In 18 nations across Central and Eastern Europe, religion is now essential to national identity.
“Believing and belonging, without behaving.”
This is how the Pew Research Center summarizes the surge of Christianity in Europe around the fallen Iron Curtain roughly 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“The comeback of religion in a region once dominated by atheist regimes is striking,” states Pew in its latest report. Today, only 14 percent of the region’s population identify as atheists, agnostics, or “nones.” By comparison, 57 percent identify as Orthodox, and another 18 percent as Catholics.
In a massive study based on face-to-face interviews with 25,000 adults in 18 countries, Pew examined how national and religious identities have converged over the decades in Central and Eastern Europe. The result is one of the most thorough accountings of what Orthodox Christians (and their neighbors) believe and do.
Pew surveyed citizens in Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine. (Pew did not survey citizens in Cyprus, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovakia, or Slovenia.)
“Religion has reasserted itself as an important part of individual and national identity in many of the Central and Eastern European countries where communist regimes once repressed religious worship and promoted atheism,” Pew researchers stated. “Today, solid majorities of adults across much of the region say they believe in God, and most identify with a religion.”
While a minority in the region, Protestants are strongest in Estonia, where 20 percent identity as Lutheran; Latvia, where 19 percent identify as Lutheran; Hungary, where 13 percent identify …