Thanks for your interesting comments! I will reply to some of the questions which you have put to me:
“Another way to achieve a consensus and keeping the neutrality of paragraph 13.2, could be considered by looking at the example given lately by Croatia: Hold a referendum and introduce one or several new constitutional articles as safeguards from ‘the plot against civilization’.“
The Saker replies:
Yes, very good idea. Besides, I really believe that the people need to be consulted much more often by means of referendums. At the very least, all crucial, civilizational and moral questions should be submitted to a popular vote.
Such an outcome would throw the imperialists into a tizzy … I think the vast majority of Muslims would celebrate – But I have to say, I ‘m not sure, do you understand implications of this? A Russian recognition of Islamic in this context, while maybe political, would be a civilizational move – . Because it would rightfully, tie Russia to the “Islamic world” – not just as it is now, but real terms of the future of Russia.
The Saker replies:
Modern Russia is already tied to the “Islamic world” not only because of the relatively large minority of Muslims living in modern Russia, but because Russia – along with Belarus – is eventually going to form a Federation with Kazakhstan. Anybody believing that Russia is not tied to the Islamic world does just not understand the reality on the ground. My position is simple: Russia would be far better of being proactive in tying itself to the Islamic world than being passive because in the former case Russia can influence what kind of ties it wants to have and with which part. See, in my opinion, and no offense intended to anybody, the concept of the “Islamic world” is a nice fantasy, but not a reality. There is no “ummah” out there, there are only very many countries, civilizations and various branches of Islam and Russia should try to get closer to those (such as the traditional Sufis of Chechnia and Kazakhstan or the Shia in the Middle East) with whom it could form an alliance against the liver-eating psychos. Being deliberately tied to the Islamic world does not mean becoming an Islamic Republic or somehow losing the Orthodox roots of most Russians, it just means accepting a fact of history which presents both risks and opportunities and take action to maximize the latter.
Fortunately there are plenty decent agnostics and atheists. So there must be hope for us! But what keeps a secular person decent?
The Saker replies:
First, and this is really important, so please everybody pay attention here: I consider that being an agnostic or an atheist is the normal and healthy reaction to exposure to false religions. Furthermore, agnosticism and even militant atheism can have very different causes. It can be a reaction against the absurdity or even dishonesty of false religions, it can be the result of inexplicable suffering and, literally, “anger at God” (in which case, of course, it is neither agnosticism nor atheism), it can be because of high ideals and honesty which are repelled by the very much less than perfect behavior of those who claim to believe, it can be what I call “existential cowardice” it can be simply the result of a lukewarm indifference to this issue. In all this list, only the last two are reprehensible: existential cowards simply do not have the courage to cope with the possibility that there might be a God above them so they go into denial, while the lukewarm simply don’t give a damn (“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” Rev. 3:16). The other forms of agnosticism and atheism are really a form of honesty and intellectual integrity. Allow me a simple thought experiment to explain my point:
Let us assume that there are 100 religions out there, all different, all contradicting each other. Since, by definition, the Truth is One and since, by definition, two religions contradicting each other cannot be both right, we have only two possible situations:
a) all 100 religions are wrong, invented, man-made, delusions, etc.
b) one of them is “right” and the 99 others are wrong, invented, man-made, delusions, etc.
Therefore, unless you have been exposed to the putative “true” religion, rejecting the 99 wrong ones is the correct thing to do.
Now what if you have been exposed to the putative “real one” and don’t feel in your heart that it is the true one? In that case, you follow your conscience (something which you should always do no matter the price to pay for it), and also reject it until and unless you change your mind. God and man always act in synergy and as long as you are at least open to the concept that there might be a true religion out there, even if you have not identified it yet, you are doing nothing wrong and you are living according to your conscience, that is already a rightful way to live you live.
That, however, does not solve the other problem you raise: what can keep a secular person decent? Logically? Nothing. Dostoevsky was quite right when he stated that “if there is no God all is permissible”. There is, however, something the Fathers of the Church called the “law of the heart”, a leftover awareness in each human being that there is a right and a wrong along with a nostalgia or a yearning to communicate with God. Of course, a atheist will deny that too.
