Ronald Reagan’s Unsuccessful Attempt to Convert Mikhail Gorbachev

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, James Mann talks about how President Ronald Reagan once tried to convince Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that there was a God. Gorbachev was an atheist (though he had been baptized as a child). It’s an excerpt from Mann’s new book The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War.

It seems Reagan used the type of poor logic that only Ray Comfort could appreciate:

… Reagan then ventured further, taking a step that quite a few Americans would have found objectionable. The president switched from seeking to persuade Gorbachev of the value of religious tolerance to promoting a belief in God

As the meeting ended, Reagan became even more direct and personal. He noted that his own son Ron did not believe in God either. “The President concluded that there was one thing he had long yearned to do for his atheist son. He wanted to serve his son the perfect gourmet dinner, to have him enjoy the meal, and then to ask him if he believed there was a cook.”

Of the two American notetakers who were present for this extraordinary conversation, one took Reagan’s effort at face value. “Reagan thought he could convert Gorbachev, or make him see the light,” said Rudolf Perina, who was then the director of Soviet affairs on the National Security Council in a 2005 interview.

Right… and if a banana exists, there must have been a bananamaker…

  • Jen

    If anyone ever asked me if I thought there was a cook, I would probably point out that God does not make lasagna plants and more than he makes watches or buildings or paintings. These things are not exactly found in nature.

    And now that I am thinking about it: I wonder if Ron Sr ever tried this. I would think he would have had the chance to feed his adult son at some point, so its fairly safe to say that his son did not fall down and worship.

  • Carl

    The appropriate response is that of course there was a cook, because there is no other plausible way by which the dinner could have come together. If, however, gourmet dinners were in the habit of reproducing themselves with minor, random, variations, and those offspring were selected on the basis of their deliciousness to humans, then there definitely would be no reason to believe in a cook.

    I’m now very prepared with this answer because, once, early in my godless days, I got kind of caught out by a Christian with this very argument. Very annoyed with myself that I was only able to come up with the response later in the day, so now I never forget!

  • maria

    Gorbachev was an atheist b/c he was a communist (and of course, no, I’m not saying all atheists are communists before some over sensitive person gets on me for that!) and it went with the territory. He later did actually say he believed in something once the soviet hell hole broke up, or so I heard anyway. In any case, Gorbachev wasn’t any more logical then Regean, having believed in communism. He might as well have been religious as far as I’m concerned, so I’m really not even sure what the point is supposed to be.

  • Miko

    Yes, one of the many ways in which Reagan was an absolute nut, but not as bad as the astrology bits. The sad thing is that some people with little grasp of the idea of correlation vs. causation actually credit him with the fall of the Soviet Union (when it reality, it fell simply because Communism just doesn’t work).

    In the end, Reagan was a warmonger who exploded the deficit and almost got everyone on the planet killed, and he is remembered fondly by Fox-news types and neo-cons solely because of an historical accident and the general tendency of historians in the U.S. to idolize warmongers and imperialists.

  • Bart the Pirate

    Our gourmet cook which are in the kitchen
    Hollowed be thy name

    Thy truffles come
    Thy Salmon be done
    in Indiana
    as it is in Le Cordon Bleu

    Give us this day
    our daily Chablis
    And forgive us our burbs
    as we forgive those who burb against us.

    For thine is the Thyme and Arrowroot and Coriander forever.

    Amen.

    (What else am I to do at 4:57 a.m. ???)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    What Miko said.

  • http://smorgzone.blogspot.com Smorg

    I can just imagine Ron jr immediately falling to his knee and start worshiping his father right then and there… all based on the miraculous precipitation of a plate of spaghetti. ;oP

    And… man, Bart, that’s a swell Loaf’s Prayer! :o) Good one!

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    Ah but who trained the chef who prepared the gourmet meal? Who raised the chef? Who made him or her? Where did the raw materials for the feast come from? The chef didn’t conjure the food from thin air but merely combined them in an interesting way.

    Metaphor FAIL.

  • Epistaxis

    In many industrialized countries, talking about religion would be a serious gaffe just because it’s impolite to discuss the subject, but the Soviet Union was even an officially atheist nation.

  • James H

    If my mother-in-law cooks a gourmet meal, there’s gotta be a God somewhere! And if my mother-in-law didn’t cook at all, there’d definitely be a God! Rim shot!

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Oh dear, American presidents really can be prats sometimes.

    To honestly have this conversation with an athiest head of state of an athiest nation, a nation whos entire philosophy requires athiesm just beggars belief.

    Can you imagine if King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited the USA for a state visit and tried to convert the president to Islam? Thats still not as crazy as what Reagan did.

    It always amazes me how so many Americans get so caught up in the worship cult of certain presidents, and its always the worse presidents such as Bush and Reagan.

    I would have loved to be in the room when Reagan broached the subject with Gorbie. Both to watch the expression on Gorbies face and also to cuff Reagan about the back of the head for the inappropriateness of the conversation.

  • CatBallou

    Interesting that the scenario is a “perfect gourmet dinner” that his son enjoys. What if it’s a barely edible disaster that his son can’t keep down? Isn’t there still a cook?
    People who argue for the existence of a god never want to admit that he screws up a lot.

  • Siamang

    I would have loved to be in the room when Reagan broached the subject with Gorbie. Both to watch the expression on Gorbies face and also to cuff Reagan about the back of the head for the inappropriateness of the conversation.

    Also, Gorbachev always struck me as nobody’s fool. Faced with Ray Comfortesque logic, he might have easily concluded that we were being led by an intellectual midget.

    I’m amazed he didn’t take full advantage of it.

  • http://diaphanus.livejournal.com/ Ian Andreas Miller

    “The President concluded that there was one thing he had long yearned to do for his atheist son. He wanted to serve his son the perfect gourmet dinner, to have him enjoy the meal, and then to ask him if he believed there was a cook.”

    I wonder how many universes the cook created.


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