The Influence of Education

Kudos to a New York University journalism student in Prague for an interesting story that involves Mormons and religion (ht:T&S).

The story notes the difficulty experienced by Mormon missionaries in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in getting people interested in the Church but also touches on religion in these countries more generally. The articles notes as follows:

In a 2007 survey conducted by the STEM polling agency, 48 percent of Czech respondents identified themselves as atheists, making the country home to the highest percentage of atheists in Europe, if not the world.

It is no wonder that the Czech Republic presents a difficult working environment for missionaries such as Trost and Mack.

“I would say that Czechs do not like to talk about religion too much,” said Petr Mucha, a professor of religious studies at New York University in Prague. “A lot of it comes from the education under communism. They were taught that religion was bad and led to bad results.

These bad results, according to the communist doctrine, included the domination of Habsburg Empire, which backed by the Catholic Church, squelched Czechoslovak aspirations during its rule from the mid-16th century until World War I.

Fifty-five percent of Czechs mistrust all churches and only 28 percent trust them, according to the STEM poll.

Having served a mission in a post-Communist country myself, I can add my own anecdotal support to the assertion that many people’s atheism was a direct result of their education during the Communist regime. After the fall of the various Communist dictatorships the misinformation propagated by the Communist regimes became painfully apparent, but many people did not reevaluate what they had learned in this one aspect.

It would seem logical that if the Communist regimes had been manipulating their citizens with regard to other information concerning political theory, economics, history, and other social sciences (it is beyond argument that the regimes were indeed doing this with their education programs and propaganda), it was also doing so with regard to religion. It would therefore seem prudent to be wary of the former regimes’ viewpoints on religion. That this reevaluation has not been undertaken by many people is an interesting phenomenon in and of itself.

The effect of this decades-long educational program provides a hint as to one of the main reasons why the Communist regimes were so objectionable to Church leaders — the state-sponsored atheism hardened large numbers of people against developing a relationship of whatever nature with their Maker, whether within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or otherwise. This article notes what anyone who has served a mission in Eastern Europe or Russia already knows: that these ffects are still pronounced today, nearly two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet slave empire.

5 Responses to The Influence of Education

  1. Granted the growth in church members in Romania hasn’t been enormous, but I had the opposite experience. I found that Communism had loosened many people from their strong affiliation with the Romanian Orthodox Church, leaving them open to exploring other religions.

  2. john f. says:

    That’s really cool William. I suppose that is a possible side effect. Thanks for bringing that up.

  3. tim spencer says:

    Hmmmm. Your coming to a lot of quick conclusions I fear. But, why don’t you start off with telling us how many were atheists before the war, so we can get a better idea of this disturbing situation?

  4. djinn says:

    As far as I can tell, the Romanians really really truly hated their Russian overlords; nothing like killing/jailing/torturing somewhere around 2 million to make you disliked. Why, after throwing off the Communist regime would the Romainans choose, selectively to decide “well, maybe, after all, in spite of all those atrocities, they were right about this one single issue.” Not buying it.

  5. Djinn! Imagine finding you here…We are both bizarrely drawn to the same Mormon watering holes.

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