Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

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linguoboy
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Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-15, 18:33

This didn't fit into either "Random Politics" or "Random Religion" because it covers both. The Pew Religious Center, the most prestigious polling agency in the US for religious issues, just released a survey of religious identity and behaviour in Eastern Europe: http://www.pewforum.org/2017/05/10/religious-belief-and-national-belonging-in-central-and-eastern-europe/.

The Economist summed up the overall pattern as "belonging and believing but not necessarily behaving in a religious way". But there are some important differences between countries, of course. Well worth reading the whole report.
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby Levike » 2017-05-15, 19:42

Thanks for the good read. :)

I'd say it's a good description. Most people if asked about their beliefs they'll say they do believe in God, but when asked about the last time they went to church they'll start thinking about the last weading they attended. Although the Orthodox are more religious then Catholics in general.

Here in Transylvania religion is somewhat perceived to be part of the ethnic identity. Religion often overlaps with one's ethnicity: Romanians are always Othodox, Saxons are Lutherans and Hungarians are either Catholic, Calvinist or Unitarian, but mostly Catholic.
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-05-15, 20:00

Very interesting, thanks. I find both the apparent failure of the USSR to eliminate religion and the huge differences between former USSR states very interesting, especially how Czechia steps out of line by being so irreligious.

I'd like to mention another former soviet state that falls out of line too: East Germany, one of the most irreligious regions in the world, in stark contrast to West Germany. Few people would openly admit to believe in God, it's seen by many as something to be ashamed of, making you seem naive--a bit like believing in Santa. Apparently the GDR did a much better job at getting rid of religion than the rest of the Soviet Union did.

Wittenberg, where Martin Luther allegedly nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saint's Church, is located in Saxony-Anhalt, which is ironically the most irreligious federal state of Germany with 80% identifying as unaffiliated--and rising. Maybe because the prevalent protestant church failed to provide identity?
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-15, 20:05

Babbsagg wrote:Very interesting, thanks. I find both the apparent failure of the USSR to eliminate religion and the huge differences between former USSR states very interesting, especially how Czechia steps out of line by being so irreligious.

Another former soviet state, East Germany, falls out of line too, being one of the most irreligious regions in the world.

I don't think this is coincidental. When I saw how exceptional the Czechs were, my reaction was, "Well, they're right next to those godless eastern Germans, aren't they?"
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-05-15, 20:08

I was thinking the same, but then they were united with Slovakia for roughly 70 years which seems to be much more religious.

Also Poland, next to East Germany too, but staunchly Catholic. I guess proximity doesn't say much.

edit: Confession map of Germany (dark blue = absolute majority unaffiliated):
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... s_2011.png
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-15, 20:21

Babbsagg wrote:I was thinking the same, but then they were united with Slovakia for roughly 70 years which seems to be much more religious.

Interesting that they weren't included in the survey, btw.

This all makes sense to me if religion is considered a strong component to ethnonationalist identity. Being atheist is one way for Czechs to assert their distinctiveness from Slovaks and vice versa with regard to Catholicism.

There are some interesting parallels in the spread of Arianism among Germanic tribes in early mediaeval Europe. In his book The barbarian conversion, Richard Fletcher theorises that this was a way for their elites to participate in the cultural world of the Mediterranean (whose material civilisation they envied) while still maintaining a distinct identity.
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby md0 » 2017-05-15, 20:23

I'm under the impression that honest-to-God belief in God is an American thing anyway (and sorry for the pun, I didn't plan it but I kept it anyway). In the US there's definitely a religion marketplace where you get to choose your religion, and if you choose, then it makes sense that you are really invested into it. When your religion is as randomly assigned to you as your nationality, it functions like nationality does.
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-05-15, 20:29

@linguoboy

Some traditions are diehard it seems. Like how the Catholic-Protestant divide roughly coincides with the former borders of the Roman Empire (with some exceptions like Poland). It's as if the Roman Empire resurrected as the Roman Catholic Church.
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-15, 20:40

And Lithuania, and Ireland, and Slovakia...

It's roughly true in Germanic-speaking areas, but even there it leaves out significant portions of (Catholic) Bavaria and Austria while including all of (Protestant) Swabia.

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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-05-15, 21:16

Yea, guess you're right. As you tend to be.
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-05-15, 23:37

md0 wrote:I'm under the impression that honest-to-God belief in God is an American thing anyway (and sorry for the pun, I didn't plan it but I kept it anyway).

I'm not so sure about that. When my dad was growing up in India, he was surprised to find that there were people who really did believe in God and took all of the self-contradictory rituals, Biblical quotes, etc. seriously.
linguoboy wrote:This all makes sense to me if religion is considered a strong component to ethnonationalist identity. Being atheist is one way for Czechs to assert their distinctiveness from Slovaks and vice versa with regard to Catholicism.

This reminds me that I've noticed a few native speakers of Slavic languages distancing themselves from any ideas regarding which specific languages were the closest relatives of their languages. I remember a Macedonian on Wikipedia arguing on one or more talk pages with a Bulgarian who insisted that Macedonian was just a dialect of Bulgarian while the Macedonian insisted he understood Bulgarian exactly as well as any other Slavic language. One of my Czech colleagues said the exact same thing about Slovak but admitted (at least when I pressed further a bit) that there were some Slavic languages that were especially difficult for her to understand, such as Russian.

