So, some of us militant atheists were horrified and disappointed by the new Amendment to the Russian Constitution, announced just a couple of days ago, which mentions “God” (and just one God) as sort of like the founder of Russian statehood. This piece by Professor Robinson explains the whole thing.
For starters, this is offensive, not only to atheists, but also to pagans, who believe in multiple Gods. In fact, as I have pointed out, Russian statehood goes way back further than the forcible Christianizing of the population. In early Kievan Rus, people believed in a pagan pantheon. Russia’s national poem, “The Story of Igor’s Regiment” mentions several of these deities. How offensive to Stribog and Perun, and the others, to just be pushed rudely aside and told they never meant anything.
Secondly, mention of imaginary beings in Russia’s Constitution has undermined the definition of the Russian Federation as a secular yet ecumenical state. There was immediate well-earned criticism and backlash in this regard. Although the current ruling elite have no intention of changing anything they did, a series of announcements and excuses have proven that they are sensitive precisely to this type of criticism.
For example, I have this piece by reporter Natalia Anufrieva. Which consists of an interview with influential pundit Viktoria Karpova. Who dances a type of macarena trying to explain away the contradictions. Karpova heads a shady organization called “The Youth Division of the Russian Society of Political Pundits”. According to their website, they have 2,294 members, including Olga, Maria, Viktor, Denis, Ivan, and Arseny. Sounds like a good bunch of people whose job is to shape your opinions. I googled “Viktoria Karpova” trying to find a photo of her, you know, to see if she is really is as “youthful” as she claims to be. There are quite a lot of Viktoria Karpovas out there. She could be this one on the left (youthful, with kitty ears) or this one on the right (glamorous oenophile and party girl):
In either case, here are Vickie’s cogent arguments excusing the “God Clause” in the Russian Constitution:
Argument by citing other authorities — Karpova: “God is mentioned in the primary documents of a wide pool (пула) of nations: Germany, Greece, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Brazil, and others.” To which one might retort: If those countries told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?
Karpova continues with the argument that tons of people believe in God: For Russia, with her palette of cultural diversity, multi-nationality-ness, and multi-confessional-ness (by the end of 2018 there were registered on the territory of Russia 30,896 organizations representing over 50 religions), the history of mentioning God, be it in the Constitution, or in the national anthem (“You are such a one, my native land defended by God!”), we’re not talking about the Christian God here, nor the Muslim one, the Jewish one, or even the Buddhist one, nor any other. This is simply giving our due to the multi-century history of our state.
But what about the criticism that this undermines Russia’s identity as a secular state? Karpova bristles: “Russia remains a secular state, fortified by the wording of Article 14. No religion shall be allowed to establish itself as a state religion. There is also Article 28: Every citizen is guaranteed freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, including the right to preach their own individual religion, or one in conjunction with others.”
Karpova concludes, that the concept of “God” is simply a “unifying element” in society, combining historical memory and the common ideals of the constituent peoples.
Commenters to the piece react with the characteristic Russian cynicism:
Andrei Anatolievich Loginov: “First they must legally prove the existence of God, and nobody has ever been able to do that!”
Ilya Osinnikovsky: “The Constitution should also mention the concept of Artificial Intelligence.”
John Redkin: “They only mentioned God in order to garner more support for the Constitution. They would have mentioned the Devil, if they thought that could keep them in power longer.”
Alexander Marin: “Precisely so. They need to mention both God and the Devil, otherwise it comes off as being intolerant…”
Francois de Sade: “Maybe God exists, and maybe He doesn’t.”
Georgiy Donskikh: “Putin said He does, so He does.”
Grandfather Udava: “Fuck them. Because of this stupid and absolutely senseless Amendment, I do not plan to vote for the Constitution. Sometimes Vladimir Vladimirovich really gets up my nose, with his twists and turns. It is very curious, how a Communist and Chekist of that time suddenly became a believer and got himself mired in obscurantism.”
