The Pew Research Center took an in-depth look at the religious demographics in the Czech Republic because the people there really stand out among other Central and Eastern Europeans for how few of them believe in God.
While approximately 86% of people in surrounding countries believe in God (the median), only 29% of Czechs would say the same thing. It’s a remarkable anomaly.
Even though the Czech Republic was under atheistic Soviet rule for much of the past century, the nation still stands out, compared to its neighbors, when it comes to religion. Why is that? The full report finds hints in the nation’s history:
For clues, scholars have looked to the past, identifying a pattern of Czech distaste for the pressures emanating from religious and secular authorities. This goes back as far as 1415, when followers of Jan Hus, a priest in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), separated from the Roman Catholic Church after Hus was burned at the stake for heresy.
Anticlericalism surged in the years of Czech independence after World War I, with the country’s Catholic population declining by an estimated 1.5 million people, half of whom did not join another denomination. After World War II, the Soviet-influenced regime, which was officially atheist, furthered this disaffiliation.
Openness to religion briefly spiked after the fall of communism, though evidence suggests this may have been mostly a political statement against the communist regime, and since the early 1990s, the share of Czechs who say they have a religious affiliation has declined.
As it stands, 72% of Czechs are “Nones” without any organized religious affiliation, only 19% believe in Hell, 27% believe in Heaven, and 68% never pray. All of those numbers are vastly different from those in nearby countries.
It won’t surprise you that Czechs also overwhelmingly support legal abortion (84%) and same-sex marriage (65%). And only 21% of them agreed with the statement “A wife must always obey her husband,” a number far lower than other Central/Eastern European nations.
So much for faith being a virtue.