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#5 - JRL 7036
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2003 
From: "Nicolai N. Petro" <kolya@uri.edu>
Subject: Ex oriente lux

I found this article mentioned on www.newsru.com and then tracked it down 
to Fr. Greeley's web site at www.agreeley.com. It should be of interest to 
JRL readers.

(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 missed.

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.

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.

(Father Greeley teaches sociology at the University of Chicago and the 
University of Arizona. The University of California Press has recently 
published his book The Catholic Imagination).

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