Spiritual Booze and Freedom: Lenin on Religion


  • Roland Boer University of Newcastle


Lenin, religion, spiritual booze, freedom of conscience, revolution, education, religious Left


Rather than a doctrinaire atheist who has no time for religion, careful attention to Lenin’s explicit statements on religion reveal a far more complex and ambivalent position. This study explores those tensions, beginning with the duality of religion as response to and cause of suffering, moving onto the multi-layered metaphors of booze and the human image, and then analysing the unresolved question of what happens after the revolution when religion persists. As for the vexed issue of ‘freedom of conscience’, Lenin both accepts the standard socialist position and yet seeks to stipulate that in the party religion is not a private affair. Yet even here, believers, even priests, are welcome in the party as long as they do not propagate views contrary to the party platform. Lenin also glimpses the more radical possibilities of religion, especially when it is not mainstream, occasionally (although not often enough) fostering various elements of the religious Left.