Geoffrey Evans and Ksenia Mankowska have posted an interesting empirical paper on the resurgence of Russian Orthodox Christianity. I was not aware of this phenomenon, and wonder whether there are Orthodox “revivals” in other parts of the world. The authors are skeptical that the resurgence in Russia evidences any deep shift in religiosity — as they put it, they believe it to be more “nominal” than “genuine.” The piece is interesting for, inter alia, its discussion of communism’s effect on the “secularization thesis” of early 20th century intellectuals. The abstract is below. — MOD
With increasing numbers of people identifying themselves as Russian Orthodox, post-Soviet Russia appears to be an exception to secularization trends in Europe. But is this resurgence of Orthodox self-identification a genuine surge in religiosity and are divisions over religious issues gaining strength and political relevance as a result? A longitudinal examination of seven waves of national stratified random surveys covering the period from 1993 to 2007, indicates that there has been a resurgence of Orthodox self-identification, an increase in church attendance and a shift toward conservative morality that seeks to restrict various aspects of freedom of choice. We show however that most growth in church attendance is among sporadic churchgoers, and the modest observed increase in conservative values appears to have little basis in increased religiosity, which has little impact on presidential or party support. The resurgence of Orthodoxy in Russia represents a “lukewarm religiosity”, following the lifting restrictions on espousing religious affiliations under communism, rather than a dramatic strengthening of religious involvement with pronounced implications for social and political divisions.