Organised religion basically worships itself and its orthodoxy which often has little in common with the teachings of an ancient carpenter who probably would not have wanted anything to do with any of them.
This is what I like about these head-buttings of ours, dear lady: I think we have earned one another’s respect by now well enough, to concede on the occasional point without it being in any context of who “won” or “lost.”
I bring the idea of Stalin-as-High-Priest to your attention for the same reasons I find it informative and balanced to look at the Third Reich as a sort of mass art project by a self-styled artist. You the historian and scholar, I know full well, are aware of the intellectual hazards of taking broad swipes at anything or anyone in history and just summing them up as “evil.”
That is just too easy, and it accomplishes nothing. One must seek in trying to comprehend evil, to comprehend what forces and circumstances surrounding its presence in history allow it to thrive. Just as Hitler guided a nation that saw itself as (among other things) the western world’s epicenter of the arts, by giving them a grand exhibition replete with snappy uniforms and impressive mass displays like Nuremberg; so also did Stalin take the most religious nation in all Christendom, having lost both state, church and royal family which all were supposed to represent God’s rule over their Motherland, and just give them a new religion. He knew better than any dry-eyed secularist Lenin or Jewish intellectual Trotsky, that what the people wanted, was new liturgies and superstitions and stirring pageantries to replace the old ones. He knew as a scholar of the arts of moral leadership, that Marxism was meaningless to his flock, that what they wanted, was a god to worship, out of habit. So he gave them one.
I wasn’t as surprised as you might think to run across the passages in Rybakov the other night that I quoted for you. Stalin the High Priest needed a template on which to design his new moral code, and it made perfect sense to me that appearing to honor both family and the sanctity of unborn life for the purpose of ruling his flock, would fit in that new code just fine.
I definitely think Rybakov was taking excessive liberties in his portrayal of Stalin’s inner thoughts. I can see the same repugnance and disdain for him in how he writes, as how you do, about the man who did your country and people such monstrous harm. So I try and read past it with each of you, and look for what really might explain Stalin the man. The seminarian angle, for me, has helped decode someone I have been trying to understand my whole life, and I’ve enjoyed hashing out that learning process here with you.