Pew Study on Eastern Europe Shows Trends Among Orthodox, Catholics
From Church Militant:

"Orthodox religious affiliation up since 1991, Catholic Church attendance higher

DETROIT ( - A new study from the Pew Research Center is reporting a sharp rise in the practice of Orthodoxy since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

In both Russia and Bulgaria, for example, the share of adults who identify as Orthodox has nearly doubled. In Russia, the number has climbed from 37 percent in 1991, shortly after the fall of the USSR, to 71 percent today. Bulgaria has likewise doubled its Orthodox population, from a 390percent Orthodox affiliation in 1991 to a present-day percentage of 78 percent.

Catholics in Eastern Europe have not seen the same trends; in fact, Poland and Hungary have seen slight dips in Catholic affiliation since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Poland's drop has been from 96 to 87 percent, Hungary from 63 to 56 percent. The Czech Republic has seen the most dramatic drop in Catholic affiliation, from 44 to 21 percent, a decrease of more than half in 26 years."

More here:
                                                    The dip in the West is known as the EU effect.
Just a few thoughts…

First and foremost, there is no argument that any embrace of religion and religious principles in the FSU and post-Communist states is a good thing. It would do a world of good for these people to have the light of God in their lives. Further, for those people that had to practice in “hidden away” ways (such as my family) it is a great development that they can be more open with their beliefs.

However, we have to be careful when observing numbers and we cannot create a complete picture just by acknowledging polling. For the Pew Centre study, I can show you a poll that says a 1/3 of polled Russians do not believe in God. The kicker is that these non-believers identify themselves as Russian Orthodox. This is not a new development as it has been noted before (and I’ve noted it here too) but rather there is a lack of understanding of what it means to be a Russian Orthodox Christian. The late great Russian sociologist Boris Dubin conducted a lot of research on this topic. In 2012, the Levada Centre reported, based on Dubin’s research, that the embrace of religion was not “in totality” a return to God but rather the embrace of the “Great Russia” philosophy that dominates the culture now. The embrace of religion is part of this movement, as I have pointed out maybe 3 times here, one has to read  
“Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality” by Nicolas I to understand the playbook of leaders today. Dubin came to the conclusion, “The sharp increase in the number of Orthodox Christians is not evidence of a real spiritual revival of the country.” Average citizens view organized religion as a kind of support for their daily lives (cause life can be hard) and as a political party. Here is the summary in Russian that you can run through Google Translate. I don’t have time to translate internet stuffs all day:

The Levada Centre conducts independent polling in Russia. Here is a poll they conducted last year on Russians, both urban and rural, on the topic of religion. I suggest you also have a look on their polls on the Western lifestyle, Patriotism and the State, feelings on moving to the West, and how people planned to celebrate Epiphany. What emerges is a deep sense of patriotism in a traditionally patriarchal society that is demanding its power in the world be respected. The Church Militant article slightly touched upon this but it didn’t address why like the Dubin study. And as such, it gives an incomplete picture.

If you look at the numbers, it presents a different picture than the Pew Centre when it comes to religion overall. If you scroll down to the bottom, you can see the perception of the Roman Catholic Church in Russia as well. 

And here is an article where all of this is covered with a lot of numbers and analysis. Again, it is in Russian, so you’ll have to translate it. This really ties everything together.

A lot of the polling concerning religion and culture are innately tied to nationalism and nationalism has grown for the previously mentioned reasons. Further, you have to understand that sometimes, people tell pollsters what they want to hear in countries where it is easier to tow the government line. I know this first hand because I used to do this kind of work! :LOL:  I’d form questions that I knew were just propaganda but wanted positive looking numbers. It wasn’t for an independent centre (ie: Levada) though. If anyone is interested, there is an excellent interview between Gleb Napraenko and Grigory Yudin that blows these kinds of polls out of the water.

It is important to note that these numbers of "believers" and "church attendance" are a little questionable at times. Churches include those that go to light a candle or buy kulichi in their attendants along with those that attend services. So, the lady that lit a candle for her sick husband might be in the church but she wouldn't get up to attend Divine Liturgy on Sunday. Personally, I wouldn't complain about this because anyone choosing to go into a church (for a good reason) is a positive development.

A poll did come out recently that said something like 70+% (I saw the poll 2 weeks ago and I can’t remember exactly) of Russians view the Russian Orthodox Church as the most trustworthy institution. So, that is good, after all.

I am not too familiar with Bulgaria so I won’t discuss the situation there. I used to train with a Bulgarian judoka that was quite devout though. He taught me a lot of Lenten foods. But, again, I am pleasantly surprised to see the numbers of believers/churchgoers increase in Bulgaria. It was just 4 years ago that there was a lot of reporting that the church was in trouble. Does any one remember the Petar Mandzhukov scandal? Or am I the only one that follows gun runners?  ??? It was kind of a funny big deal. Manuzhukov is an arms dealer who made a substantial donation to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church so that they could build a church. People were upset that “God’s representatives on earth” would accept that kind of money. These kinds of “suspicious businessmen” would in turn receive the religious title of “Archon” and people scratched their heads at they why/how/is that even the proper thing to do? The church hierarchy considered it similar to selling indulgences. Figures…

Average people, with a meh standard of living, were quite upset to see church hierarchy rolling around in fancy cars and being openly flamboyant of their wealth. Another nail in the proverbial coffin came when it was revealed that a lot of clergy were members of the secret police. So while the majority of the population identifies as Orthodox Christians, due to the strength and intertwining of the Church with national history, churchgoing noticeably dwindled. As we have learned in our own Catholic Church, problems simply do not go away over a short period of time, and so, it will be interesting to know how this relationship has been repaired. That’s one of the issues with these national churches. You kind of have a captive audience!

What is one really important question that has to be asked concerns the EU. So, Church Militant reports that Catholicism is down in EU members Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic. However, the numbers “look good” in Romania and Bulgaria, which are also EU member states. I won’t give my thoughts but I think it is something worthwhile of research.

So, after all of this that nobody cares to read, I want to reiterate that it is good there is some kind of religious revival. However, do not think that people live any more religiously In the East over the West, or there are less clergy scandals, than our neck of the woods. All these numbers are interesting after all but there are layers upon layers that need to be pointed out as well. I apologize for being a contrarian or such a downer but I don't like it when we (Catholics) feel so upset at the state of things and think other people have answers that we don't.
Let's be honest, things were always like this. There were times when Europe was 100% (or close to it) Catholic. It didn't mean that everyone was very religious. Religious customs were built into the culture so everyone took part in their religion no matter how strong a believer they were.  Sure, everyone went to Mass every Sunday, but mainly because socially you had to. Everyone celebrated the big religious feasts because it was part of the culture. There were always nonbelievers, lukewarm, and fervent believers all who called themselves members of the Catholic Church. For the first two categories, their religion was more of a temporal part of their lives than a spiritual. The good thing at least, was that with religion being a central part of every day life, there was much more opportunity for conversion as well as the expectation of a more moral lifestyle. Even still, there's a reason why it seems that even in the heyday of the Christendom the saints always lamented at the lack of faith even among clergy. I don't think it's just higher standards, but that many people were more "culturally" religious rather than actually being religious and having a good strong spiritual life and love of God.

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