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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-16, 0:58

Just another example of the narcissism of small differences.
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby mōdgethanc » 2017-05-16, 2:47

linguoboy wrote:Just another example of the narcissism of small differences.
Nonsense. We couldn't be more different from Americans. For example, they have different doughnut shops, and they spell things without a <u>. Madness!

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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-16, 12:45

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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby mōdgethanc » 2017-05-20, 10:03

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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby Hent » 2017-05-31, 16:30

There are two reasons why we're not overly religious. Catholicism was an Austria-Hungarian thing and we didn't want our new republic to be anything like the empire. And communism. Majority of the 30 something percent believers are in Moravia. I don't think we chose to be atheists to differentiate ourselves from Slovakia.

I don't think we should ridicule Slovaks or feel superior, because they lived under Hungarian rule and we did under German and then Habsburg one. Of course it's funny when they won the Ice Hockey World Cup and posted flags all along the borders saying : Welcome to the country of the world champions. We've never done anything similar, because we've gone gold "many" more times.

The language/dialect thing is a political one, but I don't call Slovak a dialect. Ofc if anyone said they were learning it , nobody would applaud them, because it's not really a "foreign" language.

Anyway. I know people who are religious, people who say they believe in God, but were never ina church etc. My father belongs to the latter group. My mom believes in fate. My grandpa was a Catholic and my grandma doesn't believe in anything religious or supernatural. I simply don't care. I had my phases when I wanted to become a Muslim and I did spend some time in the CoS (two courses and books worth around 500 bucks). I also became very anti theist after watching Christopher Hitchens and his kind. But in the end I always come back to " I guess I believe in God, but I'm not doing shit about it." I feel like this whatever may come belief is quite common here. I think Sweden and Estonia are similar in this respect.

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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby linguoboy » 2017-05-31, 16:59

Dr. House wrote:There are two reasons why we're not overly religious. Catholicism was an Austria-Hungarian thing and we didn't want our new republic to be anything like the empire.

Which is just another iteration of the narcissism of small differences. Not being "anything like the empire" would take a lot more than just not going to mass. For starters, you'd have to blow up a lot of really beautiful baroque churches.

Dr. House wrote:And communism.

So Poland was never Communist?
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby Hent » 2017-06-01, 10:02

Yes. So was Estonia. Some countries like Armenia had a major revival of faith, but some just didn't.

And our first president T.G. Masaryk liked to ride a horse which was kind of feudalish, so it's not like we had cut all the ties with monarchy. The first republic wasn't a walk in the park unless you had big factories or something.

As for the religion, I guess we have always perceived Catholicism being synonymous with foreign powers. Back to Jan Hus when there were 3 or 4 popes and the whole church was in a not so saintly state. After they burned Hus at the stake, the Hussites arose and managed to beat on the feudals with what might today be called guerrila warfare.

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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby pittmirg » 2017-06-02, 16:17

Some points about Polish religiousness as I see it:

- the Pole=Roman Catholic identification (as we sometimes put it, the "polakatolik" identity) began forming as the outcome of the numerous wars waged by the Commonwealth in the 17th century against Protestant Swedes, Prussians and Transylvanians, Orthodox and Greek Catholic Cossacks and Muscovites as well as Muslim Turks; as a result it was easy for the Catholic majority to blame religious minorities for inviting and siding with the invaders; the previous religious tolerance started to erode (especially the Polish Brethren were forced to emigrate or convert as a scapegoat for the disasters that had happened) and the Catholic Church gradually became a "national totem" serving to differentiate oneself from other ethnicities. Today this Catholic flaunting is particularly visible in eastern Poland and the Polish communities beyond our eastern border (not that Poles don't build all the kitschy Licheń's and forty meter crosses and Jesus statues elsewhere but the Church is most all-pervading and alternative-less in the east, I think)
- in Czechia after the Hussites were crushed Catholicism came to be seen as a religion superimposed from outside and thus unpopular; in Poland there was no comparable development - the spread of Protestantism was halted because it was seen as fostered by external forces (see above)

On why religiosity didn't collapse in the 20th century under communism as in other countries:
- strong Catholic basis to begin with, the polakatolik stereotype was already formed
- it has to be stressed that the communism in Poland lasted three decades shorter than in the USSR and came after the initial revolutionary zeal and the 30's Stalinist craze of purges; it was also far less extreme in its policies e.g. regarding the collectivisation of agriculture; atrocities were rampant especially in the initial period when Stalin was still alive, however we didn't have gulags and holodomor (but court murders, short-lived-yet-vile concentration camps and food shortage riots - yes); communist ideology was also perceived by many as foreign, imposed by Russians, which strengthened the attractiveness of the Church as a strong institution that was covertly opposed to the state, a gathering place for those discontented with it
- Roman Catholicism was probably harder to infiltrate than say Orthodoxy as it was governed from outside and didn't have the tradition of submission to the czar (from what I've heard, Russian Orthodoxy was practically recast into a ministry executing the czar's will under Peter I)
- Polish upper classes were decimated in the course of the century in events such as the Nazi German massacres of intelligentsia, war-period Soviet deportations and mass murders of Polish officers, the Warsaw uprising, the communist clampdown on Polish war-period (and anti-communist) guerrillas etc. Cities were repopulated with peasants with their rather more traditional and religious outlook on life
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Re: Politics and Religion in Eastern Europe

Postby linguoboy » 2017-06-02, 19:57

Wow, terrific post, pittmirg!
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