As a teenager, Peter had rejected the Christian beliefs with which he had been raised as a child—even to the point of publically burning a Bible—and joined the generation who were ‘too clever to believe’. He embraced the faith of the faithless age, that science could explain everything we needed to know without reference to God. So vehemently had he turned away from God that he was almost physically disgusted by those who believed.4
Peter wrote that his views changed slowly, as he came to see the fruit of atheism. Part of this realisation came when he was working as a journalist in Moscow, during the final years of the Soviet Union. His depiction of this godless society was sobering.5 He wrote of the riots that broke out when the vodka ration was cancelled one week; the bribes required to obtain anaesthetics at the dentist or antibiotics at the hospital; the frightening levels of divorce and abortion; the mistrust and surveillance; the unending official lies, manipulation and oppression; the squalor, desperation and harsh incivility. Peter wrote of how traffic stops dead in Moscow when rain begins to fall, as every driver fetches wind-screen wipers from their hiding places and quickly fits them to their holders. Any wipers left in place when the car is parked are stolen as a matter of course.
The atheist, humanistic ideology of the state, he believed, had even affected the Russian language. Peter spoke to a descendant of an exile, whose grandparents had fled Moscow in the days of Lenin. Having been brought up to speak pure Russian in his American home—the elegant, literary language of his parents—he was shocked when he visited Russia to hear the coarse, ugly, slang-infested and bureaucratic tongue that was now spoken, even by educated professionals.
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