Sebastian Strangio has a great piece on Adam Johnson's novel The Orphan Master's Son. The book is a story of life in North Korea, written by a man who has visited the gulag nation and has studied the testimonies of North Korean defectors.
In the torture cells of Division 42, where these identities are broken down and reconstructed, a nameless interrogator describes the pain of torture as “a dance with identity”—apas de deux with only one possible outcome. In the following passage, he speaks about the torture of a university professor caught playing illegal South Korean pop songs to his students.
We ramp up the pain to inconceivable levels, a shifting, muscular river of pain. Pain of this nature creates a rift in the identity—the person who makes it to the far shore will have little resemblance to the professor who now begins the crossing. In a few weeks, he will be a contributing member of a rural farm collective, and perhaps we can even find a widow to comfort him. There’s no way around it: to get a new life, you’ve got to trade in your old one.
I could at this point launch into an exegesis of state atheism. Of course, I'd be entirely justified in doing so. But polemics seems inadequate to contemplation of this atrocity, which is the governance of North Korea.
But I do ask this: consider what civic life becomes when there is no balance to state power, no higher Law and greater King. The salient characteristic of world politics over the past several hundred years-- the emergence of totalitarianism-- has coincided with the retreat of belief in God. In fact, one of the most monstrous incubators of totalitarianism-- Nazism-- is a pagan religion, shorn of Christian morals and belief, and the other incubator-- Communism-- is explicitly atheist.
There is a connection between totalitarianism and the ebb of Christianity.