One nation over with God


Statistics about Czechs often seem to me to come from some other country I don’t know. But there are two popular ones that I can vouch for: that Czechs drink more beer than anyone in the universe, and that 81% of them are atheists, agnostics or non-believers. The rationale behind either of those is a question for a longer discussion, but both of them seem like rather obvious positions to me. I like living in a place where there is lots of beer and no god.

As far as the latter is concerned, allow me a public coming-out. God doesn’t make much sense to me either. I’ve been in places where I could have been killed for the thought! But I’ve lived in places in the free and modern West as well, where I’d have been shunned for saying it, or at least been a target of pity and endless proselytization.

I was raised with religion, and spent most of my adult life coming to terms with fact that there was little if any truth in it. Czechs, I think, are lucky to be brought up in place with fewer constraints on what must be true and right, and with the freedom to come to their own conclusions, even if that means joining a church. After all, if there is a god, and it wants you to believe in it, would it not prefer if its believers deduced its existence on their own?

Then again I don’t rule out the possibility of a god who is apathetic to whether you believe in it, him, her or not; like the force that through the green fuse drives the flower – I can see that, and make tea out of it. I can buy the force that through the green fuse drives the flower in a shop, and give it to a friend on a birthday, but I wouldn’t genuflect to it, to be honest.

Likewise, most Czechs, it seems, according to both official and my own set of statistics, do in fact acknowledge some form of spirituality, whatever that may mean. Apparently, while most are raised without religion, most of them also come to some theological determination of their own, in time. This leaves a wide space for a lot of fresh thinking and independent new ideas about ‘life, the universe and everything’, and that’s something I appreciate in the people who I speak with every day, whether I agree with them or not.

Something of a godly nature has also granted people from these parts a good deal of non-conformity and inventiveness, on par. They say for example that “little golden Czech hands” can fix anything. But whether that is fact or fiction, you can see all of these attributes I’ve spoken of – the open-mindedness, inventiveness perhaps even the beer-loving – come together in science in the Czech Republic, where I am surprised again and again to see the wonderful fruit that a country of only ten million people can lend to global progress in medicine, electronics and technology, physics, astronomy and everything.

I can hear the complaints already - lots of Czechs recoil at the positive attributes I’ve named here, self-defacing as they often are. But my private hope is that the so-called “re-emergence” of the Czech Republic as a modern Western state could one day mean an epicentre of learning and scientific progress. It has a real hope for such a candidature. If even god itself is once discovered, empirically for all to see, then for decorum’s sake, it should happen in the Czech Republic, the Doubting Thomas of the post-Christian world.