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    RELIGIOUS REVIVALS IN EASTERN EUROPE (Article suppressed by the London Tablet) by Andrew Greeley Enough research has been done on religion in Eastern Europe
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2003
      (Article suppressed by the London Tablet)

      by Andrew Greeley

      Enough research has been done on religion in Eastern Europe that one
      can say with considerable confidence that religion is reviving in the
      former socialist countries. At a recent conference at Nuffield
      College (Oxford) European scholars (Geoff Evans of Oxford and Ariana
      Need of Amsterdam) and American scholars (Michael Hout and myself)
      were able to compare notes and discover a convergence of findings.
      There are two major religious changes in the former socialist
      countries, one obvious and astonishing, the other more subtle but in
      the long run perhaps more important and, alas, more likely to be
      There is, first of all, the dramatic revival of religion in Russia,
      now so obvious that no one can dispute it. Three out of five Russians
      say that they believe in God, a higher rate than in West Germany, the
      Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries. Two out of five say that
      they didn't used to believe in God but do now. 58% describe their
      religion is Orthodox, though only one out of ten were raised
      Orthodox. The majority of Russians want baptisms, weddings and
      funerals in church and agree that religion provides the moral basis
      for life and a support for family relationships. Almost half of them
      attend church services at least once a year and one out five pray at
      least once a week.

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      Andrew M. Greeley's Columns for the
      Chicago SunTimes'
      Daily Southtown.

      Thus nine years after the abortive Communist coup that brought Boris
      Yeltsin to power, Orthodoxy has reemerged as a major force in Russian
      life, so important indeed that, when Boris Nicoalaevitch resigned as
      president, the Patricarch Alexei, in full robes, stood besides him.
      Half a decade ago such a resurgence of Orthodoxy was dismissed,
      perhaps not unreasonably, as impossible when I reported the first
      survey results, collected the same year as Yeltsin's rise to power.
      Now the religious revival in Russia, perhaps the most dramatic in
      human history, has become so obvious that it is taken for granted.
      Patently the millennium-long Russian religious heritage was too
      strong to be destroyed by seventy years of sometimes vicious but
      almost always inept Socialist oppression. Vladimir of Kiev triumphed
      over Karl Mark. (Drs. Evans and Need reported that the proportions
      believing in God and affiliating with Orthodoxy in the Ukraine and
      Beylorus were somewhat smaller but not basically different from those
      in Russia).
      The second revival is more subtle but affects eight former Socialist
      countries on which we have data - in 1991 and 1998 Slovenia, Hungary,
      East Germany, Poland, and Russia and in 1998 the Czech Republic,
      Latvia, and Bulgaria. On a scale that combines (the highly inter-
      correlated variables) of belief in life after death, heaven,
      and "religious" miracles, the younger birth cohorts, especially those
      born during the nineteen seventies and the older cohorts, especially
      those born before nineteen thirty, have higher scores than the
      intervening cohorts. More concretely it would appear that the
      children share with (and sometimes exceed) the grandparental
      generation in the religious hope, which the parental generations seem
      to have rejected. This "U curve" exists, with somewhat varying
      shapes and at varying levels, in every country and is always
      statistically significant. Moreover no such curves can be found in
      any Western country. Only in Poland is there a negative correlation
      between educational attainment and spiritual hope - and that slight.
      At a time when religious leaders in the West bemoan the lost of
      religious faith among the young, the former socialist countries
      witness a dramatic rise of religious faith. How can this be
      explained? Perhaps the young in the former socialist countries have a
      different story about God than do their parents. An item asked in two
      surveys inquired whether the respondent thought that God was
      concerned with humans as persons. When answers to this question were
      added to the analysis, every single one of the eight U curves
      flattened out. The resurgence among the young of religious hope was
      linked to a rediscovery of a God who cares. When the burden of
      Socialist oppression was lifted, those born after 1970 found
      themselves more likely than their immediate predecessors, to believe
      in a God who is concerned about them personally - even in Poland! Far
      from being a phenomenon of "New Age" religion, it would appear to be
      a rebirth of age-old religion. Of its very nature this revival is
      invisible because it affects personal faith and hope. Church
      attendance normally correlates with advancing years. The nineteen
      seventies cohort is not yet old enough to return to church-going. It
      may never become more religiously active. In all eight countries
      confidence in Church leaders has fallen sharply in the last decade.
      Hannah Borowek and Gregoriez Gabinksi have edited a collection of
      essays which analyze the response of Eastern European churches to
      their new freedom. In every country, they report, the principle
      concerns of the churches were to reassert their political power,
      their religious monopoly, and their moral control of the population.
      Small wonder that they lost the confidence of their people. One would
      think that the religious leadership in Eastern Europe would have to
      be brain dead not to notice the possibilities for evangelization
      among those under thirty years old. However, since one hears nothing
      about this revival of faith in a God who cares, one suspects that
      they are not aware of it. Like religious leaders in the West, they do
      not need sociology to tell them about the needs and the problems of
      their people. Nor the opportunities.

      Drs. Need and Evans tell us that religion is stronger in Catholic
      countries than in Orthodox countries, though they offer no
      explanation for this finding. In our data, only Latvia provides a
      sufficient number of respondents to compare Orthodox, Catholic, and
      Lutheran respondents. In fact the U curve for Catholics is higher.
      European sociologists, I learned at the Nuffield meeting, are willing
      to admit that Catholics are more resilient to the pressures
      of "secularization" as they call it but they don't essay
      explanations. My hunch is that "secularization" may in fact represent
      the final waning of the elan of the Reformation. Catholics are more
      persistent in their heritage because they have different stories
      about God and world and the relationship between the two - David
      Tracy's analogical imagination. However, in the Catholic countries in
      Eastern Europe, the rejection of the Church's sexual ethic is almost
      as complete as it is in the West. Since sex is the principle
      preoccupation of Catholic leadership, it is very likely that they
      will ignore the resurgence of faith among the young and continue to
      denounce the paganism of their young people. They will agree with
      Cardinal Ratzinger that there is a terrible loss of faith and remain
      unaware of the bright promise in the youthful discovery of a God who
      cares. Thus they will miss completely one of the great religious
      opportunities of the last hundred years and overlook what is perhaps
      the best current hope for the future of Catholicism in Europe.

      Andrew Greeley




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