Posts Tagged ‘Mongols’

American Tsarism

December 15, 2017

Going though YouTube the other day, I found a clip, whose title quoted a political analyst, radical or politicians, as saying that the American political elite now regards its own, ordinary citizens as a foreign country. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten who the speaker was, but I will have to check the video out. But looking at the title of what the leader of the Conservative branch of the Polish nationalist movement said about the Russian Empire. He described how the tsars and the autocracy exploited and oppressed ordinary Russians, stating baldly that ‘they treat their people as a foreign, conquered nation’. Which just about describes tsarist rule, with its secret police, anti-union, anti-socialist legislation, the way it ground the peasants and the nascent working class into the ground for the benefit of big business and the country’s industrialisation. The system of internal passports, which were introduced to keep the peasants on the land, and paying compensation to their masters for the freedom they had gained under Tsar Alexander, and to continue working for them for free, doing feudal labour service: the robot, as it was known in Czech. It’s no accident that this is the word, meaning ‘serf’ or ‘slave’, that Karel Capek introduced into the English and other languages as the term for an artificial human in his play Rossum’s Universal Robots.

We’re back to Disraeli’s ‘two nations’ – the rich, and everyone else, who don’t live near each other, don’t have anything in common and who may as well be foreign countries. It’s in the Tory intellectual’s Coningsby, I understand. Disraeli didn’t really have an answer to the problem, except to preach class reconciliation and argue that the two could cooperate in building an empire. Well, imperialism’s technically out of favour, except for right-wing pundits like Niall Ferguson, so it has to be cloaked in terms of ‘humanitarian aid’. Alexander the Great was doing the same thing 2,500 years ago. When he imposed tribute on the conquered nations, like the Egyptians and Persians, it wasn’t called ‘tribute’. It was called ‘contributions to the army of liberation’. Because he’d liberated them from their tyrannical overlords, y’see. The Mongols did the same. Before taking a town or territory, they’d send out propaganda, posing as a force of liberators come to save the populace from the tyrants and despots, who were ruling them.

What a joke. Someone asked Genghis Khan what he though ‘happiness’ was. He’s supposed to have replied that it was massacring the enemy, plundering his property, burning his land, and outraging his women. If you’ve ever seen the 1980s film version of Conan the Barbarian, it’s the speech given by Conan when he’s shown in a cage growing up. I think the film was written by John Milius, who was responsible for Dirty Harry ‘and other acts of testosterone’ as Starburst put it.

And it also describes exactly how the elite here regard our working and lower-middle classes. We’re crushed with taxes, more of us are working in jobs that don’t pay, or forced into something close to serfdom through massive debt and workfare contracts. The last oblige people to give their labour free to immensely profitable firms like Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s. And at the same time, the elite have been active in social cleansing – pricing the traditional inhabitants of working class, and often multicultural areas, out of their homes. These are now gentrified, and become the exclusive enclaves of the rich. Homes that should have people in them are bought up by foreigners as an investment and left empty in ‘land-banking’. And you remember the scandal of the ‘poor doors’ in London, right? This was when an apartment block was designed with two doors, one of the rich, and one for us hoi polloi, so the rich didn’t have to mix with horned handed sons and daughters of toil.

I got the impression that for all his Toryism, Disraeli was a genuine reformer. He did extend the vote to the upper working class – the aristocracy of Labour, as it was described by Marx, creating the ‘villa Toryism’ that was to continue into the Twentieth Century and our own. But all the Tories have done since is mouth platitudes and banalities about how ‘one nation’ they are. Ever since John Major. David Cameron, a true-blue blooded toff, who was invited by the Palace to take a job there, claimed to be a ‘one nation Tory’. Yup, this was when he was introducing all the vile, wretched reforms that have reduced this country’s great, proud people, Black, brown, White and all shades in-between – to grinding poverty, with a fury specially reserved for the unemployed, the sick, the disabled. These last have been killed by his welfare reforms. Look at the posts I’ve put up about it, reblogging material from Stilloaks, Another Angry Voice, the Poor Side of Life, Diary of a Food Bank Helper, Johnny Void, et al.

But that’s how the super-rich seem to see us: as moochers, taxing them to indulge ourselves. It was Ayn Rand’s attitude, shown in Atlas Shrugs. And it’s how the upper classes see us, especially the Libertarians infecting the Republican and Conservative parties, whose eyes were aglow with the joys of the unrestrained free market and the delights of South American death squads and the monsters that governed them. Walking atrocities against the human condition like General Pinochet, the Contras, Noriega. All the thugs, monsters and torturers, who raped and butchered their people, while Reagan slavered over them as ‘the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers’. And you know what? An increasing number of progressives are taking a hard look at the Fathers of the American nation. Patricians to a man, who definitely had no intention of the freeing the slaves, or giving the vote to the ladies. and who explicitly wrote that they were concerned to protect property from the indigent masses. Outright imperialists, who took land from Mexico, and explicitly wrote that they looked forward to the whole of South America falling into the hands of ‘our people’. If you need a reason why many South Americans hate America with a passion, start with that one. It’s the reason behind the creation of ‘Arielismo’. This is the literary and political movement, which started in Argentina in the 19th century, which uses the figure of Caliban in Shakespeare’s the Tempest to criticise and attack European and North American colonialism, with the peoples of the South as the Caliban-esque colonised. It was formed by Argentinian literary intellectuals as a reaction to America’s wars against Mexico and annexation of Mexican territory, and their attempts to conquer Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

That’s how South America responded to colonisation from the North and West. And colonialism – as troublesome ‘natives’ to be kept under control, is very much how the elite see ordinary Brits and Americans, regardless of whether they’re White, Black, Asian or members of the First Nations.

But you can only fool people for so long, before the truth becomes blindingly obvious. You can only print so many lies, broadcast so many news reports telling lies and twisted half-truths, before conditions become so terrible ordinary people start questioning what a corrupt, mendacious media are telling them. The constant scare stories about Muslims, foreign immigration, Black crime and violence; the demonization of the poor and people on benefit. The constant claim that if working people are poor, it’s because they’re ‘feckless’ to use Gordon Brown’s phrase. Because they don’t work hard enough, have too many children, or spend all their money on luxuries like computers – actually in the information age a necessity – or computer games, X-Boxes and the like.

You can only do that before the workers you’ve legislated against joining unions start setting up workers’ and peasants’ councils – soviets. Before the peasants rise up and start burning down all those manor houses, whose denizens we are expected to follow lovingly in shows like Downton Abbey. Which was written by Julian Fellowes, a Tory speechwriter.

Before ordinary people say, in the words of ’80s Heavy Metal band Twisted Sister, ‘We ain’t goin’ to take it’.

Before decent, respectable middle class people of conscience and integrity decide that the establish is irremediably corrupt, and there’s absolutely no point defending it any longer.

A month or so ago, BBC 4 broadcast a great series on Russian history, Empire of the Tsars, present by Lucy Worsley. In the third and last edition, she described the events leading up to the Russian Revolution. She described how Vera Zasulich, one of the 19th century revolutionaries, tried to blow away the governor of St. Petersburg. She was caught and tried. And the jury acquitted her. Not because they didn’t believe she hadn’t tried to murder the governor of St. Petersburg, but because in their view it wasn’t a crime. Zasulich was one of the early Russian Marxists, who turned from peasant anarchism to the new, industrial working classes identified by Marx as the agents of radical social and economic change.

And so before the Revolution finally broke out, the social contract between ruler and ruled, tsarist autocracy and parts of the middle class, had broken down.

I’m not preaching revolution. It tends to lead to nothing but senseless bloodshed and the rise of tyrannies that can be even worse than the regimes they overthrow. Like Stalin, who was as brutal as any of the tsars, and in many cases much more so. But the elites are preparing for civil unrest in the next couple of decades. Policing in America is due to become more militarised, and you can see the same attitude here. After all, Boris Johnson had to have his three water cannons, which are actually illegal in Britain and so a colossal waste of public money.

Don’t let Britain get to that point. Vote Corbyn, and kick May and her gang of profiteers, aristos and exploiters out. Before they kill any more people.

A Prayer for the Persecuted Church from Ancient Iran

June 4, 2013

I was saddened and disgusted by recent reports of the persecution of Christians in Iran. The Iranian regime is cracking down on evangelical Christianity. Worship, preaching and Christian literature in Farsi is forbidden, churches have been closed and their pastors arrested. The most notable of these are Pastors Youcef Naderkhani and Abedini. They have been imprisoned and sent to the notoriously brutal Evin prison, where their captors are placing them under considerable pressure to convert to Islam. This is not the first time by any means that the Revolutionary regime has persecuted Christians. The Ayatollah Khomeini promised freedom for all religions in Iran, not just Islam. Despite this, the son of the Anglican bishop of Tehran was murdered in the 1980s, apparently by agents of the regime. Several Armenian clergy have also been killed.

