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"Lycurgus, Numa, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad—all these big scoundrels, all these big despots of our ideas knew how to bond their concocted divinities with their immense ambitions. Certain of captivating nations with the sanction of their gods, these villains, as we know, took care either to question their deities at an appropriate moment or to have them answer only whatever they believed could serve their purpose." --"Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen, If You Would Become Republicans", Marquis de Sade

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Antireligion is opposition to religion of any kind. The term has been used to describe opposition to organized religion, religious practices or religious institutions. This term has also been used to describe opposition to specific forms of supernatural worship or practice, whether organized or not. Opposition to religion also goes beyond the misotheistic spectrum. As such it is distinct from deity-specific positions such as atheism (the denial of belief in deities) and antitheism (an opposition to belief in deities), although "antireligionists" may also be atheists or antitheists.


Historical perspectives

Freedom from religion

An early form of mass antireligion was expressed during the Enlightenment, as early as the 17th century. Baron d'Holbach's book Christianity Unveiled published in 1761, attacked not only Christianity but religion in general as an impediment to the moral advancement of humanity. According to historian Michael Burleigh, antireligion found its first mass expression of barbarity in revolutionary France as "organised ... 'anti-clerical' and self-styled 'non-religious' state" responded violently to religious influence over society. Critic of religion Christopher Hitchens was a well-known antireligionist of the 20th century who maintained opposition to religion, arguing that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as the method of teaching ethics and defining human civilization.

Antireligionism became increasingly violent with the rise of communism, where hostility to all religions as political enemies of the state was realized at the national level.

The Soviet Union adopted the political ideology of Marxism-Leninism and viewed religion as closely tied with foreign nationality. It thus directed varying degrees of antireligious efforts at varying faiths, depending on what threat they posed to the Soviet state, and their willingness to subordinate itself to political authority. These antireligious campaigns were directed at all faiths, including Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish, and Shamanist religions. In the 1930s, during the Stalinist period, the government destroyed church buildings or put them into secular use (as museums of religion and atheism, clubs or storage facilities), executed clergy, prohibited the publication of most religious material and persecuted some members of religious groups. Less violent attempts to reduce or eliminate the influence of religion in society were also carried out at other times in Soviet history. For instance, it was usually necessary to be an atheist in order to acquire any important political position or any prestigious scientific job; thus many people became atheists in order to advance their careers. Sources disagree on the results of the antireligious campaigns, with some claiming the death of 21 million Russian Orthodox Christians by the Soviet government, not including other religious groups or persecutions without killings, and other sources stating that only up to 500,000 Russian Orthodox Christians were persecuted by the Soviet government, not including other religious groups. The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic targeted numerous clergy for arrest and interrogation as enemies of the state,

The People's Republic of Albania had an objective for the eventual elimination of all religion in Albania with the goal of creating an atheist nation, which it declared it had achieved in 1967. In 1976, Albania implemented a constitutional ban on religious activity and propaganda. The government nationalised most property of religious institutions and used it for non-religious purposes, such as cultural centers for young people. Religious literature was banned. Many clergy and theists were tried, tortured, and executed. All foreign Roman Catholic clergy were expelled in 1946. Albania was the only country that ever officially banned religion.

Authorities in the People's Republic of Romania aimed to move towards an atheistic society, in which religion would be considered as the ideology of the bourgeoisie; the régime also set to propagate among the laboring masses in science, politics and culture to help them fight superstition and mysticism, and initiated an anti-religious campaign aimed to reducing the influence of religion in society.

The Khmer Rouge attempted to eliminate Cambodia's cultural heritage, including its religions, particularly Theravada Buddhism. Over the four years of Khmer Rouge rule, at least 1.5 million Cambodians perished. A mere three thousand Buddhist monks survived the Khmer Rouge horror. There had been sixty thousand monks previously.

Notable anti-religious people

  • Vladimir Lenin, Soviet leader from 1917 until 1924, who, like most Marxists, believed all religions to be "the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class"
  • Joseph Stalin, Soviet leader between 1924 to 1953
  • Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, Tamil politician, between 1938-73, who propagated the principles of rationalism, self-respect, women’s rights and eradication of caste in South India.
  • Enver Hoxha, Albanian communist leader between 1944 and 1985
  • Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet leader in 1953-64, who initiated, among other measures, the 1958-1964 Soviet anti-religious campaign.

See also

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Antireligion" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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