01: The current issue of the journal Religion, State and Society is devoted to the religious situation in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, which many have viewed as among the most religiously vibrant and pluralistic in the region.
The issue looks at most of the religious expressions in the republic, as well as providing an interesting overview of survey ﬁndings on Ukrainian religion. Using data from the early 1990s to 2008, sociologist Victor Yelensky ﬁnds a varied picture of religious aﬃliation and practice in the country, with the western half more devout. He sees the pa erns of religious practice starting to resemble those in Western Europe and Central Europe. But what is striking is the high rate of belief. The 15–29 age group is the least atheistic—in marked contrast to young adults in Western Europe. There is also a high level of conﬁdence in churches among the young (largely because members of the 55–60 age group, which is the least religious, were socialized during the era of greatest scientiﬁc progress and conﬁdence in secularism).
Yelensky also ﬁnds that there is a high degree of support for a prominent role for churches in society; even prominent athletes and entertainers will emphasize that they belong to a church. Protestantism has been said to be burgeoning in Ukraine, but the situation is more complex, according to another article by Viktoriya Lyubashchenko. While all Christian and nonChristian groups are growing, Protestant—mainly Pentecostal and charismatic—growth is not as vigorous as 10 years ago.
These churches face the problem of a brain drain to the West (mainly the U.S.), as well as a division between older Protestant churches who want to retain a Ukrainian identity and new charismatic movements with global ties. One interesting case study of the former group is that of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, which seeks to awaken the spirituality and consciousness of the Ukrainians by using the slogan, “Through Reformation to Ukrainization!” Other articles deal with Islam in the Ukraine and the competition that exists among the diﬀerent Orthodox jurisdictions—an ongoing trend that will prevent a dominant national church from emerging.
For more information on this issue, write: Religion, State and Society, Taylor Francis, 4 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 4RN UK.
02: A new book, Religion, Families and Health (Rutgers University Press, $34.95), brings together 20 recent studies on the issues included in its title, suggesting that this new area of scientiﬁc inquiry has come into its own.
Editors Christopher G. Ellison and Robert A. Hummer argue in the introduction that it was only in the 1980s that religion’s aﬀect on health and family outcomes gained the interests of academics, leading to a spate of research studies during the 1990s. Even today, journals specializing in family issues rarely focus on religion (only 11 percent of the major family journals included any religious variable at all, according to one study).
The strength of the book is that it covers a wide range of religions and ethnicities that were neglected in earlier research, including Mormons, Hispanics and African-Americans, Arab Christians and Muslims, and newer immigrants, both in the ﬁrst part on religion and families and in the second part on religion and health outcomes. The chapters include ﬁndings showing that both the denomination one is raised in and the frequency of religious attendance during the teen years and young adulthood are related to the timing of premaritally and maritally conceived ﬁrst births; the newly found link between childhood religion and early adult wealth accumulation; and the closer ties that exist between religious fathers and their adult oﬀspring.
The more controversial section on health (with several critical studies appearing in recent years challenging the religion–health connection) tends to maintain religion’s beneﬁcial eﬀects on health outcomes (especially for the middleaged), while acknowledging that few studies have investigated the negative health eﬀects of religion.
03: While young people have long been held up as a secular vanguard, a new book, Religion and Youth (Ashgate, $34.95), suggests that the reality is more complex, with a good deal of interaction taking place between youth cultures and institutional and non-institutional religion and spirituality around the world.
Editors Sylvia Collins-Mayo and Pink Dandelion have collected diverse and stimulating contributions on topics ranging from British trance clubbing to European Protestant conﬁrmation students and teenage witchcraft. But the comparative and quantitative chapters are especially noteworthy. Christian Smith’s chapter on the “moralistic therapeutic deism” that he found among American youth is set against British and Australian studies of this age group, showing both similarities and diﬀerences.
While Smith sees American youth as grafting this alien religious mindset on to their nominal Christian faiths, in contrast, Michael Mason views Australian youth as more likely moving toward secularism. Most of the contributors seem to agree that young adults are moving to a spirituality based on social relationships, including through the media, rather than in institutions.
Linda Woodhead provides a ﬁtting epilogue to this sobering book, arguing that youth are no longer primarily socialized in religion by their families, but rather through real and virtual social networks. She concludes that “what we are witnessing is not so much the decline of religion as the decline of a particular form of (European) confessional Christianity and of those forms of secularism which represents a reaction to it.”
04: Although it is an anthology, Religions of Modernity (Brill, $154), edited by Stef Aupers and Dick Houtman, presents a single voice in arguing that modernization has not pushed aside mysticism and spirituality as much as relocated the “sacred” to “deeper layers of the self and the domain of digital technology.”
The book is part of the debate that has broken out in the sociology of religion about whether we are witnessing an ongoing transformation from conventional, institutional religion to New Age or “selfspirituality,” or whether this development is just an ephemeral prelude to further secularization. Linda Woodhead, an advocate of the former view, reviews the literature and academic debates and concludes that sociologists too easily agree with the rhetoric of New Age practitioners that they are individualistic seekers rather than adherents of a new religiosity socialized and coached in particular discourses and practices.
