The most massive atheism campaign in human history occurred after the 1917 Russian Revolution and until the fall of communism. It was a prolonged and often vicious historical era that began with the Bolsheviks’ plans for a new Marxist utopia that required the total eradication of religion.
The results were not successful in the long-term. The Soviet Union’s hardline, dogmatic and oppressive approach worked quite well in crushing the institutional and daily manifestations of religion. But even the communist leaders themselves were surprised at the persistence of belief in a supernatural realm. God turned out to be rather resilient, politically speaking!
These ideas are unwrapped in a book with an intriguing title: The Plot to Kill God: Findings from the Soviet Experiment in Secularization by Baylor professor Paul Froese. It’s an academic book, and in fact it recently won the “book of the year” award for a major academic group. While heady, it’s a very enjoyable read. The book begins with the line, “It’s easier to invoke God than to get rid of him,” and the narrative unveils how the Marxist leadership discovered that to be true, even as communism went through different forms and leaders. According to Froese, “Probably the most fascinating aspect of the great Secularization Experiment was the creation of an atheistic alternative to religion, a clearly defined atheistic worldview called scientific atheism” (page 5). It even included a baptism ceremony for babies.
The book offers a great lesson from history, along with many vivid examples that together suggest that earthly powers cannot ultimately unseat the idea of an other-worldly sovereign. I can imagine many teachers finding good illustrations in Froese’s careful narrative.