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Reader comment on item: Britain's Encounter with Islamic Law
in response to reader comment: Freethinking Heritage

Submitted by Rebecca Moulds (United States), Feb 15, 2008 at 23:16

Russia tried to invent its own version of Enlightenment. According to the dictionary, the Enlightenment movement was "characterized by a reliance on reason and experience rather than dogma and tradition (religion?) and by emphasis on humanitarian political goals and social progress." The leaders tried to make social progress by limiting the freedoms of the individual; all was "for the party."

The vestiges of Communist Russia were smouldering when I first lived there in 1992; the old guard just couldn't accept glasnost and were marching in Red Square two days after we arrived, complete with posters and banners of Stalin and Lenin. Although only numbering a few, it was frightening to see these people, steeped in their past, trying to revive a relatively dead ideology because the birth of freedom was too sudden and too painful. The churches that had been left empty for so long were renovated and reopened for worship, but it was a slow process.

We went to a Russian Orthodox Easter celebration, and although not of that faith, appreciated that they were able to worship in freedom again. (Unfortunately, this did not extend to the Jewish faith; I have several Jewish friends who left Russia never to return, and in the early '90's it was said that 1,000 Jewish families a week were leaving Russia for other countries. )

So Russian "enlightenment" was an experiment that failed miserably because it tried to force political goals and social progress by complete obliteration of personal choices of any sort, subjugating its people to a horrible existence built on its own idea of what constitutes principles. The Enlightenment movement of the 18th Century also produced those who shunned belief in a Superior Being and chose rather to worship their own intelligence; in that respect, Communist Russia did embrace their own version of Enlightenment by forbidding worship of any kind.

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