The religious comeback after Communist atheism

Bezbozhnik_u_stanka_15-1929The Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe strongly enforced the atheism mandated by Communist ideology.  They promoted atheism by laws, education, and brutal persecution of religious believers.  Schools taught required courses in atheism.

Churches were torn down or converted into movie theaters or (in the case of the Lutheran church in St. Petersburg) swimming pools.  Thousands of pastors were killed or consigned to the Gulags.  I talked with an Estonian who told me that her son once went inside an abandoned church because he was interested in the artwork.  He was warned never to do that again or he wouldn’t be allowed to go to university.

But 25 years ago, Communism collapsed in Russia and Eastern Europe.  Now those regions are arguably more religious than most of the countries of Western Europe.

A study by Pew Research shows the massive failure of Soviet atheism.  In the 18 former-Communist countries surveyed, 86% of the population believe in God.

And yet the temporary loss of a religious history shows.  Most citizens associate religious belief with national identity.  And they aren’t necessarily going to church all that much.

Catholics go to church more than the Orthodox.  But the Orthodox are more conservative morally when it comes to issues like homosexuality.

The Pew study describes religion in the former Communist states as “believing and belonging, without behaving.”

Read about the findings after the jump.

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Marshall McLuhan, conservative Catholic

5571845609_c077117223_oMarshall McLuhan, who basically invented the study of media, became an icon of the 1960’s with his praise of the new information technology and his predictions of the new tribalism that it would make possible.  McLuhan arguably predicted the effects of the internet before the internet was invented.

And yet, as Jefferson Pooley reminds us, McLuhan got his start as a conservative cultural critic who, influenced by G. K. Chesterton, became a traditionalist Catholic who opposed the reforms of Vatican II.

I would argue that his criticism of the printing press and the thought-forms it made possible is connected to his opposition to the Reformation, which he called “the greatest cultural disaster in the history of civilization.”  And that his “global village” that he thought the new electronic media would usher in represents his yearning for Medieval Catholicism, with its visual images and its corporate unity.

Read Pooley’s piece on McLuhan, started after the jump. [Read more…]

Pope praises Luther

Pope Francis is set to celebrate Reformation Day in a joint service with Swedish Lutherans.  A story from NPR quotes him praising Luther.

It’s appropriate for Catholics to celebrate Reformation Day!  As Pope Francis says, the church had become extremely corrupt.  Without the Reformation, there would be no Counter-Reformation, which is where much of today’s Catholicism and Catholic lay piety comes from (the Rosary, frequent Communion by the laity, Catholic schools, the Jesuits, etc.). [Read more…]

What we learn from John Podesta’s emails

The emails regarding Hillary Clinton being released by Wikileaks are not from her illegal secret server that she used as Secretary of State.  Rather, they are hacks of the emails of John Podesta, her campaign chairman and longtime henchman.

In them, Podesta and scores of campaign operatives and other correspondents discuss things like the inner workings of the Clinton Foundation, how to co-opt Bernie Sanders and his supporters, collusion with journalists, and other topics embarrassing to Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats.

After the jump is an account of a remarkable exchange in which Podesta writes about subverting Catholicism so as to make it accord with the Progressive cause. [Read more…]

The pope’s “seismic shift” in theology

Jay Michaelson says that the most important aspect of the Pope’s encyclical on the environment is that it represents a “seismic shift” in Christian theology and Western thought:

  • It says that human beings have a relationship with the earth, on a par with their relationship with God and with their neighbors;
  • It says that the Genesis account is “symbolic and narrative,” not literal;
  • It rejects the notion that human beings have “dominion” over nature;
  • It advocates a “mystical nature panentheism.” [Read more…]

The Pope’s preacher says Luther was right

British religion reporter Christopher Howse tells about a sermon from Pope Benedict XVI ‘s preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamesa, that basically concedes that Luther was right on justification.  Well, sort of.

This was in the context of the Joint Declaration on Justification between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation.  We confessional Lutherans deny that this accord was a true agreement, but this sermon–published in the book Remember Jesus Christ–faults Catholics for neglecting justification.  Howse’s discussion, however, also shows the differences that remain.

[Read more…]