November 2, 2010

Christopher Hitchens Warns of Religious Revival in Russia

By Stephen K. Ryan
November 2, 2010
Ministry Values

Christopher Hitchens warns of the rising influence of Christianity in Russia in matters of State.

Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev go to Church frequently, kiss precious icons of the Virgin Mary and seek political and moral counsel from the Russian Orthodox Clergy. Furthermore, to the surprise of many Americans, particularly Evangelical Christians, Vladimir Putin wears a Christian cross with him at all times. On ABC Good Morning America' Anchor George Stephanopoulos recently interviewed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you, the American public doesn't know all that much about you personally. But I was fascinated to be-- in reading your biography to learn many of the details. You were brought up in Soviet Russia, without religion. Yet, at the age of 23, you walk into a church to become baptized. Why?

MEDVEDEV: I did feel that I needed it. I wanted to do it. Why do people go to church? They come because they feel a need, except if they're sightseeing. So at 23 I felt I needed it. I believe it's good for me, because afterwards my life changed. You don't really talk aloud about something like that because the religious feelings should be somewhere deep inside of you. If someone is displaying it, it's not really honest. It's more PR for yourself. But I believe religion is important for every person.

Soon after this interview, President Medvedev marked the adoption of Christianity in 988 with a new public holiday. This is the latest demonstration of the Kremlin's support for an Orthodox Church that has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of Communism.

The only person who seems to be paying attention to this phenomonon of the rising influence of Christianity in Russia is ironically Christopher Hitchens, author of "The God Delusion"

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life recently invited brothers Christopher and Peter Hitchens to address the question of whether civilization needs God.

Here is what Mr. Hitchens had to say about Religion in Russia today:

"The second of the two empires that took part in this hecatomb of civilization in the name of their own religion, I mean the Russian one, shows real signs also of imperial nostalgia. No one here, I suppose, will have forgotten the moment when George Bush first met Vladimir Putin, who had chosen for the day to decorate his chest with his grandmother’s ornate Russian Orthodox crucifix, enough for the president to be convinced and to say that just to look into those beautiful limpid eyes was enough to see that he was a person of deep spirituality and sensitivity.

I think, by the way, in a fairly strong field, that’s one of the stupidest things any president has ever said. But now you don’t have to use much of your imagination when you see at the inauguration — when Putin wants to make someone prime minister, and when he says, how can he make himself czar again down the road — all these inaugural ceremonies are attended by black-cowled patriarchs swinging their incenses, demanding and getting in return privileges over other churches and other religions in Russia, restoring the same political and clerical balance, roughly, that did underpin Russian absolutism and autocracy until the great catastrophe of 1914.

And that’s coming back, too, and I think we don’t pay anything like enough attention to this fusion of traditional great Russian chauvinism and police regime with the clerical bodyguard and prop and stay and ally that it’s appointed for itself. But now it goes without saying that I’m speaking to the question of, how compatible is civilization with religion?

But so far, those are the only two empires that do show this sign of religious revival. It’s equally true to say that in huge parts of what we might call the industrialized modern world, tens of millions of people, in effect, live in a post-religious society. It’s hard to argue, I think, that they lead conspicuously less-civilized lives than their predecessor generations, than the ones of 1914 or 1939."

Read the entire debate here.

Is Russia more Christian than the United States? Medvedev might just say Yes!