Moscow Church

What SUV would Jesus drive?

I’ve grown up in the Soviet Union, a Godless land. Religion was something forbidden and outdated, even archaic. Shabby Orthodox churches and old ladies in dark dresses, begging for money near these churches, looking like some ghosts from the past. My father lived and died (already in the post-Soviet Russia) as a hardcore atheist. He was an old-fashioned Communist, growing up in Stalin’s USSR. Communism was, in fact, also a religion. And no religion likes competition.

Saint Basil's Cathedral
Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square

With the break-up of the Soviet Union there was a religious revival. It was good, spiritual. The Orthodox church has suddenly become something very common, grass-roots, respectful, even fashionable. In the early 90s it was really a gulp of fresh air.

Still, I am very suspicious about religion as it has, to me, nothing to do with God. All those churches are earthly institutions meant to manipulate people. Something opposite to science. Just think about the Crusaders or contemporary Moslem terrorists. They act in the name of God but they have nothing to do with God. We think of Him as somebody who doesn’t want to kill or invade anybody. Otherwise we should accept that God could be ruthless, not just merciful. Think about all those religious wars in the Medieval Europe and about the Inquisition with its witch-hunt, too.

In today’s Russia, the Russian Orthodox church now is something like a ministry of religion, a part of the state apparatus. Also, just recently, thousands of people in Russia gathered in a Moscow temple to see and pray to some holy relics, the so-called Blessed Virgin’s belt. They’ve been spending up to 12 hours in the queue! Old people, small children, they truly believe if they see or touch a ‘sacred’ object it would heal them or make their lives better. It’s a shame: such primitive beliefs are a step back even comparing to Soviet atheism. In the West, the Vatican doesn’t approve use of contraception… Welcome to the Dark Ages.

If you are an ‘In God We Trust’ minded person, you don’t need, I believe, any intermediary to talk to God. You just believe and pray. Direct communication.

I don’t know what happens when I die. Is it going to be some after-life? Maybe a reincarnation? Or just nothing? I hope for some ‘progress’ after death but I have no memories about my previous experiences, before I was born. So why should I really hope for some after-life adventures if there have been no pre-life ones?

Getting back to God. The ethics that some religions hold may make you a better person. On the other hand, we don’t know much about the creation of our universe and how it was made up and, the big question: why? ‘God doesn’t play any dice’… I also don’t get the God’s function on Good and Evil. I understand it is naïve to believe that God is somebody who doesn’t let the evil happen. Because it happens throughout the human history: wars, natural disasters, diseases, tortures, injustice, Attila, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.

Is there a place for God?Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergey

So I’d better take it easy and just wonder, like some people in America do: what SUV would Jesus drive if He lived today? This is how we get to the main question of the universe: would it be a Ford, a Dodge or a Chevy?


This is Hard!

For me, this is a deep, even awkward subject. I’m not entirely sure where to begin. I suppose I should start with what I don’t believe: I don’t believe in the whole Heaven & Hell thing. If the Earth was hollow and contained Purgatory we would know it by now; same with a celestial temple above the clouds. I think conventional religions exists mostly to keep a few in power.

Religious IconsHaving said that, there is more to this world than we can see. I’m always interested in the Orthodox paintings that show light around Saints’ heads. I do believe there is a light within us and we have spirits. You call them ghost, angels, spirits, whatever… I believe they are all the same thing and we each have a spirit. And I’m not alone.

As mentioned above, man, not God, wrote the Christian Bible and over time various men have used their power to actually insert new books into the Bible. If they didn’t like an old book they would simply trade it for a new one, written for the occasion. An example is the Book of Thomas, which was sullied by the Bishop of Alexandra and smeared in the Gospel of John, which was written as a political hit-job.

I can see why Thomas would frighten some in power. He says the path is within each of us and we all have a light within. Not good at all if you want people to come to you for salvation. Hard to make someone fear ex-communication if they contain their own light. Yeah, that had to go.

