Atheistic Education

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Atheistic Education


the systematic formation of a scientific-materialistic world view under conditions in which religion exists as one of the forms of social consciousness. Atheistic education is a component part of communist education. Proceeding from the decisive role that objective factors—such as changes in the social life of people and the formation and development of socialist social relations—play in overcoming religiousness, Marxism-Leninism at the same time ascribes great importance to subjective factors of education, including atheistic propaganda. In the USSR and other socialist countries, the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the constitution presupposes freedom of religious worship and freedom of atheistic propaganda. The basic content of atheistic propaganda consists in the dissemination of scientific knowledge about nature, society, man, and religion and the exposure of the origins and essence of religion, its social roots, opposition to science, and incompatibility with communist ideology. The vietory of socialism undermines the social roots of religion and thereby creates conditions for a conscious, consistent process of liberating the people from religious vestiges. The tasks of atheistic education in the current stage of development of the USSR were formulated in the program of the CPSU adopted by the 22nd Congress of the Party (1961): “The Party uses ideological media to educate people in the spirit of a scientific-materialist world conception, to overcome religious prejudices without insulting the sentiments of believers. It is necessary to conduct regularly broad atheistic propaganda on a scientific basis, to explain patiently the un-tenability of religious beliefs ...” (Program of the CPSU, Foreign Lang. Publ. House, Moscow, 1961, p. 110).

Atheistic education of children begins at preschool age in the family, if the adults are atheists, and also in kindergartens. Atheistic education of schoolchildren is carried out both in the course of teaching the principles of science, when the foundation is laid for a consistent materialistic world view, and in extrascholastic work. In school it is essential that the antiscientific and reactionary essence of religion be explained to pupils in a scientifically authentic manner and in forms accessible to children of different ages. Important preconditions for the success of atheistic education are the linking of scholastic and educational work to life, the skillful satisfaction of the cultural requirements of the pupils, and the proper organization of their leisure. Atheistic education continues in the process of instruction in specialized secondary schools and institutions of higher education, in studies in political education circles, and so on.

The ideological means, forms, and methods of atheistic education are designed to influence the intellect, feelings, and frame of mind of man. The dissemination of atheistic knowledge and the materialistic world view among the population is carried out by means of lectures and printed propaganda, use of the ideological and emotional influences of literature and all forms of art—particularly radio, films, and television—and the introduction of civil rites—for example, when registering marriages—that drive religion out of daily life.

The scientific organization of atheistic education is based on a thorough analysis of religiosity in concrete conditions; of the trends of development of social consciousness (particularly social psychology); of the specific conditions of labor; and of the daily life and existence of different categories of the population, taking into account the level of education, age, sex, and attitudes toward labor and social reality as a whole. An important problem of atheistic education is observance of the proper correlation between critical and positive aspects in work with different categories of the population—such as children and young people educated in religious families, believers who blindly follow traditions, and people who turn to religion under the influence of profound personal, emotional, and moral shocks.

In the system of atheistic education, a special place is accorded to individual work with believers; this allows influence to be exerted on an individual with maximal consideration for the circumstances of his personal life and daily practical behavior, in which initial religious purposes and a realistic attitude toward the real environment are frequently combined in odd and contradictory ways. Attention to the internal world of believers and recognition of their distinctive individual emotional and psychological characteristics and the peculiarity of the religious motivations of members of different orientations are essential conditions for the success of individual work with believers. Atheistic education must help the believer to understand the internal contradictions and inconsistency of his world view; it must make it easier for him to perceive and assimilate the dialectical materialist view of reality. The chief method of influence in atheistic education is persuasion based on the propagation of scientific knowledge.

Social and moral problems in the contemporary context—the meaning and value of life, man’s calling and happiness—occupy an important place in religious preaching. In this connection the scientific popularization of the positive resolution of these problems by Marxist-Leninist philosophy has become one of the most important elements of atheistic education.

In the conditions of capitalist society, atheistic education of the population encounters fierce resistance from church organizations and in some countries—for example, Spain and Portugal—even open opposition from the state apparatus.


Lenin, V. I. “O znachenii voinstvuiushchego materializma.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 45.
Krupskaia, N. K. Voprosy ateisticheskogo vospitaniia, 2nd ed., Moscow, 1964. (A collection of articles.)
O religii i tserkvi. Moscow, 1965. (A collection of documents.)
Voprosy nauchnogo ateizma.Issue 4. Pobeda nauchno-ateisticheskogo mirovozzreniia v SSSR za 50 let. Moscow, 1967.
Individual’naia rabota s veruiushchimi. Moscow, 1967.
Konkretno-sotsiologicheskoe izuchenie sostoianiia religioznosti i opyta ateisticheskogo vospitaniia. Moscow, 1969.
Evdokimov, V. I. Nauchnaia organizatsiia ateisticheskogo vospitaniia. Moscow, 1968.
Letoshko, L. M. Obzor nauchno-ateisticheskoi literatury.Leningrad, 1966–69.
Vinogradov, A. I. Metodom ubezhdeniia. Moscow, 1965.
Nastol’naia kniga ateista. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Stalin's purges, the efforts of the KGB, and an atheistic education system could not stamp out belief.