Austrians - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Since the Counter-Reformation, Roman Catholicism has dominated Austrian religious belief. Although Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists exist in Austria, they have no power to influence the interpretation of public morality to the extent that the Roman Catholics can. Although church and state are officially separate, the Christian Democratic party represents the interests of the Roman Catholic church in Political affairs. In rural zones, this Catholicism can be very conservative. Passion plays with anti-Semitic themes, Latin liturgy, and antimodern ideologies predominate. In urban zones, religious practice is generally sporadic, often limited to life-cycle events.

Arts. In painting, literature, music, architecture, and theater, Austria has produced a significant number of Europe's masters. These artists are celebrated, often deified, in specialized museums, theaters, and concert halls in all of the Regional centers, but especially Vienna and Salzburg. Two themes predominate in Austrian arts: an elaborately developed and sophisticated agro-romanticism that glorifies the rural landscape, and an introspective, highly psychologized celebration of modern metropolitan life. These themes coincide with the polarities of Austrian national consciousness: provincialism and cosmopolitanism.

Medicine. In the nineteenth century, Austrian, especially Viennese, medicine was in the vanguard of the development of modern, industrial medical science. Popular beliefs about health, however, retain a much older, humoral character. Much emphasis is placed on the good and ill effects of winds (fresh air, the alpine Förn ), on the balance of hot and cold meals, and on the natural movements of the body. Homeopathic alternatives to school medicine are so popular that these cures are included in the national health system.

Death and Afterlife. Debilitating disease is feared more than death itself. Death imagery is very important in folk songs, betraying a lighthearted fatalism. Cemeteries play an important role in community life and are visited around 1 November each year. Evergreen wreaths symbolizing resurrection to eternal life are placed on graves.

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