Holy Nations and Global Identities (International Studies in Religion and Society)

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In Catholic-majority countries, church attendance rates may even have declined, according to some surveys. Overall, people in Central and Eastern Europe are somewhat less likely to say they believe in God than adults previously surveyed in Africa and Latin America, among whom belief is almost universal. Still, across this region — with its unique history of state-supported atheism and separation of religion from public life — it is striking that the vast majority of adults express belief in God.

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Across the countries surveyed, Catholics tend to express higher levels of belief in heaven and hell than do Orthodox Christians. Belief in fate i. Even among people who do not identify with a religion, substantial shares say they believe in fate and the soul. The Czech Republic stands out in this report as the only country surveyed where most adults are religiously unaffiliated.

For clues, scholars have looked to the past, identifying a pattern of Czech distaste for the pressures emanating from religious and secular authorities. This goes back as far as , when followers of Jan Hus, a priest in Bohemia now part of the Czech Republic , separated from the Roman Catholic Church after Hus was burned at the stake for heresy. While the region would become overwhelmingly Catholic, historians argue that the repression of this period reverberates to the present day in the collective Czech memory, casting the Catholic Church as an overly privileged partner of foreign occupiers.

Openness to religion briefly spiked after the fall of communism, though evidence suggests this may have been mostly a political statement against the communist regime, and since the early s, the share of Czechs who say they have a religious affiliation has declined.

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Despite the high levels of belief in God throughout most of the region, daily prayer is not the norm in Central and Eastern Europe. By comparison, more than half of U. People in the region are much more likely to take part in other religious practices, such as having icons or other holy figures in their homes or wearing religious symbols such as a cross. And very high shares of both Catholics and Orthodox Christians in virtually every country surveyed say they have been baptized. For more on religious practices, see Chapter 2. In the U. While this pattern is also seen within individual countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the most religious countries in the region by conventional measures such as overall rates of church attendance are not necessarily the most socially conservative.

This pattern, in which Orthodox countries are more socially conservative even though they may be less religious, is seen throughout the region. Across the region, younger people that is, adults under 35 are less opposed to homosexuality and more inclined than their elders to favor legal gay marriage.

But even among younger people, the prevailing view is that homosexuality is morally wrong, and relatively few young adults except in the Czech Republic favor gay marriage. In some countries, there is little or no difference between the views of younger and older adults on these issues. People in Orthodox-majority countries are more likely than those elsewhere in the region to hold traditional views of gender roles — such as women having a social responsibility to bear children and wives being obligated to obey their husbands.

Along these same lines, roughly four-in-ten or more adults in most Orthodox-majority countries say that when unemployment is high, men should have more rights to a job. Many Orthodox Christians across the region look toward Russian religious leadership. Substantial shares of Orthodox Christians — even outside Russia — see the patriarch of Moscow currently Kirill as the highest authority in the Orthodox Church, including roughly half or more not only in Estonia and Latvia, where about three-in-four Orthodox Christians identify as ethnic Russians, but also in Belarus and Moldova, where the vast majority of Orthodox Christians are not ethnic Russians.

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In countries such as Armenia, Serbia and Ukraine, many people regard the national patriarchs as the main religious authorities. But even in these three nations, roughly one-in-six or more Orthodox Christians say the patriarch of Moscow is the highest authority in Orthodoxy — despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Christians in these countries do not self-identify as ethnic Russians or with the Russian Orthodox Church. In addition to having the largest Orthodox Christian population in the world more than million , Russia plays central cultural and geopolitical roles in the region.

In all but one Orthodox-majority country surveyed, most adults agree with the notion that Russia has an obligation to protect Orthodox Christians outside its borders. The lone exception is Ukraine, which lost effective control over Crimea to Russia in and is still engaged in a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.

For a more detailed explanation of ethnic and religious divides in Ukraine, see the sidebar later in this chapter.


