Some Reflections on Religion and Multiculturalism in Romania: Towards a Reappraisal of the Grammar of Traditions

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Abstract:

This paper discusses the potential of the Christian tradition in Romania to offer a constructive answer to the contemporary dilemmas of multiculturalism. However, for this to happen there is a significant need for a fresh re-reading of this tradition. The starting point of my work will be an overview of the data on the question of religion and ethnicity in post-communist Romania. This will be followed by an assessment of the predominant trends involved in the building of the societal texture of Romanian contemporary society, with special emphasis on attitudes towards authority, otherness and dialogue. The ambiguous potential of traditions, both for destruction and for the healing of societal relations, will be singled out as an important characteristic of traditions. The work will argue for a reappraisal of the Christian tradition and its role, pleading for a fresh re-reading of its complex and pluriformed grammar. Emphasis will be placed on seeing Christianity--and its implicit traditions--as a Religion of Neighbourliness and a Religion of Love, oriented towards the future rather than the past, towards the other rather than the self, inspired by eschatological hope rather than blind allegiance to fixed dogma. Methodologically, my paper will fall in the area of conceptual analysis, partially informed by quantitative analysis and the data available from auxiliary sources

Key words: Multiculturalism, christianity, tradition, orthodoxy.

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1. Religion in Eastern Europe: Against the Prophecies

The twentieth century, for at least its first seven or eight decades, was undoubtedly marked by a strong sense of suspicion and scepticism towards religion. The so called 'prophets of suspicion' Marx, Freud and Nietzsche, who in some ways marked our modern age in undeletable ways, have not only predicted that, but also prophesised the final end of the age of religion. For all three, in one way or another, with the process of the 'emancipation' of man, one thing was certain: the inevitable and complete fading away of religion from our lives. (1) However, with the passing of time, our current context seems to prove such prediction dramatically wrong. It was wrong at local and global levels, in the West and in the East, in the Northern and in the Southern hemispheres. 9/11 is a proof of the global magnitude as well as of the potentially violent reality of what Anthony Giddens, a more astute interpreter of our times, predicted. Using Freudian language, he announced the return of religion as 'the return of the repressed'. (2)

That religion is alive and here to stay is identifiable not only in the overall and diffuse 'spirit' of the postmodern age, but also in more precise terms, quantified and reflected in current data offered by various opinion pools. What can be surprisingly noted from such data are the high levels of religiosity scored in areas where, for more than half a century (and even in some places for almost an entire century) the population was under fierce and overt atheist indoctrination. Eastern Europe, particularly Romania, is singled out in the report of the latest findings of the GfK (3) survey on religious attitudes in Europe and the USA (2004). Such data shows that an average of three in four people indicated that they belonged to a religion. At 80 per cent, the number of believers is above average in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, two in three people identified with a specific religion, irrespectively of whether they live in rural or urban areas. The same survey reports that 'the percentage of religious people is particularly high in Romania (97 per cent), Turkey (95 per cent) and Greece (89 per cent). While the majority in Greece (98 per cent) and Romania (88 per cent) belong to the Orthodox Church, almost all people in Turkey stated that they were Muslims.'

At a national level, as a relevant example, Romania provides us with some unexpected and particularly high levels of religiosity--giving the fact that it has been under one of the most inhumane and repressive regimes during its fifty years of 'cohabitation' with the communist-atheistic ideology. …

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