A RECENT report states that J-kthe Communist campaign to oust God and religion by scientific atheism is to be stepped up.
A first reaction to this would be that it is bad news and that it justifies political non-co-operation with the Communist Powers. But the truth is that it is good news. It is, further, an encouragement to those who are not satisfied with the way in which the free world is dealing with the Communist menace.
To understand how this can be, one needs to read an article by Walter J. Kolarz, called "God among the Godless," which appears in the summer number of the Eastern Churches Quarterly, published by the Ramggate Benedictines.
Mr. Kolarz describes the quite remarkable failure of the Communists over the years to drive belief in God and religion out of the hearts not only of those whom they rule by force, but out of the hearts of party members and those who are more or less willing conformists to Communist politics and economics.
One point which Mr. Kolarz makes in an analysis too long even to summarise here seems to us of particular importance. He reminds us that Russia—and of course this is true in different degrees of other Communist countries has experienced the same process of industrial and social revolution as has marked the history of the West.
"This advance of atheism in Sriet Russia," he writes, "is not only, and perhaps not even primarily, a product of Communist propaganda and education. It is equally prompted by Soviet Russia's industrial revolution and by the uprooting of large masses of people whose traditional way of life is being suddenly and radically changed."
In other words, the de-Christianisation of an uprooted "proletariat," which has been a root cause of unbelief in the West, has equally taken place under Communism. This reminds us that it is fallacy to discriminate too sharply, even in the matter of "Godlessness," between Communism and so-called Christendom. The causes of irreligion are in part at least shared.
Thus, when we read that in 1954 the Communist authorities find it necessary to step-up the campaign for atheism which has been so persistent a feature of "Godless Communism," we can safely infer the continued failure to extirpate God and spiritual values from Communists and Communist-ruled hearts—and this in spite of social causes which have strongly militated all over the world against religion.
IT is hardly too much to say that anti Communist policy in the world today is of two kinds. There is the policy of absolute cleavage between Communism and antiCommuniam, save for the sheer necessity of existing together in the same world as the only alternative to world war. And there is the policy of trying to achieve some kind of understanding with Communism on the basis of progressive social theory and of economic and commercial relations.
The one thing we never hear (-4 is seeking contact on the basis of the fact that both Communists and their subjects are human beings, made in Gods image and from whose hearts the stamp of God has never been eradicated.
The reason for this, of course, is that anti-Communist policy is secularist in its own way as Communist policy is secularist. It is
true that many Western statesmen are personally believers, whereas Communist statesmen are personally unbelievers; but the private beliefs of Western statesmen have little to do with their public actions, especially in the international field, except perhaps to remind them that religion has a certain amount of anti-Communist propaganda value.
But what of the great Christian Communions in the free world; what of the millions of Catholics? But save for the Holy See, whose pronouncements are always instinct with the sense of the fundamental spiritual community of all men, are we not carried along by the currents of international, national and secularist policy? Yet it is surely a safe generalisation in history that when Christianity uncritically backs temporal policies, there is spiritual danger in the air.
WE have to recognise the diffiT culties, Though the springs of spiritual faith are very far from having been destroyed within the Communist empire, faith there cannot speak aloud. Or if it can, it is abused by the rulers for propaganda purposes; it is fed by lies; it is aligned, for example, against the so called capitalist Vatican.
But channels from this side are not wholly closed. The Christian voice on radio, in the Press, in books. can reach behind the Iron Curtain. Christians should be exerting pressure on their secularist Governments to allow the nonpropagandist voice of Christianity to he heard, and if this means first making those Governments realise their spiritual responsibilities, all the better.
But how can the authentic voice of Christianity, of religion, be distinguished from the Christian propaganda which our Governments welcome? At present, this may be difficult, because we ourselves have become so mixed in our motives as between fear, nationalism and religion. We need an intensive spiritual training to emerge from our confusion. .We need a considerable deepening of our own spiritual life and values.
There need, however, be little fear of those who still have spiritual faith behind the Iron Curtain mistaking the authentic voice of spirituality, whether it speaks or writes, for the semipolitical counterfeit.
Meanwhile, there is plenty to do in the way of praying, training and studying the phenomenon of Cornmunism in all its spiritual and moral causes so that the weight of true Christianity in the free world can speak again with Christian love to the millions who long to hear that voice from the depths of a captivity which may have been imposed upon them or may have been of their own making. This would be a far better work than imagining that our spiritual faith in this connection is best employed in echoing secularist and largely Godless propaganda.