The Karamazov clue

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky

For the real deal atheist ‘disproving’ God’s existence is a tactic not the strategic objective.

By Gary Scarrabelotti

Back in 1879-1880 when he was writing The Brothers Karamazov, 37 years before the Bolshevik Revolution, Fyodor Dostoyevsky looked deep into the heart of the socialist project:

“For socialism is not only a question of the conditions of labour … but rather, for the most part, a question of atheism, a question of today’s particular form of atheism; it is a Tower of Babel built specifically without God, not in order to ascend to heaven from earth, but in order to bring heaven down to earth.” [1]

It is one of Dostoyevsky’s many great insights.

Dostoyevsky had been attracted to socialism from the mid-1840s when he began imbibing its message from pre-Marxist French and Russian sources and mixing in non-revolutionary socialist circles.  For this he was condemned to death by firing squad in 1849 and, famously, at the last minute, his sentence was stayed and commuted to a four-year exile in Siberia.

Karl Marx’s first edition of The Communist Manifesto had been published in 1848 and gave expression to ideas that were already running riot in both western and Russian revolutionary circles, including antipathy toward religion. [2]  This was the great sticking point for Dostoyevsky.

The first Russian edition of the Manifesto was published in 1869 thanks to the efforts of Mikhail Bakunin, a sometime socialist and finally anarchist, with whose work and ideas Dostoyevsky was well acquainted. A Russian police spy claimed that Dostoyevsky had met with Bakunin in London in 1862.  At any rate, in 1867 Dostoyevsky wrote to his niece from Geneva, where he had attended a session of a League of Peace and Freedom conference at which Bakunin had been a prominent speaker:

“They began by saying that in order to achieve peace on earth Christianity had to be exterminated …” [3]

So, by 1880, when Lenin was just 10 years old, Dostoyevsky understood what really animated the socialist spirit. As Dostoyevsky was writing, the Hungarian György Lukács, one of the founding figures of the Frankfurt School, had yet to be born (1885); likewise Italy’s Antonio Gramsci (1891) and America’s Saul Alinsky (1909).  Each of them, Marxists all, proved remarkably faithful to the atheist, and specifically anti-Christian agenda, Dostoyevsky had discerned in the beginnings of socialism.

Against God

What put me in mind of Dostoyevsky, and the way he nailed socialism, is the present two-front ‘war of liberation’ from human biology: the same-sex marriage and LGBTQI – did I get that right? – campaigns.

A little while back I drew attention to the biblical foundations of marriage as understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition and as set out in the Book of Genesis.

At the time, I limited myself to making a descriptive point about how marriage in western civilisation has been understood, culturally speaking:

“The understanding contained in the Bible, the foundational literature of our culture, is that marriage is all of a piece with the warp and weft of things.  It arises with human existence as its primal mode of being.  It comes before all else: … before laws; before religion; before worship and its rituals; before priests and prophets and kings; before tribes and peoples and nations; and, after all of these, before the state.  None may touch marriage because it came before them all and gave rise to them all. To ‘stretch out the hand’ … toward marriage is to touch the origin of manifold human growth and flourishing. To change marriage, none may attempt without wreaking destruction on human kind and all its accomplishments.”

Beyond anthropology there lie, however, philosophy and theology. These go much further than providing an account of how things are understood in particular cultural settings.  They concern themselves with what is true, good and beautiful supra-culturally and perennially; and, in the case of theology, with what is set apart and lies beyond the boundaries of human knowledge, creativity and inventiveness.

Philosophy and theology concern themselves with what is true, good and beautiful supra-culturally and perennially.

In these fields one might stumble across a formula like the following:

If God created the World and all that is in it;

And if marriage came into being at the very Beginning;

Then God created marriage directly.

Now, if you were going to attack God, which is what – in one way or another – atheists do, then our formula suggests some possible approaches.

One is that the atheist could argue that God does not exist.  Ergo, he did not create the institution of marriage; it’s a purely human invention.

Another is that the atheist could attack marriage itself by asserting that it is a work of human fashioning and a corrupt one at that.  Marx, for example, was loud on this score.[4] In this gambit, the atheist does not deny the existence of God, but rather sidelines him.

Yet another approach is to deny that there was a Beginning or act of creation. Instead, things came into being by the operation of blind material forces. This, again, is not a denialist move by the atheist. It’s more of a banishment tactic: God is rendered unimportant by expelling him from the material order of things in which we are immersed.