Babugan Yaila: “Then don’t go to vote. Nobody is forcing you under the barrel of a kalashnikov. It’s your choice.”
Roman Kalytovsky: “It’s all clear now. In return for mentioning God in the Constitution, [Patriarch] Kirill promised to mention Putin in the Bible….”
Gotta, learn Russian, they sound like a merry bunch. 😉
Among us old ducks, I can live with God next to man being mentioned in the preamble to our constitution, or Basic Law. Last year our constitution turned 70, and I just discovered that in that context one of our public channels asked a constitutional lawyer how God got into our constitution. After all he hadn’t surfaced in any of the earlier ones.
Curiously enough, in our larger field of interest the Ukraine seems to have adopted God, but left out man as he surfaces in our constitution. At least on first sight,
Germany, preamble Basic Law:
Conscious of their responsibility before God and man, Inspired by the determination to promote world peace as an equal partner in a united Europe, the German people, in the exercise of their constituent power, have adopted this Basic Law. Germans in the Länder of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia have achieved the unity and freedom of Germany in free self-determination. This Basic Law thus applies to the entire German people.
God and conscience vs God and man: Yes ok, why not. That’s close to God and man, semantically.
I like the Albanian one: “with faith in God and/or other universal values…”
or how about this one that I just made up: “With faith in unseen imaginary creatures or whichever one floats your boat, so long as they promote niceness among humans…” (’cause, see, not all deities are benevolent or love mankind….)
And while we’re on the topic of religion, here’s one you may like: ‘Protohierarch Smirnov says it’s useless to send girls to school’: https://vz.ru/news/2020/3/4/1027123.html
Also, my latest blog post: https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2020/03/04/post-secularism-and-the-liberal-international-order/
The Protohierarch is completely correct, girls should just stay at home and play with dolls!
(Oi veh, is this really what we have come to in this day and age??)
girls should just stay at home and play with dolls!
curious, that surfaces on your mind. At one point in life I decided to ask females, I seemed to have trouble to understand: did they like to play with dolls. I never had any use for them. …
The only “dolls” I liked were the diverse Punch and Judy characters, not least the crocodile and the Magician, both were useful in own ways.
Otherwise, I once looked into the female image Opus Dei conveys and it looked pretty similar. And yes they may be more extreme then the Catholic Church, but as I am not an insider I may sometimes may miss subtleties. Anyway: While working as volunteer supporter in our local Jesuit acedemy since our bishop wanted to abolish it, I had this curious encounter with a young male student, who exhibited a rigid support of the Catholic Church’s (1999?) update on Exorcism…. In a nutshell: our clash may have been grounded on deeper troubles then what was to be expected from a confrontation between a paid student and an unpaid volunteer taking over his job.
in own ways. in their own way, as you may imagine.
It seemed an obvious retort, I admit I only barely skimmed what the Proto-Hierarch had to say for himself. But he seemed to be emphasizing that the only real task he saw for girls was to develope their maternal instincts, in order to prepare themselves for motherhood. And dolls are a natural implement for that sort of preparation.
Actually, moon, you got me thinking, and I just realized from which part of my subconscious that doll thing came. One of the formative influences on my intellect (when I was in college) was reading Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I read the whole thing, in French (with the assistance of a dictionary). It took me a year, but I did it, and I was so proud of myself! It’s the main reason why I can read French as well as I do.
Anyhow, that story had a profound influence on me, and one of the things I remember is that big scene where Jean Valjean buys this huge expensive doll for little Cosette. And then Hugo goes into this 100-page (or so) bender about how little girls love to play with dolls because it prepares them for motherhood.
That works doubly so nowadays, with modern technology they even have dolls that can pee and poop — now, that’s a real preparation for parenthood!
