Ottawa REALity January, 2018
Roughly a quarter of a century after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union, a major new Pew Research Center survey finds that religion has reasserted itself as an important part of individual and national identity in many of the Central and Eastern European countries, where communist regimes once repressed religious worship and promoted atheism.
Today, solid majorities of adults across much of these regions say they believe in God, and most identify with a religion. Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism are the most prevalent religious affiliations, much as they were more than 100 years ago in the twilight years of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires.
That said, the Pew Research Center Survey, in its fascinating report “Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe”, also found that not everyone is an observant follower of a faith, actively attends church or prays daily: just 10 percent of Orthodox Christians, for example, do so.
Nonetheless, the comeback of religion in a region once dominated by atheist regimes is striking – particularly in some historically Orthodox countries, where levels of religious affiliation have risen substantially in recent decades.
Catholicism in Central and Eastern Europe, meanwhile, has not experienced the same up-surge as Orthodox Christianity. In part, because much of the population in countries such as Poland and Hungary, retained their Catholic identity even during the communist era, leaving less of a religious vacuum to be filled when the USSR fell out of power and influence.
One country that has seen a decline in Catholic affiliation is the Czech Republic, where the share of the public identifying as Catholic dropped from 44% in 1991 to 21% in the current survey. The Czech Republic today is one of the most secular countries in Europe, with nearly three quarters of adults (72%) describing their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” However, the Czech Republic is the exception. This may be explained by its “political geography”, in that it is further west (and identifies with the West), while the Orthodox coun-tries are further east, close to the former Soviet Union when atheism thrived.
The Catholic religious revival is taking place in such countries as Hungary, Poland, Croatia and Lithuania. In June, 2017, Lithuania rejected same-sex marriage. This is not surprising since polls there show that 80% of Lithuanians are against same-sex marriage. The Lithuani-an Parliament (Seimas) listened to the public, not the media or the EU bureaucrats in Brussels, in rejecting same-sex marriage.
The Orthodox revival is taking place in Moldavia, Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus and Russia.
The Orthodox faith is strongly opposed to abortion.
Archimandrite Theothilactes addressed the Russian parliament’s Commission for the Protection of Christian Values at their first session of the new State Duma in May 2017. He advised the commission to make an abortion ban the top legislative priority.
“Abortion must be made equal to murder,” the Patriarch’s representative urged. “Attention must be paid to this bill and eventually it must be passed.”
The Commission for the Protection of Christian Values is a lower house coalition of 46 members of Parliament coming together to make sure Russian laws conform to Biblical standards of morality and decency. New laws are proposed and existing laws are evaluated for their impact on Russian society in terms of Christian values.
Religiously mixed countries include Estonia, Bosnia and Latvia, where religion is a strong part of national life.
This revival of faith in Eastern Europe is forming a strong wall against the tyranny of the Western elites who are trying to force their failed ideology on their countries.