It speaks volumes about Vladimir Putin's Russia that you can now become a prisoner of conscience for misbehaving in church.
Yeah. That actually happened.
Amnesty International last week named Ruslan Sokolovsky, the Yekaterinburg-based atheist blogger who faces five years in prison for playing Pokemon Go in church, as a prisoner of conscience.
And it speaks volumes about Vladimir Putin's Russia that you can be prosecuted for merely questioning the existence of God on social media.
That happened a few months back in Stavropol when Viktor Krasnov was charged with insulting Orthodox Christian believers for writing "There is no God" on the social-networking site VKontakte.
He faces a year in prison.
So why is the Kremlin so afraid of atheists? Why is it so afraid of them playing Pokemon Go in church?
Russia, after all, isn't a theocracy. At least not quite. At least not formally. At least not yet.
But it is a state that cynically uses Orthodox Christianity as a surrogate ideology to prop up its authority.
It is a state where fealty to the Orthodox Church -- or at least publicly proclaiming one's fealty to the Orthodox Church -- has become a surrogate for patriotism.
And it is a state where publicly proclaiming to be an atheist, or publicly challenging the authority of the Orthodox Church, or pretty muich doing anything that is in any way seen as insulting to Orthodox believers, is akin to an act of treason.
So Russia isn't a theocracy. But it certainly is making large strides in that direction.
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