In other words, Victor Hugo* made you aware of conventional gender training? At one point in my life I discoved a 19th century book on the education of girls: The sports chapter was pretty short. As I recall it, the author mainly dealt with decent vs undecent movements. … Short steps to the diverse customs in hiding the female body we face today? Not that I am a supporter of the overt sexualization of our culture either. …
Randomly: not too long ago an advertisement lof one of our supermarket chains reminded me of it. Carneval customes for boys vs those for girls. Made me mad, that I recall. Training starts early. …
But then: About twenty years ago I bought this really beautiful handmade colourful southern American made jacket for the then 7 to 10 year old daugther of a friend. I forget. She didn’t want to wear it. I had to be pink, and it wasn’t.
Otherwise. I recall that the Russian alphabet didn’t seem as difficult decades ago as it seems today. But yes, that would be my ideal way to learn the language too. 😉 …
When we were kids, my sister was really into dolls. But she didn’t just play with them, she sewed their clothes, sometimes using intricate patterns, with a grown-up sewing machine. Her dolls wore fashionable jackets and so on. But this didn’t stop her from being athletic, and she went on to become a dancer and dance instructor.
As for the Russian alphabet: I think it should be fairly easy to learn. Way easier than English alphabet. Even though there are a few more letters, there is a much greater correspondence between written symbol and sound. So you can learn to pronounce words correctly even before you know what they mean! (Much the same way I can read Polish…)
P.S. If I remember the Victor Hugo* story correctly, Cosette eventually loses her expensive doll, when she and Jean Valjean have to go on the lam again…
I love your sister.
Moon, I love my sister too! She is a very talented individual and basically just a good person.
Hi Yalensis,I was pleased to see the mention of God in the proposed updates to the Russian constitution. Most everything we love about Russia such as its views of peaceful coexistence is encapsulated in Eastern Orthodox beliefs. Therefore, it was a wise decision.
Ephemeral Western Intellectual Thought (which I personally find tiresome if not banal) needs to be carefully rationed in such documents. In my view, the validity of Western Intellectual Thought has no more claim to legitimacy than most religious beliefs in the areas that matter; perhaps less.
Another argument is that the basis of atheistic Western Intellectual Thought is pathological narcissism. Ayn Rand is the final product of atheistic Western Intellectual Thought. That factoid ought to end this discussion (but it won’t), Virtually every religion on earth is better than world according to Ayn Rand.
Hi, Patient Observer, thanks for your comment. Of course, in theory there is a lot of good solid humanism in the core beliefs of Christianity, and especially Eastern Orthodoxy.
On the other hand, I would have to defend Marxism, as one of the branches of Western Enlightenment thought. Ultimately, Marxist beliefs are a synthesis of Enlightenment humanism, along with some Judeo-Christian concepts; as well as the experience of secular Jews living in the diaspora and pleading for tolerance, etc. I believe that Marxism offers more hope for the human race than, say, Orthodox Christianity. (Which is currently in a state of tatters, anyhow, due to all the schisms and the bad behavior of the hierarchies.)
And I certainly could not agree that Ayn Rand is the poster-child for atheism. I am an atheist myself, and I certainly don’t believe (or at least hope not) that I am a narcissist, nor cruel, as she was. Of course I’m not perfect at all, I can be quite a bad person sometimes. But I am definitely not a sociopath.
Here is how I know that I am not a sociopath: A few days ago I happened to buy a cup of coffee in a convenience store nearby, and the old lady at the counter suddenly flinched.
(Turned out she had a pulled nerve in her hip.) I flinched back, in involuntary empathic response. I asked her if she was okay, and she told me about the hip. Then she winced again, and I winced back. This happened several times. I couldn’t even help myself, it was just involuntary reflex on my part. In a kind of empathis response, I could almost feel her pain.
When I told a friend about this incident, they said it proved that I was not a sociopath, because true sociopaths are missing that part of the brain. And yet I am an atheist, so you might think I wouldn’t give a shit about other people! Go figure…
“Mirror” neurons within the brain may be, in part, the basis of what you described. Wikipedia offers background on this topic:
The aforementioned article offers several explanations of why mirror neurons evolved but none mentioned what seemed to be an obvious potential evolutionary driver. These neurons may form the biological underpinnings of empathy. Empathy is the glue of social cohesion and cooperation. Such behavior provides a huge evolutionary advantage. No philosophy nor religion needed for that (unless the unseen hand of a creator saw fit to include such in life). Empathy also seems to be basis for lasting bonds and associations between individuals, again essential for the development and stability of social groups.
