Good afternoon everyone.
I can see some familiar faces in this crowd and some not so familiar. For those of you who don’t know me let me give you a brief background of where I come from. My name is Simo, I have been a Reader at Melbourne’s Holy Protection Cathedral for what will be 20 years next Pokrov and I’ve been an Altar boy since I was 7. From as early as I can remember God, church, orthodoxy and the Russian community have been a part of my life. I remember – as I’m sure most of you do – my Babushka and Mama reading me stories from Zakon Bozshi, telling me and educating me about Bozshinka, the saints, why we have pretty Ikoni in the house and why we go to church on Sunday’s and receive Prichastie. As I grew up in Church, religion etc were always a fundamental staple, I became an altar boy and later a reader and truth be told I’m still both of those things most Sunday’s and I’m happy to be. To be honest though and those of you in the room who know me will attest, I’m not exactly perfect, nor do I profess to be, if I’m honest I probably would’ve tried to skip this lecture back in the day and go to the beach!
One thing I can say about myself is that I’ve had a most atheist education. I’ve completed a Science Degree…pretty atheist… Big Bang…evolution…Darwin…natural selection… not a lot of room for Adam and Eve or Seven days of Creation in first year Biology at Melbourne Uni, let me tell you that – just don’t ask any of the professors where the big bang came from or who or what power actually allows natural selection to happen!
Then I did a law degree and international relations degree… Law…you can’t do this…you can’t do that…you have to behave and be good because some really smart old guys thought this was a good idea and now the government and the state tells you so…don’t for a second think that law is based on some form of morality or religious code that comes from God – but thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not steal and thou shall not bear false witness…that doesn’t sound familiar at all does it?
Finally there’s international relations…which is glorified political science…states should be secular…political theory should be enlightened and religion has no place in such philosophy…we should ensure that the state promotes the ideals of the individual and their rights because that individuality and that singular importance is what counts above all else…there’s no room for anyone except me.. but I when I’m sick, I want the state to make sure there are hospitals and tend to my illness, when I’ve been wronged I want state sponsored justice…when I’ve lost everything I want there to be charity to get me back on my feet…certainly doesn’t sound like the state should have any Christian virtues though.
Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like I haven’t enjoyed my education, I certainly have but as I said its pretty Godless overall and it’s very easy to be really cynical. But what it has done for me is left me with a particular appreciation for having to reconcile my personal religious beliefs with those that have been force fed to me via education. I hope this may shed some light on, and provide you with context to some of my views and opinions and also my interpretation of them. During this lecture I hope to share with you some of my personal thoughts as well as those of people much more scholarly in the theological arena and particularly when it comes to the topic of atheism and apathy.
Let me also say at the outset that when I was given this task, I had absolutely no idea where to start. I am not an educated theologian, I’ve never been to or studied at Jordanville and I don’t profess to be any more capable of giving this lecture than any of you. What I hope to achieve in some part is to get us all thinking about the topic and particularly what we as individuals and what we as a collective can do to combat these tides which affect our Orthodox Christianity.