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PostReligion and Nation-Building: Eastern Europe (Bàrbara Molas, Canada, 12/10/19 2:54 am)
John E raised this question on December 8th: "Why does Eastern Europe turn towards religion, while Western Europe grows ever more secular?"
In my research, I find that religion as a modern phenomenon tends to be related to the need for nation-building, or in other words to spur unity in diversity. To a greater extent than Western Europe, Eastern Europe's twentieth-century history was characterized by the establishment of new frontiers that forcefully grouped people from different cultures who had recently been through traumatic experiences largely defined by ethnic prejudices. The need to adapt to such new "national realities" could have encouraged looking to foster some sort of "spiritual" unity in the absence of cultural, or ethnic, unity. Religion in such cases tends to be a very useful resource, for it provides with a cross-cultural common framework that allows for the establishment of shared values, giving a chance to socio-political stability.
JE comments: Couldn't we point to Spain as the first modern nation to practice this tactic? Or rather, the first nation to use this tactic to become "modern"? When the Christians took the city of Granada in 1492, their next act was the expulsion of Spain's Jewish population.
An interesting counterexample would be Yugoslavia under Tito: three or four religions, two alphabets, and a half-dozen languages. We could argue that Titoism was superimposed as a secular religion to cancel out that messy diversity. Of course, it ultimately didn't work.