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Religion and socialism in the long 1960s: Encounters and legacies in Eastern and Western Europe

When:Th 15-06-2017 at 16:30
Where:Old Court Room, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Oude Boteringestraat 38, Groningen

Draft Conference Program (Please check with organizers for an update closer to the event)
University of Groningen, June 15 to 17, 2017; three-day-event.

Conveners: Todd Weir, University of Groningen, Heléna Tóth, Bamberg University

This is the second meeting of the international research network “Religion and Socialism in the 20th Century”, which is coordinated by Prof. Todd Weir at the University of Groningen. This symposium examines the complex interactions of churches and socialist movements and states in the context of the Cold War and Détente. It will explore the parallel development of “scientific atheism” in the Eastern Bloc and forms of religious-socialist syncretism in the West, such as occurred in Italian “Catho-Communism,” liberation theology, or New Social Movements.

The 1960s were a unique historical moment of convergence, when across Europe opposing worldviews were seeking dialogue. While the 1950s were characterized by violent conflicts between Church and State behind the Iron Curtain (closing of monasteries, large-scale arrests of priests, persecution of small churches), in the following decade both sides of the ideological divide were more open for conversation and these conversations took place both in Eastern and Western Europe. At roughly the same time, the Second Vatican Council radically revised existing liturgical practice, the socialist states sought to penetrate everyday life by introducing socialist rites of passage, and fora such as the Paulus Society brought together Marxist thinkers and theologians to discuss responses to the challenges of modern industrial society.

This conference has been made possible by the support of The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen and the KNAW.

Koniklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen

Day 1. Thursday, June 15
Registration 4.30pm
1. Keynote, 5.00pm: “Vatican II and the spirit of ‘68” Gerd-Rainer Horn, Paris
Day 2, Friday, June 16
Morning Session, 9am: Religion and Atheism in the Soviet Bloc
2.   “Making scientific atheism practical: experimenting with the socialist everyday in Hungary, 1958-1965” Heléna Tóth, Bamberg
3. Buryat shamanism: from the Soviet anti-religious campaigns of the 1960s to post-Soviet revival” Justine Quijada, Wesleyan
4. Atheism as a Vocation: Experts, Enthusiasts, and Apostates in the Soviet Atheist Establishment” Victoria Smolkin, Wesleyan
Afternoon Session, 2pm: Socialist-Christian interactions in Western Europe
5. “Ernst-Wolfgang Boeckenfoerde and the Rapprochement of Catholicism and Socialism” Mark Ruff, St. Louis
6. “Willem Banning and religious socialism in the Netherlands” Arie Molendijk, Groningen
7. "Meeting socialist experiences: French theological places (1959-1973)" Sabine Rousseau, CHEC, Clermont-Ferrand
8. “Vatican II and Ireland” (not yet confirmed) Cornelius Casey, Loyola Institute, Dublin
9. "Liberation theology in Italy: The association of Christians for Socialism in the 1960s and 1970s" Daniela Sarasella, Milan
Day 3, Saturday, June 17
Morning Session, 9am: Transnational East-West exchanges/Global perspectives
10. “Catholic responses to the Eastern European unrest of 1968“ Piotr H. Kosicki, University of Maryland
11. Campaigns for and against worldview: ‘End of Ideology’ debate versus ‘Christian Worldview " Todd Weir, Groningen
12. “The rise of the Global South and Protestant rethinking of secularism” Udi Greenberg, Dartmouth
13. "Atheism and Christianity in the views of Ernst Bloch" Arno Münster, Nice
Afternoon Session, 1.30pm, Legacies of the encounter of religion and socialism in Dutch society today
14. TBA (Topic: “Sexuality and the Dutch Catholic Church in the 1960s”) Kim Knibbe, Groningen
15. TBA James Kennedy, Utrecht, (invited)
Concluding discussion and planning of the joint special issue, 3pm

To register for this conference or for more information please contact Todd Weir at

Don Camillo and Peppone