Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kirill, Dvorkin and Religious Freedom

The article above, written by Paul Goble, is entitled “Kirill’s Restrictive View on Religious Freedom Backed by Russian Justice Ministry.” Michael Kuznetsov’s image of Russia as an ant colony comes to mind once again. For if Russia is like an ant colony, then surely it doesn’t need more than one religion, and, of course, that religion should be the Russian Orthodox. The above article is about the institutionalizing of the views of an American-type Cult-fighter in Russia. As a matter of fact, he learned his Cult fighting while in America. I have known people like him. They are fanatics in their own way – quite sure they can separate true religion from false religion. Here in the US we put up with cults and cult-fighters. It would be better to say that most of us ignore them equally. But over there in Russia they must do something about their cults – Freedom of Religion, yeah, but it has to be a real religion and not a cult.

“Patriarch Kirill’s support for what he calls “the traditional religions of Russia” – Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism – against all others has been institutionalized at the Russian justice ministry with the selection there of a specialist notorious for his hostility toward Roman Catholics, Protestant Evangelicals, and other groups.”

"Yesterday, the justice ministry’s experts council charged with providing guidance on religious questions to Russian courts and other bodies met for the first time in Moscow and in “a unanimous decision” chose Aleksandr Dvorkin, who describes himself as a specialist on “sectology,” as council head ( ). . . .

“The inclusion of representatives from these four faiths but from no others is a victory for Kirill, who has been pushing the concept of “traditional religions” of Russia since the late 1990s, but the installation of Dvorkin is even more disturbing given his attacks on other religions and his extremely restrictive view on just what religious organizations should be permitted in Russia.”


I was a little surprised to see on Dvorkin’s list of “traditional religions” Islam and Buddhism, but maybe that is Kirill’s list and not Dvorkin’s. It is more in keeping with what we know of Dvorkin that he has chosen Roman Silantyev as a deputy. Goble tells us Silantyev lost his position at the Russian-inter-Religious Council for his attack on Islam.

It serves no useful purpose to say that there “ought to be religious freedom.” One cannot just stick an “ought” out there without buttressing it with assumptions. In this case we would need to say, to provide a logical framework for religious freedom, “In a liberal democracy there ought to be religious freedom.”

So we are reminded at once that Russia makes no pretense of being a religious democracy. Russia’s leaders prefer the term “Sovereign democracy” which reminds me a bit of the old debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. Is God Sovereign or is Man? Calvinists would say that God is Sovereign, period. Arminians would say God is sovereign but has given man free will. Perhaps the Russians are a bit like the Arminians. Their leaders have sovereignty, but they have given the Russian people free will – well, not complete free will but a lot of it. The government is finding its way in that regard. How much freedom can it give the people? It wants to give the people a lot of freedom because this is an important aspect of the Liberal Democracies and Russia wants to get along with the Liberal Democracies. But at the same time it wants an orderly society, one that causes no trouble; so it is reasonable (given the Russian assumptions) to expect Dvorkin to give them a hand with that. Maybe he can’t clean out all the troublesome cults, but he can probably make some inroads and get rid of some of them. He is just the man to handle the religious aspects of a Sovereign Democracy.

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