2007-08-01 15:51:00

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin.
Afterword to the discussion around the ‘Letter of the Ten’

In the wake of the discussion on world outlook that swept over the mass media, nothing but thanks should be said to the authors of ‘the academic letter’ for having given cause to such a discussion. Indeed, it is not often that our newspapers and radio stations come to speak about such profound matters as religion and ethics. But at a summer time when the political and economic foam is not whipped so energetically, many mass media focused on the place of religion in societal life and its relations with science.

It is excellent that Orthodox people, both clergy and laity, managed to have their say in a number of important matters. First, no world outlook, they said, including materialism can be called ‘the only scientific one’. Science and worldview are different things - the fact recognized by the world best intellects, even so critical as Mr. Glazychev. There are no and cannot be solid facts in natural sciences to be presented as a valid worldview, while humanities represent a domain of disputes, hypotheses, conflicting theories rather that of a single ‘scientific truth’ and especially a single worldview. Hence the conclusion: the Russian Constitution is right in stating that the establishment of an obligatory or state religion or ideology is inadmissible. This is naturally true for materialism, positivism, agnosticism, atheism, including in the secondary and higher school.

Secondly, an occasion was given for our Church to state clearly that it does not seek to become part of the state apparatus or a governmental body. The only thing that lies in the secular nature of a state is that religious administrative structures have no governmental powers nor do they take part in party and election activities, while a state does not interfere in the confessional choice of a person or in the internal affairs of religious organizations. It is in this sense that the principle of secularism in Article 4 of the Law on the Freedom of conscience and on Religious Associations should be interpreted. Army and prison chaplains, theology in state-run institutions of higher education, state recognition of graduation certificate and academic degrees in theology, the teaching of religious culture in public school on optional basis - all this can be present in a secular state, all this is commonly accepted in the world without causing conflicts, all this de facto and in many ways de jure exists in Russia as well, and, I hope, will continue to exist since many want it to.

Finally, we had an occasion to state once again that the Church is millions of Russian citizens, people of various ages, walks of life and ‘estates’. They are worshipping, reading, thinking and acting people. Nobody can deprive them of their right to do as their worldview dictates them and to assert it in the life of society. But dialogue, also with scientists, should develop. Let very diverse people participate in it. Indeed, without reflecting on such important things as the foundations of law, ethics and social order and worldview factor in the life of society, our politicians and our people will be ever like blind kittens trustful of any guide.