Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Church Attacks 'Ideology of Science'

A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said Wednesday that the country's schools should teach religious principles and moral values, and accused some leading scientists of trying to impose the "ideology of science" on the school system.

The church spokesman, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, was rebutting a group of prominent scientists who recently protested the church's growing influence on Russian society.

Chaplin, in reply, urged teachers to instruct children not to follow the examples of "homosexuals and prostitutes."

His remarks come after 10 leading academics wrote to President Vladimir Putin in late July to protest the introduction of a new class on Orthodox Christian culture. The group also opposed an initiative to give Russian universities the power to award degrees in theology.

"The scientific viewpoint cannot be a state ideology," Chaplin told journalists at a round-table discussion between clerics and scientists Wednesday. "It never made anybody happy and has failed to answer fundamental questions about human existence."

The church, he said, should play a leading role in setting moral standards for youth.

"We have to show them an unhappy homosexual in his 40s and an aging prostitute," he said. "Otherwise, in 30 years our children will turn into animals influenced by the cult of glamour and debauchery."

Government and religion are separated under the Constitution, but some who consider themselves atheist claim that religious symbolism is as omnipresent as atheism was in Soviet times.

An outspoken Orthodox cleric at the conference called on the government to exercise more control over religious affairs and help the church fight superstitions spread by poorly educated priests.

"We are ready to put part of our life under government control," said theology professor Andrei Kurayev. "The Church has been living without censorship for too long."

The revival of the Orthodox Church's centuries-old ties to the state, meanwhile, have prompted concern among religious minorities and scientists.

"Education of schoolchildren should be based on teaching scientifically proven knowledge," Andrei Vorobyov, a leading medical researcher and one of the authors of the letter to Putin, told journalists. "Interference of the church in government affairs has always been deplorable in Russian history."

n Over half of the country's population identifies itself as Orthodox Christian, but church attendance is falling, according to a survey published by the Levada Center on Wednesday. The number of Russians who said they were Orthodox Christians was 56 percent, 11 percent said they were members of other religions, including Islam, and 33 percent said they were atheists, Levada Center said, Interfax reported.

But 59 percent of the 2,000 people surveyed for the poll said they never attend religious services, up 4 percent from a survey by Levada conducted two years ago.