‘Wait a minute. That can’t be serious, can it?’ immediately popped up in my head when I was reading the following news:
As the Moscow Patriarchate website reports, on 29 June 2013 the orthodox clergy, representatives of the Department of Economic Development, Department of Agriculture, the administration of the city Sarov, as well as RFNC representatives discussed the opening of a Science and Religion Reconciliation Center (Russian: научно-духовный центр) which will be based on Russian Federal Nuclear Center and the Monastery of the Holy Dormition of Sarov hermitage. The Center, which has received the blessing of Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' Kirill, will host conferences and other events aimed to build up the dialogue between representatives of science and the Church.
The question arises how are they going to find common grounds to achieve understanding and build friendly relations? Can the views of Nuclear Center,* which developed the first Soviet atomic and H-bombs, and the Church be compatible with one another? What can the Institute that has developed weapons of mass destruction and is working towards their higher performance possibly have anything to do with the Church that is supposed to advocate common values and teach people to appreciate and protect life and the world bestowed on us by God?
For me the idea of a Science and Religion Reconciliation Center is as oxymoronic as the world peace keeping function of nuclear weapons. Let us think about it. If the Church was intending to appeal to the conscious of nuclear scientists, it would probably support organizations fighting for the abolition of nuclear weapons rather than initiate discussions how to reconcile religion and science. As for the funding, why is federal money being spent on the opening of the Center instead of helping out anti-nuclear campaigns?
Maybe I am too skeptical and the Church will indeed help to promote the idea that science should work for the good of humanity and not jeopardize it with such deadly inventions as nuclear weapons. Maybe it will. But the Moscow Patriarchate is ambiguous about the direction in which the further talks will be going. Will the Church try to persuade the Nuclear Center specialists that their work is unethical, immoral, and antihuman? Or will the nuclear experts be able to prove their view to the Church that nuclear weapons serve the only ‘honorable’ purpose of maintaining peace and security for the Russian people and the whole world thus getting the approval of the Church? It is difficult to say based on what information about the new Center’s work is available. We will find out in November when the first conference is scheduled to take place at the Center.
*Russian Federal Nuclear Center - The All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC - VNIIEF) - is a Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) of the State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom”. The Institute was founded in 1946 to implement the Soviet Atomic Project. Now the Institute is intensively working towards higher nuclear weapons performance, improving their efficiency, safety and reliability.
More information about the Institute and its work can be found at http://www.vniief.ru/wps/wcm/connect/vniief/siteeng/nuclearcentre/
Ekaterina Kuzmina is a graduate student at California State University, Fullerton and an intern at NAPF.