Persecution of Christians in Iran down the Centuries

The persecution of Christians in Iran goes back centuries. The church was persecuted under the Sassanid emperors. The Mongols, after their conversion to Islam in the 12th/13th centuries persecuted and destroyed a flourishing Nestorian church that had spread across central Asia to China. Then in the 20th century there was the Armenian massacres. Although this was launched by the Ottoman Turks, it extended into Iran, where members of the Armenian minority were butchered by the Kurds. The massacres were not an isolated event, but part of a ‘Day of the Sword’ that also saw other Christian minorities attacked and murdered across the Middle East. The British traveller, Robert Byron, records an appeal by a Syriac mar in Iraq for help against the jihad declared against his people.

Persecution of Baha’is in Iran

Christians are certainly not alone in being persecuted in Iran. The most severe persecution has been inflicted on the Baha’is. These are, like the Admadis, considered an Islamic heresy, and are therefore regarded as outside the dhimmi designation that provides a limited tolerance for Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. Because one of the religion’s foundes, Bahaullah, was exiled by the Turkish authorities to Haifa, there is now a large body of conspiracist theorising that falsely accuses them of being an Israeli plot to undermine Islam. In Iran there have been a series of pogroms that have killed an estimated 50,000 Baha’is. Baha’is have been imprisoned, tortured and female believers gang-raped in order to force them to renouce their beliefs. Baha’is travelling to Iran have been forced to sign documents stating they have left the faith in order to enter the country. Any mention of this persecution inside Iran is also strictly forbidden. A Western businessman with dealings in Iran and Iranian friends and business partners was arrested when he returned to the country after writing a book on the pogrom against the Baha’is.

Muslim Iranians Outraged against Khomeinist Regime’s Violence and Persecution

This intolerance and persecution is not shared by many Iranian Muslims. John Simpson in his book on Iran records that the congregation for the funeral of the Anglican bishop’s son included the Christians’ Muslim friends and colleagues. The Shah was a thug and a tyrant, but older Iranians who lived under his rule state that they all considered themselves Iranians, regardless of individual faith. Iranian Muslims did have Baha’is and Zoroastrians amongst their friends. The rioting and demonstrations against the cartoons of Mohammed published in Denmark outraged many genuinely liberal and tolerant Iranians. The Iranian correspondent for the British magazine, Private Eye, reported a counter-demonstration against the riots at the remains of the Danish embassy the day after it was razed by a mob. Their members included many whose patriotism and love for their country cannot be denied. One of these was the quadroplegica veteran of the Iran-Iraq. This man was a mouth-painter, and painted a picture of Our Lady, who is also a revered figure in Islam. The magazine also noted that the blog of one of the Basiji commanders, who helped organise the riots and destruction, was flooded with comments from Iranians denouncing his actions. One even said that it was people like him, who were responsible for the suspicion and hatred of Islam in the West.

Life and Prayer of Simeon of Persia

The prayer is by Simeon of Persia, alias Simeon Barsabba’e. He was bishop of Ctesiphon, and was martyred there in 341 during the campaign against Christianity by the Persian Emperor, Shapur II. Just as the contemporary Iranian regime accuses Christians of treachery and disloyalty, so Simeon and his fellows were then. Amongst other crimes, he was accused of plotting treason in correspondence to the Roman emperor, Constatius II. He was ordered to convert to Zoroastrianism, but refused. He and a large number of other Christians were thus executed on Good Friday, 341. After his death, his sister, the virgin St. Pherbutha, was accused of witchcraft and martyred with her sister and another woman. The two bishops, St. Shahdost, and St. Barba’shmin, who succeeded Simeon to the see were also martyred in 342 and 346 respectively. The prayer by Simeon of Persia describes his despair at seeing his church destroyed and its people turned against him. Yet he is determined to continue in his faith so that he will win the crown of glory in heaven, where there will be no earthly persecutors.

‘Give me this crown, Lord; you know how I long for it,
for I have loved you with all my heart and all my being.
When I see you, I shall be filled iwth joy and you will give
me rest. I shall no longer have to live in this world and see
my people suffering, your churches destroyed, your altars
overthown, your devoted clergy everywhere persecuted,
the weak defiled, the lukewarm turned from the truth, and
my flock, that was so large reduced at the time of testing to
a handful.

I shall not see the many that seemed to be my friends
undergo an inward change, become hostile and seek my
death; or find those that were my friends for a while taken
from me by persecution, at the very time when the killers
are snapping their fingers at our people and lording it over
them.

