In Armenia, this trend is still more at the level of “showing off”: building ‘private’ churches, references to God and bible… In Georgia, this trend evolved into something much more serious and worrisome, to the dangerously bizarre extent.
Below are selected lines from the EurasiaNet report Georgia: Faith Is The Fashion, As Church Influence Soars:
Nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Georgian Orthodox Church has become one of the most prominent actors in Georgia’s social and political life. […]
The church’s rising influence is also reflected in polls. In 2003, 38.6 percent of 1,000 respondents in a survey conducted for Tbilisi’s International Center on Conflict and Resolution named the patriarchy as Georgia’s most trustworthy institution. By 2008, the number had jumped to 86.6 percent. […]
"Let’s say [it] openly: Today it is unthinkable to ignore a personal request from the patriarch, Ilia II, because his authority is tremendous." […]
Meanwhile, on the streets of Tbilisi, public expressions of faith are becoming ever more commonplace. Pedestrians and drivers alike routinely stop in front of churches -- or within sight of a church -- to cross themselves. Small shops selling icons and religious paraphernalia are multiplying rapidly. A clerk at one such shop in central Tbilisi estimated that some 100-150 customers now visit her store each day.
"To be faithful . . . has become fashionable," concluded sociologist Nijaradze. "It has become the social norm."