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The survey also asked respondents whether Russia has an obligation to protect ethnic Russians living outside its borders. Several former Soviet republics have ethnic Russian minority populations. And in all three of these countries, clear majorities of ethnic Russians agree that Russia has a responsibility to protect them. The survey results highlight an east-west divide within Ukraine. Eastern Ukrainians, meanwhile, are more likely to favor a strong Russia on the world stage.

The survey also finds significant religious differences between residents of the two parts of the country. For example, people living in western Ukraine are more likely than those in the east to attend church on a weekly basis, to say religion is very important in their lives and to believe in God.

In addition, nearly all Catholics in Ukraine live in the western part of the country, and western Ukraine has a somewhat higher concentration of Orthodox Christians who identify with the Kiev patriarchate than does eastern Ukraine. Even accounting for these religious differences, statistical analysis of the survey results suggests that where Ukrainians live east or west is a strong determinant of their attitudes toward Russia and the West — stronger than their religious affiliation, ethnicity, age, gender or level of education. Because of the security situation in eastern Ukraine, both the poll and the current poll exclude the contested regions of Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea.

This sentiment is shared by considerably fewer people in Catholic and religiously mixed countries in the region. People in Orthodox-majority countries tend to look more favorably toward Russian economic influence in the region. Larger shares of the public in Orthodox countries than elsewhere say Russian companies are having a good influence over the way things are going in their country. And across roughly half the Orthodox countries surveyed, smaller shares say American companies have a good influence within their borders than say the same about Russian companies.

Only in two Orthodox countries Ukraine and Romania do more adults give positive assessments of American companies than of Russian ones. Ukraine also is the only country surveyed where ethnic Russians are about equally likely to say American companies and Russian companies are having a good influence in their country.

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In Estonia and Latvia, ethnic Russians are far more likely to rate favorably the influence of Russian than American companies. In part, the desire for a strong Russia may owe to a perceived values gap with the West. In Moldova and Armenia, for example, majorities say the dissolution of the Soviet Union in was bad for their country.


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This question was asked only in countries that were once a part of the Soviet Union. In nearly every country, adults over the age of 5o i. Ethnicity makes a difference as well: Ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia are more likely than people of other ethnicities in these countries to say the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a bad thing. Neither man is viewed positively across the region as a whole.

But in several former Soviet republics, including Russia and his native Georgia, more people view Stalin favorably than view Gorbachev favorably. Meanwhile, Gorbachev receives more favorable ratings than Stalin does in the Baltic countries, as well as in Poland, Hungary, Croatia and the Czech Republic. Elsewhere, Pew Research Center has documented the wide range of public reactions to political and economic change between and Just as in that study, the new survey finds many people across the region harbor doubts about democracy.

In many countries across Central and Eastern Europe, substantial shares of the public — including roughly one-third or more of adults in Bulgaria, Belarus, Russia and Moldova — take the position that under some circumstances, a nondemocratic government is preferable. People in Orthodox-majority countries are more inclined than those elsewhere in the region to say their governments should support the spread of religious values and beliefs in the country and that governments should provide funding for their dominant, national churches.

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Support for government efforts to spread religious values is considerably lower in most Catholic countries — in Poland, Croatia and Hungary, majorities instead take the position that religion should be kept separate from government policies. In addition, even though relatively few people in Orthodox-majority countries in the region say they personally attend church on a weekly basis, many more say their national Orthodox Church should receive government funding.

Across several Orthodox- and Catholic-majority countries, people who do not identify with the predominant religion whether Orthodoxy or Catholicism are less likely than others to support the government spread of religious values as well as public funding for the church. But, in some cases, people in religious minority groups are nearly as likely as those in the majority to say the government should financially support the dominant church.

The survey also probed views on religious and ethnic diversity. Answers vary significantly across the region, with large majorities in countries that were part of the former Yugoslavia Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia , which went through ethnic and religious wars in the s, saying that a multicultural society is preferable. Muslims tend to be more likely than Orthodox Christians and Catholics in the region to favor a multicultural society. In addition to measuring broad attitudes toward diversity and pluralism, the survey also explored opinions about a number of specific religious and ethnic groups in the region.

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