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Forced Secularization in Soviet Russia: Why an Atheistic Monopoly Failed

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Abstract:

Under communism, the Russian religious landscape consisted mainly of two competitors—a severely repressed Russian Orthodox Church and a heavily promoted atheist alternative to religion called “scientific atheism.” Under these circumstances, one might expect the rapid spread of religious disbelief, but the intensity of the atheist campaign originated from official mandate and not popular appeal. In turn, scientific atheism never inspired the Russian population and grew increasingly uninspired as Soviet officials created a monopoly “church” of scientific atheism in hopes of replacing persistent religious beliefs and practices. This article is dedicated to explaining why Communists could not successfully convert the masses to atheism. The findings provide evidence that systems of belief require more than simply the power of promotion and coercion to become accepted.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2004.00216.x

Publication date: March 1, 2004

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