By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tEven in the most religiously flourishing corners of the world – sub-Saharan Africa, for example, or the American Bible belt – one can always find pockets of secularism. By the same token, even in the most thoroughly secularized zones of the planet, one can also find signs of religious life if you know where to look.
tThe Czech Republic, by every measure a remarkably secular society, offers a case in point. Even here, there are intriguing signs that the Catholic church, which often seems little more than a shell of its former self, nevertheless has a pulse.
tCertain the overall picture here is not in dispute. According to Austrian sociologist Fr. Paul Zulehner, the Czech Republic is, along with the former East Germany, the zone of the former Soviet sphere where state-sponsored atheism had its greatest success. Today, some 60 percent of Czechs say they have no religious affiliation. All this has clearly taken its toll on the church. In the Archdiocese of Prague each year, more priests die than are ordained.