Religiosity in Cyprus: Towards secularization or cementing an ethnicity identity?
Social Sciences European University, Cyprus Nicosia, Cyprus
The issue of religion in Cyprus is particularly important considering the dominant position that the Greek Orthodox Church had and still has in the social, political and economic life of Cyprus. It is probably a unique phenomenon by western European standards the fact that for 17 years (1960-1977) the archbishop of Cyprus was being elected as the president of the Republic. This was the product of a long historic tradition whereby the Greek Orthodox Church acted as the political leadership of the Greek Cypriot population during the Ottoman period and during the British colonial rule. Today Cyprus is characterized as a country that, by all accounts, arrived late to modernity compared to other western European societies. In Europe part of the modernization process had been enacted by secularization. In Cyprus, however, religion and the Church continue to be the forefront of the public discourse affecting public and social life in a number of ways.
Using data from the third round of the European Social Survey (ESS, 2006) this paper explores the issue of religiosity in Cyprus. We examine actual and past religious belonging, participation in public and private religious practices, and degree of social identity. Religious involvement is then used as an explanatory variable (predictor) for value orientations and for political and social values. We also examine how far the variation in religious involvement can be explained by social background variables.
Results indicate that Cypriots appear to be amongst the most religious people in Europe. The key question, however, is the extent to which religiosity is associated with social values and behaviours such as trust, social solidarity, acceptance, volunteerism and other. The findings show that religiosity as a predicting variable is not strongly associated with these facets of social life. Rather, the paper suggests that religiosity serves as a form of cultural identification and belonging to an ethnic group with strong traditional undertones while it appears to have a minimal impact on the way modern Cypriots shape their way of life in pursuing collective social objectives.