ReligionSee also: Religion in Albania, Christianity in Albania, Islam in Albania, and Judaism in Albania
The Albanians first appear in the historical record in Byzantine sources of the late 11th century. At this point, they were already fully Christianized. Christianity was later overtaken by Islam, which kept the scepter of the major religion during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule from the 15th century until 1912. Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism continued to be practiced with less frequency.
During the 20th century the monarchy and later the totalitarian state followed a systematic secularization of the nation and the national culture. This policy was chiefly applied within the borders of the current Albanian state. It produced a secular majority in the population. All forms of Christianity, Islam and other religious practices were prohibited except for old non-institutional Pagan practices in the rural areas, which were seen as identifying with the national culture. The current Albanian state has revived some pagan festivals, such as the Spring festival (Albanian: Dita e Verës) held yearly on March 14 in the city of Elbasan. It is a national holiday.
In the preliminary results of the latest census in 2011, 70% of all Albanians did not declare adherence to any particular religion. The CIA World Factbook gives a distribution of 70% Muslims, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholics but clarifies "percentages are estimates; there are no available current statistics on religious affiliation; all mosques and churches were closed in 1967 and religious observances prohibited; in November 1990, Albania began allowing private religious practice." Most of the Muslims in Albania are Sunni Muslims and Bektashi Muslims There are also Orthodox Christians, predominantly in Southern Albania, bordering Greece, and Roman Catholicism is the main religion among those Albanians living predominantly in northern Albania, bordering the Republic of Montenegro. After 1992 an influx of foreign missionaries has brought more religious diversity with groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Hindus, Bahá'í, a variety of Christian denominations and others. This rich blend of religions has however rarely caused religious strife. People of different religions freely intermarry. For part of its history, Albania has also had a Jewish community. Some of the members of the Jewish community were saved by a group of Albanians during the Nazi occupation. Many left for Israel circa 1990–1992 after borders were open due to fall of communist regime in Albania, while in modern times about 200 Albanian Jews still live in Albania.
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“I read ... an article by a highly educated man wherein he told with what conscientious pains he had brought up all his children to be skeptical of everything, never to believe anything in life or religion or their own feelings without submitting it to many rational doubts, to have a persistent, thoroughly skeptical, doubting attitude toward everything.... I think he might as well have taken them out in the backyard and killed them with an ax.”
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“Talk to me about the truth of religion and Ill listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and Ill listen submissively. But dont come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you dont understand.”
—C.S. (Clive Staples)
“They live together without king, without government, and each is his own master.... Beyond the fact that they have no church, no religion and are not idolaters, what more can I say? They live according to nature, and may be called Epicureans rather than Stoics.”
—Amerigo Vespucci (14541512)