Why one Man became an Atheist

By Roland Worth, Jr.

In the December 6, 1959, issue of the Russian Communist publication Pravada, there appeared a major article on page four, entitled “Rejection of religion-the only correct course.” It was signed by Alexander Osipov, a prominent individual in the Greek Orthodox Church. He wrote,

“Yes, I, Professor of Old Testament and Classical Hebrew at the Leningrad Ecclesiastical Seminary and Academy, formerly Inspector there, Master of Theology and Archpriest; have broken with the Church and with religion. I have publicly professed my atheism, attained logically by study and scientific method after a considerable and protracted inward struggle and a complete reconsideration of my outlook on life . . .

“In studying the Bible I kept coming up against the problem of the so-called divine inspiration of the scriptures. Students of the Leningrad Seminary and Academy will, I expert, remember how often I used to say in lectures and classes: `According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church’ or `Orthodox theology considers . . . .’ I used to do this in every case when I could not inwardly agree with the teaching which, as a professor of an Orthodox seminary, I was obliged to impart and elucidate to my pupils. At the same time, moreover, independent study of the problems of biblical theology, together with the arguments and discoveries of genuine scientific method, led me to discover that the Bible had been put together gradually, that it had developed century by century in the course of the historical life of the Jewish people, and that its individual books do not in any way belong to those authors to whom tradition ascribes them. I found that in the Bible (certainly necessary as a work of ancient literature for the scientific study of history) there are, closely interwoven, myths and tales of the ancient Orient, the legends of chronicle and folklore, ancient stories and poetry and magic charms from the age of primitive man–in a word, it has nothing to do with the revelation of God on earth” (quoted by Michael Bourdeaux, Opium of the People: The Christian Religion in the U. S. S. R., The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., New York: 1966, pages 109, 112).

The first thing that should be noticed is that Osipov was apparently sincere in his conversion to atheism-though personality conflicts may also have played a role in his leaving the Russian Orthodox Church (pages 117-118). This should be stressed because many of those theological Modernists whom we criticize for their repudiation of the miraculous element in the Bible are quite sincere in their error. However even sincere men can be wrong.

Secondly, once committed to atheism, he started playing even grosser games with Biblical and historical truth. Michael Bourdeaux, from whom we have quoted Professor Osipov’s statement, had the opportunity to attend one of the professor’s lectures on atheism while doing graduate work in the Soviet Union. The Professor contended that Jesus never existed. As proof he cited the Dead Sea Scrolls: “The information they contain about the Teacher of Righteousness illustrates a variant form of a legend current about two thousand years ago-that of a dying and rising god-and common to several Near-Eastern mythologies. Christianity is merely the most successful formulation of the legend. Jesus Christ was invented by the early Christians to compensate for their deprivations at the hands of the Romans” (page 120).

Bourdeaux’s reaction was the same most of us would have, “I was appalled at the impossible logic of this answer and its intellectual dishonesty. He quoted the documents as ‘virtually proving’ something on which they have only a marginal bearing (as all but a few sensation-seeking writers in the West would agree). This would have been laughable, if his Russian audience had any access to the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but they had none then and have had none since” (page 121).

Thirdly, if you will closely read the second paragraph of our quote from Professor Osipov you can .not miss the unmistakable similarity in his description of the origin of the Bible with what is currently taught in most American universities and seminaries. “Myth,” “gradual accumulation,” “folklore,” and the other rhetoric is shockingly familiar. What is different is that Professor Osipov acted on the logical conclusion that such rhetoric leads to: The complete rejection of faith in the Bible and the open embracement of atheism. Most American Modernists will never go that far, but that is where the train they are riding ultimately stops for those with the courage to complete the journey.

Truth Magazine XIX: 43, pp. 682-683
September 11, 1975