian lost their lives, their tactics struck the foundations of any culture: churches, education, and the family.

Throughout the 20th century, the Soviets attacked monasteries and churches by placing them under high taxation, leading to the closure of thousands of churches. They would confiscate property, and dictate what was taught by banning anti-atheist speech and pastoral courses from Christian education.

In California, AB2943 aims to control the speech of Christian churches and counselors. If Christian counselors cannot charge for their services because of this law, there is no doubt that they will close their doors.

The Soviet government also dictated public education to be anti-religious. They adopted curriculum that taught even young students that “only backwards people believed in God”5. Another textbook read, “Religion is a fantastic and perverse reflection of the world in man’s consciousness…. Religion has become the medium for the spiritual enslavement of the masses”6.

In our times, schools are teaching children as young as kindergarteners about homosexual and transgender ideologies. And districts are militant about keeping parents out of their indoctrination process. Read this story of a Philly teacher (and district) who vow to help a student hide their transgenderism from their parents. And the American South has had many cases trying to keep Intelligent Design as a scientific principle in public schools, but it slowly lost its presence in the classroom.

And lastly, the Soviet Union would target children to ensure they did not receive religious teachings from their parents. Children were not allowed to attend church services with their parents, which is arguably the primary method of obtaining the heritage of the Christian faith.

In Ohio, parents lost custody of their child because they objected to the child’s wishes to undergo hormone treatments as part of a female-to-male transition. Parent the right way, or else!

These are the faces of the New Militant Atheism, veiled in concerns of safety and social justice. They boil down to a replacement of the Christian faith with an individual and secular way of life.

What do we do now?

We are in perilous times. And we need drastic measures.

If you have followed Post Christian Era, you know that we cannot continue “business as usual”. Our faith is being tested, therefore, we must build our faith. We must strengthen our Christian communities and plan to resist the new Militant Atheism. We can only have success as a strong and faithful community.

We must fight for religious liberties by voting for candidates and legislation that protects them, but we must also not take them for granted. We must know and be accustomed to taking the Faith and lifestyle we wish to live into our own hands, instead of waiting for a law or a church to deliver it to us.

Throughout the Soviet Union’s anti-religious history, there were also times of growth for the Church. This is promising, in that, when tested with fire, the Church has the ability to come out refined. There are many examples of small communities of believers living a life dedicated and shaped by their devotion to God. We must have this as a goal. Our culture is too strong and persuasive to lightly resist it. We will become sympathetic to anti-religious views, or worse, apathetic to dwindling religious freedoms.

Footnotes

  1. Hitchens, P. 2010. In the Soviet suburbs of Hell and the blasted avenues of Mogadishu
  2. Lenin, Socialism and Religion
  3. Hitchens, C. Christopher Hitchens – Religion
  4. White, JT. “Why I respect Peter Hitchens”Spectre|27 December 2014.
  5. Dimitry V. Pospielovsky. A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory, and Practice, and the Believer, vol 1: A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious Policies, St Martin’s Press, New York (1987) pg 46
  6. Dimitry V. Pospielovsky. A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory, and Practice, and the Believer, vol 1: A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious Policies, St Martin’s Press, New York (1987) pg 75
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Chris Saenz
Chris Saenz is the founder of Post-Christian Era. He has a Master's Degree in Biblical Studies and more than a decade of church work in teaching, worship, and discipleship across many church settings and denominations. He and his wife and three children live in the Los Angeles area (Covina, CA).