“Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism.” These words were spoken by a man who knew this pattern all too well. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, was imprisoned and later exiled for his criticism of Joseph Stalin.
In a prophetic address in 1983 Solzhenitsyn warned Christian leaders in America of a blindness towards an aggressive secularism and the loss of religious freedoms. He felt that we were on a similar trajectory of what he had personally witnessed and experienced. I reference this important speech on a regular basis and thought it might be helpful to offer some of the highlights here. I include some subtitles to break up the text, but all of the content is taken directly from Solzhenitsyn:
Men Have Forgotten God
“Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Hatred of God: The Driving Force
“Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot.”
The West’s Historical Evolution
“The West has yet to experience a Communist invasion; religion here remains free. But the West’s own historical evolution has been such that today it too is experiencing a drying up of religious consciousness . . . This gradual sapping of strength from within is a threat to faith that is perhaps even more dangerous than any attempt to assault religion violently from without.
Imperceptibly, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West has ceased to be seen as anything more lofty than the “pursuit of happiness, “a goal that has even been solemnly guaranteed by constitutions. The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed for several centuries; banished from common use, they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short lived value. It has become embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual human heart before it enters a political system.
Judging by the continuing landslide of concessions made before the eyes of our very own generation, the West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss. Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism.”
The Church Will Not Be Destroyed
“But there is something they did not expect . . . they could not suppose that beneath this Communist steamroller the Christian tradition would survive in Russia. It is here that we see the dawn of hope: for no matter how formidably Communism bristles with tanks and rockets, no matter what successes it attains in seizing the planet, it is doomed never to vanquish Christianity.”
The Ambivalent Apocalypse
“Today’ s world has reached a stage which, if it had been described to preceding centuries, would have called forth the cry: ‘This is the Apocalypse!’
Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it.”