Religious Issues


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to the issues of religion. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“Contrary to popular belief, the church has not been a system-defining institution but rather a system-covering ideological robe of the Russian regime.”—taken from the momentous endeavor of analyzing post-communist regimes.
“A ‘client church’ is a religious organization which is dependent in its workings on the state. It is recognized on a discretional basis, and its primary function is campaigning for the ruling elite and offer ideological (religious) cover for its actions. The state can be labelled a hypocrite state for it uses religion as a political tool.”
“Practically, the Church in Poland acts like an interest group that is influential in both politics and society. In contrast, the Church in today’s Hungary is a patronal-policy ally of Orbán, a link that is businesslike in a very secular way.
What distinguishes church-state relations is what fundamentally distinguishes their regimes: Kaczyński is an ideology-driven populist, while Orbán is an ideology-applying populist.”

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

“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.”

“The Church emerged from the communist era as a strong, respected, and popular institution. These historical factors also help explain a steadily high level of religiosity, one of the highest in Europe”—from a book on current values in Poland.
“The Church, while regarding homosexual relations sinful, treats gays and lesbians as suffering people who can be helped to overcome their affliction. At the same time, the bishops have spoken out against same-sex marriage or any other form of legal recognition of same-sex unions and have regarded LGBT activism as an aggressive promotion of homosexuality.”
“The majority of Poles have no issue with religion in schools, religious symbols in public places, priests at state ceremonies or on TV, and being informed by the Church hierarchy on moral issues.”

“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.”

“Some of the intellectual milieus that had existed since the 1990s or early 2000s were associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, its conservative and anti-Western elements and can therefore be loosely typified as religious traditionalist articulations.”—from a book on how Russia is being constructed as a supranational entity
“Recycling the Brezhnevite cult of the Great Patriotic War, the post-Soviet elites added some new elements such as the Orthodox Church—a theme silenced by the Soviet ideological practice. The authorities focused on the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the victory, glorifying the role of the Red Army as well as the Russian Orthodox Church.”
“The symbolism that is constructed in the Patriarch’s speech at the opening of the Sixteenth World Russian People’s Council in 2012 links the spatial borders to spiritual borders and equates present-day Western cultural influence with historical instances of territorial invasions that arrived from the West.”

“The communists’ objective was not to eliminate Islam or religion in general from society. Rather, religion was supposed to lose its power over the population gradually, through the social progress achieved by means of economic modernization and education.”—from the collection of essays on the afterlife of 1989.
“Young people, primarily men, began to challenge the authority of local mullas and elders as the guarantors of the ruling order—Islam. This seemingly ideological dispute then translated into grave social conflict, which materialized outside of the Soviet political system.”
“According to Rev. Neuhaus, a leading intellectual in the New Religious Right, American democracy depends for its health and survival on Judeo-Christian religion. If that religion deteriorates, the ethos of American democracy will collapse… Breitbart replaced First Things as the movement’s journalistic beacon.”

“Political elites and members of the oligarchic class of southeastern Ukraine have begun to take religion seriously, and to consider Orthodoxy as the core of a regional identity that conflates elements of ‘all-Russian,’ Soviet, and Cossack identities.”—from the book on regional specificities in Ukraine.
“The intensity of religious sentiment concerning eternal life, the soul, the devil and the like, are highest among the historically repressed groups, the Protestant denominations, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Roman Catholics.”
“One-third of all believers define themselves as ‘just Orthodox’ and 13% as ‘believers without a confession.’ They profess allegiance to a faith tradition and yet feel a negligible allegiance to a particular denomination or parish.”
“Religious beliefs and practices contribute toward forging local and national identities, but they are not particularly effective, whether in historical or contemporary terms, in providing the underpinnings for regionally based identities and political projects.”

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.” 

Gorbachev said that many find the ritual, ceremonial part of religion attractive. However, true believers are dying out with the older generation. Still, one third of the population marry and baptize their children in the church.  
As for Khomeini, Reagan said, he felt that both countries—the U.S. and the USSR—born of revolution, ought to keep an eye on another revolution which teaches that the way to heaven is to kill a non-believer.” (Geneva, 1985 November)
Conversations of superpower leaders at the end of the Cold War, now in paperback.
Gorbachev said that the Soviets judged the problem of religion as not a serious one. There were not big problems with freedom of worship. He, himself, had been baptized, but was not now a believer and that reflected a certain evolution of Soviet society. (Moscow 1988 May).
Reagan said he hoped the Church would win. Filaret concluded the meeting by saying that Christ would win. (Danilov Monastery, 1988 May)

