Poland shows more individualistic approaches to religion

Although there have not been changes as radical as what some observers had expected to see in Polish religiosity and its connections to the dominant Roman Catholic Church, sociological research as well as surveys report stronger secularization and a changing attitude toward the church in Poland since 2008. Still, writes Fr. Janusz Mariański  (Catholic University of Lublin) in Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West (January), most people in Poland continue to have no issue with the public presence and influence of the church. A survey conducted in 2015 shows that 88 percent of Poles do not object to crucifixes in official buildings, and more than 81 percent do not consider religious teaching provided at state schools as an issue. On the other hand, 33 percent do not like the church making pronouncements on morals and sexuality, 55 percent are disturbed by the church if it takes a stand on laws voted by the parliament, and more than 83 percent are irritated if a priest tells people whom to vote for.

A clear trend is the rise of people who feel free to believe in their own way. Nearly half the population adopts such an approach, while 42.7 percent claim to follow the rules of the church. The striking change is that there were still 66 percent claiming to do so in 2005, thus making the decline in ten years marked. While church religiosity remains the dominant model in Poland, helped along by socialization through church and family, competition between Christian and secular models will become increasingly obvious, according to Fr. Mariański’s assessment. It is unclear what this will mean for the presence of the Catholic Church in public life. Current trends suggest the possibility that changes will not so much mean a move toward atheism or religious indifference, but rather a more individualistic kind of religiosity. A process of secularization is the most likely scenario, although one should keep in mind that it might not follow exactly the same patterns as in the West, and that social modernization might go along with forms of religiosity. Polish Catholicism remains a mass phenomenon, Mariański adds, but internal differences might grow. At this point, there is no reason to anticipate a downfall scenario, considering how many people currently do not see a contradiction in being at the same time a good citizen of Poland, a good European, and a modern Catholic.

(Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West, Institut G2W, Birmensdorferstrasse 52, P.O. Box 9329, 8036 Zurich, Switzerland)