Giant Jesus fails to turn a rising tide of secularism in Poland

A GHASTLY, 118ft-tall statue of Jesus in the Polish town of Swiebodzin was erected to rekindle interest in Catholicism, which, like in many other Western countries, is fast losing its appeal.

According to this report, the plaque at the base of the monstrous erection declares that Jesus Christ is the true king of Poland and will rule for eternity.

Christ on a bike: In reality, the statue seems to be of interest only to Photoshop artists.

But, much to the annoyance of Father Sylwester Zawadzki, the deranged priest responsible for the socialist-realist portrayal of Christ, the thing hasn’t triggered the interest he hoped for, and Swiebodzin has not become a pilgrimage site.

Waldemar Roszczuk, editor-in-chief of the city’s newspaper and publisher of a regional Internet publication, said:

The statue has not triggered a tourism boom yet. The majority of the population is against this monument, but no one says so openly.

Most locals, he suggests, are concerned about the baptism or first communion of their children and:

Would rather not spoil things with Father Zawadzki.

Some 95 percent of all Poles still say that they are Catholic. Yet loyalty to the church is on the wane. Even the conservative Catholic publicist Tomasz Terlikowski estimates the true number of devout Catholics at little more than 20 percent. “We Poles like to proclaim our Catholicism,” he says, but the reality looks quite different.

Oh, and here’s another. The possibilities are endless.

Only slightly more than 44 percent of young people say that they go to church on Sundays, compared with 62 percent in 1992. Forty-two percent admit that they do not observe all religious commandments. Hardly anyone pays attention to rules about things like sexual abstinence before marriage anymore. The number of illegal abortions runs into the hundreds of thousands every year. In addition, four-fifths of Poles are bothered by the fact that the church regularly intervenes in politics.

Said ex-monk Tadeusz Barto, who holds a doctorate in philosophy:

With a bombastic monument like the one in Swiebodzin, local church leaders are merely trying to conceal the fact that their influence is in fact declining. The church could be completely marginalized within 10 years.

Despite efforts over the years to hold Poles in thrall of the Church, Poland has enthusiastically embraced Western lifestyles. In booming cities like Warsaw and Poznan, gays and lesbians live their lives as openly as in Berlin or Madrid.

Barto added:

More and more taboos are falling by the wayside. But the church reacts by hardening its positions even further.

He believes that the Church must break open its hierarchies and soften its dogmatic positions. The Poles made great sacrifices when they shook off communism and introduced the market economy but not so that they could now allow quixotic clerics to tell them what to do, said Barto.

In many instances, mandatory celibacy for priests has become a sham.

Nowadays, even truly religious Poles think it’s ridiculous that priests are still disguising their concubines as housekeepers. Poles are becoming more courageous and are no longer holding back with their criticism of the clergy.

A series of suicides among priests has also dealt a disastrous blow to the image of the Church. In the last six years, eight priests have taken poison, hanged themselves or jumped out a window in the deeply religious Tarnow Diocese in the country’s far south. The last suicide occurred at the end of April, in Stary Sacz. The church hierarchy, it would seem, is no longer capable of addressing the spiritual needs of its own priests, the report says.

Barto concluded:

In reality most clergymen are preoccupied with internal power struggles. If there is anyone who is especially ill-suited to teaching people ethical behavior, it’s a scheming church leader.

Hat tip: Glen

27 responses to “Giant Jesus fails to turn a rising tide of secularism in Poland”

  1. remigius says:

    And it appears to be shrinking. In December 2010 it was 187ft high.

    At this rate it will be gone in less than 3yrs.

  2. 5ec4um says:

    “Some 95 percent of all Poles still say that they are Catholic. Yet loyalty to the church is on the wane.”

    Could it be that Poles identify as Catholic out of a habit developed in the post-communist years, as a way of asserting non-communist ideology?

  3. Broga says:

    Isn’t nominal christianity what has happened in the UK? The indifference to faith is everywhere. However, this indifference, from people busy with their lives, tends not to translate into criticism or opposition. The result is that the BBC continues to behave as if this was still an overwhelmingly christian country and bores its audiences with its religious programmes. We still have, to our shame, 26 unelected bishops in the House of Lords and the government insists on heaping money on faith schools. Mrs Windsor is, of course, head of the C. of. E.

