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Christianity in the Twentieth CenturyA World History$
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Brian Stanley

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691196848

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691196848.001.0001

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Making War on the Saints

Making War on the Saints

The Church under Siege in France and the Soviet Union

(p.79) Chapter Four Making War on the Saints
Christianity in the Twentieth Century

Brian Stanley

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on France and the Soviet Union. France and the Soviet Union constitute the two most prominent European examples of a concerted campaign by twentieth-century states to reduce or even eliminate the social influence and political role of Christianity, especially as represented by the national church. In the further reaches of the Soviet Empire in Eastern and central Europe, Communist Party aims were similar, though in some countries—such as Poland—their implementation was highly problematic. Although obviously differing in the extent of their antagonism to religion itself, the two case studies reveal the capacity of the modern state, if it so chooses, to marginalize Christianity from the mainstream of public life and destroy much of the institutional and economic infrastructure of historic national churches. Yet both examples equally suggest that such measures of “official” secularization turned out to be comparatively impotent in subverting popular Christian belief and practice.

Keywords:   France, Soviet Union, Christianity, national churches, Soviet Empire, Communist Party, religion, modern state, secularization, Christian belief

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