Reflections of an Atheist

It is sometimes said Russia is a country of mysterious, mystic, incomprehensible power that can never be understood.

Continent Vladimir Pozner


It is sometimes said Russia is a country of mysterious, mystic, incomprehensible power that can never be understood. Usually the reason for this is explained by the coexistence of two cultural layers — eastern and western. In truth Russia is as mysterious as anywhere else, that is to say, not mysterious at all. If needed any country and mentality can be understood.

The expression the «Mystery of the Russian soul» would be better expressed as the Slavic soul. This is an old definition and there are others. Winston Churchill for example said that Russia is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Tyutchev with his famous:

You will not grasp her with your mind

Or cover with a common label,

For Russia is one of a kind —

Believe in her, if you are able…

(Anatoly Liberman)

Well now — this all seems total nonsense to me. I don’t find any mysterious soul. It is a game: it can be very convenient politically. It can be convenient not only for the opponent but for us too: we are actually not like you, we are special, we have our mission. In this sense we are like Americans, who also consider themselves to be special and have a mission. And of course, Jews, wholly believing that they are people chosen by God. Superficially it looks like a theory of certain peoples carrying God. It’s a very convenient argument to justify different things: No pretension for us, we are not like you». But in fact — the same. Of course, national character does exist. So all this talking about «mysterious soul», about our exclusiveness ought to be carried solemnly to the museum and displayed among the most amazing exhibits. We can put here the opinion about Russia’s own special way and it is between the East and the West.

Rudyard Kipling wrote in «Ballad of East and West»:

«Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet»?

And we are kind of trying to prove that the old man Kipling was wrong because the East and the West met… in us! This is so to say conveniently impressive as unforgettable Hrun Morzhov (East and West definitely met in him) could have had told but I have a couple of questions:

What for example is Russian literature — is it East? Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy — is it eastern literature or western? And music? Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, eastern music? To maintain the argument is nonsensical.

True, Russia was affected by Byzantium by taking orthodox religion from them. Bulgaria became Orthodox too. Greek became orthodox much earlier than Russians, their Orthodox Church is older than Russian. So, are they East after that? Of course, Byzantium is not the same as Roman Empire. Religion put its serious imprint, very serious. Catholic countries differ from Protestant countries and Protestant from Orthodox.

All in all, religion is an unbelievably interesting culture. I am atheist and unlike many believers I read the Bible not once and I know what I am talking about. Once I’ve let myself express the opinion that the Orthodox choice of the way is a tragedy for Russia. It would have been better to choose Roman Catholicism and in turn Lutheranism. I recently finished a documentary film on Scandinavia and Finland, all Lutheran countries and am certain that from the point of view of quality of life, level of freedom and citizens’ responsibility, these countries are all in the top ten for quality of life. After them come Catholic countries — France, Italy, etc. When it comes to the Orthodox Greece, Bulgaria, Russia — according to the statistical data, they are in the tail.

Religion is the foundation for many things.

I was baptized Catholic. When I was a child they made me pray to God before going to bed and then I started to wonder: who is God and why do we have to capitalize his name. The bible tells us he made everything in 6 days What for? The more I read the more I came to the conclusion that there is Church and separately, there is Faith and, at least for me, the two are not identical.

The Church is an organization. It’s like the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), for example. And there’s a general secretary — Patriarch, Pope. The members of politburo — metropolitans, cardinals and so on. And this is I emphasize an organization seeking power and money. Faith is totally different. Faith is absolutely disinterested and don’t have to obey any dogma. But Church considers this kind of faith to be heresy, Church accepts and demands only the faith it confesses itself. It doesn’t give a person the right. to believe in God the way he wants. Like I said I am an atheist but I would never deny anyone’s right to believe. Those who believe live easier, because they believe — after this short period of time we call life — there will be an eternity and happiness. Everything will be different, better. You pray and you hope that you’ll be heard. Your prayer will help a close person who has got cancer. It’s easier to live like this. But when you understand that it’s not like this, that life is terminal, that there’s just death after it, it is harder.

My vision of death is that it is the same obligatory phenomenon as life. There’s no immortality. Immortality is like Pushkin for example, he is immortal. And Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci. In everything else they are the same way mortal as we are. I see death as something inevitable and absolutely natural, it kind of puts a dot in our life. That’s why you should do your best while alive because there’s no «after». We are given only one single chance. There’ll be no other.

— We are given only one single chance. There’ll be no other>.