Soviet Cosmonaut No Atheist
World Magazine reported a surprise tidbit from history, to set the record straight: the first man in space was no atheist. According to an urban legend, Yuri Gagarin, who flew a Soviet rocket in 1961, said that he didn’t “see any god up here” in space. The quote has provided fodder for preachers ever since on the senselessness of atheism. Alas, poor Yuri; it appears now that he was a believer and never said such a thing.
According to World, a professor at Russia’s air force academy, Valentin Petrov, claims that Gagarin “was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church and was a believer whose roots strongly influenced him.” The source of the spurious story was apparently some kind of game. Other sources attribute the claim to Nikita Kruschev (see SOS Globe and Free Republic, for example).
Well. What do you know. What do you know well? Maybe you have repeated this story without knowing the facts; we all do that sometimes (email forwarding is one of the most unreliable sources of truth). It’s nice to know the first man in space was not so dumb as to imagine that if he couldn’t see God in earth orbit, then God must not exist – or to even expect that God would be visible at all. Not enough details were provided to know precisely what Gagarin did believe, but this can be a lesson for us – in not always trusting (and parroting) claims we hear. A Google-search on “Yuri Gagarin Valentin Petrov God” will list many additional sources to check.