Skepticism in religious journey
D.S. is a young man who was born and lives outside of Kosovo, in another European country. When he was little, he was very religious and religion had an important role in his life.
“Before I went to sleep, my mother taught me the duwas she knew. I asked my parents questions about everything and since they both were religious, they gave me religious answers,” says D.S.
However, he explains that the more he learned about religion, the more skeptical he became about it.
Even today, though he is not religious anymore, he believes religion is good. He learned a lot of good lessons that he still respects.
“I created my own identity from Islam: although I don’t believe anymore it doesn’t mean that I don’t do the nice things that Islam taught me,” he says.
According to sociologist Shemsi Krasniqi, professor at the University of Prishtina, legal, politic, social and economic aspects, all impact level of religiosity. They either increase it or decrease it.
The secretary of the Islam Union of Kosovo, Resul Rexhepi, says that apart from the population census of 2011, there are no statistics that show the increase or decrease of the number of Muslim believers.
“The number of Muslim believers increases with the growth of Kosovo population. If there is a newborn within a Muslim family, a new Muslim believer is added. There can be a difference in the number of believers in special cases. For example, if someone from another religion converts to Islam,” says Rexhepi.
On the other side, Don Lush Gjergji, General Vicar of Kosovo diocese, says that the number of Albanian Catholic believers in Kosovo is increasing slowly and continually, but the number of emigrants that leave Kosovo is also an unstoppable process.
“According to our knowledge and statistics, 50,000 of our citizens have temporarily moved and it is hard to register or control them. From these showings, around 3% of the general population of Kosovo is Catholic,” says Don Lush Gjergji.
Sociologist Krasniqi says that transitioning societiesare characterized with dynamic developments and political, economical, moral, and values crisises. In these societies the number of religious people is higher because people who are living in crisis and uncertainty have a need for security, for support, and for peace and quiet.
“Religion is a system of values and beliefs that offers a kind of spiritual quietness in circumstances of moral and social crisis when everything is becoming criticized, relative and without meaning. Viewed from a sociological perspective, this is the factor that contributes to the growth of the number of religiosity,” he says.
Young P.B. tells about the time when he was religious: the first time was when he was in the fourth grade, the second time was three years later when he was in the seventh grade. He says that the first time he believed in Christianism and the second time in Islam. He tells the reasons why he parted ways with both these religions.
“At the first time I was attracted to a new culture that I hadn’t known earlier and it was “spiced” with presents that we received from different programs that spread propaganda after the war of 1999. The second time I became religious I believed in Islam because I was going through a period of depression that is common at that age.”
He says that neither of them lasted long and instead of being impressed he ended up “irritated from both of them.”
“I gave up Christianity because we were attacked by some self-declared Muslims, and I gave up Islam because I was not convinced by it. I determined my position regarding religion through a long process of reading religion history and philosophy and of course by reading religious books,” he says.
Yll Rugova, managing partner at “Trembelat” who publicly declared himself an atheist, says that although there are no atheist organizations in Kosovo, there is an informal community of atheists and agnostics on Facebook.
The description of the Facebook group says that the community has no purpose; it is just a place where the community can express their discontent about the pressure of their position and their thoughts regarding religion. They also try to help each other with activities to raise awareness for specific issues that are misunderstood and endanger the country’s secularity.
This group was opened some years ago and now has nearly 665 members. In 2014, they created an organization called The Secular Society for Critical Thinking that deals with secularism, religious knowledge and freedom in Kosovo. The organization has held some awareness raising campaigns and published Richard Dawking’s God Delusion.
Sociologist Shemsi Krasniqi says that atheism is interlinked with social circumstances.
“In communism, the number of atheists was much higher because communism was an ideology without religion, without a God, fought religion and cultivated atheism. Nowadays in democracy, people are free to express their beliefs or lack of belief, their religiosity or their atheism,” he claims.
According to him, the number of atheists might be lower now compared to the time of communism, but those who declare themselves atheists are more sincere.
“In communism times there were no honest declarations of atheism, like there are no honest declarations of religiosity now. Some people think religion is some kind of trend, a way of life, without properly understanding its meaning, its function, its value and its philosophy,” says Krasniqi.
According to Rugova, atheists in Kosovo are free to have their own beliefs, but a part of society has lack of information regarding atheists and agnostics.
“This is one of the issues that we wanted to treat with organizations such as The Secular Society. To further advocate different forms of beliefs in Kosovo and for the liberty that everyone has in this aspect. Every citizen of Kosovo is free to believe or not to believe in God, without the fear of being marginalized or left out. However, I can say that there has been significant improvement in this field. Nowadays, atheists and agnostic are accepted in society more than they were 10 years ago,” says Rugova.
A survey conducted by the Public Pulse Project – UNDP with 1,290 citizens of Kosovo in 2010-2013, regarding how the public perceived discrimination and social tensions, showed that 8% felt discriminated when it comes to religion.
The last population census in 2011 showed that 1,663,412 citizens of Kosovo declared themselves Muslim, 25,837 Orthodox, 38,438 Catholic, and 1,188 other religions. In the same census, 1,242 declared to be atheist and 7,213 preferred not to answer.