Is there a logical reason to suppose that there might be a God and a true religion out there ? Yes, I think that there is. If you really study the Old Testament you will realize that the ancient Jewish prophets really did predict the life of Christ with great accuracy. As Augustine of Hippo wrote, “the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament“. Let me immediately say that the notion that the Old or New Testaments were retroactively change to “fit the bill” is ludicrous: first, there is no historical record of such a forgery and, second, knowing how sacred these books were for the faithful then, it would have been impossible to forge them without everybody immediately raising the alarm. In fact, there was one attempt at forging them, by the Jewish Masoretes who tried to forge the Old Testament after 70AD, but since their Masoretic forgery could be compared to the original Greek Septuagint, that forgery failed miserably. Having intellectually accepted the reality of the life of Christ accurately predicted centuries before His birth, you would have to conclude that this is indeed a “miraculous” events which points to His messiahship. After that, “all” you need to do is find out if any of the 100 religions out there is still following His teachings without changing them or adding to them.
I understand that faith is really not an intellectual process but a gift of God. But if you brain tells you that there might be more out there than an nonsensical existence without meaning or purpose and that pretty good probability that there is a God out there, then you can simply repeat in your heart the simple words of this prayer: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
As long as you always follow your conscience and seek The Truth will all your heart, mind and will, you are living a righteous life :-)
In Islam, a law of Allah cannot be changed by humans. Even though it may sound noble and logical at the time.(…) “what Allah has made halal I cannot make haram,
The Saker replies:
That is absolutely logical and self-evident: what has been revealed cannot be changed. One can only deny the reality of the revelation, but not demand that what has been revealed suddenly be changed to fit human desires. Not being a Muslim myself I don’t find it appropriate for me to make suggestions about this issue other than saying that it might be a “show stopper” in Christian-Muslim relations. Beyond that, it is not for me to suggest alternative approaches.
Old auntie said…
Defending cultural, social and civilizational values together: Fine.
Doing this by changing the Russian constitution: Really?
The Saker replies:
I am not sure that this is the only way or even the best way. I just think that this is a nice opportunity.
excellent post. I wonder though why you dismiss RC and the protestants
The Saker replies:
I am in no way dismissing the Papacy or the Reformed denominations. I just don’t believe that there is any possibility of collaboration with them. For 1000 years now, the so-called “Christian West” has used every possibility to destroy or subjugate the Orthodox Church and that hostility is still evident all over the modern “post-Christian West”. I am not talking about individual people here, but the western “Christian” denominations are all more or less rabidly anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian. It just makes no sense to deny that reality, at least not from the Orthodox point of view. Having spent over 1000 years on the receiving end of the “brotherly love” of western Christian denominations we learned our lesson really well.
What one can certainly agree upon, is that the whole problem is a particularly tricky one. I have the feeling that asserting a special role for Islam in the formulation of the Russian culture, society, system of values can lead only to the relativization of religion. The more that I am not convinced that its role was that important in shaping the character of Russia.
The Saker replies:
Pre-1917 Russia was indeed almost exclusively a product of the Orthodox culture and, after Peter I, the western Masonic elites. But that old Russia is gone forever, murdered by the Commissars, killed by the Nazis and finished off by the “democrats”. What we have today is a qualitatively different reality I call “post-Soviet Russia” and that modern, post-Soviet, Russia has been from day 1 (which I place roughly around the turn of the millennium) strongly influenced by Muslims who, while fewer in numbers than the Orthodox Christians, are far more socially and political active. Again, the example of Kadyrov and Chechnia immediately comes to my mind. Who does modern Russia owe more to, that lying crook “Patriarch” Kiril, or Akhmad and Ramzan Kadyrov?
Russia was the continuator of Byzance, her Tsar the defender of Orthodoxy and the protector of all Orthodox. Against that role all hell broke loose and we had the Revolution. Now the time to recover that role has come for Russia.
