“Men Have Forgotten God” – The Templeton Address

“Men Have Forgotten God” – The Templeton Address. By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

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.

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.

The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century. The first of these was World War I, and much of our present predicament can be traced back to it. It was a war (the memory of which seems to be fading) when Europe, bursting with health and abundance, fell into a rage of self-mutilation which could not but sap its strength for a century or more, and perhaps forever. The only possible explanation for this war is a mental eclipse among the leaders of Europe due to their lost awareness of a Supreme Power above them. …

By the time of the Revolution, faith had virtually disappeared in Russian educated circles; and amongst the uneducated, its health was threatened.

In its past, Russia did know a time when the social ideal was not fame, or riches, or material success, but a pious way of life. Russia was then steeped in an Orthodox Christianity which remained true to the Church of the first centuries. … Faith was the shaping and unifying force of the nation. …

It was Dostoevsky, once again, who drew from the French Revolution and its seeming hatred of the Church the lesson that “revolution must necessarily begin with atheism.” That is absolutely true. But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. 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.

Lenin, wokest man ever: listen only to your lizard brain within

The 1920’s in the USSR witnessed an uninterrupted procession of victims and martyrs amongst the Orthodox clergy. … Scores of archbishops and bishops perished. Tens of thousands of priests, monks, and nuns, pressured by the Chekists to renounce the Word of God, were tortured, shot in cellars, sent to camps, exiled to the desolate tundra of the far North, or turned out into the streets in their old age without food or shelter. All these Christian martyrs went unswervingly to their deaths for the faith; instances of apostasy were few and far between. For tens of millions of laymen access to the Church was blocked, and they were forbidden to bring up their children in the Faith: religious parents were wrenched from their children and thrown into prison, while the children were turned from the faith by threats and lies…

It’s happening slowly to the West:

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. It too has witnessed racking schisms, bloody religious wars, and rancor, to say nothing of the tide of secularism that, from the late Middle Ages onward, has progressively inundated the West. 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. Yet it is not considered shameful to make dally concessions to an integral evil. 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. …

Or why should one refrain from burning hatred, whatever its basis — race, class, or ideology? Such hatred is in fact corroding many hearts today. Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society. Amid all the vituperation we forget that the defects of capitalism represent the basic flaws of human nature, allowed unlimited freedom together with the various human rights; we forget that under Communism (and Communism is breathing down the neck of all moderate forms of socialism, which are unstable) the identical flaws run riot in any person with the least degree of authority; while everyone else under that system does indeed attain “equality” — the equality of destitute slaves.

This eager fanning of the flames of hatred is becoming the mark of today’s free world. Indeed, the broader the personal freedoms are, the higher the level of prosperity or even of abundance — the more vehement, paradoxically, does this blind hatred become. The contemporary developed West thus demonstrates by its own example that human salvation can be found neither in the profusion of material goods nor in merely making money.

David, on the training of society’s future leaders:

I spent a good portion of my life with college academics and frankly it has opened my eyes. The greater majority of the academics are mean spirited, petty, ideological, close minded , prejudiced and intolerant and these are their good traits. An atmosphere of learning is simple not the situation, college is an arena for these ideologues to espouse their misguided delusions to college students who listen intently and question nothing. Put simply, if you believe in G-d you are simply naive and dimwitted — that’s the message.

Michael:

Every society and system and ideology has its flaws, but Marxism is arguably the best benchmark I’ve ever seen for pure evil. The ideology is based at its very core on the sins of envy, sloth, pride, and wrath, and it’s responsible for more universal death and misery than probably any other ideology in human history. That makes it the antithesis of almost everything good, just, virtuous, and moral. When Marxists hate Christianity with such a burning passion, it tells me only one thing: Christianity must be, by and large, more right than wrong.

Many people are extremely resistant to the notion that some of their mind is hidden or resistant to their conscious gaze. Indeed, it is only in the last century that the notion of an unconscious mind has taken hold at all. For such people, the idea of an omnipotent outside God that can magically read their thoughts is much more acceptable.

Humans have a lizard brain, and on top of that a mammal brain, and much more recently a human brain that enables us to live together in large numbers, cooperate, and work together “properly” and unselfishly. The three brains are often in conflict, suggesting different thoughts, impulses and emotions. Which one do you mostly listen to? If you’re a psychopath, you tend to go with the lizard brain — and tend to rise to the top of organizations in today’s world.

Now imagine if you were to try and convince people a few thousand years ago to pay more attention to the human brain and less to the lizard brain. What would you say? What are the characteristics of the lizard brains, and what sort of behaviors are inspired by the human brains? Which direction is our society moving — away from or towards lizard values?