Religious Legitimization and Social Change: From Ethnic to Ethical

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sinisa ZRINSCAK, Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb, Croatia
The role of religion in much of the Central and Eastern Europe has been mainly concentrated around the nexus between the specific religion and specific nation / ethnic group during the 20th century. This nexus had been seen as crucial for both sides. While religion (Churches) saw the protection of a separate ethnic identity as an inseparable part of its historical mission, nations or ethnic groups regularly turned to religion as a powerful source of mythical foundations. Although this has been not specific to Central and Eastern Europe, communism, wars, and disintegration of multi-ethnic states reinforced these links in many countries of the region. Still, the situation has been gradually changing as Churches have become much more involved in public discussion by pointing to different ethical issues, particularly those connected with sexual morality and different gender issues, such as divorce, abortion, position of women in society and family, same-sex marriage, in-vitro fertilization, etc. Interestingly, the historical mission has been again emphasized (now in terms of protection of the natural order, tradition, family as the basis of society, fight against an immoral West…), while social groups focused on protection of “traditional ethical values” turn to religion as an important source of legitimization of their claims. The intention of the paper is to analyse this shift and in particular to analyse how religion has been used in the public discourse about ethical issues / controversies. The analysis will be mainly based on the Croatian experience but the comparative dimension will be added by analysing the situation in other Central and Eastern European countries.