Round Tables

Postsecular or post-traditional? Slovakia between tradition and secularization

Roman Kečka

In its Constitution, Slovakia is defined as a secular state. The censuses and researches show that about three-fourths of population declare a religious denomination what often leads to a simplified view that the Slovak religious landscape is monolithic and traditional, without any post-traditional and post-modern features. The societal positions of churches are very strong and stabilized by political agreements between the state and churches. It is obvious that the traditional institutional form of religiosity is dominant, and post-modern elements of religiosity are hardly to find. The Slovak sociologists of religion have been struggling with the difficulty of using seamlessly the Western concepts of desecularization or post-secularization that do not completely fit to the Slovak religious reality as the researches during last thirty years have shown. Analyzing the institutional religiosity they distinguish a group of traditionalists and even a bigger group of post-traditionalists identifying among them what they call ‘religious privateers’, ‘religious minimalists’ and ‘intra-muros consumers of extra-muros spirituality’. The forms of non-institutional religiosity include non-traditionalists employing a vast range of possibilities on the market of beliefs and religious practices beyond institutional Christianity, and secularists covering up non-believers and atheists. Being secularists people would prefer calling them rather non-believers than atheists as in Slovakia atheism still maintains a negative connotation of aggressive anti-religious Communist attitude.

When comparing the Slovak religious landscape with that in Western Europe going through a postsecular turn, the researchers come to the conclusion that Slovakia has rather been on a very dynamic post-traditional turn characterized by belonging to a church and attending its services and at the same time by openness for new spiritual possibilities outside the institutional ecclesiastical milieu. The post-traditional Christianity in Slovakia experiences a process of transformation and adaptation of traditional religious forms in the conditions of modern pluralistic society.


Women’s everyday experience with religion and spirituality in post-secular Czechia: A geographical approach

Kamila Klingorová, Tomáš Havlíček and Zdeněk Vojtíšek


The research I do on women’s religious experience in Czechia builds on the discussion about postsecular society. Nowadays, about 80 % of inhabitants do not declare any religious affiliation, but ‘new’ religions and spiritualities are on the rise, while traditional religions such as Catholicism and Protestantism are pluralizing and deinstitutionalizing. In my research, I use an example of ordinary women and ask how they make and perceive sacred places through their embodied, emotional, and spatially varying practices.

The methodology I use is called auto-photography. I participated with a group of religious, spiritual and non-religious women. I let them to photograph places of their everyday places and concentrate of places in which they feel and perceive spirituality and/or sacrality. I let authors of photographs to interpret these themselves. I then analyzed how they construct their sacred and spiritual places in their everyday spaces.

The results of my work show that participants turn places that are not primarily associated with religion or spirituality into sacred or spiritual while at the same time integrate officially sacred spaces into their daily lives through social activities. Thus, I can argue that sacred space is not fixed in any one location and its production involves the continual emotional and personal investment by ordinary women. I thus reconsider postsecular trends in Czechia which are to be seen in personal, individual experience of people as well.

Contemporary religious experience in Czechia

Kamila Klingorová


In Czechia, the religious climate is characterized by relatively strong secularization. About 80 % of inhabitants declare themselves as non-religious. This situation is a result of historical development with its key events such as Protestant Hussite movement, the Battle of White Mountain, Recatholisation, Expulsion of Germans after WWII and, the most importantly, communist regime. After the revolution in 1989, the religiosity of Czech population was significantly decreasing. The reason is to be found in many processes in which the historical development and a general distrust in institutions are the most important.

Currently, the religious experience in Czechia is influenced by processes of secularisation & desecularisation, deinstitutionalisation, detraditionalisation, pluralisation of religions, growing numbers of new religious movements, individualization of religions, spiritualisation, (re)sacralisation of public space and landscape and postsecular rapprochement of religious institutions. All these processes altogether could be characterized as a postsecular turn. Even though these are contradictory processes at some point, altogether characterize a current religious climate in Czechia. However, a historical, societal and cultural development of every region, municipality of place should be considered.

Prague could serve as a good example of a space where pluralization of religions and a growing influence of new religious movements are in play. Among those religious societies registered by the state after 2013, Evangelical, Orthodox, Buddhist and Hindu traditions dominate. However, in a traditionally Catholic society, the share of adherents of these new movements among all believers is still very small.