    We have a religious patina of pretence which overlays a bogus and hollow reality.

  4. JohnMWhite says:

    Amen, Broga. And all the while anybody in a position to make a difference is too frightened to act due to their warped perception that the whole country would riot if somebody dared knock religion off its pedestal.

  5. Barry Duke says:

    @ Broga (and other devotees of the BBC): The Evangelical Alliance welcomes George Entwistle, the Beeb’s new DG.

    Quote: “Programme-makers often don’t ‘get’ Christianity. But the BBC gets it much better than any of its rivals. So our default mode should be to support the BBC and encourage it. It is a unique institution with values that overlap very substantially with those of the Christian gospel. For that reason I hope George Entwistle will come to see the Christian community as friends; frank and occasionally critical, but yoked together for the good of our culture and our country.”

    Full report here:

  6. L.Long says:

    ‘Nominal Xtian’ is still an irrational thinkers that has also become incredibly lazy. As in too lazy to go to church or support the church. BUT they are still xtian and if you want to find out how xtian they are try to get an atheist elected or the satanic evilution in the schools and gays married and then watch them turn into howling zombies out for your brains.
    I may be a little pessimistic on this but I find a good dose of pessimism help keep the gun loaded and ready (metaphorically speaking or at least as metaphoric as the buyBull).

  7. AgentCormac says:

    Altogether now, “It’s fun to stay at the Swiebodzin YMCA…”

  8. Daz says:

    You’re all missing the most important aspect: the bike picture…

    Ugh! Ape-hanger ‘bars with standard forks! Whoever chose that bike needs shooting. (I really, really miss my chop.)

  9. Ivan says:

    @ Barry

    “….the BBC gets it much better than any of its rivals…”

    I’m not quite sure what they think the BBC “gets” but we can be quite sure that its commercial rivals get that there is simply no audience and therefore no money in religious programming – a fact that the regulator also gets because he has largely released them from the obligation to broadcast such tripe.

  10. remigius says:

    Yeah I know what you mean Daz, Mark Jessop had a Raliegh Chopper. Boy, was I jealous!

  11. Old Nick says:

    The Raleigh Chopper was a dreadful bike – a triumph of marketing over common sense – a bit like the Catholic church really!

  12. Talos171 says:

    The world is changing and the religious are completely oblivious to it they want the world to be like was 500 years where they could rule while religion will never leave but the popular ones will one day be replaced as well like the others of the past.

  13. Trevor Blake says:

    When you see this symbol “#” that’s when you make the same gesture of that Jesus statue to tell the punchline of this joke.

    Q: Why do all the girls love Jesus?
    A: Because he’s hung like this “#”

  14. Matt Westwood says:

    @Trevor: Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’d not heard that one before. It’s excellent.

  15. Ryu says:

    Something about 95% of Poles declare Catholicism but only about 40% go to church, and the population is about 50/50 on gay partnerships, abortion, or in vitro. It’s a conservative nation, but not all that religious.

  16. Mim says:

    Actually, the statute in Swiebodzin became an object that everyone in Poland makes fun of. There are hundreds of memes mocking the monument, e.g.

    And most of young people started to call Swiebodzin Swiebodzineiro. I believe you know why 🙂

    Ps. It’s Tadeusz Barto?, or Bartos if you don’t have the special signs.

  17. Adam Krajnik says:

    Sorry to disappoint you all but it’s not that easy, believe me. Gays and lesbians are not living as openly as in Berlin or Madrid, it’s far away from that, though not as in Russia. And how can one speak of triumphin secularism if just 1 month ago, one of young pop artist was sentenced to pay 5000 PLNs just for saying that the Bible was written by guys in the cups and smoking pot. And theoretically, she could have been senteced up to 2 years in jail. Srsly!

  18. Dominik says:

    In Poland we call this monument Aragorn Jesus

  19. Daz says:

    Oh gawd, the Raleigh Chopper. What an awful contraption that was. Whereas my racer with a seat like a razor-blade and wheels so narrow they’d buckle if you rode over a fag-paper was obviously sensible. Ahem.

