Orthodox Christianity defeats former communist atheism; makes significant rise in central and eastern Europe, outpacing Catholicism
A new Pew Research study has discovered religious affiliation has increased in central and eastern Europe . The most gains have been made by the Orthodox Christian faith. Formerly the stronghold of communist-inspired atheism, these regions of Europe, especially Russia, are now showing sharp rises in religious feelings.

The irony, however, is although religion has once again become an important part of the daily lives of people in eastern and central European countries, religious practice is negligible. Only about 10 percent of Orthodox European Christians revealed that they attend church services at least once a week. This indicates that although religion, adherence to a particular faith, and belief in God have become more important to the Orthodox Christians, religious observance is not seen as important.

In Eastern Europe, sharp rise in share of adults who describe themselves as Orthodox Christians

Despite low levels of religious practice, most Orthodox Christians believe their faith makes them true citizens of their countries. In other words, religious affiliation is tied up to the peoples’ sense of nationalism. For example, the majority of Orthodox in countries such as Greece and Russia believe that to be ‘truly Greek’ or ‘truly Russian’ you need to be Orthodox. In Poland, the same is true of Catholics.

On the whole, Orthodox Christianity has seen a significantly massive rise in Europe. A number of countries, such as Russia, for example, where religious beliefs have increased from 37 percent in 1991 to 71 percent. The former atheistic ideas of communism have almost vanished. Not surprisingly these societies have also become more conservative in their outlook towards issues such as abortion, gay rights and gender roles. At the same time, Orthodox Christian are increasingly looking towards Russia for religious leaderships, besides having a shared nostalgia for the former USSR.

Catholicism has not seen the same rise in Europe as has Orthodox Christianity, although both faiths are today co-existing peacefully, thanks to the increasing reconciliation between the Vatican and the leaders of Orthodox Churches. Today the two faiths exist side-by-side not as rivals but as partners with mutual respect for each other. Both are equally willing to accept members of the other faiths as fellow-citizens, and even Jews as well. Catholics, however, are less willing to accept Muslims than are the Orthodox Christians.

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