The Saker replies:
Yes, Russia had that potential, that calling, but nothing spiritual happens “automatically”, it has to be struggled for in the spiritual battle between light and darkness. I am sure you know the prophecies as well as I do: “Russia without a Czar is a stinking corpse” said Saint Anatolii of Optino, “God will have mercy on Russia and will lead through great sufferings towards glory if the Russian people repent” said Saint Serafim of Sarov while Father Ioann of Kronstadt said “if the Russian people do not repent the end of the world is near“. Do you see the Russian people repenting today? Their indifference to the truth has made it possible for the Sergianists to occupy the holy churches of the Kremlin – is that not the the “abomination of desolation” which occurred first in Jerusalem and later in Rome, Constantinople and now Moscow? Can you imagine what the millions of New Martyrs would say if they new what kind of individual is occupying the see of many holy patriarchs including Saint Patriarch Tikhon?
[Kirill Gundaev, besides being a well-known “clerical businessman” during the Gorbachev years, is also a “spiritual son” of Nikodim Rotov, a former KGB collaborator and a secret Papist who died in the hands of Pope John-Paul I; Gundaev is also a rabid ecumenist and, according to some well-informed sources of mine, there is indirect evidence – though no proof – that he is also a cardinal in pectore].
Alas, all the evidence shows that the Third Rome has lapsed just as the two first ones and “the one who restraints has been taken out” (точию держяй ныне дондеже от среды будет).
It won’t go to convert the Muslims or the Buddhists. But it cannot “hide the light under the bushel” either. How do you bring “reconciliation” hiding the Truth?
The Saker replies:
You don’t. You clearly remove the topic from the conversation about collaboration and you leave it for each individual to freely decide in his heart according to his conscience. There is a proper time and place for each thing, and both Muslims and Orthodox Christians claim that their faith is true. Let them both freely and unambiguously proclaim it and then, having done so, let them sit down together and deal with the immediate issues at hand. Both Christians and Muslims should be free to speak their mind freely anytime they want, but that does not mean that this is the only topic they can ever speak about. After all, when Saint Alexander Nevsky – who armies were full of Mongols – fought back the Teutonic Knights he did not constantly have theological disputes with the Shamanist and Muslim Mongols who fought on his side. I am in no way suggesting that either Muslims or Christians give up their faith, or that they accept that both are of “equal value” (stupid statement anyway), I am not advocating religious syncretism or some silly “ecumenical dialog of love”. I am just saying that we can fight battles together against our common enemies and, when we come home, after the battle has been won, we can have terrific theological disputations and passionate religious and historical debates and we can try to prove to each other that we are in the right until we are blue in the face. But first, let’s us deal with our common enemies.
Two brothers can live in one house, and defend that house together, without having to agree on every single issue.
I hadn’t replied to this essay before because it’s such a deep subject and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it long enough to write, if you know what I mean.
This is also the case with quite a few of your recent articles- so much to think about that I get a bit tongue-tied. Is it too late to reply to older articles? Any chance of arranging the page so that we can keep some of the older discussions going? I feel like it’s too late if I don’t reply within a day or two.
In reading the comments on this essay, I found some of the other readers had some of the same questions and thoughts as me, and I loved your responses – very insightful.
I especially liked your explanation of agnosticism and atheism. Yes,agnosticism and atheism do run a wide spectrum in their “causes”, from the natural and even instinctive rejection of false religion by those who care deeply for the genuinely divine, all the way to those rejecting the very concept of the divine from either arrogance or apathy.
Like one of your other readers, I am somewhat puzzled by your view that Orthodoxy is fundamentally incompatible with both Roman Catholicism and all the myriad and diverse Protestant sects. I’m not a member of any of them, but I don’t see why they should all be considered incompatible with Orthodoxy.
You replied that your view was based on the strong Western hostility towards both the Orthodox Church and Russians themselves. This hostility is certainly real and it makes me ashamed to be American. But I think the only religious source for it is in the “Judeo-Christian- Zionist” heresy, which is actually not that old. I don’t really understand the grudge that strange ideology has against the Russians and the Church, but it’s ugly and seems to be the driving force behind a lot of evil these days.
I think there are still some Protestant sects that have always rejected this heresy.
Russia and America were allies for a long time, and enjoyed good relations up until the 20th century. I hope we can return to that.