  20. Polishman says:

    In fact, 40% are atheists in poland
    It is difficult to remove yourself from the church
    Most Poles laugh

    I greet

  21. DexXx says:

    This statue perfectly shows the nature of Polish Catholics. Concrete hard shell outside, emptinesss inside.

  22. northern light says:

    “He believes that the Church must break open its hierarchies and soften its dogmatic positions.”

    How about if the church just fucks off altogether….gets out of the way and lets the world alone to be what people want it to be….Have the religious go back to their bronze age caves and …meditate …and leave us “normal” people alone.

  23. wintski says:

    @ northern light

    “How about if the church just fucks off altogether”

    You mean religion all together not just bible-bashers.

  24. Broga: We have a religious patina of pretence which overlays a bogus and hollow reality.

    That’s beautiful! 🙂

    Can I also add that in the last Australian Census, 22.3% of our population identified as “No religion” (including atheist/agnostic) and a further 9.4% either did not answer the question or put a faux religion such as “Jedi”. In my particular town, the highest growth was in No Religion and the highest decline was in christianity.

    What’s killing off catholicism in particular is Ratzinger’s complicity in a great many catholic priests who have been raping children in their parishes and the continual unwillingness for the catholic church to accept any form of moral or legal responsibility for these abominable actions.

    What’s killing off religion amongst the moderates is apathy (according to the fundamentalists) and an acceptance that these gods have smaller and smaller places to hide due to great scientific discoveries. The fundies believe even harder when their god(s) is pushed into smaller and smaller possible spaces whereas some moderates tend to start losing faith as they see more and more verifiable evidence against their particular scriptures.

    We need to ensure that those moderates who are starting to wake from their comfortable slumber and use their own brains instead of the hive-mind of their religion actually get supported by our network of freethinkers, rationalists, secularists, humanists, atheists, skeptics and so on. The concern is that as they start to use their brains for the first time in many years, the effort required to learn *and practice* critical thinking skills will be too much for some and they will flip from their previous religious slumber and simply flop into another form of woo such as new age, crystals, homeopathy or similar.

    It is up to us to support the awakening previously-churched moderates in this “new” reality in which they find themselves. The world can only be a better place by encouraging these people to be active members of evidence-based reality.

  25. Broga says:

    @Hilton Travis. Thanks for your kind comment. Just on the general thrust of your post I have an atheist friend who says there is no point in arguing with devout christians because they are beyond sense or rationality so why waste our time. I disagree. Not to counter their views merely allows them to assume they are right. I find that the blunt statement, “I am an atheist” often stops them in their tracks. The oftener this is said the better.

    Quite a few years ago a christian replied, “I’ve never met an atheist before.” That has all changed thanks to the efforts of Dawkins, Hitchens etc and the internet. I guess there are a great many covert atheists including many clergy. Some, undoubtedly, at the current bishops’ bun fight. However, they have careers to protect.

  26. @Broga There’s no point arguing with fundies if you think you’ll be able to get them to see logic, reason and sanity. I agree, however, that ensuring they know that their position isn’t accepted by everyone and that it doesn’t have any real, valid, verifiable scientific (or reality) basis is important.

    What’s also important is ensuring any fundies preaching on street corners and in malls get challenged by atheists/skeptics/etc to ensure anyone listening to them and maybe falling for their woo can see that their closed-minded view is far from the only view around and that the more moral, accepting and generally acceptable position is not the one being preached by the fundies.

    The thing with those clergy who don’t believe the creation myth is not that they have a career to protect – they have an *income* to protect. That is where organizations such as Clergy Project are aiming to help out. 🙂

  27. Robster says:

    The catholics and the others afflicted with religious belief are getting desperate. Desperate as their followers depart the faith for reality and with that, the drying up of their revenue stream. Why don’t they turn the giant Jesus into a thrill ride, you know like they’ve got at amusement parks? That would get the kiddies in and that would please the “quixotic clerics” and their managers. Welcome to the 21st century Poland.