the plot to kill God

It’s funny that I saw professional atheist Christopher Hitchens speak yesterday because I started reading an absolutely fascinating book, the Plot to Kill God by Paul Froese.  It’s basically how the Soviet Union launched an unprecedented campaign to wipe out–literally exterminate–religious belief…and how religious belief somehow survived and persisted over the decades.  Some funny things–to replace everyday rituals associated with religious belief like marriage ceremonies, funerals, etc. the Communist Party made up all of these officially secular counterpart rituals, which wasn’t too odd because you can obviously have a non-religious wedding, funeral, etc.  But then they also made up counterparts to ceremonies that non-Christians would have no use for, instead of just discarding them–so they made up a secular version of baptism/infant dedication, for instance.  (Froese includes the script they’d use for baby dedication, it’s pretty funny, basically “welcome small person to the world!  be a good worker for the party!”)

Another interesting thing is how Froese uses the case of the Soviet Union to test certain theories from soc of religion, one of them being that supply of institutionalized religion basically supports and nurtures the demand, or there’s such a symbiotic relationship that you can’t have one without the other.  The Soviet idea was, kill the supply (basically, the church, make religious practice more or less illegal and basically destroy any social incentive to practice religion) and you will kill the demand.  Yet, the demand persisted, even when they pulled the plug on the supply.  Fascinating!  (Sorry, I can’t find another word.  Riveting!)  Reading it is kind of odd because it seems like something that happened centuries ago, but really just happened last century.  Makes me wonder about what’s going on in North Korea.

Christopher Hitchens was fairly interesting although I couldn’t understand him b/c of his accent about 20% of the time.  There were some things that I thought he was fairly reasonable and nuanced about, and other things, less so.  It was a packed house–folks filling every seat and standing against every wall.  Funny that they had it at the big lecture hall at Farmer, which is where Campus Crusade meets.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I wish I could have heard him speak, though I was teaching last night (World Religions, ironically enough). I used to really like Hitchen’s political writing, but now I feel like I’m “on” to him – he’s a great at demolition but awful at construction, if that makes sense.

    Sounds like a great book – I’ll check it out. North Korea is an interesting comparison, isn’t it? From my distant perspective, the state religion seems to have taken hold in their culture, yet look at the effort it takes: it’s all done through massive force and coercion, combined with incredible psychological techniques. Critics like Hitchens (and Robert Wright in the NY Times yesterday) complain about “aggressive” Christian evangelism, but most evangelism happens at 1% – maybe 0.1% or even less? – of the level of North Korean or Soviet-style “evangelism.” (With obvious exceptions for extremely manipulative groups.)


  2. Posted by Calvin Chen on March 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    dawkins actually has good points, too.. especially re: religion as a function of ethnicity


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