Why do religious and political ideologies sometimes produce social and political conflict and other times co-mingle peacefully? The answer must consider both the content of competing ideologies along with the socio-political interests of their believers. In this case study of ideological competition in Central Asia, I show how both philosophical and material concerns explain why many Muslims, while openly retaining their religious-ethnic identity, became active members of an atheistic Community Party. This phenomenon did not occur amongst Christians who necessarily discarded, at least publicly, their religious identities when becoming Communists. So while religious and political conflict openly occurred in Communist societies which were predominantly Christian, many Muslims were able to accommodate their religious convictions with Soviet Communism. In the end, the creation of “Muslim Atheists” depended on not only socio-economic differences between Muslim and Christian societies but also theological differences between Muslim and Christian religions.
Under communism, the Russian religious landscape consisted mainly of two competitors – a severely repressed Russian Orthodox Church and a heavily promoted atheist alternative to religion called "scientific atheism". Under these circumstances, one might expect the rapid spread of religious disbelief. But the intensity of the atheist campaign originated from official mandate and not popular appeal. In turn, scientific atheism never inspired the Russian population and grew increasingly uninspired as Soviet officials created a monopoly "church" of scientific atheism in hopes of replacing persistent religious beliefs and practices. This paper is dedicated to explaining why communists could not successfully convert the masses to atheism. The findings provide evidence that systems of belief require more than simply the power of promotion and coercion to become accepted.
Social scientists often explain religious effects in terms of religious group affiliations. Typically, researchers identify religious groups by denomination or some broader popular categorization, such as "fundamentalist," or "evangelical." To better capture religious differences, Steensland et al. (2000) propose an intricate classification of American denominations which takes into account the theology and historical development of various American religious traditions. In response, we propose to replace the reliance on indirect denominational and other group membership as inferential measures of religiousness with a more appropriate direct measure: conceptions of God. This simple measure predicts church attendance rates, belief in biblical literalism, party identification, abortion attitudes, and sexual morality attitudes. In addition, this indicator provides a means to understand variation within religious traditions. God?s character proves the most straightforward way to describe religious differences and the most efficient way to demonstrate how religion impacts the world.