Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Dostoyevsky On Socialism’s Atheistic Question

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Decades before the establishment of any socialist country, Fyodor Dostoyevsky noted that socialism is an atheistic and materialistic religion. Here’s a quote:

“For socialism is not merely the labour question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism today, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth but to set up heaven on earth.”

This is Dostoyevsky’s own thought—which he offers in The Brothers Karamazov (Book 1, Chapter 5), while describing Alyosha, the youngest Karamazov, who has decided to enter a monastery. In the same passage, Dostoyevsky notes that Alyosha has decided that if God and immortality did not exist, then he would at once have become an atheist and socialist.

When we think of socialism, we think of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Castro’s Cuba, Chavez’s Venezuela, and even the welfare state system that is nowadays prevalent in most democracies in the world.

But Dostoyevsky is not talking about the actual imposition of socialism in any country; he is talking about the ambitions of the youthful idealists of the 19th century, the socialist devotees of Hegel and Marx, who he knew were secretly plotting to overthrow the cultural and political institutions and create a new “godless” heaven on earth.

Dostoyevsky understood that the project for creating a society based on reason and science, in which moral principles are ignored or denied, was like the attempt to build a tower of Babel. In his books, letters and journals, he repeatedly talks about the consequences of revolutionary atheistic socialism.


Jim Austin said...

I don't know why it would be specifically an atheistic question since the ideals of social can be traced back to the Bible: specifically Acts 2:44-45, 4:34-35, 5:1-11.

Anoop Verma said...

You are right, the religions are socialistic too. But in the last 200 years, religion, in most developed countries, has lost the power to influence the political choices that most people make. However, atheistic socialism continues to have a great influence.

Also, the rewards of religious socialism that the religions promise are always transcendental -- the religious preachers do not tell you that if you are religious minded and socialist, you will build a heaven on earth. They always promise a heaven when you transcend the material world (or after death).

Socialism, on the other hand, does not wait for transcendence; it promises heaven here, on earth, and it impels its followers to indulge in all kinds of atrocities to create such a heaven.