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Estonian Religion

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Estonia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and individual rights to privacy of belief and religion. According to the Dentsu Communication Institute Inc, Estonia is the second least religious country in the world, with 75.7% of the population claiming to be irreligious, after China with 93%. The Eurobarometer Poll 2005 found that only 16% of Estonians profess a belief in a god, the lowest belief of all countries studied (EU study).

The largest religious faith in the country is Evangelical Lutheranism, adhered to by 152,000 Estonians (or 14.8%) of the population, principally ethnic Estonians. 143,000 inhabitants follow the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, practised chiefly by the Russian minority.

According to the census of 2000, there were about 152,000 Lutherans, 143,000 Orthodox Christians, 5,000 Roman Catholics, 4,268 Jehovah's Witnesses and 1,000 adherents of Taaraism or Maausk in Estonia (see Maavalla Koda). There is a Jewish community in Estonia, with an estimated population of about 1,900 (see History of the Jews in Estonia). In addition there were around 68,000 people who declared themselves to be atheists.

The country was Christianised by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. During the Reformation, Protestantism spread, and the Lutheran church was officially established in Estonia in 1686. Still, many Estonians profess not to be particularly religious, because religion through the 19th century was associated with German feudal rule. Historically there has been also another minority religion, Russian Old-believers, nearLake Peipus area in Tartu County.

One of the more traditional gods in Estonian religion was called Taara (shortened version of Taarapita or Tharapita) and as Taara belief was strongest on islands, especially Viking-inhabited Saaremaa, there may be a connection to Scandinavian Viking god Thor. There are no Taaran churches but in every county there are ancient gravestones dating back to the time and in most regions, you will find a sacrificial tree or rock, which is believed to have mystical powers and where people used to offer animal sacrifices and gifts of food to Taara.



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