"Mikhail Gorbachev admits he is a Christian," read the blockbuster headline in the March 19 London Telegraph. I immediately e-mailed the article to Michael Reagan, who, like his father, Ronald Reagan, and like me, has always been deeply intrigued by the possibility of Gorbachev's faith.
I asked Michael Reagan if he would like to co-author an op-ed piece on this major development. "Good idea," he said tersely. I had a piece ready a few days later, and e-mailed it to Michael, only to have him respond by sending a new article about how Gorbachev quashed the speculation he stirred up by kneeling in silence for 30 minutes by St. Francis of Assisi's tomb.
Our article was suddenly as dead as Gorbachev's faith. What gives? What does Mikhail Gorbachev really believe and why is the world so interested?
Vladimir Lenin, one of the founders of the Soviet Union, insisted that "there can be nothing more abominable than religion." He compared Christianity to venereal disease, bragged about the moment as a teen when he "took off [his] cross and threw it in the rubbish bin," and crassly declared that "all worship of a divinity is a necrophilia." Speaking before the Party Congress in 1920, Lenin made clear the beliefs of the leaders of the Bolshevik state: "We do not believe in God."
Lenin's successors eagerly preserved that hateful tradition. As Mikhail Gorbachev would later put it, "Atheism took rather savage forms in our country." Gorbachev's predecessors pursued what he correctly characterized as a "war on religion." Stalin sent many Christians to gulags and blew up churches.
It was an accepted fact that the leader of the USSR would be an atheist had to be an atheist. If, at the height of the Cold War, it had been revealed ...