Romania the Outlier

Romania the Outlier October 6, 2017


As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about visiting Transylvania, here’s another bit of information that shows why Romania is fascinating. A recent survey suggests that more people in Romania believe in God – or at least, say they believe in God when asked on a survey – than in any other country in Europe.

For more on these fascinating statistics, see Danut Manastireanu’s post about religious beliefs in the European Union, and Hemant Mehta’s posts about the statistics for the Czech Republic at the opposite end of the spectrum from Romania, and the decline in religiosity in Scotland. And for the survey itself, see the Pew Forum website.



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  • John MacDonald

    It’s probably not a coincidence that the land of the myth, legend, and superstition surrounding Dracula is a hotbed for the myth, legend, and superstition surrounding Jesus.

    • John MacDonald

      Here is a good article about a study from the University of Bucharest explaining that the Romanian adult is one of the most superstitious in the whole of Europe. Here is an excerpt from the article:

      “In Romania, you can find one of the highest levels of religious belief and practice, of trust in pseudo- and para-sciences, in horoscopes and superstitions, according to findings of a research report prepared in the context of the STISOC project – ‘Science and society. Interests and perceptions of the public regarding scientific research and results of research’ – released by the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work of the University of Bucharest on Friday. The conclusions of the report point in three main directions. The first one shows the Romanian public has one of the largest deficits of scientific knowledge in Europe …”

      Here is the whole article:

      • John MacDonald

        – Which makes a lot of sense if you think about it, because ‘having faith” is about a lack of information, or at least a lack of common sense. Romanian people are intellectually uninformed, so it would make sense they gravitate to being more superstitious than average. Even in North America, you find religious people that are intelligent, in the sense that they have lots of information about the content area of “religious studies,” but are unwise about how they interpreted and apply that information. As Dr. Howard Gardner said, intelligence is compartmentalized, so someone can have high logical/mathematical intelligence, but poor musical intelligence. A religious person may know a great deal about theological ideas, but will be deficient in existential intelligence (how to interpret and apply information about the big questions).

        • This seems off base in numerous respects. One is that it ignores the very high level of education that has been mandated in Romania since the Communist era. Another is that it assumes one particular sort of faith, namely belief despite lack of evidence and/or common sense. You, however, ought to know better than to proceed with such an assumption, since belief that there is a God is often a response to the information we do have combined with the information that we either cannot hope to ever have or do not have at present; and faith in God can also mean trust in God rather than assent to a proposition about the divine.

          • John MacDonald

            I was making a joke, Dr. McGrath. I would hardly call you unintelligent. Haven’t I argued time and time again in favor of the cosmological argument, because denying it leads to the logical impossibility of an infinite regress? I have challenged Carrier on the cosmological argument numerous times, and his defences are that “something must have come from nothing,” or “there actually is an infinite regress in space and time,” which are silly.

          • Sorry for not getting the joke.

          • John MacDonald

            I should have made it clearer I was just joking. Language is inherently ambiguous. For example, the linguist and philosopher John Searle pointed out that if I say “I walked by the store and saw a cute dog in the big, bright window. I wanted it.” Does “it” refer to the window or the dog? Anyway, I have the deepest respect for you as a thinker and in terms of the service you provide with this blog, so I would never say anything disparaging against you.

          • If you ever think I deserve it, please feel free – seriously! 🙂

          • John MacDonald

            Just keep doing what you’re doing! You’re clearly an accomplished thinker!

            Heraclitus seems to be on to something when he says that the ἄριστοι (the best) are distinguished from the πολλοί (everyone else) because they are called to what is essential. Plato said that what seems to be essential for the thinker is that she follows her guiding perspective until she encounters a block in the path (ἀπορία), and so she must challenge the assumptions of her guiding perspective and seek out slightly or greatly different path. The thinker experiences θαυμάζειν (wonder) that her assumptions were not as solidly grounded as she thought. Plato said this excess beyond our guiding perspective (Plato’s “beyond being” (Republic 6,509b8–10) is the essence of Philosophy, ἡ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἰδέα (idea of the good). Thinkers are essentially “assumption challengers,” exemplified by such intellectual giants as Socrates and Descartes. And finally, there is a humbleness to thinking, which is not a meekness, but understanding what you have not yet grasped. Socrates said “I know that I know nothing,” which he explains means he is “not wise with their wisdom, nor foolish with their foolishness.” There is a patience to thinking, as anyone knows who has sat up all night unsuccessfully trying to solve a problem, when the solution suddenly comes to them in a flash. The Greeks spoke of this waiting and giveness in terms of the Muse. Heidegger said Being gives (es gibt).

  • Nick G

    The Pew survey actually suggests that Romania is not an outlier, but a fairly typical historically-Orthodox country:

    In many ways, then, the return of religion since the fall of the Berlin
    Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union has played out differently in
    the predominantly Orthodox countries of Eastern Europe than it has among
    the heavily Catholic or mixed-religious populations further to the
    West. In the Orthodox countries, there has been an upsurge of religious identity,
    but levels of religious practice are comparatively low. And Orthodox
    identity is tightly bound up with national identity, feelings of pride
    and cultural superiority, support for linkages between national churches
    and governments, and views of Russia as a bulwark against the West.

    What I find particularly interesting is that Greece – the only historically-Orthodox country that was not part of the “Communist bloc” from 1945 to the late 1980s, fits right in among those that were. Which might indicate that those few decades barely scratched the suface of a millennium of cultural difference.

    • Bulgaria, on the other hand, seems quite distinct from Romania and Greece in that regard. Now I’m sorry that there aren’t more predominantly Orthodox countries included in the survey – and I would also love to know whether Transylvania as a region follows the same trend as the rest of Romania!

      • Nick G

        Bulgaria looks to me to fit in well with the other Orthodox countries in the Pew survey. I see the difference in the map, but I don’t see that on any page of your Pew link. On page 4 of that link, figures are given for percentage believing in God, and Bulgaria’s figure is 79% – relatively low for a historically-Orthodox country, but way above the 36% on your map. But the source of that map is not clear: Danut Manastireanu’s page (I don’t read Romanian) has a link which just leads to a website Maps on the Web, without any attribution I can see.