Yet I mean to persevere in my vocation like a hero and
to walk bravely along the parth marked out for me, so that I
shall be an example to all your people in the East. I have
had the first place at table, I will have the first place too
whien it comes to dying; I will be the first to give my
blood. Then with my brethren I shall enter on that life in
which there are no cares, no anxiety, no solicitude, a life
where there is neither persecutor nor persecuted, neither
oppressor nor oppressed, neither tyrant nor victim of
tyranny. No threatening kings, no blustering prefects shall I
see there. No one there will cite me before his tribunal or
upset me with repeated menaces; there will be no on eto do
me violence or bully me.

I shall stumble no more, when once I have gained a
firm footing in you, the Way we all must walk in. My
weary limbs will find their rest in you, for you, Anointed,
are the Oil that is to anoint us. The grief in my heart will
be forgotten when I drink of you, the Chalice of our
salvation. The trears in my eyes you will wipe away, OJoy, O
Consolation’.

We pray that this current persecution will soon cease without the deaths of pastors Naderkhani, Abedini, and the other clergy and worshippers, as will the attacks on other religious minorities, such as the Baha’is and liberal Muslims. We pray that the pastors and other Christians and prisoners of conscience will soon be freed from jail, to live freely. We pray that God will sustain the pastors and their community in their faith, and that soon all Iranians will live in peace and friendship, regardless of their faith.

World without end, Amen.

The Religious Origins of Totalitarianism and Tyranny

April 1, 2009

One of the other articles at the Butterflies and Wheels site that Wakefield has also mentioned as requiring critique and discussion is Christopher Orlet’s attempt to claim that religion, and particularly Christianity, was the cause of the totalitarian dictatorships and murderous tyrannies of the 20th century. The article is entitled ‘Lessons of Atheist Dictatorships, and it is at http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/articleprint.php?num=298’

Orlet’s article is basically an attempt to rebut the accusation by Christian and other religious apologists that atheist regimes have committed more and greater atrocities than Christians and members of other religions. Orlet instead argues that Christianity and other religions have also supported murderous tyrannies. He further argues that when atheist regimes have committed massacres and other atrocities, it was for purely political reasons, rather than because they were atheists. The attempt by Christian apologists to blame the horrific atrocities committed by Fascist, Nazi, Communist and agrarian utopian regimes on atheism ‘shows only a sad and unwitting lack of scholarship’.

Orlet notes the support given by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches to Fascist regimes in Europe, including Italy, Croatia, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Austria and Slovakia. He states that the Papacy viewed Hitler as defending Europe against Communism, and did not comment or condemn the Holocaust because the Nazis were useful attacking the Red Army. After the War, senior Vatican clergyman with Fascist sympathies, such as Bishop Alois Hudal, who was a supporter of Hitler and friend of Pope Pius XII, arranged for the escape of Nazi war criminals to South America. Other leading members of the Vatican also arranged for the Fascist dictator of Croatia, Ante Pavelic, who was responsible for the organised massacre of Serbs and other nations in the former Yugoslavia, to flee to Peron’s Argentina. Ortel further claims that, with the exception of Hitler, the vast majority of the Nazis were devout Roman Catholics, like the infamous ‘butcher of Lyons’, Klaus Barbie. Ortel also quotes the various references Hitler made to God in his speeches. He does, however, consider that Hitler was a Pagan, rather than a Christian.

Ortel then goes on to state that when atheist regimes did commit their atrocities, it was because of their political ideologies, rather than because of their atheism. He states that Marx believed that religion, although originally harmless, was now an ideological instrument of the ruling class, but would eventually disappear after the working class had gained power. He notes that the French Revolutionaries had similar views on the way religion was used by the ruling class to support their power and subordinate their peoples. He discusses the attempt of the French Revolutionaries to abolish Christianity, and replace it with a cult of the Goddess of Pure Reason, and the Terror and anticlerical massacres that saw 200 priests put to death. Orlet considers that they were executed, not because the regime was atheist, but because Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church was associated with the oppression of the Ancien Regime which the Revolutionaries had overthrown. He states that Stalin committed his atrocities, including the artificial famine in the Ukraine, which was intended to destroy Ukrainian nationalism, not because of his atheism, but because he wished to establish and fulfil the Communist programme of mass nationalisations and the collectivisation of agriculture.

