The fanaticism of amorality

"A revolution without a firing squads," Lenin is meant to have said, "is meaningless." He spent his career praising the Terror of the French Revolution because his Bolshevism was a unique creed, "a social system based on blood-letting." The Bolsheviks were atheists but they were hardly secular politicians in the conventional sense: they stooped to kill from the smugness of the highest moral eminence. Bolshevism may not have been a religion, but it was close enough. Stalin told Beria [one of the most sadistic members of Stalin's inner court] the Bolsheviks were "a sort of military-religious order"...Stalin's "order of sword-bearers" resembled the Knights Templars, or even the theocracy of the Iranian Ayatollahs, more than any traditional secular movement. They would die and kill for their faith in the inevitable progress towards human betterment, making sacrifices of their own families, with a fervor seen only in the religious slaughters and martyrdoms of the Middle Ages - and the Middle East...

The "sword-bearers" had to believe with Messianic faith, in order to act with the correct ruthlessness, and so convince others they were right to do so. Stalin's "quasi-Islamic" fanaticism was typical of the Bolshevik magnates: Mikoyan's son called his father "a Bolshevik fanatic." Most came from devoutly religious backgrounds. They hated Judaeo-Christianity--but the orthodoxy of their parents was replaced by something even more rigid, a system of amorality: "This religion--or science, as it was modestly called by its adepts--invests man with a godlike authority...In the Twenties, a good many people drew a parallel to the victory of Christianity and thought this new religion would last a thousand years," wrote Nadezhda Mandelstam. "All were agreed on the superiority of the new creed that promised heaven on earth instead of other worldly rewards."
From Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore