Hattip to Neo-neo Con who suggested the connection to me with this post. Dostoevsky in his The Brothers Karamazov has a striking tale of the Grand Inquisitor. In that tale Christ comes back to earth in Sixteenth Century Seville and is arrested by the Inquisition. The Grand Inquisitor explains to Christ why He is going to be burned the next day. At first glance this all appears to be a fairly psychotic anti-Catholic diatribe, but I think it aptly describes not the Church, but modern socialism. We see it most clearly in this passage:
“‘Receiving bread from us, they will see clearly that we take the bread made by their hands from them, to give it to them, without any miracle. They will see that we do not change the stones to bread, but in truth they will be more thankful for taking it from our hands than for the bread itself! For they will remember only too well that in old days, without our help, even the bread they made turned to stones in their hands, while since they have come back to us, the very stones have turned to bread in their hands. Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy. Who is most to blame for their not knowing it?-speak! Who scattered the flock and sent it astray on unknown paths? But the flock will come together again and will submit once more, and then it will be once for all. Then we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature. Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions. They will tremble impotently before our wrath, their minds will grow fearful, they will be quick to shed tears like women and children, but they will be just as ready at a sign from us to pass to laughter and rejoicing, to happy mirth and childish song. Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life-like a child’s game, with children’s songs and innocent dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin. We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them, and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who have taken on themselves their sins before God. And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient- and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil. Peacefully they will die, peacefully they will expire in Thy name, and beyond the grave they will find nothing but death. But we shall keep the secret, and for their happiness we shall allure them with the reward of heaven and eternity. Though if there were anything in the other world, it certainly would not be for such as they.”
Socialism purports to be about relieving material suffering by using government power to alleviate, and eventually eliminate, poverty. Yet socialist states, even in milder variants, inevitably diminish freedom, treating the inhabitants of a country not as adults with free will, but children who must be led into better ways of life by their intellectual superiors who control the State. We see this clearly under the Obama administration as it seeks to transform America. Employers are to be made to pay for “free” contraception, moral objections notwithstanding. School lunches are to be set according to the dietary preferences of the First Lady. The government will completely control all health care through executive branch edict. Chaplains in the military are censored as to what they may say in regard to the HHS mandate.
Note also how the Grand Inquisitor indicates that they will give a license to sin. We live in a time when the State gives license to sin and wields power to convert sin into non-sin.
Finally we have the Grand Inquisitor fairly certain that there is nothing after death. I do not think that atheism and socialism are necessarily linked, but I do think that it is true that the more powerful the State the weaker religion tends to be, except among individuals and groups opposed to the State. The Italian Fascists used to have a saying, “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against theState”. When the State controls everything, or, has the power to control everything, even if the power is not exercised currently in particular instances, it cannot be allowed for individuals or institutions to stand outside of the State. Hence religion, unless it is tamed and neutered, can never be viewed as anything other than as a threat to true devotees of State power. Dostoevsky saw where we were heading, and where we have arrived, and left us a warning in his grim parable.