81% of Bulgaria’s population are Orthodox Christians – but 22% of them are atheists or agnostics
Bulgarians who declared themselve to be Orthodox Christians added up to more than six million in 2015, about 81 per cent of the total population, according to a new study published by Pew Research entitled “Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century”.
This means that Bulgaria ranks sixth among countries in terms of the proportion of the population who are Orthodox Christians.
But just 15 per cent of Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria say that religion very important and only five per cent attend church weekly.
Only 11 per cent pray daily, the Pew Research study found.
Of Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria, 26 per cent said that they believe in God with absolute certainty. Fifty-three per cent said that they believed in God, but with less certainty.
Twenty-two per cent of Orthodox Christians in the country said that they did not believe in God or did not know if there was one..
Seven per cent said that they paid tithes, 17 per cent that they fast at holy times such as Lent and 15 per cent said that they took communion.
Eighty-three per cent said that they had icons in their homes and 90 per cent said that they had been baptised.
Wearing religious symbols (for example, a cross) is more widespread in countries of the former Soviet Union than elsewhere.
In every country surveyed in the former Soviet Union, most Orthodox Christians say they wear religious symbols.
By comparison, in European countries that were not part of the Soviet Union, majorities in Greece (67 per cent) and Romania (58 per cent) say they wear religious symbols, but the practice is less common in Serbia (40 per cent), Bulgaria (39 per cent) and Bosnia (37 per cent).
Among Bulgarian Orthodox Christians, 39 per cent believed in the existence of heaven, and 32 per cent in the existence of hell.
Fifty-five per cent of Bulgarian Orthodox Christians said that they believed in miracles.
Sixty-five per cent believed in the soul. Seventy-two per cent believed in fate.
Fifty-four per cent of Bulgarian Orthodox Christians believed in the evil eye, 40 per cent in magic, witchcraft and sorcery and 37 per cent in reincarnation.
Twenty-three per cent said that theirs was the only true religion and 29 per cent that there was only one way to interpret their religion.
While the worldwide population of all non-Orthodox Christians has virtually quadrupled since 1910, the Orthodox population has merely doubled, from about 124 million to 260 million, Pew Research said.
And as the geographical centre of the overall Christian population has shifted since 1910 from its centuries-old European base into developing nations in the Southern Hemisphere, most Orthodox Christians (roughly 200 million, or 77 per cent) still live in Central and Eastern Europe (including Greece and the Balkans).
There are 14 Orthodox-majority countries in the world, and all are in Europe except for Eritrea, which is in sub-Saharan Africa, and Cyprus, which is categorized in the Asia-Pacific region in the Pew report.
The country with the highest percentage of Orthodox Christians is Moldova (95 per cent). In Russia, the largest of the Orthodox-majority countries, about seven-in-10 people (71 per cent) are Orthodox. The smallest country with an Orthodox majority is Montenegro (which has a total population of 630 000), where 74 per cent of the population is Orthodox Christian.
(Photo, of Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Sofia: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)