Four churches standing relatively close to each other in south-east part of Prague (Prague 4 district) illustrate a pluralized religious landscape of Prague. The first represent a Buddhist movement strong in a Vietnamese community in Libuš, the second a growing interest of people in protestant Churches in a periphery areas, the third a new church build in a communist housing estates area where the churches did not have their place before revolution and, the latest, a place of an old technical building in Prague which represent an effort of new religious movement to find their places for meeting.



Nonka Bogomilova


The meta-theoretical level of the “post-secularism” issue is defined by several key methodological issues: 1). Is the secularization paradigm no longer valid or does the notion of secularization need to be reformulated; 2). Is there really a modern trend toward the weakening of religion, a trend away from religion, or is there rather a crisis of the theory, of the need for change in the contents of the concepts of religion, the sacred, God; 3). What is the borderline separating religious from quasi-religious formations and practices, and such as the new religions, religious mobilization in conflict situations, the connection of religion with various worldly movements of feminist, fundamentalist, Marxist, or environmentalist kinds, etc.

If sciences of religion fail to solve these issues, they could not hope to achieve a new theoretical identity adequate to our times and reliable.



Panel discussion: Secularisation, Desecularisation, Postsecularism

Stanisław Obirek


I would like to comment the three concepts of our panel Secularisation, Desecularisation, Postsecularism, but I would like to add also the particular context in which we are living now, namely Globalisation and Democracy. This context is particularly important for Poland where these two factors are shaping Polish Catholic Church unable, this is my personal opinion, unable to deal with. And this fact explain why the Polish society is reacting in defensive and sometimes even aggressive way to the new challenges as immigration and secularization.

The knowledge of the ideological background of the participants in this sui generis war of culture give us an interesting insight to the pluralistic situation of the modern world. Also, it is important to scrutinize the authentic attempts to overcome existing variety of ideological positions. A good example for one of them was the debate between Jürgen Habermas and Joseph Ratzinger in 2004 in Munich. In this debate, the term post-secularism was introduced by Habermas as a way to create a dialogical space for secular and religious positions [1]. Other example of a successful rapprochement of two different position is a long interview for BBC television conducted by Richard Dawkins as a part of the program “The Genius of Charles Darwin” with the Jesuit and astronomer George Coyne which is available on you tube [2]. In his autobiography, Dawkins considered this conversation not only as a very positive but also as a constructive experience [3].

A good illustration of this new approach is the book The Many Altars of Modernity. Toward a Paradigm for Religion in a Pluralist Age, published by Peter Berger in 2014. In this book Berger used the religious pluralism of the modern world as a hermeneutical key for interpreting religious changes [4].

Nancy T. Ammerman, a student of Peter Berger and a sociologist of religion from Boston University, claims that in order to analyze appropriately the religious phenomenon it is necessary to overcome the traditional dichotomy: The sociological study of religion is not neatly contained in binary categories of organized v. individual, religious v. spiritual, theistic and transcendent v. nontheistic and immanent. All these things are contained within the discourses about spirituality we heard; and all of them exist within religious institutions, as well as outside those institutions [5]. It is worthy to notice that in her newest book Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes. Finding Religion in Everyday Life Ammerman [6] applied this method to analyze daily life and religious practices of Americans and in her analysis the above-mentioned dichotomy is eliminated. She is following the method elaborated by Michel de Certeau and his school, particularly in his book The Practice of Everyday Life. De Certeau does not question Christianity (or religion in general) as a religious system, but shows that the daily practice of believers has nothing to do with the official doctrine.

Yestarday Dr Yuri Stoyanov mentioned the concept of syncretism which is rejected by traditional theologians and I mentioned Carl F. Starkloff and American Jesuit. He, drawing attention to his experience in Nord America, elaborated the concept of theology based on syncretic process. For him the elements of the spirituality of indigenous Indian enriched the traditional Christian theology [7]. It seems to me also a part of postsecular mentality.

