Atheism Lay at the Core of Soviet Ideology, and Helps Explain Its Moral Monstrosity

Referring to Hitler and Stalin, the New Atheist biologist Richard Dawkins has written that there “is not the smallest evidence” that “atheism systematically influences people to do bad things.” Gary Saul Morson, reviewing Victoria Smolkin’s A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism, finds ample evidence to refute Dawkins; to the contrary, he writes, “Bolshevik ethics began and ended with atheism.”

Only someone who rejected all religious or quasi-religious morals could be a Bolshevik because, as Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and countless other Bolshevik leaders insisted, success for the party was the only standard of right and wrong. The bourgeoisie falsely claim that Bolsheviks have no ethics, Lenin explained in a 1920 speech. No, he said; what Bolsheviks rejected was an ethical framework based on God’s commandments or anything resembling them, such as abstract principles, timeless values, universal human rights, or any tenet of philosophical idealism. For a true materialist, he maintained, there could be no Kantian categorical imperative to treat others only as ends, not as means.

By the same token, the materialist does not acknowledge the impermissibility of lying or the supposed sanctity of human life. All such notions, Lenin declared, are “based on extra-human and extra-class concepts” and so are simply religion in disguise. “That is why we say that to us there is no such thing as a morality that stands outside human society,” he said. “That is a fraud. To us morality is subordinated to the interests of the proletariat’s class struggle.” That meant the Communist party. . . .

For a true atheist, to acknowledge any moral standard “outside human society”—which means outside the party—was anathema. As the Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin explained: “From the point of view of ideal absolutes and empty phraseology one can attack Soviet ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘hierarchy’ as much as one wishes. But such a point of view is itself empty, abstract, and meaningless. The only possible approach in this regard is the historical one which bases the criteria of rationality on the specific historical circumstances”—that is, on what the party wants to do at any given moment. . . .

Memoirist after memoirist, including the atheist Lydia Ginzburg, testifies that in the [Soviet prison] camps the only people who consistently chose conscience, even at the cost of their lives, were the believers. It did not seem to matter whether they were Jews, Orthodox Christians, Russian sectarians, or Baptists.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Atheism, Communism, History & Ideas, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Soviet Union, Totalitarianism

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security