Monday, September 19, 2011

Religion in Tallinn

A recent article on BBC claims that Estonia is the least religious country in the world, with only about 16% of people believing in the existence of a Creator.

Another article today in the Guardian, questions that slightly, suggesting that Estonian neo-paganism and belief in a spirit or life force of some sort means that about 70% of Estonians believe in something. Just not necessarily the Judeo-Christian God.

I have seen Mormon missionaries in my neighborhood, and have thought they must be incredibly frustrated here.

But last night, I had an encounter that surprised me.

Part of the security of my building is that you can't just walk in off the street. You either have to have a fob or someone has to let you in. So I was surprised last night when my buzzer rang. I wasn't expecting guests.

I answered the phone, and a woman in English said she was conducting a poll on whether people thought it was reasonable to believe in a Creator.

I said yes I did (and I do, though that said, I really like that Estonia is not religious because no one feels the need to convert me to their particular brand of belief).

She said, well you know, living in Estonia, most people do not think it is reasonable.

Yes, I know that.

Can we leave you some literature?

Yes, leave it outside the door.

Then I hung up and attempted to go back to eating my late lunch.

The phone buzzed again.

This time, the woman wanted me to buzz her in so she could leave her literature in my mailbox.

Uh, no. I don't let people in who I don't know. That sort of defeats the purpose of having security.

I told her to leave the brochure outside the door. A friend on Facebook suggested they might be Jehovah's Witnesses. Really? In Estonia?

I went downstairs later that evening and found the literature.

Sure enough, it was Watchtower, aka Jehovah's Witnesses.

I bet they are just as frustrated here as the Mormons.


Daniela Swider said...

Yeah, both Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons and the Scientologists are all over Eastern Europe. I doubt that it's a particularly fertile ground for them but they've been there since the Wall fell. Some of them are not welcome everywhere. I believe Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Scientology were banned in several European countries because their recruiting and fundraising tactics were a little too aggressive.

Patricia Kushlis said...

My guess is the Estonians are not all that different from their Nordic neighbors in terms of religious beliefs. I also remember dropping in on a Sunday church service at a major Lutheran cathedral in Tallinn in 1989 and it was jam-packed.

The sermon was distinctly nationalist so I saw Lutheranism and Estonian nationalism bound together and all the consequences that came from it.

I also think the Jehovah's Witnesses and LDS are unlikely to make real inroads in these countries. They are foreign transplants and don't represent the ethos of the country whether proselytizing is legally banned or not.

Anonymous said...

Yes the Jehovah's witnesses are in Estonia. The have been active for more than 60 years all during the communist era.
They where sent to Siberia in an attempt to eliminate them by the Communists. Their attempts to stop us were not successful.