Anti-religious Soviet posters serve as a warning to Americans: ‘This could happen again’

A “SHOCKING” poster exhibition showing how grossly misrepresented the Catholic Church was in the Soviet Union in the early 20th century is doing the rounds in the US.

“The Soviet War on Religion”, according to today’s National Catholic Register, was first sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver last October at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, and it aims to serve as a warning against “rampant secularism”.

Said Father Doug Grandon, parochial vicar at St Thomas More Church in Centennial, Colorado, who masterminded the exhibition:

Where you have a disrespect for the freedom of religion, a rampant kind of secularism, this could happen again.

Among the boldly coloured images, priests are mocked as greedy hypocrites. God is portrayed as a slothful drunkard. Clergy are linked with capitalists as enemies of the Soviet working people. Parents are warned to avoid baptising children because the sacrament spreads germs.

In one 1930 poster, “an ugly old grandmother” tries drag her granddaughter to a church above which blackbirds (or maybe bats) circle. The child, dressed in a Communist Young Pioneer outfit, wants to go to school instead. The text reads:

Religion is Poison, Protect Children From it. 


The Register reports:

Christianity as an obstacle to progress is another theme seen in the propaganda posters. Lenin is described as ‘cleaning the world of filth’ in a 1920 poster that shows him sweeping away the kings of England and Prussia, a wealthy industrialist, and an Orthodox priest.

After World War II, propaganda posters portray religion as being opposed to medicine and science. Images that mock the power of prayer to heal, or link the sacraments, such as communion, with spreading disease, were posted in hospitals and clinics.

Fr Grandon said:

They’re shocking historic documents, vividly harsh, and I fear, they’re particularly relevant today.





25 responses to “Anti-religious Soviet posters serve as a warning to Americans: ‘This could happen again’”

  1. rationalrevo says:

    Sounds like a bunch of highly appropriate and spot-on posters to me…

    I wonder if they will be selling copies of these at the exhibit?

  2. Andrea says:

    There’s a fantastic exhibition on at the British Library in London which I saw last week. It examines the use of propaganda in various parts of the world. Some similar Soviet posters are included as well as British and American. It’s a pity they didn’t get this collection. I’d like to have seen it.

  3. AgentCormac says:

    Meanwhile, here’s another ‘shocking historical document’.

    According to the rcc, shamed sex pest Cardinal O’Brien actually did ‘a lot of good work for the church’. But presumably not for the people whose trust he betrayed so spectacularly.

  4. Broga says:

    I couldn’t see much to disagree with in the Soviet comments. The problem with the RCs is that they have this fantasy that their beliefs and behaviour are, by that fact, good. For me they are pernicious and bigoted, steeped in sanctimonious hypocrisy and the cause of much death, misery and cruelty.

  5. Cameron says:

    They are the most accurate posters I have seen in a long time.

  6. Daz says:

    They’re shocking historic documents, vividly harsh, and I fear, they’re particularly relevant today.

    Yep, completely relevant, except for the fact that the church was actively persecuted in communist Russia, whereas all Fr Grandon has to worry about is being told to keep his religion out of other peoples’ laws, labs, schools and bedrooms. So, erm, not actually relevant at all then.

  7. L.Long says:

    Although I do not see any outright lie in the posters, the ACLU would fight the gov’mint if they really tried to persecute any religion-as if the theocratic asses in congress would do such a thing. Basic truth DOES NOT EQUAL ‘We are being persecuted!!!’

  8. jay says:

    Being that the Soviets were easily as evil as the worst of churches I certainly can’t cheer for these.

    But there is another lesson here, examples of the state attempting to control thought; whether religious, political, social or other issues. It’s easy to see this in a foreign, historic context, but the process is all around us.

  9. Equality Jack says:

    I love it when the fundies bring out our arguments for us and display these posters as if it gave their religion any legitimacy at all.
    The sheer magnitude of their cognitive dissonance is breathtaking.

    @jay – I think the issue should be the cliff we’re all being shoved at, that is, the emerging threat of totalitarian fascism that is coming through the back door and sitting in your living room wearing a religious sign around its neck.
    And it has a moustache. A nasty little one like Snidely Whiplash.
    Oh, nevermind. I keep running into this. What was I thinking?
    You people refuse to entertain the possibility you might be wrong in giving human freedoms to a class of ideas that are shown to be mere fraud?
    What is this blood everywhere? What has happened?

  10. AgentCormac says:

    The rcc really is in a mess in O’Brien’s old stomping ground.

  11. Equality Jack says:

    My own bits of propaganda, as per usual:
    I see London
    I see France
    I see Islam has a chance.
    Milk, Milk
    Muslim aid
    Cuts your head off with a blade.
    The thrush drove off a magpie earlier today.
    Apparently we are now part of the Holy Thrush Empire and are told to remain calm and in our homes as the Axis of Magpies is dealt with firmly and resolutely by our lads in blue-black-and white. One, rather. An energetic bird by all accounts.
    Fool Britannia!
    Britannia’s mulish ways!
    Britons never, never, never realize they’re slaves!

  12. 1859 says:

    The problem is that today in many parts of the world (the poorest parts – of course) it is the churches that run the schools. The poster shows schools and church as opposites. In schools run by the organized religions, the priests and nuns etc., can inculcate their fairy tales under the disguise of ‘educating’ the poor children of the world. Yes it’s better than no education, for sure, but be under no illusions about the religious propaganda being peddled. And, in less than 100 years, white missionaries setting up schools in Africa etc., have been enormously successful. So much so that there are now more black christians in the world than white. I once took a bus in Ghana and up stood a preacher and screamed at all the passengers for about an hour the most obnoxious diatribe of religious shite you can imagine. The worst was no one objected. They all sat there and took it in. My next bus journey I got off and hitched a ride on a camel.

  13. Equality Jack says:

    Come on ye bloody slaves! Square go!
    I’m the only True Scotsman™ and yer all a bunch of haggis!
    (don’t you love my internet-tough-guy act? lel)

  14. Equality Jack says:

    @1859 – I like that anecdote. It sounds familiar. Have you said it here before?

  15. barriejohn says:

    1859: You’re so right. The Plymouth Brethren even referred to Central Africa as “The Beloved Strip”, and poured huge resources into the area. Although much good may have been done, as you say, the object of the schooling was undoubtedly the conversion of the children, and I know for a fact that not only was a sermon preached at every clinic before patients were treated, but, at some, people could not receive treatment if they had not been present for the indoctrination!

  16. TrickyDicky says:

    The church looks Russian Orthodox to me!

  17. barriejohn says:

    Barry has highlighted the preaching on public transport before, though I mentioned there that a similar thing used to occur in Northern Ireland in living memory!

  18. Equality Jack says:

    What is anyone supposed to do when a madman stands up and starts preaching? I expect most people ignore the impassioned ravings of lunatics while keeping a weather-eye on things in case he pulls a gun or bomb or something. At least the smart ones would do that.

    Having a god back you up in wanting to kill people is a powerful motivating force that is like no other, as we have seen throughout history.
    Emotion blinds people. Ideologies blind people.
    Killing with your eyes closed is easier than seeing what it is you are really doing, I would imagine.

  19. Lazy+Susan says:

    EJ – “What is anyone supposed to do when a madman stands up and starts preaching?”

    A good question. I expect most of the time I would try to move away, or ignore it. But if you are on a bus, these may not be an option, so a different approach is needed.

    • I guess it would be pointless to try to speak to the preacher – they are in fire hose mode, and barely rational in the first place.

    • You could complain – ask the guy to pray silently for example, and if (when) that fails, escalate to the bus driver, with the hope that the preacher would either shut up or be put off.

    • You could start slow clapping, in the hope that others would join in. Of course some passengers might approve of the preacher so there’s a danger of a battle.

    • You could start preaching back, preferably in tongues, and at volume. If you can froth at the mouth (Alka-Seltzer) and look crazy, you might out-crazy the crazy one. At least you will have the satisfaction of taking some initiative.

    • You could join forces with the preacher, repeating everything he says a fraction of a second later. That might take some practice but you’re stuck on a bus, and this sounds like a good way to pass the time. It might be a transferable skill.

    • You could start shouting “Why?” at everything the preacher says.

    • You could sing a song that everyone knows and can join in.

    • If you have a trumpet, or can make one out of a rubber band and a paper clip, now is the time to use it.

    Anyway, this bus sounds as if it is a sort of traveling pandemonium, full of people preaching, shouting, singing, foaming and trumpeting. Pity the poor driver. Me? I’m getting off next stop.

  20. Lazy+Susan says:

    PS – But if that happened as soon as anyone started preaching, I think they’d soon give up!

  21. Equality Jack says:

    @Lazy+Susan – I would like to say goodbye and thank you for being one of the nicer people here.
    Censorship is an ugly thing for a site billing itself as a “freethinker” website.
    I have been asked, politely of course, to restrict my speech.
    I refuse, having already restricted my speech beyond the pale.
    This site is unworthy of my respect. I have demanded to be banned.
    Just to let you know so you could chuckle, I referred to all those who complained about me as “whinging ass-puckered nincompoops”.
    Have a nice day!

  22. JohnMWhite says:

    Censorship is asking somebody to politely not indulge in less irrelevant ravings? I think some people get too attached to the ‘free’ and not so much the ‘thinker’.

    Anyway, as others have said, these posters are fairly reasonable assessments of the church. Except the idea that baptism is unsanitary, that’s a bit silly, but by and large they reflect legitimate concerns about the agenda of the Catholic Church and its place in society. The one of the old man dragging a reluctant child is particularly striking.

    It’s kind of humorous that this is presented as the scary face of secularism. Father Grandon is concerned that if we embrace secularism, “this could happen again”. This being, what, the pointing out of reality? That he is afraid of this is rather apt.

  23. Lurker111 says:

    “You could sing a song that everyone knows and can join in”

    99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall …