The Czech Republic is a country that is recognized for its opulent past, beer culture, and remarkable architecture. However, there is another side to this beautiful country that is often overlooked – its status as one of the most atheist countries in the world.
Despite being home to some of the most stunning cathedrals and churches in Europe, it is considered one of the most secular countries in the world. In fact, a 2019 survey found that over 70% of Czechs do not identify with any religion.
Even though it’s a known fact, there are still many myths and misconceptions surrounding the Czech Republic’s atheism. In this article, we will look at whether this is true and how Czechs perceive religion. I am a native Czech, so you have first-hand information!
Are Czechs Atheists?
Let me answer your question straight away; yes, many Czechs are atheists. One reason why the Czech Republic is so predominantly atheist is due to its history of communism. During the communist era, which lasted from 1948 until 1989, the government actively discouraged religion and promoted atheism. This resulted in a decline in religious participation and an increase in atheism.
After the fall of communism, religion still struggled to regain its place in society. However, it’s worth mentioning that even prior to the rise of communism, the Czech people had a somewhat uncertain or unclear stance toward the church.
Religion vs. Philosophy
Atheism is not a new concept in the Czech Republic, but rather it has been a part of the country’s history for centuries. My grandparents and great-grandparents were not religious, and I remember very vividly when I asked my grandmother about this topic as a young child.
“Why do you only go to church on Christmas and not every Sunday?” I asked my grandmother once. She replied that it was part of the Christmas traditions and the only opportunity to meet all the people from her village.
My grandmother also claimed that no one had ever led her to read the Bible or go to church, neither her parents nor her grandparents. Still, she firmly believed that something must exist “between heaven and earth,” as she used to say.
You see, just because a large part of Czechs does not profess any religion does not mean they do not believe in anything. In fact, many of them believe in “something between heaven and earth” or profess various ancient or modern philosophies, similar to Scandinavia, where I lived for a while, and I perceive a great similarity.
Lest I forget to mention that Czech society places a high value on personal freedom and individualism, which can sometimes clash with traditional religious values. This has led many Czechs to reject religion as a way of asserting their independence and autonomy.
The Czech Republic is a highly educated country with a strong tradition of rational thinking and scientific inquiry. Many Czechs see religion as incompatible with these values and prefer to rely on reason and empirical evidence rather than faith.
Furthermore, the education system in the Czech Republic does not promote or teach any specific religion. In fact, religion is not taught at school at all. This allows children to form their own beliefs and values without any external influence or pressure from religious institutions.
The only exception is the marginal teaching of religion in primary and secondary schools established by the state, region, municipality, or union of municipalities, where religion is taught as an optional subject, according to lewik.
Moravia and Eastern Bohemia
It’s worth noting that in more rural areas like Moravia and Eastern Bohemia, people tend to be more connected to their traditional religious beliefs and practices. Moravia and Eastern Bohemia have historically been more connected to Catholicism and Protestantism than other parts of the country. This can be traced back to the region’s geography and geopolitics.
Moravia and Eastern Bohemia are closer to the traditional Catholic stronghold of Austria, and historically, they were part of the Holy Roman Empire. As a result, Catholicism has had a stronger presence in these regions than in other parts of the country, such as Central Bohemia or Prague.
As for the surveys on religion, it is assumed that the majority of believers come from the eastern region of the country.
So, what to take from it? Is it really that bad to wear the label of one of the most atheistic countries? I do not think. It’s just a label based on studies that may not always be accurate. And although most Czechs are indeed atheists, they are not non-believers. And that makes a big difference!
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