Secularization, Individualization, or (Re)vitalization? The State and Development of Churchliness and Religiosity in Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe

Olaf Müller


Sociologists of religion have made several attempts (partly complementary and partly antagonistic) to describe and explain the state and development of religion in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. This article explores the recent state and development of churchliness and religiosity from three perspectives (decline, individualization, and (re)vitalitazion) and according to three theoretical approaches (secularization theory, individualization thesis, and supply-side model of religious competition). The central results can be summarized as follows: overall, in terms of change in the religious sphere, no homogenous or characteristic pattern can be established for the whole region. While most Orthodox societies have experienced a clear religious growth, the situation in Catholic and Protestant countries has been very varied. Indeed, in countries such as the Czech Republic and East Germany, the process of secularization since the political upheavals in the early 1990s seems to be even more advanced. As far as the ability of the theoretical models to explain religious change is concerned, there is no evidence to support the theory of religious competition. In contrast, the individualization thesis can certainly claim a degree of plausibility for itself, although some findings do contradict its assumptions. All in all, a context-sensitive secularization-theory approach, one which looks at specific cultural and political developments, seems best able to explain developments in the field of religion in Central and Eastern Europe.


secularization; individualization; supply-side model of religion; religious culture

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