"In October of 1929, the seizure of all church bells was ordered because 'the sound of bells disturbs the right of peace of the vast majority of atheists in the towns and countryside.'"
These were the words of Historian Nicolas Werth as he described Russia's attitude toward religion in the late 1920s.
Another Russian historian and writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 and was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1983, was equally critical of Russian governments as they maimed, imprisoned and/or killed some 60 million people during the Russian Revolution.
Solzhenitsyn was exiled from Russia to this country in 1974 and lived in Vermont.
As Solzhenitsyn began his acceptance address for the "Templeton Award" in London he offered a simple beginning paragraph:
"More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: 'Men have forgotten God' they said, 'That's why this has happened.'"
He goes on in his speech to say that he has spent 50 years exhaustively studying the history of the Revolution, reading hundreds of books and collecting countless personal testimonies.
After examining the plight of his country during that period, and those related circumstances, he, too, arrives at this final conclusion:
"But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.'"
I could never begin to imagine the suffering of the Russian people and Solzhenitsyn himself in the prison camps and the sadistic reigns of terror by Lenin and Stalin.
Solzhenitsyn's thoughts are most provocative.
As he continued his 1983 speech, he turned his attention toward the West and directed his remarks at us.
"Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism."
He further suggested that "the West is ineluctably slipping toward the abyss."
I found it indeed strange that I happened to be reading Solzhenitsyn's remarks during this Christmas season. Nor could I readily dispute many of his observations.
When I look around at recent happenings in this country and see some of the attacks on religion, I have to consider the writer's premonitions.
When he accuses the United States of being "spiritually weak and mired in vulgar materialism," I couldn't really disagree with his analysis.
As I try to understand the thinking of our own nation, I am sometimes confused by those decisions of our leaders.
As prayers are removed from our schools, I wonder what behaviors have replaced them.
As a Christmas tree becomes a "holiday" tree in Rhode Island, I wonder how long Christmas might be celebrated.
As it becomes novel to attack the "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance, I wonder if the pledge itself might one day become meaningless.
As some federal judge looks to do away with the "National Day of Prayer," I wonder if a national day of hate might become more acceptable.
As I look to understand how a tablet of reasonable guidance (the Ten Commandments) is removed from our public places, I think about the destination of a morally defunct government.
At the end of Solzhenitsyn's address, he makes one last observation:
"Our five continents are caught in a whirlwind. But it is during trials such as these that the highest gifts of the human spirit are manifested. If we perish and lose this world, the fault will be ours alone."
Maybe at the end of the day, in the midst of the world's upheavals, this Russian writer was offering a legitimate message.
Just maybe, "Men have forgotten God."
Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.