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The Atheist West in the Light of Orthodoxy

Arise, Russia! The time is already near!
Arise for the sake of the service of Christ!
O Russia, great is the coming day,
The universal and Orthodox day!

Daybreak, Tiutchev

Founded in 1993, the World Council of Russian People is made up of secular civic organizations, acting under the spiritual direction of the Russian Orthodox Church. Indeed, the head of the Council is Patriarch Alexis, aided by two deputies, Metropolitan Kyril of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and the Chairman of the Union of Russian Writers, Valery Ganichev.

Held this year from 4 to 6 April in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, the Tenth World Council of Russian People adopted a Declaration of Human Dignity and Rights. This Orthodox manifesto openly rejected the modern Western system of humanist values and called on Russian society to look again at the concept of human rights in the light of the Gospel. The decision to put forward an Orthodox Christian view of this question was taken at last year's Council. It was prompted by the Church's view that Western secular human rights do not at all correspond to the spiritual and moral values of the Orthodox Faith.

As Patriarch Alexis II asked: 'To what extent does the Western view of human rights permit an Orthodox people to live according to the faith it professes?' He openly affirmed the Orthodox view that the Western concept of human rights has led to the 'revival of neo-paganism'. Thus, the Council's participants denounced the 'distorted view of human rights' that has become prevalent in the contemporary West. Having rejected all traditional spiritual and moral values, the selfish individualism of the Western view is clearly leading to the breakdown of society and marriage, sexual depravity and ecological disaster.

In particular, the Council rejected the irresponsible idea of 'moral autonomy'. This Western individualistic idea, which has evolved from Protestantism and been adopted wholesale by Roman Catholicism since the 1960s, is alien to the Orthodox Faith. It postulates that individual moral autonomy can only be limited by the autonomy of other individuals, that there is no supreme authority to distinguish between good and evil. Clearly, this relativistic and basically selfish view of life is unacceptable to the Orthodox Christian Church.

The Church believes that turning the autonomy and rights of an individual into an absolute value, without the counterbalance of moral responsibility, inevitably leads to the suicide of civilization, as is now happening throughout the Western world. As the contemporary Orthodox saint, St Justin of Chelije, wrote only a few decades ago: 'Dark night has fallen on Europe. Its idols are crashing down and the day is not far off, when not a single stone of the European culture that has built cities and destroyed souls, that has worshipped created things and rejected the Creator, will be left one on the other'.

Thus, the Council rejected the idea that an individual's rights are superior to the rights of communities. Taking as its model the unity in diversity of the teaching of the Holy Trinity, the Council declared that there is need for balance between the interests of society and those of the individual. 'There are values that are no less important than human rights', affirmed the Council, 'these are faith, morality, holiness and patriotism'. The modern West, on the other hand, conditions each individual to live his life in the bubble of consumer society egoism. The Orthodox Declaration also denounced Western hypocrisy in 'the policy of double standards in the field of human rights, as well as the attempts to use these rights to advance political, ideological, military and economic interests, and to impose a certain State or social system'. This latter declaration certainly seemed to refer to the recent disastrous Western war in Iraq, founded on the arrogant interventionism of the Bush-Blair ideology.

Miraculously, after seventy-five years of Communism and nearly fifteen years of drift, at last Russia is beginning to find her way once more. At last, the free voice of Orthodoxy inside Russia can be heard stating what we faithful Russian Orthodox outside Russia have always maintained. In this way, Moscow is speaking for the whole of the Orthodox world, which, fragmented outside Russia, is not strong enough to express the Orthodox view of the world. Russia is expressing our understanding that our Orthodox Christian civilization is unique, based on a set of distinctive values and evolving along a path different from that of the post-Schism, and now post-Judeo-Christian, West.

Moreover, again miraculously when considered against the background of recent Russian history, these Orthodox views are beginning to influence the present Russian government. They show that Russia is capable of defending her own interests and those of our allies. For instance, these Orthodox views are reflected in the contemporary Russian concept of 'sovereign democracy'. This notion challenges Western-imposed globalism and asserts the desire and ability of Orthodox peoples to define our own destiny and rules of life independently, in our own society.

Here is proof that the voice of Orthodoxy is now beginning to be heard on the world stage. For years after the collapse of Communism, Russian leaders, in an ideological vacuum, merely reiterated the cliches of Western humanist propaganda. Thus, under Gorbachev, slogans like 'the common European home' and 'common human values' abounded. In its efforts to fill the post-Communist and Western humanist void, the Russian authorities are today turning towards the traditional views of the Orthodox Church, returning to Russia's uniqueness, which distinguishes Russia from the decadent West. The world is discovering once again that the Orthodox God is not the god of Western humanist philosophers, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Russian leadership is turning to the Orthodox Church and Russia is returning to her roots - Orthodox roots.

Fr Andrew

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