@Sky: I am somewhat puzzled by your view that Orthodoxy is fundamentally incompatible with both Roman Catholicism and all the myriad and diverse Protestant sects. I’m not a member of any of them, but I don’t see why they should all be considered incompatible with Orthodoxy. You replied that your view was based on the strong Western hostility towards both the Orthodox Church and Russians themselves. This hostility is certainly real and it makes me ashamed to be American
Wait, this might be a case of apples and oranges here. When I speak of the Papacy I mean the *institution* and the ideology permeating it. I am not, repeat, NOT, speaking about people. I strongly believe that there is the exact same percentage of good and bad people everywhere and the vast majority of Roman Catholics are utterly unaware of the issues I touch upon. I have spent my life surrounded by Roman-Catholics, in Argentina, but also in Spain, in Italy, in France and even in the USA, and my two oldest friends from my teenage years are both Roman-Catholics. Again, I am talking about the *institution* and its underlying ideology. I am most definitely NOT talking about nations either and, frankly, I don’t see how/why you as an American would feel ashamed of a putative American hostility when, in fact, I find that the vast majority of Americans are not hostile to Russia at all even though the two countries were at odds with each other during the Cold War. Please read the section “Anti-Russian feelings in the USA?” in this article: http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2013/10/1993-2013-is-twenty-years-long-pas-de.html. I wrote:
Considering the never ending barrage of anti-Russian propaganda in the western corporate media one could wonder how strong anti-Russian feelings are in the West. This is really hard to measure objectively, but as somebody born in Western Europe and who has lived a total of 15 years in the USA I would say that anti-Russian sentiment in the West is very rare, almost non-existent. In the USA there have always been strong anti-Communist feelings – there still are today – but somehow most Americans do make the difference between a political ideology that they don’t really understand, but that they dislike anyway, and the people which in the past used to be associated with it. US *politicians*, of course, mostly hate Russia, but most Americans seem to harbor very little bad feelings or apprehension about Russia or the Russian people.
I hope that this clarifies my position better and I apologize for my sometimes confusing writing style :-(
@The Third Rome…
We can say that the “Third Rome” never eventuated. Russian rulers moved always in the realm of “realpolitik”. That means that various “collaborations” obtained all the time when the Russian national interest (the “key to the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, as the famous Churchillian bon mot had it) was at stake. Even the Sainted Alexander reneged on a union with the papists which he concluded against the Tartars.
To answer your question why “that strange ideology” has such a grudge against Orthodoxy and Russians.
The Judeo-Zionist-(psudo)Christian heresy is not that new. It is in fact the first heresy of all, the Judaizing heresy, which rejected the divinity and Messiahship of Jesus and fought under various guises against the followers of Jesus, The Church, still waiting for their “own” Messiah who would come to restore the Kingdom of Israel (and take revenge against the Goyms who prevent this), in direct contradiction with the Christ own words (Acts,1,6-8).
As I already said, I don’t know enough about Russia as to have an informed opinion on what is possible and what isn’t. All I can do concerning Russia is look in the internet.
By writing “this is a nice opportunity” concerning the discussion of the constitution, did you mean something in the political atmosphere like this:
What Islam should exist in Russia?
Source : Vestnik Kavkaza / 6 Dec 2013
Six weeks ago, President Vladimir Putin met muftis of Muslim spiritual departments of Russia in Ufa. They discussed cooperation between the state and Muslim religious organizations.
According to Putin, the politicization of different religions in different directions, including Islam, is taking place in the world. Some political forces use Islam, more precisely its radical movements which are not historically typical for Russian Muslims, for a weakening of Russia, setting up conflicts on its territory, which are controlled from abroad, splitting various ethnic groups inside of the Muslim community, and stirring up separatist views in regions.
There are 82 registered Islamic corporate religious organizations in Russia. And Putin thinks that for a successful resistance to modern challenges, the high status of muftis and Russian Islamic theological school should be provided. It means, for example, establishing our own theological school which will provide independence of Russian spiritual space and will be recognized by the majority of Islamic scientists of the world. “Today the state has to take restricting measures against such literature, but it doesn’t always bring results, sometimes results are contrary,” Putin admitted, saying that it is necessary to develop a positive image of traditional Islam as an important spiritual component of an all-Russian identity.
