Re: Czechs not embracing religion in post-socialist era
- Eric Mueller sends us his insights on Czech religion and Czech
Q. What do Prague bank tellers and Prague abortion doctors have
A. They both cancel Czechs.
(Groan!) I know, don't quit my day job.
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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
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.