Online College Courses for Credit

Atheistic States

Atheistic States


This lesson will explain athestic states.

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

29 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

312 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 27 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Video Transcription

Download PDF

[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this tutorial on atheistic states. Here, I have drawn my version of Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Lenin, and Che Guevara, so representing North Korea, the former Soviet Union, and Cuba.

So we're taking a look at states that officially endorse atheism, and going along with that is the repression of religious belief. So state atheism is the official promotion. This usually results in suppression of religious freedom. Although most of the states that we're going to be talking about ended up by loosening their suppression of religious freedom, at one time or another, they did suppress religious belief.

And usually, this results from the Marxist doctrine that religion weakens solidarity among the people and diminishes class consciousness. So in Marx's theory, the oppressed classes, the workers, need to become aware of their oppression, band together, and instate the dictatorship of the proletariat where they take over the factors of production and rule the country for the benefit of all people.

So the idea is that Marx said religion is the opiate of the masses. It leads people to being easily controlled. And if the workers are going to come to class consciousness, religion has to go.

So let's take a look at the former Soviet Union. It was based on Marxism and Leninism. And the principles of this belief system is that there has to be a command economy-- that is, major economic activities have to be controlled by the state. So there's going to be a state monopoly in most important industries. Next, an abolition of religion so that people can realize their solidarity with one another, and a dictatorship of the proletariat. So this is supposed to usher in peace and universal goodwill and so forth.

In the former Soviet Union, the government confiscated religious property. It also killed bishops and priests-- I think it was over 1,000 priests and many different bishops in the former Soviet Union-- and also tried to discredit the Orthodox Church. So the persecution of religion in the former Soviet Union was directed at primarily Orthodox Christians, just simply because-- I'm not saying they didn't persecute other religious groups, but the Orthodox Church is just the largest segment of religious people in the former Soviet Union, so they tended to bear the brunt of the attacks.

Let's take a look at Cuba. The Cuban Revolution nationalized various different industries, and religion was restricted following the revolution. Many, many religious leaders decided to simply leave the country. Something like 80% of priests and ministers just left, and they went to the United States.

There were a series of measures that officially recognized freedom of religion, and today there officially is religious freedom, but there still may discrimination in employment if you're a religious person. Today, Catholicism and Santeria-- Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion. It mixes African Yoruba religion with Catholicism. These are the two religions that are practiced widely in Cuba.

Let's take a look now at North Korea. Otherwise, the official title of the country is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The country resulted from the partitioning of the Korean peninsula after World War II. There has never been an official peace treaty between the two countries, and if you pay attention to the news at all, you'll see that there are still threats coming from the North to attack the South. So this is still one of the hot spots in the world.

Freedom of religion is officially recognized in North Korea, but it's subject to strong state control. If the freedom of religion is recognized, so is the ability to officially try to spread atheism. And there are official versions of religious groups in the country, so that you could have state Confucianism and state Buddhism and so forth so that the state can kind of keep control over religion.

If there's an official religion in North Korea, you might say that it's the cult of personality of the Korean leaders. So everywhere in North Korea, there are massive portraits of the Great Leader, who is Kim Il-sung, and then the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, the last leader of the country. At the beginning, we talked about Kim Jong-un, who is Kim Jong-il's successor. So this is a kind of hereditary dictatorship, and in private homes and public spaces there are these giant portraits of the leaders of the country. So the state encourages this kind of cult of personality around the departed leaders.

But there is still religion in North Korea. Buddhism, Confucianism, and shamanism, the traditional folk religion of Korea, are still very popular.

Thanks for watching this tutorial on atheistic states. We said that state atheism is the official promotion of atheism by a government which results in persecution of organized religion. We talked about three different countries that have embraced state atheism. First, the former Soviet Union, and then Cuba, and then North Korea, all of which to one degree or another have sought to encourage atheism and prevent people from expressing religious beliefs.

Terms to Know
State Atheism

The official promotion of atheism by a government.