Of course atheists, who are driven to prove their point, can (and do) use all three of these approaches and in combination.  What, however, we commonly consider to be the acme of atheism, denial of God’s existence, is not really the principal defining mark of a leading edge atheist.

The troops 

To be sure, all top gun atheists deny God’s existence.  There are plenty, however, who do that without making it to the first rank.

There are, for example, people who might more truly be described as agnostics, rather than as strict atheists.  Their experience of life throws up hurdles to believing in God.  You would have heard this kind of remark uttered in all sincerity:

“After all the suffering and evil I have experienced, I can’t believe that God exists.”

Then there are those of a bookish, philosophical bent who believe that God does not exist and that they (or others) have proved it so, very often by scientific rather than philosophical means.

Then then there is the autodidact weathervane kind who doesn’t know what makes his cause tick and who blathers on spouting stuff that makes other atheists blush.  Like the bustling little man who bursts in on a discussion about gothic architecture to trumpet “What’s all this?  Spinoza long ago disproved the existence of God!”

There are also the dogmatic mega-scientists of the species. These believe that philosophy and theology have become irrelevant now that science can demonstrate what is real.  Like the famous cosmologist who confidently asserts “there is no evidence of purpose or planning in the universe” while, with matching chutzpah, speaks of an almost personal acquaintance with “dark matter” which neither he nor anyone else can find.[5]

All disbelieve in God, but most folk in these categories remain foot soldiers and camp followers in the atheist movement.  Also, most of them are not Marxists.

Some atheists are social and political liberals.  Others are full bottle libertarians.  Yet others are social democrats.  And still others are nationalists of various shades.  There are also atheists who are social and political conservatives – and these sometimes overlap with the nationalists.

The generals

The leading edge atheist does not fall necessarily into any of the above.  What sets him apart from his comrades is that denying the existence of God is a matter of tactics rather than of strategy.  His higher order objective is to destroy God’s authority. He is the archetypal revolutionary.  He is happy for others to convince themselves that God doesn’t exist.  That suits his purpose mightily: and that is to reject God’s sovereignty; to suppress his influence; to marginalise him.  The purest atheist wants to overthrow God, to boot him out of the cosmos.

It’s personal.

Atheists of this kind are typically to be found somewhere in the Marxist camp.  All other species of atheism, all other kinds of atheist, without exception (from the Marxist perspective) serve as ideological cannon fodder in the Marxist war on God.

That’s what the same-sex marriage (and “gender reassignment”) campaigns are all about.  Oh, yes, there’s love and the passions.   There’s ‘human rights’ and ‘equality’.  There’s the freedom to construct personal identity. To be sure, they’re all in play.  They are not, however, the destination.  They are just pathways, though many that tread them believe otherwise.

If you can redefine marriage that proves it to be a thing of man’s invention and no created given – or, more ambitiously, that marriage is something that can be snatched from the hand of God and re-engineered into other shapes to assert the power and autonomy of man.

 The purest atheist wants to overthrow God, to boot him out of the cosmos.  It’s personal.

If, furthermore, in defiance of biology, we can approve and exalt man-to-man (or woman-to-woman) sex, then that establishes us not only as creators but also as sanctifiers. We get to decide what is holy, what is set part.

If, finally, we can go so far as to redefine our sex, then we become the lord god over our own being.

Make no mistake. These are the goals at issue.  Same-sex marriage and gender re-manufacturing constitute a revolution against the way things are undertaken by those who have not the power to make themselves against the One who alone creates.

In its atheism, it’s a definitively Marxist revolution.

Thank you, Fyodor Mikhailovich, for the clue.

* This is an edited and slightly expanded version of an article first published on the Henry Thornton blog.

 


[1] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Karamazov Brothers: translated by Ignat Avsey; Oxford Wold Classics, OUP, Oxford & New York, 1994;  p.33.
[2] “But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality …” Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto: Vintage Classics, Random House, London, 2004; p.49.
[3] Letter to Sonia Ivanovna, 29 September 1867 in Kenneth Lantz, The Dostoyevsky Encyclopedia: Greenwood Press, London 2004; p.28.
[4] Cf. “Bourgeois marriage is in reality a system of wives in common and, at most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with, is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypercritically concealed, and openly legalised community of women.” The Communist Manifesto, p. 47.
[5] Professor Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and cosmologist, School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Cf. his interview with the producers of the science-documentary film, The Principle, passim. Professor Kraus is listed No. 11 in the “50 Top Atheists in the World Today” on “The [US] Best Schools” website.

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