Religious Issues

“Contrary to many assumptions, under communism the bond between religion and nation in Poland grew stronger” – from a collection of essays on current Polish politics.
“Poland continues to be one of the most intensely religious countries in the western world: nearly 90 percent of Poles call themselves Catholic, a majority consider themselves practicing Catholics, and nearly half attend Mass regularly.”
“Religion plays a deeply embedded symbolic function in most people’s lives. Such ritualistic observance is discursively linked to Polish national identity, resulting in a heterosexual, male-centered ideal of ethno-religious purity.”
“The Church sustains its own balancing act in a Polish society that is slowly declining in religiosity among younger people but yet still holds tight the hand that has guided the nation for so long. PiS (Kaczynski’s party) may, at times, sound like the political wing of the Church in Poland.”

“An open society must find a way to accommodate, incorporate, and include the widest possible variable of religious and secular beliefs, but toleration is not an obligation to respect all opinions and beliefs equally, but rather an obligation to accord equal respect to persons.”
The history, achievements and failures of the open society concept re-examined.
“Religion involves two elements. One is the religious impulse; the other is identification. These two things are linked because sacred things—objects, books, buildings—have two important features for believers. One is that they point towards the transcendent. The second is that these sacred objects bind people together in and across time with others who have shared their history.”
“Identification means that for most religious believers, the world divides into two: there are people of your kind, and there are people who are not of your kind. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of religion to incorporate within an open society.”

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below. 

“The Church’s assertion of its right to speak out on moral issues turns out to be widely accepted in Polish society, even if the majority of Poles do not agree with some of the episcopate’s particular stances.”
A collection of essays on the clash between civic and uncivic values in post-1989 Poland.
“The Church emerged from the communist era as a strong, respected, and popular institution. Poland has become a ‘quasi-confessional state.’”
“A large portion of the episcopate contend that ’genderism’ is a new aggressive ideology, comparable to Nazism or communism not (yet?) in its disastrous effects, but in its total character and revolutionary implications.”
“The majority of Poles support the existing law on abortion, coming increasingly closer to the position of the bishops. On the other hand, as much as three-fourths of the respondents approve of sex before marriage.”

In August 2002 two little girls from a village in Transcarpathia “saw the most beautiful white Lady. She was standing on a cloud, embellished with wonderful blossoms that did not touch the ground.”
The research about this Marian apparition provided a scholarly opportunity to explore its impact on the community, the stages of the erection of the pilgrimage site, the state of affairs in the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. This is an anthropological analysis of the ways in which authority in religious field is created, legitimated, challenged and sustained. In particular, the book shows how the representatives of organizational religion deal with various kinds of challenges, especially in a situation when religiosity on a social and individual level is strong but the authority of the organizational religion is questioned by lay believers.
“There were some priests who fully realized the possible dangers of my work for the church, but embraced it anyway. I am very grateful to them for sharing with me their conviction that transparency should also apply to the church as an organization.” 

“Modern Protestant ‘pre-millennialism’ ex­pects Jesus to return before the millennium to destroy Antichrist and his agents in the battle of Armageddon, and then to found the king­dom of the saints (millennium). Here humanity has a passive role, largely limited to penitence and preaching.”
From a collection of essays on the apocalypse.
“Cataclysmic apocalyptic scenarios foresee enormous destruction preceding the advent of the God’s kingdom. Transformational apocalyptic scenarios emphasize the voluntary and peaceful change of humanity. "
“Eighteenth-cen­tury Hasidism and the later Central European Jewish thinkers moved in a similar direction, insofar as apocalypticism was concerned.”
“Leaders of Salafi-jihadism, in­cluding Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman al-Zawāhiri, have been re­luctant to cite overtly apocalyptic traditions. Globalist radical Mus­lims also usually avoid the trap of closely dating the end of the world.”

The intransigent policy of Pius XII, characterized by an obsessive personal anti-Communism, had shown its limits. After the failure of the Hungarian insurrection in 1956 it was clear that these regimes were destined to remain for a long time.
The Hungarian regime needed, after the brutal repression of the revolution, to project a good image of itself at the international level. The Council convoked by Pope John XXIII only three months after his election was an opportunity to draw the country of its isolation and, in the long term, reinforce the goals of Soviet policy of peaceful coexistence.
The delegation of nine persons, two bishops, an apostolic administrator and their escort, were all carefully chosen and “briefed” before they left and strictly controlled by the Hungarian secret services at the Rome embassy. Their participation in the Second Vatican Council allowed for direct and secret negotiations between the Holy See and the Hungarian government which ended, in less than two years, with the signing of the famous agreement of September 1964, the first concrete results of the Vatican Ostpolitik.
Was the agreement more a success on the part of the regime or a success of the Church? 

