The last days of Lev Davidovich Bronstein, better known as Leon Trotsky, prime mover of the October 1917 Russian Revolution, are the subject of Bertrand M. Patenaude's Trotsky: The Downfall of a Revolutionary (HarperCollins, 2009). It held my interest from the first page to the last, skillfully telling the story of Trotsky's Mexican exile, those who guarded him, and their failure ultimately to protect him from an agent of the GPU/NKVD sent by Stalin to murder him. Contrary to some accounts, it was not an ice pick that Ramon Mercader drove into Trotsky's skull, but a climber's ice axe. Here is how Trotsky ends his last testament, written in 1940, the year of his death:
For forty-three years of my conscious life I have been a revolutionary; and for forty-two I have fought under the banner of Marxism . . . I will die a proletarian revolutionary, a Marxist, a dialectical materialist and, consequently, an irreconcilable atheist. My faith in the communist future of mankind is no less ardent, indeed it is even stronger now than it was in the days of my youth.
[. . .] Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air might enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight is everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of evil, oppression, and violence, and enjoy it to the full. (Patenaude, pp. 234-235)
No pie-in-the-sky for old Trotsky, but pie-in-the-future. Those of us who take religion seriously needn't deny that it can serve as opium for some. But if one can see that, then one should also be able to see that secular substitutes for religion can be just as narcotic. Why is utopian opium less narcotic than the religious variety? Why is a faith in Man and his future more worthy of credence than faith in God?
I should think that it is less credible. Note first that there is no Man, only men. And we human beings are a cussedly diverse and polyglot lot, a motley assortment of ornery sons-of-bitches riven by tribalisms and untold other factors of division. The notion that we are all going to work together to create a workers' paradise or any sort of earthly paradise is a notion too absurd to swallow given what we know about human nature, and in particular, what we know of the crimes of communism. In the 20th century, communists murdered 100 million to achieve their utopia without achieving it. That is a lot of eggs to waste for a nonexistent omelet.
We know Man does not exist, but we do not know that God does not exist. Religious faith, therefore, has a bit more to recommend it than secular faith. You say God does not exist? That may be so. But the present question is not whether God exists or not, but whether belief in Man makes any sense and can substitute for belief in God. I say it doesn't and can’t, that it is a sorry substitute if not outright delusional. We need help that we cannot provide for ourselves, either individually or collectively. The failure to grasp this is of the essence of the delusional Left, which, refusing the tutelage of tradition and experience, and having thrown overboard every moral standard, is ever ready to spill oceans of blood in pursuit of their utopian fantasies.