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Re: Czechs not embracing religion in post-socialist era

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  • thekoba@aztecfreenet.org
    Eric Mueller sends us his insights on Czech religion and Czech atheism. Q. What do Prague bank tellers and Prague abortion doctors have in common? A. They both
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 28, 2003
      Eric Mueller sends us his insights on Czech religion and Czech

      Q. What do Prague bank tellers and Prague abortion doctors have
      in common?

      A. They both cancel Czechs.

      (Groan!) I know, don't quit my day job.


      ================= Begin forwarded message =================

      Dear Kevin,

      Yes, about 1998 my son did a research paper on the
      Czech Republic and at least one non-Communist,
      statistical source indicated that a majority of Czechs
      were atheist. Other sources list them as Catholic,
      but that simply means that historically they were
      Catholic and that they have not converted to Islam,
      Buddhism, or Judaism. It does not mean that they are
      churchgoing believers.

      Fleishman's article is interesting, however, in that
      the author seems frustrated by the Czechs' "perverse"
      indifference to religion. Thus he quotes all sorts of
      religious preachers and missionaries, all of whom try
      to figure out why the Czechs fail to conform to what
      often is referred to as a "human instict for

      In fact, I believe that humans may have an instinct to
      try to make sense out of their multifarious
      surroundings by trying to discern a "system" of which
      they are a part - hence to construct mythologies or
      cosmogonies, or indeed scientific theories. But that
      is quite different from a specifically religious
      "instinct." Anyhow, so the article really sets itself
      the task of investigating what's "wrong" with the
      Czechs that they don't become religious.

      It is positive that many Czechs recognize the
      deleterious effects of capitalist individualist
      pragmatism ("I believe in what's pleasant for me right
      now"). But their solution in religion would only
      cover up the rot that such capitalist individualism
      causes by making people religious so that a priest can
      bless their greed and private business on condition
      that they donate some Krony to the Church.

      Christianity is fairly rampant in America and it has
      done nothing with all its supposed "morality" to stop
      the rapacious greed of the exploiters here. In fact
      it has in most cases joined with the ultra right wing
      to wrap aggression and murder and "free enterprise" in
      the emblems of the stars and stripes and the cross.

      Fleishman's article is also remarkable for its
      superficial knowledge of Czech culture. First he
      quotes Franz Kafka as an irreligious surrealist Czech
      writer. Well, Kafka was a Jew, so nobody would be
      surprised if he failed to reverence traditional
      Christian concepts. But more importantly for this
      article is the fact that Kafka, though he lived in
      Prague, wrote in German. Thus he cannot be included
      comfortably among Czech writers.

      The only other "Czech" writer of any note to whom
      Jeffery Fleishman refers is ex-president Vaclav Havel,
      a professional NATO supporter, capitalism lover, and a
      man who once proclaimed that the Czechs need to study
      "Israeli" practice to learn democracy (a truely
      chilling thought). Though a darling in the capitalist
      world, Havel certainly does not rank among the leading
      Czech literary figures of modern times.

      If one wants to look at Czech views of religion in
      Czech literature, he could consult real and
      significant Czech literary figures. Their work is
      available in English, and Fleishman might learn
      something if he took a little time to actually
      research before he starts to write.

      Jan Neruda in the 19th century seems to have regarded
      religion as just another part of the social
      environment. Jaroslav Hasek (Communist and author of
      the Good Soldier Svejk) just savages the practices of
      the Church in his writings. Karel Capek, a liberal
      largely satirical writer who died in the 1930s, also
      takes a generally materialist view of the phenomenon.

      So while Fleishman is correct in saying that the
      Czechs are not enthusiastic for religion, he has not
      delved particularly deeply into the Czech materialist
      tradition, picking out, instead, one semi-Czech writer
      and one semi-writer who was Czech! Then he
      interviewed a whole host of people having trouble with
      spreading the gospel there and leaves people shaking
      their heads at the rise in selfish immorality.

      Yet he says nothing about the rise in selfish
      immorality (capitalist "ethics") that are no less in
      evidence in Catholic-besotted Poland, for example,
      where old Lech Walesa supposedly championed the cause
      of "liberty" by going around in public in the last
      decades of the 20th century with a Pope button on his
      lapel. It does not impress my sense of morality that
      the capitalist Pope-loving "liberators" of Poland
      brought back bans on abortion, but I know for some
      people that was a sign of morality gaining the upper
      hand. I wonder if that is the same sort of ethics they
      would like to foist on the Czechs.


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