How the great truth dawned

How the great truth dawned, by Gary Saul Morson.

From 1876 to 1904, a period when Russian terrorists killed many top officials, including Tsar Alexander II, the regime executed 486 people, or 17 per year. …

Of course, from 1917 to the death of Stalin in 1953, 2,200 was about the number of people killed on an average day. …

Why is it, Solzhenitsyn asks, that Macbeth, Iago, and other Shakespearean evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses, while Lenin and Stalin did in millions? The answer is that Macbeth and Iago “had no ideology.” Ideology makes the killer and torturer an agent of good, “so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors.” Ideology never achieved such power and scale before the twentieth century. …

Solzhenitsyn explains: “To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. . . . it is in the nature of a human being to seek a justification for his actions.” …

The political left in the West at the moment:

Anyone can succumb to ideology. All it takes is a sense of one’s own moral superiority for being on the right side; a theory that purports to explain everything; and — this is crucial — a principled refusal to see things from the point of view of one’s opponents or victims, lest one be tainted by their evil viewpoint. …

Why the left hates religion:

Only someone who rejected all religious or quasi-religious morals could be a Bolshevik because, as Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and other Bolshevik leaders insisted, the only standard of right and wrong was success for the Party. …

Among Gulag memoirists, even the atheists acknowledge that the only people who did not succumb morally were the believers. Which religion they professed did not seem to matter. …

The great truth dawned: unexpectedly, astonishingly, this harrowing story of cattle cars and the secret brand has a redemptive ending. A person — not a hero, just a flawed person — finds faith. Everybody has been indoctrinated with the slogan that, in a material world where nothing beyond the laws of nature exists, “The result is all that counts.” But camp experience taught that that was a lie.

It is not the result that counts . . . but the spirit!” Once you realize this, “then imprisonment begins to transform your character in an astonishing way.” You begin to appreciate friendship differently. Recognizing your own weakness, you understand the weakness of others. When another prisoner relates how he became a Christian, Solzhenitsyn recognizes that when he had been most certain he was doing good he was actually doing evil. He understands “the truths of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (every human being).

Ed Driscoll:

And that socialist ideology would eventually pour out of the Soviet Union, to be aped by Germany’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s socialist-inspired fascism. … In 1882, Nietzsche declared that “God is Dead.”

And as a consequence, “predicted (in Ecce Homo) that the twentieth century would be a century of ‘wars such as have never happened on earth,’ wars catastrophic beyond all imagining. And why? Because human beings would no longer have a god to turn to, to absolve them of their guilt; but they would still be racked by guilt, since guilt is an impulse instilled in children when they are very young, before the age of reason. As a result, people would loathe not only one another but themselves. The blind and reassuring faith they formerly poured into their belief in God, said Nietzsche, they would now pour into a belief in barbaric nationalistic brotherhoods.”