He also states that until the 20th century, the leaders of most nations would have been religious. This did not prevent them from committing horrific atrocities, such as those committed by the Mongols in China, Hungary and Russia. He states that the Armenia massacres committed by the Turks in the 1920s was committed as a jihad, and also states that the genocide in Rwanda was also partly the result of religious motivations, and the various churches either did not attempt to stop, or actively participated in the atrocities. He also states that Mao Tse Tung attacked Christianity as part of a wider campaign against traditional influences in Chinese society, including Buddhism and Taoism. Orlet also states that Pol Pot gained his ideas about the suppression of personality and total allegiance to a cause from the time he spent in a Buddhist monastery. His murderous ideology, however, was the result of the Marxism he learned in Paris and by the agricultural society of the non-Buddhist Khmers. ‘It was an anti-Western, anti-urban and pro-nativist ideology that defined the Khmer Rouge, not atheism, which was but one aspect.’

Ortel ends his article by comparing the attitudes towards religion in Poland and Albania. In Poland, the Roman Catholic Church remained separate from the state after its partition by Prussia, Austria and Russia, and so enjoyed the support of the Polish people, and acted to defend them against the oppression of both the Nazis and then the Communists. In Albania, however, before the Communist revolution the country was ruled by a Moslem ruling class who possessed vast estates and governmental powers in the administrative system of the Ottoman Empire. As a result, religion was extremely unpopular, and the Communist authorities officially abolished it after they seized power. He therefore concludes that America is a profoundly religious country because of the separation of Church and state, and that the attempts by the Religious Right to unite the two would destroy the popularity of religion in the US.

Now let’s examine his arguments.

It is indeed true, and disgusting and horrific, that a number of Fascist regimes across Europe enjoyed the active support of the various churches. There were a number of reasons for this. After the French Revolution and its attack on Christianity and the Church, the Roman Catholic Church became extremely hostile to democracy and preferred to support traditional, autocratic monarchies, which would support the traditional social order and the Church. After the Unification of Italy by Garibaldi, the Church was also strongly opposed to the new Italian state because of the incorporation of Rome and the Papal States, with the exception of the Vatican, by the Nationalist forces. While few of the founders of the Italian state were atheists, most were anticlerical and successive governments after the Unification launched various campaigns against the Church. Many convents and monasteries were closed, and there were attempts to limit or outlaw the immense influence members of the clergy could play in education and the political beliefs of lay Italians. One of the reasons why the Papacy eventually supported Mussolini’s dictatorship and signed the Lateran Accords recognising both the Italian state and the Fascist regime was that the Fascists, in their turn, promised to support the Church in contrast to the opposition of parts of the traditional Italian state.

Many of the Fascist regimes in central Europe – in Germany, Austria and Hungary – arose as part of a reaction to the Communist revolution that spread throughout these countries in 1919, and which was only suppressed through extreme Right-wing paramilitary groups, such as the Freikorps in Germany and the Heimwehr in Austria. Religion was an integral part of these societies, which felt themselves threatened both by militant Communism and the development of modern, mass industrial society. Many of the Fascist regimes, such as those in Hungary and Romania, viewed the religious beliefs of their peoples as one of their defining characteristics, and so attempted to promote these religious beliefs and their various churches. In some of these countries, Fascism received widespread support due to the perceived failure of democracy. In Italy, for example, effective government of the country was prevented by the existence of various factions and parties, none of which had a sufficient majority to govern unaided and most of them refused to co-operate with each other in forming an administration. The Liberal Party, for example, which had previously been the leading Italian political party, was split into four different factions around four leading politicians all competing for power. In Bulgaria in the 1930s, the political scene was similarly one of increasing fragmentation as parties split and refused to co-operate with each other in the government of the country. The result was that leading politicians and public figures in these nations supported Fascism as a way of governing their countries effectively, while democracy has only produced political stagnation and controversy.

One of the political parties Ortel states supported the Fascists was in fact divided in its support for the regime. The Italian Populist Party – PPI – was founded as a Christian, Roman Catholic political alternative to socialism by an Italian layman, Don Luigi Sturzo, who had received permission to do so from Cardinal Pietro Gasparri. It supported democratic, secular reform, the defence of the family, the creation and protection of small, independent farms, the right to form unions, local government, women’s suffrage, the independence of the Church, proportional representation and the League of Nations. Although the party entered Mussolini’s cabinent in 1923, Sturzo himself was profoundly hostile to Fascism. The Vatican forced Sturzo to resign as the party secretary in 1923. During the 1924 elections, the Popolari were frequently the victims of Fascist violence, and leading anti-Fascists, such as Don Giovanni Minzoni, were murdered. Minzoni was a Roman Catholic clergyman, who had been elected as archpriest of San Niccolo in 1916, and served as military chaplain in the First World War. After the War he returned to that part of Italy, and devoted himself to political activism, setting up Roman Catholic co-operatives and trade unions. He supported the Roman Catholic daily paper, Il Popolo, and was also active in the Roman Catholic youth organisations. He founded a local branch of the Roman Catholic youth organisation, the Associazione degli Esploratori Cattolici, which aroused the vehement hostility of the Fascists. The Vatican supported the Fascists against the Populists because it considered them too radical, particularly as they were not under the control of the bishops. Sturzo was forced to leave Italy in 1924, and his successor, Alcide de Gasperi, resigned in 1925. The party was suppressed in 1926 by the Fascists after the promulgation of the Exceptional Decrees.

