Gagarin's God: found not in space but on earth

Yuri Gagarin (first day cover)Today the world celebrates fifty years since Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. He was an unlikely hero. Although a highly trained pilot, as the BBC reports, he

had no control over his spacecraft during the historic flight.

And he didn’t even complete a full orbit of the earth.

But what did he see, or not see, in space? And what did he say, or not say? It became a staple theme of atheistic Soviet propaganda that during his flight he said

I see no God up here.

But no such words appear in the official transcripts of his communications. A few days later he did apparently say, in response to a question very likely from an important communist,

No I didn’t see God. I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.

On the other hand he also said, at least as reported at Wikipedia,

Someone who never met God on Earth, would never meet Him in space.

And it is known that he was a practising Orthodox Christian who had his daughter baptised shortly before his flight.

Of course Gagarin did not see God in space. He clearly understood well that God is not an old man sitting in the sky, hidden from human view only by the atmosphere. It is probably a reflection of the naivety of the Soviet propaganda machine, rather than of the naivety of the popular Russian idea of God, that Gagarin’s alleged words were ever considered a serious argument for atheism. As even their famous peasant become cosmonaut clearly understood, God is to be found not in space but here on earth.

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