Working Paper 68

Alternative Modernities in Europe Modernity, Religion and Secularization in South-Eastern Europe: the Romanian case

Dan Dungaciu

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

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Working Paper 68

“The waters flow, but the stones remain. We are the stones.” (a Romanian bishop) The last census in Romania (2002) indicated that Romania is one of the most religious countries in Europe (the same situation has been registered in 1992: 87.5% of the population declared itself Christian Orthodox – 0.04% atheists – and the level of confidence in the Orthodox Church has constantly been high, 80-90%, in polls and surveys). How can such an evolution be explained, after fifty years of atheist and dogmatic rule? The usual ‘explanation’ supplied by some hurried commentators is that religion has become, after 1989, a ‘substitute ideology’ (an ideological Ersatz) replacing the old ideology (the communist one) – now ‘disenchanted’ and, therefore, refuted and eliminated. This so-called explanation remains, at best, naïve. First of all because the disenchantment of the communist ideology occurred, at least in Romania, even before the Soviet occupation of this part of Europe, and the real popular enthusiasm stirred – very rarely – by the Communist Party (1945: the defeat of fascism in Europe; 1968: the opposition to the invasion of Czechoslovakia etc.) clearly vanished in the eighties. Therefore, to claim that the communist ideology was a sort of Weltanschauung before 1989 is quite absurd. Even more, the most religious sections of the Romanian population in the nineties are the young people and the oldest ones, that is those groups least affected by communist ideology. The explanation, in my view, should be looked for in the processes of modernization that characterized the history of Romania – and of the entire South-Eastern Europe – from the end of the 19th century until today. Religion – and the Church – have been involved, in different and subtle ways, in this process. Recently, Grace Davie has accurately examined the nature of European religion within a global context. In Europe, the idea that as the world modernizes it will necessarily secularize, has became a conviction but there is scant evidence for secularization in other spaces, despite convincing indicators of modernization in those areas. Grace Davie’s point is that Europe increasingly looks like an exceptional case when it comes to the matters of faith. The argumentation is adequate, as far as Western Europe is concerned. But I shall argue in my paper that we cannot talk about an European modernity as such, because, from the point of view of religion, there are at least two models of modernization – and modernities – in Europe: the first one is typical for the Western Europe, the second one for the South-Eastern Europe (the Orthodox area). The process of modernization in Mitteleuropa could be a third model, although it is rather an intermediary model between the two.

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