As for Fascism itself, this was a mixture of various, and frequently contradictory ideas and movements. The Fascists were essentially extreme nationalists, and took their ideas from both the extreme Right and extreme Left. Mussolini had been a radical Socialist, although he later joined the extreme Right in opposition to socialism, liberalism and democracy. Initially Mussolini kept the Fascist programme vague, in order to gain the support of the different sections of Italian society, and Fascist ideology regarded morality and ideology itself as relative and subject to change as the occasion demanded. Although he allied the Fascists with the Church, many Fascists remained strongly anticlerical and the Roman Catholic Church strongly disapproved of the non-Christian elements in Fascism, such as the Fascist calendar that dated everything from the year of the Fascist revolution, when Mussolini gained power.

Similarly, while the Nazis also had the support of parts of the Church, they were also hostile to Christianity. Alfred Rosenberg, one of the leaders of the Nazi party, wrote The Myth of the 20th Century, which was so strongly antichristian that Hitler was forced to withdraw it and apologize. Hitler did indeed attempt to present himself as a pious German defending Christianity against Communism, but the Nazis themselves attempted to control and suppress the churches. Hitler himself hoped that Christianity would eventually disappear, and his hostility to Christianity was certainly not confined only to him.

As for the Roman Catholic Church, in 1937 Pope Pius XI published the encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge – ‘With Burning Anxiety’ denouncing Nazi racism. Up until 1933 in various parts of Germany members of the Roman Catholic Church had been forbidden to join the Nazi party, and the Nazis were similarly prohibited in participating in Roman Catholic ceremonies, such as funerals. Although hostile to Nazism, Pius XI signed a concordat with the Nazis as part of an attempt to gain recognition for the Roman Catholic Church in Germany and other European nations, such as Poland and Romania, that been continuing since 1922. While there were many senior members of the clergy who did support Nazism, the Church was largely afraid of a new struggle with the German authorities and the possibility of overt persecution. Pope Pius XII made a number of speeches, which, although not specifically mentioning Nazism, were certainly viewed as criticisms of that regime. In a 1939 speech he discussed the ‘law of human solidarity and charity that is dictated and imposed … by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men, regardless of the people to which they belong.’ The New York Times reported the speech under the headline ‘Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism; Urges Restoration of Poland’. He made a similar speech intended for the Poles in 1943, and in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi. In 1942 his expressed his sympathy for those ‘persons, who, through no fault of their own and by single fact of their nationality or race, have been condemned to death or for progressive extinction’. This infuriated Mussolini and the Nazis viewed it as an attack on them on behalf of the Jews. Pius XII’s closest official amongst the German clergy was the anti-Nazi Cardinal Konrad von Preysing, and the Pope himself agreed to act as an intermediary with the West on behalf of a group of German generals who planned on assassinating Hitler in 1939. During the War, he opened the Vatican to give refuge to 5,000 Jews. When the Nazis attempted a round-up of Jews in Rome in 1943, Pius XII protested and it was halted. The papal nuncio in Bucharest openly protested in August and September 1942 against the deportation of Jews from Romania. He also granted money to the Jewish rescue organisation, DELASEM, and supported the work of Father Anton Weber to assist Jews to escape Europe and Father Pierre-Marie Benoit, who aided French Jews to escape to North Africa.

Moreover, although Pius XII hated Communism, he nevertheless did not view the Nazi campaign against the USSR as a Crusade, according to the Roman Catholic historian, Pierre Blet. When the Italian ambassador to the Vatican attempted to gain official Roman Catholic encouragement for the war against the Soviet Union, the secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs rejected his request, stating that ‘the swastika is not the cross of a crusade.’ The Pope never explicitly attacked Nazism or called Roman Catholics in Nazi-occupied territories to resist it, because he feared losing what little influence the Roman Catholic Church had with the Fascist authorities and the possibility of the persecution of the Roman Catholic Church. While the Allies would have preferred the Pope to have explicitly denounced Nazism and Fascism, they understood why he didn’t.

