Religion in the Czech Republic
Religion in the Czech Republic was dominated by Christianity until at least the first half of the 20th century; since then it has steadily declined and today the Czech Republic has one of the least religious populations in the world. Religions other than Christianity make up a small minority, with the largest being Buddhism.
Historically, the Czech people have been characterised as "tolerant and even indifferent towards religion". According to the 2011 census, 34.2% of the population stated they had no religion, 10.3% was Roman Catholic, 0.8% was Protestant (0.5% Czech Brethren and 0.4% Hussite), and 9.4% followed other forms of religion both denominational or not. 45.2% of the population did not answer the question about religion. From 1991 to 2001 and further to 2011 the adherence to Roman Catholicism decreased from 39.0% to 26.8% and then to 10.3%; Protestantism similarly declined from 3.7% to 2.1% and then to 0.8%.
According to a Eurobarometer Poll in 2010, 16% of Czech citizens responded that "they believe there is a God" (the lowest rate among the countries of the European Union), whereas 44% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 37% said that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force".
Christianity has historically been the largest religion in the country, with virtually all Czechs being Christians until the 19th century. The Czechs gradually converted to Christianity from Slavic paganism between the 8th and the 10th century. Bořivoj I, Duke of Bohemia, baptised by the Saints Cyril and Methodius, was the first ruler of Bohemia to officially adopt Christianity as the state religion. Christianity has been on the decline since the 20th century and today only 13.9% of the Czech population still declare themselves Christians.
The Catholic Church was the main form of Christianity practiced by the Czechs (96.5% in 1910), until it started to decline after World War I and the breakup of Austria-Hungary due to a popular anti-Austrian and anticlerical mass movement. During the Czechoslovak unification under a Communist regime, most of the properties of the Church were confiscated by the government, although some were later returned. After the Communist regime fell, 39.0% of Czechs were still found to be Catholic in 1991, but the faith has continued to rapidly decline since. As of 2011 only 10.4% of the Czechs still consider themselves Catholic, which is about the same as in Protestant-majority England.
The Czech Republic is thus possibly the only example since the Reformation of a formerly almost entirely Catholic nation abandoning the faith almost entirely over the course of a century, and is a phenomenon in stark contrast to the situation in neighboring Poland, or even Slovakia.
In the 15th century, the religious and social reformer Jan Hus formed a movement later named after him. Although Hus was named a heretic and burnt in Constance in 1415, his followers seceded from the Catholic Church and in the Hussite Wars (1419–1434) defeated five crusades organized against them by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. Petr Chelčický continued with the Czech Hussite Reformation movement. During the next two centuries, most of the Czechs became adherents of Hussitism.
After 1526 Bohemia came increasingly under Habsburg control as the Habsburgs became first the elected and then the hereditary rulers of Bohemia. The Defenestration of Prague and subsequent revolt against the Habsburgs in 1618 marked the start of the Thirty Years' War, which quickly spread throughout Central Europe. In 1620, the rebellion in Bohemia was crushed at the Battle of White Mountain, and the ties between Bohemia and the Habsburgs' hereditary lands in Austria were strengthened. The war had a devastating effect on the local population; the people were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism.
The 2001 census counted 6,817 registered Buddhists in the Czech republic. Most of the Vietnamese ethnic minority, which make up the largest immigrant ethnic group in the country, are adherents of Mahayana Buddhism, as are the much smaller Korean community. The Vietnamese mostly dwell in the cities of Prague and Cheb. Thein An Buddhist Temple in the northern province of Varnsdorf was the first Vietnamese-style temple to be consecrated in the Czech Republic, in January 2008. There are also ten Korean Buddhist temples in the Czech Republic, with three each in Prague and Brno.
Ethnic Czech Buddhists are otherwise mostly followers of Vajrayana Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism). The Vajrayana practitioners are mainly centered on the Nyingma and Kagyu schools. The Karma Kagyu tradition has established about 50 centers and meditation groups. The Diamond Way tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, founded and directed by Ole Nydahl is active in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. A large temple of the school is going to be built in the city of Prague.
The revived native religion of the Slavs (Rodnovery in English, Rodnověří in Czech) has a presence in the Czech Republic. The largest organisation is the Společenství Rodná Víra ("Community of the Native Faith"). There are also Wiccan followers, and one Kemetic group in the country, Per Kemet.
The Czech republic is one of the least religious countries in the world.
- Czech Statistical Office
- "Population by religious belief and by municipality size groups". Czech Statistical Office. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- "Population by religious belief by regions". Czech Statistical Office. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- Richard Felix Staar, Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Issue 269, p. 90
- "Population by denomination and sex: as measured by 1921, 1930, 1950, 1991 and 2001 censuses" (in Czech and English). Czech Statistical Office. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
- "Eurobarometer on Biotechnology 2010 – page 381" (PDF). Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- Political Catholicism in Europe 1918-1945, Volume I; Wolfram Kaiser and Helmut Wohnout, editors, pp. 181-2
- Korean Buddhist congregations in the Czech Republic, Buddha Dharma Education Association, 2006, retrieved 2010-05-01
- Biggest Czech Buddhist Centre Being Built in Prague
- Kaarina Aitamurto, Scott Simpson. Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe. Part II, 11: Neo-Paganism in the Czech Republic, Anna-Marie Dostalova. 2013. ISBN 1844656624
- Ryan Scott. Pagans help ring in the spring - Seasonal 'Beltane' rituals flourish in the Czech Republic. The Prague Post, 2011.