Yuri Mikhailov, the editor-in-chief of the ‘Ladomir’ center, commented on the recommendation by Putin at the round-table “What Islam should exist in Russia?” “Not everybody is able to realize the situation with Vladimir Putin’s speech; it is absolutely unique,” Mikhailov stated. “Proposals which were presented in the program speech are unique not only for the modern history, but for the whole traditional history of Russia. Russia is suggested to go to the future, considering Islam as an instrument of uniting the society. Islam should be an ally of development.”
Speaking about this ally’s liabilities, Mikhail expresses the idea that “a clear, positive, constructive civil position should exist in the situation when discussion of stagnation in the Islamic civilization is a common thing. Imaginethe intuition of our President who, despite being a part of the information space, makes a decision that Russia should be an observer in the Islamic Conference Organization, it is called the Organization of Islamic Cooperation now. Today he proposes a unique idea, and he does it not only for prevention of terrorism. He says: “No, we will build our state on these fundaments, otherwise Russia will collapse.” In fact it is the main refrain of his speech.”
Mikhailov is sure that “we all face the problem of understanding of everything which the Islamic civilization created and development of the positive doctrine which will be important for the whole Islamic world. If Russia shows how to turn Islam into an instrument of social modernization, implementing innovations which are normal for Islam, it will be a centre, an axis of the world which is discussed by political and geopolitical scientists. The idea is expressed in Russia from geographical point of view; but we don’t see it politically. When the West and the East will be wings of Russia, the Christian and Muslim worlds will be a support which Russia will rely on and take the lead in these two worlds.”
@Old auntie:By writing “this is a nice opportunity” concerning the discussion of the constitution, did you mean something in the political atmosphere like this
Strictly speaking, I was referring to the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution and the ongoing discussions about changing/amending it. However, yes, I also see an opportunity in the fact that there is no doubt in my mind at all that Putin wants traditional Russian Islam to become an active part of society for many reasons: to combat Wahabi terrorism, of course, but also because the traditional voice of Islam is far closer to the Russian culture than the voice of the West. How many Muslims did we see lauding and rejoicing at the liberation of Khodorkovsky or the two Pussy Riot girls? *None*. That is exactly it – traditional Orthodox Russians and traditional Muslim Russians are much, much closer to each other when one might think and the Kremlin wants to formalize such a relationship.
@”What Islam should exist in Russia?”
This is a good question. Islam in Russia was mostly of the sufi nuance, much more “in tune”, so to speak, with a Christian worldview. Hodja Nasreddin (Nastratin Hogea in Romanian)is a popular character throughout the Orthodox sphere. This one must be encouraged, perhaps even enforced. And certainly the Salafi/Wahabi must be prohibited.
In Islam, a law of Allah cannot be changed by humans. Even though it may sound noble and logical at the time.(…) “what Allah has made halal I cannot make haram.
A highly respected scholar in the country which I reside said to nearest effect…
The IMF has banned the use of Gold as legal tender.
Allah has made the use of gold as legal tender Halal.
Cuba, North Korea, Iran are non members of the IMF.
How many claim today to be a Muslim country under Sharia Law?
certain things come to mind such as the west’d sudden disapproval of Qaddafi. Libya the country with free health care, 50k grants for newlyweds towards buying a house, 5k for mothers who gave birth etc.
What was the Qaddafi’s plans to leave the IMF.
To make gold the currency of Libya.
I believe the crusades have not ended. I’m in my early 20’s. The knowledge I have about politics is the size of a mustard seed.
My question is if ‘Rum’ was to align itself with Islam than wouldn’t ‘Rum’ have to be attacked first in an all out war? This doesn’t mean that Russia does not know about this or that it isn’t working towards such a relationship.
@Mazen:My question is if ‘Rum’ was to align itself with Islam than wouldn’t ‘Rum’ have to be attacked first in an all out war?
Rum is better off aligned with Islam than alone, and since both are under attack, that is also true of Islam.