State atheism  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

State atheism is the official promotion of atheism by a government, sometimes combined with active suppression of religious freedom and practice. In contrast, a secular state purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. State atheism may refer to a government's anti-clericalism, which opposes religious institutional power and influence in all aspects of public and political life, including the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen.

State promotion of atheism as a public norm was first practiced during a brief period in Revolutionary France. Since then, such a policy was repeated only in Revolutionary Mexico and some Marxist-Leninist states. The Soviet Union had a long history of state atheism, in which social success largely required individuals to profess atheism and stay away from houses of worship; this attitude was especially militant during the middle Stalinist era from 1929–1939. The Soviet Union attempted to suppress public religious expression over wide areas of its influence, including places such as central Asia.

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