The rest of the book consists of a less-theoretical look at how alternative spiritually has, without much diﬃculty, integrated and utilized technology to its own ends. Noteworthy chapters include a study of the New Edge, the technological counterpart to the New Age movement that unfolded in the 1990s (although it had its beginnings in the San Francisco Bay area of the late 1960s), the aﬃnity between magic and computer technology, New Age-based companies in the Netherlands, and how the Protestant work ethic has mutated into an “ethics of sensitivity,” where work is no longer done “to the glory of God, but to the glory of the Self,” writes author Kirsten Marie Bovbjerg.
05: Many books and articles attempting to understand the role of the church in Orthodox countries focus on polarizations between tradition and modernity, and many Orthodox discourses follow the same approach. The authors of Orthodox Christianity in 21st Century Greece (Ashgate, $99.95), edited by Victor Roudometof and Vasilios N. Makrides, have taken a diﬀerent path and examine what the editors describe as “the hybridization of the Greek Orthodox tradition as it responds creatively to the challenges of late modernity and postmodernity.”
Indeed, the Greek Orthodox Church is not ﬁxed in the past, but the innate Orthodox respect for tradition means that tradition needs to be invoked even for legitimizing modernization and changes, since being branded an “innovator” is the reformer’s worst nightmare. Anastassios Anastassiadis shows this in the case of the late Archbishop Christodoulos (1939–2008), who—according to Anastassiadis’ understanding—developed an aggressive “nationalist” discourse as a counterweight to his transformation of the church. The Orthodox Church “uses a lot of pre-modern arguments and modes of thought,” but this does not mean that Orthodoxy is incompatible with modernity, argue the editors, reminding their readers about the diﬃculties the Roman Catholic Church experienced with similar processes.
Tradition and modernity are intertwined. Eleni Sotiriu’s chapter on the position of women in Greek Orthodoxy makes it especially clear how Orthodoxy approaches modernity on its own terms. Sotiriu describes women as “traditional modern,” while discussing Greek Orthodox a empts to reactivate the female deaconate. A striking instance of contradictory trends at work in the Greek Church today are the “Free Monks,” a Greek rock band of blackrobed Orthodox monks, studied by Lina Molokotos-Liederman (see RW, September 2003). Their purpose is to actively engage Greek youth.
Beside recordings, a website (http://www.freemonks.gr) and video clips, there are summer camps, books and two magazines for young people. The message is antiglobalization, anti-drugs and antimaterialism, with anti-Western undertones. They are strong defenders of Greek identity. They promote a rather conservative agenda “by using progressive and contemporary means,” while they convey an antiglobalization message through global means and the use of “key components of Western modernity and globalization.” Molokotos-Liederman see the Free Monks as an illustrative case of selective modernity “that takes on tradition and modernity.”
An important element to be taken into consideration, which is emphasized in Victor Roudometof’s chapter, is the synthesis that emerged in the 19th century, making Orthodoxy an integral element of Greek identity; at the same time, by showing how the Orthodox Church in Greece is the product of 18th and 19th centuries developments, he makes it clear that it is not “the relic of an immutable tradition.” Archbishop Christodoulos, Makrides writes, supported a new public role for the church, aspiring to make church and state equal partners and advocating church intervention in public debates and aﬀairs, something that politicians resented, although they could not ignore the Orthodox factor in Greek society and political culture.
But demographically, Greece is becoming less of an Orthodox country these days. This is not because many Greeks are leaving the church, even if they are non-practicing, but is due to growing immigration, with immigrants now making up about 10 percent of the country’s resident population, report Dia Anagnostou and Ruby Gropas. Both state and church have become aware of the need to make adjustments to a multicultural society. One of the merits of the book is to underline the internal diversity of Greek Orthodoxy: there are many Greek Orthodox voices. It also offers strong evidence for a “multiple modernities” approach. It will prove to be a useful tool for any reader wanting to understand Greek Orthodoxy beyond clichés.
06: Although there is little consensus about what the term “postsecularism” means, the new book entitled Exploring the Postsecular (Brill, $185), edited by Arie Molendijk, Justin Beaumont and Christoph Jeden, is the most comprehensive and informative account of this intellectual debate.
As RW reported in the May/June issue, post-secularism theorists hold that secularism is in crisis and that society is moving toward a more open position in relation to religion and spirituality, a development that is particularly evident in cities. The ﬁrst part of the book shows broad agreement among the contributors that modernization and postmodernity fail to provide meaning and civic involvement in the public sphere, but there is more debate about whether this means religious revitalization or the emergence of a more secular, noninstitutionalized spirituality (which may not be so diﬀerent from secularization) to ﬁll this vacuum.
The chapters dealing with the connection between religion and cities are among the most interesting in the book. Considerable a ention is paid to the new role of faith-based agencies in ﬁlling the social gaps as European welfare states encounter limits. The reinsertion of religion into the public sphere by the large number of Muslim immigrants to Europe is also covered in several chapters. Sociologist David Martin provides the reader with a grand tour of the world’s nations, regions and cities, seeking to show how geography affects the expression and distribution of religion and even the relations of church and state. Martin concludes that if postsecularism and its privatized spirituality cannot ﬁnd expression in urban spaces, its impact may be negligible.