Whichever way you turn in the Old Town of Prague, church and cathedral spires rise above the city as far as the eye can see. Prague is called the “city of a hundred spires” and home to the famous St. Vitus Cathedral, the Tyn Church and the Strahov Monastery. 

It is ironic then, that for a place where religious monuments are enmeshed with public life, the people seem to have little place for faith in their daily routine. In fact, according to the most recent data, almost 50% of the Czech population does not identify with any religion, while another 30% refused to provide any information regarding their personal beliefs. The remaining 20% claim to a religious preference.

Located in the central part of Europe — where religion has played an important role throughout history and surrounded by other religious nations that share similar historic factors — the Czech Republic is now considered one of the most atheistic nations in the world.

READ: The Search For God In A Faithless Nation

On the other hand, Czechs tend to be really superstitious people, which is why fortune tellers, amulets, talismans and other forms of what could be considered alternative religions are really popular among the population. Depending on the superstition discussed, it could be found that over 50% of the citizens hold such beliefs.

Most of the explanations surrounding this topic trace it to the political history of the country. Having been a communist nation for decades, and communism being an atheistic political model, it would make sense for this generalized rejection of religion.

However, this phenomenon is not observed in neighboring nations such as Poland, Russia, Hungary and part of Germany, all of which suffered the same rule during similar periods of times. In many ways, the Czech Republic is much more like France, Greece and Croatia, where church attendance remains among the lowest on the continent.

Natalia Timkova, a 21-year old undergraduate at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, said she has a detachment from religion in her daily life. Originally from Slovakia but permanently based in Prague, she’s in her second year of college and getting another degree in Arts Management from the U.S. In addition, she works part-time as a receptionist at the Pedal Planet Museum.

She calls herself completely irreligious because growing up, she felt no pressure towards faith from her parents.

“I wasn’t forced to [believe],” she said.

When talking about her family, Timkova explained that her mother did grow up in a religious Catholic home. Her father, she added, did not pay attention to faith growing up and has was never been a topic to discuss. This generated some tension among them, but it did not ultimately become an irreconcilable difference in her parents’ marriage.

In addition, she said, other family members do belong to religious institutions and are faithful Catholics.

“My cousins, from my mom’s side, are really religious,” she said, but added “we get along pretty well” regardless of those differences.

Although religion is not an important element of Czech culture, Christianity — and especially Catholicism — remains important. Czech citizens, including Timkova’s family, celebrate holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

“We have Easter and Christmas,” she said. “We have a tree and the typical dishes. … We do it because the whole family wants to be together.”

Prague-based lawyer and legal scholar Záboj Horák said there are two approaches to religion amongst the intellectual class in the Czech Republic. The first emphasizes “a great personal distance from it; the second is open to its social importance.”

The former view can be seen as an influence of the communist, atheistic dictatorship and the latter as an opposition to it. At the same time, communism is not the only answer to the growing non-religious population in the Czech Republic.

There are other characteristics that might include the fact that even those who are believers do not take the time to try to convert or impose their religious beliefs on others, as is seen in places like the United States.

Asked about the importance of religion at a deeper spiritual and personal level, Timkova insisted religion does not play an important role — at least in her case.

“I try to find answers that are not religious,” she said. “For me, it’s more helpful to [try] to have a more rational approach.”

Esteban Hernandez Ramos is a journalism student and editor-in-chief of Contra Poder News. Jyoti Jangra is a producer at Newsreel Asia. Both took part in this past summer’s European Journalism Institute’s week-long training program co-sponsored by The Media Project.