As for the French Revolutionaries’ campaigns against Christianity, although they hated Christianity and the Church because of its position within the ancien regime, as part of what they considered to be a feudal and oppressive social order, Deist and atheist criticisms of organised religion and specifically Christianity appeared in France long before the Revolution. One of the most influential of the late 18th century atheist works was D’Holbach’s Le Systeme de la Nature of 1770. There were a group of atheist writers actively challenging and attacking religion at this time, including Boulanger, Naigeon, Charles Francois Dupuis, Sylvain Marechal and Jerome Lalande, amongst others. Naigeon was the successor to Diderot and the author Recueil Philosophique ou Melanges de Pieces sur la Religion et la Morale of 1770, which collected a number of previous attacks on religion. D’Holbach, however, was probably the most prominent of the French atheist writers. He hated religion, not just because he, like the other atheists, considered it oppressive, but because he also considered it to be false, and so demanded the destruction of Christian civilisation because it was constructed on such a false view of the world. Now it’s probably true that many of the French Revolutionaries who attempted to abolish Christianity were motivated because of their hatred of the French Church’s part in the oppressive feudal regime of pre-Revolutionary France. Nevertheless, French atheists also attacked religion and demanded its destruction, and that of the Christian civilisation that was based on it, because they felt that religion was wrong and by its very nature oppressive.

Similarly, it is also true that the Communists committed their atrocities from a desire to establish a Communist social and economic order, rather than simple atheism. Nevertheless, they were atheists, who attempted to explain and reform human society on the basis of philosophical materialism. Communism was considered to provide an objective, scientific explanation of the economic forces that influenced and defined the forms of human society and culture, in contrast to other views and models of society, and humanity’s progress from feudalism to bourgeois democracy and then eventually to Communism was considered as occurring according to objective, scientific sociological laws. Thus, while Marx considered that eventually religion would wither away as true Communism was established, rather than be forcibly abolished through revolutionary action, nevertheless atheism was indeed a profound part of Communist ideology. It is therefore true that while the Communists attacked the Russian Orthodox Church, and then the others religious faiths because they viewed them as part of an oppressive and exploitative social system. However, they also considered religion itself to be profoundly wrong, and that society could only be reformed through the construction of a social and economic system based on what they considered to be the principles of scientific law, which was held to be opposed to religion and its influence.

As for Mao Tse Tung and his campaign against religion, it is indeed true that he attacked not only Christianity, but also Taoism and Buddhism. Furthermore, in traditional Chinese religion, the Emperor possessed a strongly religious role, as he was responsible for performing a number of rituals and sacrifices so that the gods would grant his kingdom peace, harmony and prosperity. Now while the important place of the emperor as the intermediary between Earth and the gods in Chinese religion might explain why the Chinese Communists were so hostile to religion, because of the way it formed part of a traditional, oppressive social order, this does not alter the fact that they actively campaigned against religion as a whole as part of an attempt to create a Communist society based on Mao’s own interpretation of Marxism. Similarly, even if Christianity was only one of a number of religions, which the Communists in China and elsewhere attempted to destroy, nevertheless it still remains that the Communists attempted to destroy religion using force and violence. Orlet considers that Pol Pot learned about the suppression of personality and the breaking of personal ties, which became integral parts of his own revolutionary beliefs, at the Wat Botum Vaddei Buddhist monastery, rather than in the pages of Das Kapital. However, absolute dedication to the cause of the Revolution had been a feature of the Russian Revolutionary tradition since Chernyshev in the 19th century, and was stressed by Lenin himself, who incorporated it into Soviet Communism. Thus while Pol Pot adopted this aspect of Buddhist practice, it seems likely he used it as part of a revolutionary ideology and worldview based on important elements of revolutionary Communism. How Communist the Khmer Rouge actually were, is a matter of debate. One book on that horrific part of Cambodia’s history reviewed a few years ago in the Financial Times concluded that they did not possess a coherent ideology, and that the sheer corrupt pursuit of personal power and wealth amongst the ruling elite, including expensive consumer items, such as western motorcycles, was an important part of the personal motives of its leadership alongside any ideological notions. Nevertheless, the sheer brutality of the regime demonstrates that its leaders had rejected traditional religious values such as compassion and respect for human life in the belief that they could create a totally new society. This aspect of the Khmer Rouge certainly places them in the modern tradition of political activism that began with the French Revolution and its belief that a new, rational society could be created through the use of force directed against those who were perceived as enemies of the state.

