Andrzej Dominiczak


(In Poland and elsewhere)

Religion is important to some people and not important to others, but to my great delight, generally, it is increasingly less important and its fall is dramatic. The recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows that out of 108 countries involved in the study, Poles - particularly the young ones –lose their faith faster than any other nation. Few consider religion as the source of values or hope for the afterlife; even fewer believe it to be the path to the so-called salvation. .

Many atheists maintain that the importance of religion is mainly negative, that it is the main source of evil, the direst threat to reason, freedom and other humanist values. Perhaps, but those who remember communist Poland and those who simply learn history and politics – are aware that there are many irrational beliefs and authoritarian ideologies that pose threats of similar gravity. At present, particularly troubling is the rebirth of fascism, so visible in Poland. Yes! Neo-fascists are often supported by the clergy and they emphasize their affinity with Catholicism but the creator of this ideology was – I hate to admit - a militant atheist and in some countries, particularly in Germany, neo-fascists mostly declare themselves as pagans.

The ongoing decline of religion and the rebirth of authoritarian ideologies give rise to a new question: is this new type of near-fascist Catholicism really a religion or rather the the post-religious ideology that justifies or attempts to justify ultra-conservative and authoritarian policies? In Poland, just nine per cent of people declare that their faith is deep and only three per cent believe so strongly that they are not afraid of death - they say! At the same time, about half of Poles refer to Catholic teachings to justify their political choices but I’ve never heard anyone invoking religion to explain his or her decisions in other walks of life. I am not saying that such people do not exist but the number of those for whom religion is generally important is very low, especially among youth. According to the PRC study, only 16 per cent of young people in Poland declare that religion is important to them and that includes those who admit it mostly for political reasons.

So, generally speaking, it seems that today’s religion is really no more than political ideology – often a fervent near-fascism – still a serious problem, but of a new kind, as other forms of fascism or authoritarianism.

This is certainly good news to humanists but it is also a new challenge, especially that this post-catholic near-fascism is not the only harmful, increasingly more influential ideology. For example, in today’s Poland, it is post-modern left, mostly openly atheistic, that seems to be the most bitter enemy of science and freedom of inquiry. For instance, they refuse to publish articles claiming that there is no contradiction between feminism and evolution. The same articles are welcome by some liberal Catholic editors.

Similarly foolish and authoritarian are some forms of identity politics that reject the idea that people from different ethnic, gender or sexual orientation groups can share values and ideas and live together. If you are a man you are not supposed or even permitted to say anything about women, if you are straight, you are not allowed to speak and write about gays and so on. Religion is on the decline or perhaps dying altogether but the number and gravity of problems we face is not lesser at all; the need for a strong and sophisticated secular humanism is as fundamental as it has always been.

Towarzystwo Humanistyczne
Humanist Assciation