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Antireligion is opposition to religion. It involves opposition to organized religion, religious practices or religious institutions. The term antireligion has also been used to describe opposition to specific forms of supernatural worship or practice, whether organized or not. The Soviet Union adopted the political ideology of Marxism–Leninism and by extension the policy of state atheism which opposed the growth of religions.
Antireligion is distinct from deity-specific positions such as atheism (the lack of belief in deities) and antitheism (an opposition to belief in deities); although "antireligionists" may also be atheists or antitheists.
Further information: Criticism of religion § History of criticism
An early form of mass antireligion was expressed during the Age of Enlightenment, as early as the 17th century. Baron d'Holbach's book Christianity Unveiled published in 1761, attacked not only Christianity but religion in general as an impediment to the moral advancement of humanity. According to historian Michael Burleigh, antireligion found its first mass expression of barbarity in revolutionary France as "organised ... irreligion...an 'anti-clerical' and self-styled 'non-religious' state" responded violently to religious influence over society.
Further information: State atheism
The Soviet Union adopted the political ideology of Marxism–Leninism and by extension the policy of state atheism. It directed varying degrees of antireligious efforts at varying faiths, depending on what threat they posed to the Soviet state, and their willingness to subordinate themselves to political authority. These antireligious campaigns were directed at all faiths, including Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Jewish, and Shamanist religions. In the 1930s, during the Stalinist period, the government destroyed church buildings or put them into secular use (as museums of religion and atheism, clubs or storage facilities), executed clergy, prohibited the publication of most religious material and persecuted some members of religious groups. Less violent attempts to reduce or eliminate the influence of religion in society were also carried out at other times in Soviet history. For instance, it was usually necessary to be an atheist in order to acquire any important political position or any prestigious scientific job; thus, many people became atheists in order to advance their careers. In the years of 1921–1950, some estimate that 15 million Christians were killed in the Soviet Union. Up to 500,000 Russian Orthodox Christians were persecuted by the Soviet government, not including other religious groups. At least 106,300 Russian clergymen were executed between 1937 and 1941. The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic targeted numerous clergy for arrest and interrogation as enemies of the state, and many churches, mosques, and synagogues were converted to secular uses.
The People's Republic of Albania had an objective for the eventual elimination of all religion in Albania with the goal of creating an atheist nation, which it declared it had achieved in 1967. In 1976, Albania implemented a constitutional ban on religious activity and actively promoted atheism. The government nationalized most property of religious institutions and used it for non-religious purposes, such as cultural centers for young people. Religious literature was banned. Many clergy and theists were tried, tortured, and executed. All foreign Roman Catholic clergy were expelled in 1946, and Albania officially tried to eradicate religion.
Authorities in the People's Republic of Romania aimed to move towards an atheistic society, in which religion would be considered as the ideology of the bourgeoisie; the régime also set to propagate among the laboring masses in science, politics and culture to help them fight superstition and mysticism, and initiated an anti-religious campaign aimed at reducing the influence of religion in society. After the communist takeover in 1948, some church personnel were imprisoned for political crimes.
The Khmer Rouge attempted to eliminate Cambodia's cultural heritage, including its religions, particularly Theravada Buddhism. Over the four years of Khmer Rouge rule, at least 1.5 million Cambodians perished. Of the sixty thousand Buddhist monks that previously existed, only three thousand survived the Cambodian genocide.
The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed.
Communist Atheism. Official doctrine of the Soviet regime, also called "scientific atheism." It was aggressively applied to Moldova, immediately after the 1940 annexation, when churches were profaned, clergy assaulted, and signs and public symbols of religion were prohibited, and it was applied again throughout the subsequent decades of the Soviet regime, after 1944. ... churches were either pulled down or turned into facilities designed to serve secular or even profane purposes ... the Transfiguration Cathedral (previously dedicated to St. Constantine and Helena) housed the city's planetarium.
Before the end of the Cold War, many Communist States did not shy away from being openly hostile to religion. In most instances, communist ideology translated unperturbedly into state atheism, which, in turn, triggered measures aimed at the eradication of religion. As much was acknowledged by some Communist Constitutions. The 1976 Constitution of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, for instance, was firmly based on a Marxist dismissal of religion as the opiate of the masses. It provided: "The state recognizes no religion of any kind and supports and develops the atheist view so as to ingrain in to the people the scientific and materialistic worldview.
One of the main aims of the regime was to transform Romania into a communist atheist society in which religion was considered the ideology of the bourgeoise. Thus in 1949, the Society for the Popularisation of Science and Culture was established. The main objective of this anti-religious society was 'to propagate among the labouring masses political and scientific knowledge to fight obscurantism, superstition, mysticism, and all other influences of bourgeois ideologies'. ...the regime's anti-religious campaign aimed to discredit the church and to reduce the influence of religion in society.