A society based on empathy is vulnerable to those who do not have the biological basis of empathy or have that basis suppressed for whatever reason. For these folks, an empathic society is ready to be devoured or, as in today’s world, to be an unwitting host.
Here is where Eastern Orthodoxy (and religions, Christian and non-Christian of a similar bent) come in. There teachings emphasize compassion, equality and empathy thus are aligned with the biological nature of man.
For people without functioning mirror neurons (perhaps atrophied due to early childhood experience or simply lacking through a biological quirk), they have no inherent biological regulation regarding the degree of narcissism and exploitation of others. Western Intellectual Thought seems absent of a deeper basis for empathy and egalitarian behavior (beyond a residue of such behaviors not yet “purified by sufficient thought). I maintain that Western Intellectual Thought leads to only one destination – narcissism with Ayn Rand the shining summation of that thought. I will give Rand her due to cutting through the BS and getting to the point, as fundamentally nonsensical as it is.
I will add that Eastern Orthodoxy is unlikely the ultimate spiritual foundation for humanity. Perhaps Buddhism or something entirely new would be better. It’s just the best one accessible to me at this time.
I don’t have the time to better express my thought with the necessary nuances but I hope the general concept is clear enough.
Hi, Patient Observer, This is a fascinating discussion about the biological basis of empathy. I also read somewhere that the oxytocin hormone helps in the process of forming bonds. This hormone may have evolved originally (Per Creator or per Darwin) to help form mother-child bonds in mammals. Oxytocin is stimulated in a female when the baby latches onto the nipple. But those feelings continue and help to form pair bonds in general, not just with babies. And male mammals also have them, and also experience maternal/paternal feelings and affection and love, and empathy, and all that jazz. Thanks to these neurons and hormones.
Do you see where I’m going with this, though? It’s mostly biological, and all mammals have these feelings. To my knowledge, animals don’t believe in God, but they still experience some of these higher emotions!
Which, by the way, is one reason why I believe very strongly in animal rights.
P.S. – I would have to disagree with you (respectfully), though, about Buddhism being so great. I have read some things about Buddhists, and some of them can be very hateful people, apparently. For example, I read somewhere that Buddhists would disown crime victims (even when the victims were children) and say they must have done something to deserve it, in a previous life.
I mean, any religious doctrine can be coopted by bad and uncaring people, no? Just like Christianity was used to justify slavery in the South.
The biological basis of empathy is important and guiding. But, other biological drives can become distorted and overwhelm the empathy “gene”, as it were. For example the desire to eat can metastasize into a lust for power; something like that. Also, the expression of empathy/mirror neuron behavior may vary among ethnic groups. That would be a fascinating study.
Some years ago, I read a study that certain viruses can affect human mood or behavior; in particular creating a degree of negativity and dour behavior. The study focused on northern European nations where the virus was endemic. The study indicated that administration of an anti-viral drug brightened the mood of the test subjects. Interesting but not conclusive in my opinion.
If we do not accept that our existence is in an infinite universal of spatial dimensions and forces/complexities that are infinitely deep as well, then we are untethered from reality and just a few short assumptions away from Ayn Rand. Religion should be our compass pointing outward toward infinity.
My knowledge of Buddhism is limited to a book by Alan Watts read as a teenager a loooong time ago. For the record, I suspect a form of reincarnation exists and a “scientific basis” will eventually be discovered. And I have had several “psychic” events that defy explanation by the rationale portion of my mind. I just accept it as facts that stand alone.
Final thought, we are largely clueless how the world works; just passengers with a one way ticket to an unknown destination. Lunch break over, back to work.