Now the Armenian Massacres were indeed carried out as a jihad, a ‘Day of the Sword’, which affected other eastern Christian communities in what is now Iraq and Iran. However, while there certainly were religious elements involved in the genocide, it was part of a wider situation of nationalist violence with the Turkish Empire as previously subordinate nations in the Balkans and the Caucasus attempted to gain their freedom. Traditional Islam does not distinguish between the religious sphere and that of the state, and so, when the subject Christian peoples of the Ottoman Empire rebelled, there was certainly a religious element in the military response by the Turkish authorities to suppress them. However, contemporary historians of the Balkans have suggested that the violence involved in the various Balkan wars was the product of nationalism, rather than religious causes, and the massacres of the Armenians and the other Christian communities in the Middle East would also appear to be a product of extreme nationalism. There are passages in the Qu’ran that explicitly prohibit the killing of women, children and non-combatants in war, and so the destruction of entire communities and peoples in Armenian Massacres was in direct opposition to Shariah law.

As for the religious and political system in Albania, while the country was indeed ruled by Muslim Turkish feudal lords, who owned vast estates across the country on which most of the population worked as peasants, about 2/3 of the population generally was Muslim, so that the majority of the Albanian population shared their religion. This does not, however, mean that the feudal landlords necessarily were responsible for the enforcement of the law. Although they were responsible for the government of the country as a whole and the administration of their estates, the feudal lords were not necessarily responsible for maintaining the legal system. This was under the control of the qadis, judges appointed by the state. However, the ulema, the Muslim clergy, tended to distrust the state and did not wish to become involved with it, as they view the state as founded on oppression and its funds raised through extortion. Thus, while some of the Communists’ attempt to abolish religion in Albania may have been based on their hatred of a feudal system, in which power was held by a Muslim aristocracy, part of Albanian Muslim society was strongly opposed to the state because of what it considered to be its essentially oppressive nature. Thus the Communist campaign against religion in Albania appears to have been part of the general Communist attempt to destroy it, rather than necessarily reflecting popular attitudes to the religious aspects of Albanian politics and society.

Regarding the involvement of the churches in the Rwandan genocide, while this is disgusting and shameful, like their support for the Fascist regimes. However, their involvement was the result of human weakness and the power of personal, tribal and corporate motives over the demands of Our Lord to protect the weak and powerless against brutality and atrocity.

Now I do think that Orlet is probably correct in that part of the continuing popularity of Roman Catholicism in Poland may have been due to the Church’s role in defending and protecting them after the country was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria, during the Nazi occupation in the Second World War and then under Communism. It is also possible that America remains a religious nation because the separation of Church and State has prevented religion from becoming unpopular due to its involvement as a formal aspect of the state. Much of the American political system is based on Christian principles, developed by radical Protestants during the British Civil War and the Commonwealth during the 17th century. Indeed, historians consider that one of the major factors in the development of democracy in America was the Great Awakening, when ordinary people challenged the colonial authorities and the position of the established Church and founding their own churches and religious organisations to look after their spiritual needs, rather than simply accepting the spiritual leadership of the existing hierarchy. This became part of the general tradition of American political democracy by encouraging and establishing the right of the people to decide issues for themselves, rather than simply submit to the traditional, British aristocratic social order. As for the separation of Church and State, this was based on the ideas of the 17th century Puritan minister, Richard Baxter, who argued for it in his book, The Bloudy Tenant of Persecution and demanded freedom of conscience during the Civil War in Britain. He based his arguments for religious freedom and toleration on Scripture, and believed that when governments interfered in religion, they acted against it and became oppressive. Thus, America may be a religious country because much of American democracy is based on Puritan, Christian religious principles.

Thus, although the Church and religions generally have supported oppressive and murderous regimes, this has frequently been through secular concerns and motives, often against the tenets of the religions themselves. In some instances, however, members of the Church have acted to oppose tyranny and oppression in ways that the article has not recognised. Moreover, while atheist regimes have largely campaigned against religion because of the strong role it played in oppressive political and social systems, these regimes have also campaigned against religion because they also believed it was false and so should be destroyed. While atheist dictators and tyrants committed their crimes in order to create a new society, rather than simply from their atheist beliefs, nevertheless they believed that they acted according to objective scientific, societal laws in an ideology that explained the structure of society and demanded the abolition of religion as a false ideology. Furthermore, these atheist regimes were part of the tradition of revolutionary activism that began with the French Revolution in their belief that a new, rational society could be constructed through the use of force and violence. America may remain a religious country because of the separation of Church from State, but much of the American political system, including democracy, is based on 17th century Christian principles.