Gorbachev: As for religious issues, we treat them within the framework of our general understanding of universal human values. It is up to the individual which philosophy and religion to practice.
John Paul II: I think we understood correctly that the strength of perestroika is in its soul. You are right when you say that changes should not come too fast. We also agree that not only structures need to be changed, but the thinking as well. (Vatican, 1989 December)—from Gorbachev and Bush, now in paperback.
Gorbachev: Dangers arise from the transitional situation in the USSR. We’re leaving behind one system of values. We see how the legitimate desire for national self-determination has negative implications: nationalism, separatism, sometimes with religious overtones. A balanced approach is needed; we have a unique responsibility.
Mitterrand: The USSR needs serious, sensible assistance. (London, 1991 July)

“Unlike Kundera or Samuel P. Huntington, Halecki, an expert on Christian history and doctrine, said that from the point of view of religious doctrine and even of ecclesiastical organization, the differences between Protestantism and both Catholicism and Orthodoxy are much greater than those which separate the two latter.”—from the book on keys to economic development.
“Topolski characterized the region according to its civilizational and cultural features associated with the dominant religion. East Central Europe was restricted to the Catholic countries, where the introduction of feudal institutions was delayed and where in the sixteenth century serfdom re-emerged.”

“Where the anarchists and, originally, the Soviet communists wanted to eradicate religion altogether, the Fascists and Nazis sought to harness religion and either tame it (in Italy) or redesign it to accord with Nazi ideology (in the Third Reich)”—from the book on modern non-democracies.
“The Bolsheviks’ preferred method was to dispatch a group of officials to a monastery to prove that relics thought to be the bones of saints were actually animal bones mixed with wax.”
“One of Mussolini’s first steps was to reassure the Vatican. He authorized religious education under the supervision of religious authorities, banned contraception, and introduced penalties for cursing in public.”
“Hitler ridiculed Himmler’s declarations in favor of reviving polytheism and Goebbels shut down cultic sites which had been set up to serve as places for neopagan rituals. They believed that Christianity would ultimately serve much better than paganism as a foundation for redesigning human nature.”

“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 pre-modern peasant conception, illness was not simply a (humoral or physiological) disorder of the body, but the outcome of divine punishment or the result of a magic spell. In the peasant world, healers were omnipotent.”—from a monograph on health conditions in the Romanian Old Kingdom.
“All the members of the medical corps who treated nutrition in their writings vituperated against religious fasting, often in very aggressive terms.”
“Between 1868 and 1901, the number of fast days appears to have mysteriously increased. As if the large number of fast days was not enough, some of the fast periods, for example Lent, occurred at a sensitive time in the farming calendar: late winter and early spring, with the capricious weather of March and April, just as the agricultural season was about to start.”
“I found men and women who told me that they would rather see their infants die than damn their souls by giving them milk or eggs during fast days.”

“The dominant faith in Poland under August III was, and is until now, Roman Catholicism. The second, existing from time immemorial—and Poland is full of its adherents—is Judaism. A third, recently imported from Turkey, is that of the Karaim. The fourth faith is Lutheranism, and the fifth Calvinism.”—as broadcast from the 18th century.
“The flagellants are people who whip themselves in public in repentance of their sins, whether out of contrition or as commanded by a priest at confession. Some flagellants apply the whips with such practiced skill and force that they hit raw flesh and tear up scarlet strips, splattering their gown, caps, and the church floor with blood. The whipping lasts about a quarter of an hour.”
“Pupils became infected upon completing their education, having read the works of Voltaire, Rousseau, Spinoza, and other godless writers. In sum, deism became disseminated in Poland by teachers, by young men sent abroad for their education, and by books.”

“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.)

“To the Arpadian kings, the terms ‘East and West,’ ‘Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy,’ ‘Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation’ used by modern historiography for a compartmentalization of historical reality, would have simply made no sense… The legacy of open-minded spiritual interaction between Greeks and Latins was not lost on Princess Piroska.”—from the book on the Christ Pantokrator, the second largest Byzantine religious edifice after Hagia Sophia still standing in Istanbul.
“Christian ideals formed not only Piroska’s identity, but also Eirene’s imperial image in Constantinople, where she associated herself with the Theotokos and had herself represented as re-enacting the virtues of the Mother of God.”

“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: