2/19/2017 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
A few days ago, I purchased a fascinating book, “Leningrad: Siege and Symphony,” by Brian Moynahan. Since I'm very familiar with the “Leningrad Symphony,” as well as the siege of Stalingrad, the title grabbed my attention. If you are still a believer in God or prayer, you will be totally unprepared for the historical facts and first-person testimonies in this book. If you still believe in God and the power of prayer by page 200, you're totally in denial. Of the many lessons learned from Leningrad, both long before and during the siege: there is no God. (BTY: the question, “Does prayer work?” is moot, if one claims to believe in a caring God. Prayer will not be necessary if there were.)
Does truth matter? America's Trump administration has used a term, “alternate facts,” as an explanation for its claims. This is just another way of saying “lies” in Trump's “Orwellian 1984” political doubletalk. His press secretary explained Trump's “facts” as “what he believes.” In this context, consider this: The destruction and loss of millions of lives, as detailed in Mr. Moyhahan’s book and infinite documentaries, are the results of Hitler's and Stalin's “beliefs.”
If the fundamentalists picked this guy for a spokesman, since they want to create their Christian nation, they got the right man. He, like them, only accepts what he prefers to believe is true. Will his, therefore theirs, be the repressive “alternative world” we'll be forced to live in? Give them an inch...
Religious claims to truth have always been “alternative facts.” That's a fact. Man, am I familiar with “alternative” facts/truths! Organizations like Focus on the Family, Priests for Life, the ACLJ, a movement to “drive Planned Parenthood off campuses,” the Jesus Camps and Good News clubs, those claiming to make gays straight though prayer etc., etc, send me their appeals for money, based on their “alternative facts.” Their “facts” are, of course, lies; most obviously when they cite disproven claims to support them. (Naturally, we'll include those who want creationism taught in public schools as an “alternative fact” to the truths of evolution. They're all in denial.
Aren't our present persistent movement of denials under religious/political systems based on fear? Doesn't the denial of reality have a religious undertow of fearing to doubt beliefs, coupled with the fear that doubt will lead to horrible consequences? Wouldn't the denial of that fear alone explain the desire for “alternative facts” and many false news claims? Those who have deeply entrenched and unconscious, unspoken, fears react by denying. Both fear and paranoia create faith in religious and political saviors. This is an omen. Allowing the emotion of fear to overcome reason and compassion leads to acceptance of irrational and inhumane religious/political “alternative truths,” and drags us all down. This is our, and the world's by extension, present predicament.
Fears which drive denials must create their own alternative realities. Studies have shown: reality is not just objective, but subjective to individuals. Under extreme stress, such as the siege of Leningrad, it's understandable that a person would be in denial and create a fantasy alternative world to deal with the never-ending nightmare realities of every day. It is understandable, under those circumstances, why some would grasp, cling to, the straws of fantasies created by others. But what's the reason simple ordinary circumstances lead people to prefer fantasies and lies to accepting realities? Is it just because they don't want to deal with them? Denial won't make reality go away; substitutes have even become, well, deadly.
And yet there is another kind of denial which I found in reading this book: the denial of Leningrad's musicians to allow repression, starvation, and even death itself, to overcome their humanity. Members of an atheistic society understood music as a response to despair, a living in the moment in the pleasure, the sadness, nostalgia, hope and comfort of music, in their world gone insane. Music is used by every army for these reasons; not simply for entertainment or encouragement to fight.
Shouldn't we encourage music-making to destroy religious superstitions and other irrationalities as a worthy enterprise? There is pleasure exploded through freedom of expression, in destroying “sacred” idols with sarcasm, irony and ridicule, using music. The composer of the “Leningrad” symphony, (his 7th), was Dimitri Shostakovich, and he was a master at it. His methodical music was a means of protesting and undermining the repressions of totalitarian systems.
Isn't the use of music itself an answer religions employ (with extraneous dogmas attached of course), to deny empowerment to fears, their own self-created fears included, and despair? The difference between the religious reaction and the answer from the atheist musicians of Leningrad is that music in itself is an affirmation of life. Leningrad poet Olga Beggolt wrote, “But those who sent us so much death miscalculated. They underestimated our voracious hunger for life.” These words from an atheist are profound compared to the finality of death denials, the vacuous nonsense of “better place now” of the superstitious. Olga understood.