A series of six (6) cases studies is planned on relevant topics related to the theme of the project. These case studies will be published as essays interpreting the similarities and differences regarding people’s views on traditional religions and religious institutions in the post-communist world in central Europe and the Western society.
The themes to be explored are the following:
1.) Based on the conducted empirical research and additional resources an analysis will be done exploring the common “core” and the specific differences between the post-communist world and the West. The process of the diminishing influence of established traditions, especially Christian churches, is to a various degree common in whole Europe, yet there are local differences. The unifying element will be the perception of the progressing autonomy of the world that is “encoded” in historical Christianity as well as the influence of ground-breaking historic moments in the West, including the relative autonomy of secular power, the crisis of the late Middle Ages and the Reformation (the refusal of religious authority as a “natural” given), the insufficient intellectual response to the phenomenon of the discoveries overseas (i.e., the discovery of other cultures and the relativization of one’s own), the change in the dominant worldview due to the rapid development in natural sciences, and the change of the social structure (industrialization, urbanization, modern psychology, global information society).
2.) Research into the phenomenon of the association or disassociation of national and religious traditions (especially evident in the Czech Republic and Poland as two extreme cases) in the post-communist context.
3.) Research into the impact that the significant effort of the communist regimes had on radically suppressing the influence of religious ideas and institutions that, in turn, had a debilitating impact on intellectual elites and led to the isolation from the contemporary theological and philosophical discussion and the impossibility to shape the broader society in a greater extent.
4.) Research into the unique Czech religious landscape with its proliferation of alternative traditions, such as spiritism, parapsychology, psychotronics, yoga introduced as mere physical workout, the cult of nature and its protection, etc.
5.) An analysis into how even the traditional churches represented a platform during the communist totalitarian regime for pursuing alternative spiritual, intellectual, and relational communities, and how this phenomenon continues until today.
6.) Research into the contemporary endeavors to seek spiritual answers that that traditional institutions seem to fail providing.
It is envisioned that the elaboration of the case studies will lead to introducing the public to the issues in question and engendering a broader discussion. The published materials will be offered as recommended literature to students and other people interested in the theme as well as working materials for professionals in education, culture, churches, and even politics. This part of the project represents a contribution to the discussion on the changing perception of religion that often takes places without deeper reflection and does not correspond to the contemporary reality.
The case studies will be pursued by way of semi-structured interviews, always featuring a single respondent who will be given space to reply spontaneously. The interviews will thus take the specific character and context of the respondents into consideration. We have opted for case study as an approach because the Czech context is sensitive to and welcomes the sharing of knowledge through particular cases and life-stories. That is also one of the reasons why interviews with personal observers and experts in books and other media are very popular in the Czech milieu.
The case studies we will pursue are expected to complement “major data,” further helping to interpret it. In addition, the case studies help recording micro-history that would otherwise
remain unnoticed and distorted as time would pass. For the purposes of our research project, it will be necessary to pursue a series of interviews designed specifically for this project. Nevertheless, the interview questions will draw upon the existing research to ensure continuity and connectedness as well as the coherence of the present project.
The aim we follow in pursuing the case studies is twofold. First, we seek to deepen the scientific knowledge of the phenomenon under inquiry; that is the academic aspect of our aim. Second, we hope to introduce the research findings to the public by making the outputs of the project freely available via the project website, social networks, the media, and other channels; that is the popular aspect of our aim. Media other than case study, such as video interview, mini documentary, etc., can and will be used as a parallel method to case study, provided that the respondent will grant their permission to use parts of the interview with them in these other media. During the duration of the project we can realistically conduct up to 40-60 semi-structured interviews.