Some people claim to see the aura, or light, around us. A lucky few even have Angels (yes that was plural) who stay with us.

On the other hand, some of us are dark and find pleasure in the suffering of others. George Lucas didn’t originate the Dark Side, he just made it a cartoon. I don’t think these real-life, would-be Darth Vaders can be helped.

Things get even more messed-up if you want to talk about reincarnation. There are dozens of reincarnation stories and some are quite convincing. Even good enough to hold up in a Court Room, as in the story of a Palestinian boy who showed where his old body was buried and identified his killer. The murderer went to prison.

Photograph of Dean LewisOf course, when you talk about reincarnation things can get bizarre fast. Everybody was Cleopatra in some former life. I guess it’s the same with SETI scientist and the UFO wackos.

Do I believe in God? I guess that depends on your definition of God.



I was brought up to be a God-fearing youngster, who regularly went to church, prayed every night, was confessing my sins from the age of seven (FFS) and was basically indoctrinated by my religion. This turned me into an adult who is still, to this very day, suffering from forced Catholic guilt as a character default.

Before reaching teenage, I somehow had the courage to start asking questions of those whom I assumed had the answers. Like my parish priest. So I shall never forget the moment when my belief started crumbling.

Church of The Ascension
Church of The Ascension, Moscow

I was in my weekly brainwashing class, to make me a good Catholic. (You know, learning things like masturbation is an evil sin and you will rot in hell if you do it –nice stuff like that.) The big news story of the time was the Congo crisis and Angolan War of Independence at the beginning of the 1960s. It was the first time in my life that massacres and famine had been widely reported, as it was happening. So for a young child, my question:  “How is it that can God let children be chopped to pieces, or starve to death?” seemed relevant enough. The distain with which I was treated was as bad as the answer. “God works in mysterious ways.”

This column is not long enough to cover all the knockbacks my childhood faith took, but another occasion stands out. I was outside, talking to a member of the Anglican clergy on a beautiful summer night, where the Milky Way could be seen clearly. As we both pondered the beauty of the night sky, I asked him something that had puzzled me for ages. What was the point of God creating those trillions of stars and billions of galaxies?  Again, no answer except to get extremely angry with the question.

The earth is, astronomically, an insignificant planet, going round an insignificant star, in an insignificant galaxy. The idea that some deity is responsible for planet earth makes no sense to me whatsoever. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with most religious people, but I do with religious belief and blind faith.  I understand the origins, the controlling of the masses, but that was centuries ago. What’s the point today?

I find it so hard to understand why intelligent, caring, rational people can be compelled to lead their lives based on the writings of myths, and then seemingly ignore the incredible harm caused by belief systems. I don’t understand whether they think they will get some reward, or, in my case as a youngster, whether they are simply stressed out completely by the thought of eternal punishment. Is that love of your God, or is it actually saving your own skin?

I think we are not born evil. Yes, we can be taught evil, for sure, but we are all capable of being decent human beings without needing a God. As Mr Weinberg said : ”For good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” Yes, I can accept that it is easier to say that the massive Tsunami of 2004 that took hundreds of thousands of lives was God being pissed off with us, rather than to understand the science behind tectonic plates and seismic waves. But it’s now 2017, and we know better, surely?

I want to finish on my version of what faith could be, maybe should be……Having not known either of my grandfathers, I was lucky enough to be given a surrogate grandfather named Reg, a lovely man who had no children, was an atheist, and happily married for over 50 years to a devout Roman Catholic! During WW1, Reg was a sniper. He was left on his own, facing five of the enemy, with just his favourite fruit, an orange, in his knapsack.  He said to himself: “If I get out of this alive, I will never have another orange as long as I live.” He did get out, he never ever ate his favourite fruit again, and he lived well into his nineties.

I have tried not to offend anybody, whatever your beliefs are, but have just attempted to write how I Roger Barafeel, and how I felt, once upon a time, about God. But I know there will be people who do not agree, and thus will be extremely angry. I can’t help that, sorry. Have a good day all of you, whichever God you follow.