Let me returne to Michel de Certeau and his important anthropological book The Practice of Everyday Life [8]. The impact of his thought on Catholic theology is limited, but it is significant that the pope Francis consider him as one of his masters in theology. We may think of many reasons why it is so, but the most important is that de Certeau saw the history of Christianity as a part of ideological construction of Western Christianity, and proposed an interesting way to deconstruct it. The most important declaration in this regard was his already mentioned The Practice of Everyday Life in which de Certeau declares his interest in the present moment instead for the past: By adopting the point of view of enunciation – which is the subject of our study – we privilege the act of speaking: according to that point of view, speaking operates within the field of linguistic system; it effects an appropriation, or reappropriation, of language by the speaker; it establishes a present relative to a time and place; and it posits a contract with the other (the interlocutor) in a network of places and relations [9]. His protest against Christian tradition is particularly visible when de Certeau shows the culture of writing and education as a way to control and as a source of violence [10]. Even the Reformation, as a movement based on the return to the scriptural sources of Christianity, and European Enlightenment with its axiom that theory must transform nature “become violence, cutting its way through the irrationality of superstitious peoples or religions still under the spell of sorcery” [11]. Naturally, we can hear in this analysis of social and cultural reality the affinity with Michel Foucault and even Marxist thought. In many pages of The Practice of Everyday Life these inspirations are evident. Also in other books like Culture in the Plural and Heterologies. Discourse on the Other the interaction with modern and even postmodern thought is evident [12].

Also the book by Meredith McGuire Lived Religion. Faith and Practice in Everyday Life to which professor Nonka Bogomilova draw our attention yesterday, is focused on similar topic [13]. In fact McGuire wrote that her book “is about an expressed and experience in the lives of individuals” [14].

[1] J. Habermas, J. Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion, San Francisco 2006.
[2] [Accessed. 16.10.2017].
[3] R. Dawkins, Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science, London 2015.
[4] P. L. Berger, The Many Altars of Modernity. Toward a Paradigm for Religion in a Pluralist Age, Berlin 2014.
[5] Nancy T, Ammerman, “Spiritual But Not Religious? Beyond Binary Choices in the Study of Religion”, in: “Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion”, 52, no. 2 (2013), 276.
[6] Nancy T, Ammerman, Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes. Finding Religion in Everyday Life, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2014.
[7] Carl F. Starkloff, A Theology of the in-Between. The Value of Syncretic Process, Milwaukee 2002.
[8] Michel de Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley 1988, p. XXIV.
[9] Ibidem, p. XIII.
[10] „Writing becomes a principle of social hierarchization that formerly privileged the middle class and now privileges the technocrat”. Ibid., p. 139.
[11] Ibid., p. 144.
[12] Michel de Certeau, Culture in the Plural, transl, Tom Conley Minneapolis 1997, Heterologies. Discourse on the Other, transl. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis 1986.
[13] Meredith McGuire Lived Religion. Faith and Practice in Everyday Life, Oxford 2008.
[14] Ibidem, p. 3.


Panel: Secularization, Desecularization, Postsecularism

Ivo Pospíšil


It is inevitable not to ignore the problems of the relation between methodology and terminology. Such terms like postsecularity, postsecular on the one hand, and postsecularism, postsecularist as an intentional, scholarly term pervaded with subjective vision of the object; the same concerns the prefix “post” always bearing the understatement or undercurrent of a certain return, but enriched by the preceding stages we have gone through. Religion as such may play its real role in the society only in theocracy; therefore this tendency which is visible everywhere in contemporary world though in each religion in a different range and to a different extent. The concrete examples could be given, but it is rather the issue of theology or religious studies. If the sphere of religion is restricted by the secular society and materialist and rationalistic concepts religion cannot play its real holistic role. Religion will still survive, it is eternal as along as the ontic, existential aspects of human life survive as dominant. Postsecular stage of the development of the society is just the realisation of one of the Hegelian laws of dialectics – the negation of negation. There are two sources of my inspiration for the possible future project linked with the concrete demonstration of postsecularism and with the intersection of would-be contradictory tendencies. One is represented by René Wellek (1903-1995) [1], a Czech from paternal side and an Italian-Pole from the maternal one, born in Vienna, studied in Prague, lived in Prague, at Harvard University, in London as a lecturer of Czech in the School of Slavonic Studies, then again in the USA, a dominant author of the famous Theory of Literature (first published 1948). He found both Czech and English literatures the two contrastive currents called materialist and spiritual. The other is represented by the work of Igoŕ Smirnov, later a representative of the Konstanzer Schule, in the beginning connected with his first Moscow book Artistic Sense and the Evolution of Poetic Systems (Moscow 1977) [2], later the author of several significant books in which he connected a would-be distant artistic systems like the Baroque and futurism. He revealed the cyclic development of cultural and artistic epochs finding the striking similarities between various systems. I would like to search for and find or at least to make an attempt at finding the deep the common roots between the Czech leftist avantgarde (Jiří Wolker, Vítězslav Nezval, Jaroslav Seifert, František Halas, Konstantin Biebl, Vladislav Vančura, Jindřich Hořejší - their fates were, of course, later different) and the Catholic literature which after the rise of the Czechoslovak state found itself under a certain impact because of the connection between the Catholic Church and the Habsburgs (Jakub Deml, Jaroslav Durych, Jan Zahradníček, Jan Čep and others). If we ignore quite frequent friendly interpersonal relations (Deml – Nezval, Halas – nearly all Catholic poets and the impact of religious imagery on Halas’poetic imagination), there are deeper structures as undercurrents, topoi, loci communes, and especialyl their common negative relation to bourgeois society and its way of life. It is evident, for example, in the thematic orientation of Vladislavv Vančura’s novels going back to pre-Renaissance dignity and values sharply critical to future victors - bourgeoisie. Therefore frequent returns of Marxists to the Gothic and Baroque art (Zdeněk Kalista), Nezval love for magic practices, his superstitiousness, love of communist avantgarde for Freudian psychoanalysis, to transcendental structures not restricted by narrow materialism; they conceived Marxism as a permanent creation and innovation synthetizing both their material and the spiritual, everybody can be a poet, artist – but it was just a dream uprooted by Communist political practice, but nevertheless, it remains inspiring.

[1] See our book: I. Pospíšil – M. Zelenka: René Wellek a meziválečné Československo. Ke kořenům strukturální estetiky. Masarykova univerzita, Brno 1996 (René Wellek and Interwar Czechoslovakia. Towards the Roots of Structural Aesthetics).
[2] I. Smirnov: Chudožestvennyj smysl i evoljucija poetičeskich sistem. Nauka, Moskva 1977.



On interpreting Polish culture in postsecular perspective

 Karina Jarzyńska

I would argue, that researching modernity in Poland as a cultural formation deriving from specific, local context, one could profit from adopting postsecular perspective. It needs justification, as postsecular way of thinking differ from the mainstream narration about Polish heritage, reluctant to acknowledge the importance of its secular aspect. It also bears a risk of auto-colonisation, as postsecularism emerged mainly in the Western centers, and here, on the semi-periphery, its discursive power should be used critically. Still, those risks are worth taking, if we realize what is at stake. I would highlight just three main arguments for it.

Firstly, the famous ‘post’ implies a connection with other concepts based on the same prefix, such as postmodernism, postcolonialism and posthumanism, and engages a wider framework for understanding local culture. It acknowledges its global dimension and sees it as a part of modern project. It gives a distance, thanks to which we can understand ourselves better. Remembering that, our research should focus on the specificity of local relations between modernity and religion.

Secondly, postsecular perspective acknowledges the strange, phantom-like presence of religious language and imaginary in Polish texts of culture and provides means to explain it. Seen from such perspective, works of many Polish artists reveals an affinity between philosophical and sociological inquiry and the search conducted via artistic means. It allows one to appreciate the importance of the awareness of the historical context that came to bear on his individual choices as well as recognise the unorthodox nature and hidden motivations of their work and its indebtedness to religious imagery. It legitimizes religion as a full-fledged actor in the process of modern transformations that may broaden the field of artistic choice but remains vulnerable to artistic resemantizations or even profanations.

Thirdly, such perspective may renew the canon. As formerly dominant modes of interpretation of Polish culture were secularist or religious (meaning: Catholic), it led to marginalisation of certain texts by oversimplified interpretation of them. Perceiving religion and spirituality as important factors of modern processes makes them even more complicated; the same is happening to the texts created within this cultural frame, as they may be seen as artistic articulations of modern experience and carriers of (semi-peripheral) modern vision.