Jewish life in Belarus in the years after World War II was long an enigma. Officially it was held to be as being non-existent, and in the ideological atmosphere of the time research on the matter was impossible. For more than half a century the truth about Jewish life during this period was sealed in inaccessible archives. The Jews of Belarus preferred to keep silent rather than expose themselves to the animosity of the authorities. Although the fate of Belarusian Jews before and during the war has now been amply studied, this book is one of the first attempts to study Jewish life in Belarus during the last decade of Stalin's rule.
The book is a celebration of the stubbornly courageous attempts by surviving Belarusian Jews to preserve their Jewish religious and cultural identity in the face of the Soviet regime’s concerted effort to suppress Jewish religion and identity, as well as any explicit references to the annihilation of over 80 percent of Jewish Belarusians during the Holocaust. 

The history of eugenics is still a taboo subject in some countries’ national histories. This is partly true for Portugal, which lends special value to this monograph.
The book examines the science and ideology of eugenics in early twentieth century Portugal in the context of manifestations in other countries in the same period. Instead of a racially-oriented program of eugenics developed in ‘pagan’ Nazi Germany, Salazar promoted pronatalist policies that were more interested in the population quantity than quality, and which took the family as the unit of political, social and human reproduction.
The author identifies that three factors that ultimately limited the impact of eugenics in Portugal: a low level of institutionalization, opposition from Catholics, and the conservative nature of the Salazar regime. And three expressions, to which the eugenic science and movement were confined in Portugal: individualized studies on mental health; a particular stance on racial miscegenation in the context of the substantial Portuguese colonial empire; and a diffuse model of social hygiene, maternity care and puericulture. 

Did Masaryk really intend to start a new religion? This book looks at Tomáš Masaryk’s personal religious philosophy, his desire to establish that set of beliefs as the civil religion of Czechoslovakia, and his disappointment at seeing the failure of those efforts.
The new religion would be freed from churches and doctrines, Masaryk insisted that it would better allow people to act in love and service. On becoming president, he expected that this new religion would be accepted by all Czechs; it would provide the unifying conviction that would inspire them to civic engagement, much as he understood the function of religion in America.
The second subject is Slovene architect Jože Plečnik, whom Masaryk commissioned in 1921 to direct the renovation of Prague Castle. Catholic imagery fired his imagination: yet he also believed that all architecture was sacral, whether a church or the home of a noble patron.
Alice Garrigue Masaryková (1879–1966), Masaryk’s eldest child, is the third character in the book. The founding director of the Czechoslovak Red Cross organization, Masaryková sought to bridge religious conviction with social scientific analysis and democratic civic engagement. 

“In the 12th century an important shift occurred in religious and cultural perspectives. The figure of the woman emerged as a new kind of cult object in secular culture in the literary convention of courtly love and in religion, parallel to this, in the triumphant cult of the Virgin Mary.”
The book contains documents born during the seven centuries that passed between the Hungarian royal princess Margarets premature death and her canonization. The hagiographic corpus—Latin texts with English translation—begins with the Oldest Legend from 1275-1277 and ends with documents of the 15th century canonization attempt.
“Considering the hairshirt she wore of little value, she had prepared for herself hedgehog skins three or four fingers wide. She girded herself with these, putting all of the spines on the skins next to her naked flesh.” (Nam cilicium, quo utebatur, parvi pendens pelles ericinas, secretius sibi parari fecit trium vel quattuor digitorum latitudine et universisa spinis pellium circa carnem ipsam nudam seipsam cinxit eisdem.)

“Martyrdom is one of the most controversial and incomprehensible phenomena of early Christianity. In the Roman Empire which, as we know, was quite tolerant in religious matters a great number of people (though much less than suggested by ancient sources) succeeded in dying for their religious convictions. Our feelings about this can be very different: we may admire the unbending courage and heroism of the martyrs or be irritated by their stubbornness, or even feel disgusted at the fanaticism with which they strove for death. But whatever our feelings may be, we must admit that a very strong motivation is needed to accept voluntarily or even seek death (and, in the majority of cases, a very painful death at that). Martyrs sacrifice themselves to God, as it is often stated in their acts. And even if the language used by the martyrologists is often metaphorical the sacrifices are real and those who die in this way are human beings.”
Isaac, Iphigeneia, Ignatius investigates martyrdom as a (voluntary) human sacrifice. 

Lives, identities, cults, landscapes and tombs – it is in this arrangement that the memories of the transition from paganism to Christianity are discussed, based on latest archeological discoveries from the last centuries of the Roman Empire.
Most of the essays subscribe to a conception of smoother processes than the earlier scholarly consensus. Such a paradigm shift in the interpretation of the relations between ‘pagans’ and ‘Christians’ attempts to replace the old ‘conflict model’ with a subtler, complex approach by triggering new explanatory models such as multiculturalism, cohabitation, cooperation, identity, or group cohesion.
“While paganism had never been fully extirpated or denied by the multiethnic educated elite that managed the Roman Empire, Christianity came to be presented by the same elite as providing a way for a wider group of people to combine true philosophy and right religion. For a long time afterwards, pagans and Christians lived in between polytheistic and monotheist traditions and disputed Classical and non-Classical legacies.” This is the coexistence of various religious cultures that this book seeks to explore.

Further titles on religious themes from the CEU Press backlist, contemporary topics on top, older subjects below: