Politics and Religion in Central and Eastern Europe: Traditions and Transitions

By William H. Swatos Jr | Go to book overview

At the same time, however, almost the same proportion (42%) admitted that religion did not provide them with answers to most important questions. What is more relevant is that for a majority of them God is either a person (72%) or a spiritual power (62%). Declarations concerning beliefs in the Last Judgment (62%), in the world's end (57%), in the afterlife (50%), in bodily resurrection (35%), in hell (41%), and in the devil (35%) have a similar character. Also, beliefs concerning customs and morality were far from the dogmas and standards propagated by the Roman Catholic church. For example, only one fourth of Polish society does not accept premarital intercourse (28%), and 18 percent of the population reject the use of contraceptives. Three fourths believe that "when it comes to sex, anything goes," while 15 percent of them are against abortion under any circumstances.

The high level of faith declarations and confidence toward the church, which were tied to political realities in Poland, merely covered a process of secularization which has been advancing and still goes on in a way similar to that of Christian societies of Western Europe.


CONCLUSION

The year 1989 became a turning point for Poland; and events in Russia, Byelorussia, and Ukraine were developing at a breathtaking pace. After the shift in Poland's political situation, a significant drop in profession of faith and in confidence toward the church occurred. Figure 3.2 shows these changes and also reveals an increase of faith declarations of several percent one year later and a further decrease of social confidence toward the Roman Catholic church as an institution. The total drop within three years was 35 percent, and the difference between the level of profession of faith (86%) and the level of social confidence toward the church as an institution (52%) in the fall of 1991 was 34 percent. There is an increasing tension between society and the church in Poland now. The church is perceived as "too involved in political matters" (75%) at the cost of its religious functions.

The situation in Russia, Byelorussia, and Ukraine is very different. Here the societies express a need for the presence of churches and religion in the public realms, in the mass media, and in childrearing. As we know, that presence was suppressed in the past and was often penalized and victimized in every possible way. Therefore, answers concerning the role of religion were influenced by those events.

Generally speaking for all the former Soviet Union, the research carried out in December 1989 shows a positive assessment of the influence of religious beliefs on society claimed by nearly half the subjects. What is most interesting is that in this group half the people declared themselves to be believers. This also means that half those who attributed a

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