Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Church of St. Vladimir of Nizhny Novgorod

New from the Some Guys Have All The Luck Department: there is an all-female sect in Russia that worships Vladimir Putin as a saint.

A woman who goes by the name Mother Fotina (apparently her real name is Svetlana Frolova) has founded a religion in the town of Nizhny Novgorod that claims that Putin is a reincarnation of the Apostle Paul.  What you would expect to happen -- that the people of Nizhny Novgorod would say to her, "Svetlana, you seriously need to lay off the vodka" -- apparently didn't occur.  Instead, she found herself surrounded by eager female devotees, who were ready to go live in a communal house with her as leader, pray to the blessed St. Vladimir, and worship his image daily.  They are also willing to subsist on a diet of turnips, carrots, peas, and buckwheat, which by itself calls into question their general mental health.

"In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things," Mother Fotina said, as reported in the London Telegraph (you can read the whole story, and verify that I am not making this up, here).   "But once he became president, he was imbued with the Holy Spirit, and just like the apostle, he started wisely leading his flock. It is hard for him now but he is fulfilling his heroic deed as an apostle."

Reporters spoke with Father Alexei, who is the Russian Orthodox priest for Nizhny Novgorod.  "Her so-called teachings are a nonsensical mixture of Orthodoxy, Catholicism, the occult, Buddhism and political information," he said.  "But Fotina does not come across as a mad person."

No, of course not!  Worshiping Vladimir Putin as a reincarnated saint is perfectly normal!  In fact, maybe there are other reincarnated bible figures out there!  Maybe Barack Obama is John the Baptist!  That would cast Ann Coulter in the role of Salome, wouldn't it?  By that line of thought, it seems likely that Osama bin Laden was a reincarnation of Judas.  In one life, the guy hangs himself and his "bowels burst asunder," and then in the next he gets mowed down by some Navy SEALs.  You'd think he'd eventually learn to play nice, wouldn't you?

Oh, and what about Dmitry Medvedev, Putin's chief political rival?  You have to wonder how the sect handles this guy.  Is he some sort of AntiPutin, or something?  I wouldn't be surprised, given the status they've accorded Putin, if they spend at least a little time during their worship services ill-wishing Medvedev.

As for Putin himself, his reaction to finding out about his status as saint was said to be "bemused."  "This is the first I've heard of such a religious group," said Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman.  "It is impressive that they think so highly of the prime minister's work but I would like to recall another of the main commandments: thou shalt not worship false idols."

Yeah, I guess that one covers it, given that there's no commandment that says, "thou shalt not espouse views that make thee appear to be a raving wingnut."  I'm frankly rather impressed that Putin hasn't made, um, "political capital" out of the whole thing, given that he's said to be something of a ladies' man, and is frequently seen running about shirtless and flaunting what are said to be fairly impressive biceps and pecs.  But thus far, he's behaving himself, as are Mother Fotina and her acolytes.

So, for the time being, all's quiet out in Nizhny Novgorod.  I suppose this is a good thing.  Given all the trouble the Russians have had lately with UFO sightings and chicken carcasses dressed up to look like alien corpses, it's probably best that they don't have nubile young religious wackos tackling their prominent political figures. 

Of course, it's this sort of thing that keeps Skeptophilia in business, so I do have to confess to some measure of ambivalence.

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