When explaining the causes of the atheisation of Europe, we often overlook the political and intellectual pressure, which has lasted for several hundred years, to drive religion out of the life of our societies. How far political violence against religion – disguised under the slogans of democratization and secularism of the state – has become normalized can be seen at almost every turn.
An article by Tomasz Rowiński, editor-in-chief of Christianitas magazine and the christianitas.org website, published in English on Sovereignty.pl. To see the full version in English on Sovereignty.pl, click here.
In the various opinions one can read about the progressive secularization and atheization of Europe, references to individual motivations behind this phenomenon dominate – in various ways. One gets the impression that religion is losing its credibility, as it were, in a socially natural way, along with the development of science, affluence, as well as the development of other symbolic systems that become tools for making life more meaningful. Meanwhile, the issue of the political and intellectual pressure that has been going on for several hundred years to drive religion – first Catholicism and then Christianity more broadly – out of people’s lives is almost completely ignored. Among the very diverse reasons for the decline of religiosity in Europe, this political reason is most often dismissed with silence. This is not surprising, since the use of more or less camouflaged violence against religious institutions places the responsibility on the forces of progress dominating European politics today.
The extent in which political violence against religion – disguised under the slogans of democratization and secularism of the state – has become normalized can be seen almost at every turn. For example, in Poland, where not only the left, but also liberals are eagerly raising the demand to expel religious lessons from public schools. And yet not so long ago, in 1961, the expulsion of religion from schools by Poland’s ruling communists was considered an outright act against the nation. It is clear that such a decision was not merely externally political, but was intended to initiate a process of undermining religious education among younger generations. Education perceived as counter-cultural. Very similarly, it is perceived today.
Today, of course, everything is justified by the appropriately filtered slogan of democracy. Since, with the development of the capitalist economy, Poles have become one of the busiest nations in Europe, it must have become clear that religiosity would wane to some extent at least. The reasons for this seem quite simple. First, after all, the understandable pursuit of wealth narrows life perception, secularizing life goals. Such a phenomenon was noticeable among American Protestants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and described by sociologists. For the citizens of the New World, wealth first became a sign of God’s blessing, only to turn into an end in itself.