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Desecularization of Contemporary Serbian Society

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RELIGION IN EASTERN EUROPE XXVIII, 1 (February 2008) page 37DESECULARIZATION OF CONTEMPORARY SERBIAN SOCIETYMirko BlagojevicMirko Blagojevic is sociologist of religion, a research associate of the Institute forPhilosophy and Social Theory which is a part of the Belgrade University, Serbia. He isalso a part-time sociology professor at the Technical College in Pozarevac and editor-in-chief of the journal 'The Collection of Scientific Texts” of the Technical College inPozarevac. He is mostly concerned with various subjects from the sociology of religion(Eastern Orthodoxy) and has published many articles and two books: ApproachingOrthodoxy and Religion and Church in Social Transformations.Abstract: For the contemporary Serbian sociology of religion it is evident that the process ofdesecularization has been present on the social scene of Serbia in the last fifteen years.Sociologists have provided arguments for this claim based on data gathered in Serbia during thisperiod. The religious changes in question have been empirically recorded in all aspects ofattachment toreligion (mainly Eastern Orthodoxy) and the church(Serbian Orthodox Church),that is, in aspects of religious identification, doctrinal beliefs and religious behavior. Certainpolitical subjects and social scientists feel that social life in Serbia is getting increasinglyreligious, and that religion and church are exerting influence within social fields they are notsupposed to, if Serbia is to become a secular, democratic state. The paper analyzes some majorconditions of the clericalization of the Serbian society.To be engaged in scientific research of religion in Serbia nowadays, andespecially in empirical research of religious changes in Eastern Orthodoxy, does notimply simply researching an exotic spiritual and social phenomenon like thirty yearsago, which, according to the public opinion of the time, belonged rather to the past thanthe present, rather to a ''museum of antiquities'' than a living social phenomenon,rather to a small group of uneducated, marginalized and committed people than themajority of citizens, propulsive and elite social groups. The situation has drasticallychanged. To be engaged in the religious phenomenon nowadays, especially in theprocesses of secularization and desecularization, actually means being modern, at thesource of certain important social changes which in the Balkans can by no means beunderstood outside of the confessional, religious and national contexts. Moreimportantly, it is much more politically acceptable nowadays to be in contact withRELIGION IN EASTERN EUROPE XXVIII, 1 (February 2008) page 38religion in accordance with scientific principles and draw conclusions on the religioussituation within a particular area without the burden of a politically correct andexpected religious scene. It may be argued that the general social settings for religiousresearch have changed significantly. These social settings, among other things, led theprivatized, marginalizedand stigmatized religionandnumerousconfessionstoemergefrom the underground into the light and to start playing important public roles,something that just 15 or 20 years ago could not be foreseen.Such a situation has opened wide the door for the sociology of religion to studyin vivo the religious phenomenon with its different aspects in action, that is, the wayreligions and confessions influence the opinions and behavior of many people whohave suddenly found themselves in very difficult, ambivalent war and post-warsituations being full of hope, exaltation, fanaticism and unrealistic expectations at first,and then of despair, hopelessness, deprivation, and frustrations of all kinds, ending upin a state of resignation in the past couple of years. Although in the early 1990s it wasbelieved that Serbian sociology of religion would fully take advantage of the newlyopened opportunities, now we can only talk about partial success. The few existingSerbian sociologists of religion have done a substantial job, if we bear in mind that theyhave lackedbroad institutionalized supportfor research, especially empirical research.They had to overcome this lack through originality, enthusiasm, and their personalcontacts.Ifwe makeacomparisonwiththeneighboring countries, then Serbian sociologyof religion cannot claim systematic and representative empirical evidence on currentreligious changes. Until five or six years ago, even when there was opportunity to lookinto conventional and unconventional religiousness on a representative sample,sociologists failed to do it, partly due to the lack of a sense of religion (although religionwas an obligatory subject of research for the pioneers of sociology) and mostly becausethere were not many sociologists who were interested in empirical testing ofhypotheses on religiousness in the Serbian confessional area. However, although thesituation for religious research in Serbia was highly unfavorable, Serbian sociology ofreligion nevertheless has had a few strongholds that could be taken as a starting pointRELIGION IN EASTERN EUROPE XXVIII, 1 (February 2008) page 39for the research of contemporary attachment to the church and religion: in the 1980sthis refers to research by Djordjević (D. Djordjević, 1984), in the early 1990s the studyundertaken by the present author (Blagojevic, 1995) and later an omnibus study donein 1999 (Radisavljević-Ciparizović, 2002), as well as a large number of other publicopinion researches or segmentary researches with modest samples and goals. All thesestudies can be taken as a basis for monitoring religious changes in Serbia from theseventies up to now.This body of research has provided a great deal of argumentation for the threetendencies regarding the processes of secularization and desecularization, that is, theprocesses of atheization and deatheization in Serbia during the period in question. Upto the mid- or even late eighties of the previous century, it was already obvious thatpeople were displayingatendencytodetach themselves fromreligion and church.Thiswas usually viewed as the atheization of the socialist society, although the sociologistsof religion of the time were inclined to regard this tendency as an indicator of theprocess of secularization. Shyly at first, in the late 1980s, and quite openly in the early1990s, the revitalization of religion and church was becoming increasingly obvious,with a large number of people growing close with mostly renowned


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