Paul  Kengor

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of interviews with Paul Kengor, professor of political science and executive director of the Center, on his latest book, "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century." This series focuses on a dominant theme of the book: the Religious Left.

V&V: Dr. Kengor, why the title, “Dupes?” That’s a word that will make many religious people uncomfortable.

Dr. Paul Kengor: Yes, but they need to understand that the term has been around since at least George Washington’s Farewell Address. “Dupes” has a negative connotation, but, in reality, it’s descriptive and points to a very specific phenomenon that has long been a part of political parlance. The word was especially common during the Cold War, where even the duped regrettably referred to themselves as having been duped. “Yes, I was duped,” was a common refrain. This included even the likes of my political mentor, Ronald Reagan.

Until this book, no one had done a serious look at this phenomenon. I was motivated by the vast declassifications of former Soviet and Communist Party USA archives, where we see how duping was done quite deliberately.

V&V: Let’s get to the focus of this interview: Why is religion central to this book?

Kengor: First, the communists were, by their own definition, atheistic. More than that, they were proudly, militantly atheistic. Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses,” and said that, “Communism begins where atheism begins.” Lenin said far worse, comparing religion to everything from venereal disease to “a necrophilia.” “There’s nothing more abominable than religion,” declared Lenin.

This institutionalized atheism was true for communists everywhere, from Moscow to New York.

Beyond that, communists viciously persecuted believers of all stripes. (Click here for extended analysis, “The Communist War on Religion.”)

V&V: And these communists, who locked up and even executed Christians, Jews, and other believers, sang a different tune when speaking to liberal Christians in the United States?

Kengor: Yes. They cynically, contemptuously targeted the Religious Left. And it’s downright depressing to see the success they had. They knew these liberal Christians were trusting souls, who agreed with them on certain sympathies—workers rights, civil rights, wealth distribution. The communists exploited that trust.