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Series:

Raül Tormos

In The Rhythm of Modernization, Raül Tormos analyses the pace at which belief systems change across the developed world during the modernization process. It is often assumed that value change follows the slow rhythm of generational replacement. This book, however, reports trends that contradict this assumption in the field of values. Challenging Inglehart’s modernization theory, the transition from traditional to modern values happens much quicker than predicted. Many “baby-boomers” who were church-going, morally conservative materialists when they were young, become unchurched and morally tolerant postmaterialists in their later years. Using surveys from multiple countries over many years, and applying cutting-edge statistical techniques, this book shows how citizens quickly adapt their belief systems to new circumstances throughout their lives.

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Edited by Pål Repstad

As the title suggests, Political Religion, Everyday Religion: Sociological Trends reflects upon two important trends that have recently emerged in the sociology of religion. Firstly, there is an increasing interest in the interplay between religion and politics. Religion has moved from being almost ignored by sociologists to being acknowledged – some would even say overrated – as an important political factor. Secondly, ordinary people’s everyday religion has likewise become an important topic for many researchers. In this book, James Beckford, Inger Furseth and other prominent scholars present critical discussions and empirical studies of both political and everyday religion, and the editor, Pål Repstad, shows how these two trends should enter into a closer dialogue. The book is essential for both students and experienced researchers in the sociology of religion.

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Irene Trysnes

Abstract

This article examines how concepts in Erving Goffman’s sociology can be useful in the study of youth and religion. The author has spent two summers observing at Christian youth camps in Norway. She analyses what goes on, introducing three kinds of stages: the religious, the social and the gendered stage. On the religious stage, things happen both front-stage and back-stage. Front-stage all meetings have a strict dramaturgy with relatively fixed roles for leaders and participants. Leaders behave differently back-stage, for example talking about the clothes of the girls at the meeting. On the social stage, Trysnes introduces a Goffman-inspired typology of three strategies of adaptation among the youngsters. The first strategy is to be deeply engaged or being converted. Many participants use a second strategy: They do as they are told as long as it does not get too personal. The third strategy is being rebellious, breaking the norms of the camp. On the gendered stage boys are expected to be the active ones in the flirting game, and girls are supposed to be nice, feminine and available.

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Paul Leer-Salvesen

Abstract

The author, a theologian and ethicist, describes a change in theology and ethics, stating that a couple of generations ago theologians and philosophers were often skilled readers and writers, sitting alone at their desks, thinking, interpreting and formulating. Then came a change from the seventies onwards with new interest in ordinary people’s spirituality and lived religion, and in social ethics. The author supports this change, as empirical work can correct prejudices. He criticizes what he sees as a new tendency in recent philosophy and ethics to turn away from tedious but necessary empirical work and return to abstract office work. His main example is taken from a debate in Norway where a philosopher recently expressed understanding of women who chose abortion instead of giving birth to children with Down’s syndrome. According to the philosopher’s first statement (later modified), humans with this syndrome do not live fully worthy lives. Leer-Salvesen’s assertion is that a philosopher who left his office and got into contact with people with Down’s syndrome would not have drawn the conclusion that we should filter out Down’s syndrome from our society.

Empirically Informed Theology

On Theology in an Interdisciplinary Context

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Jan-Olav Henriksen

Abstract

The author, a scholar in systematic theology and philosophy of religion, claims that theology as a discipline in a few decades has moved away from studies of texts only. Today theology is much more related to and informed by empirical conditions studied from a scholarly and scientific perspective. Theology appears in a new interdisciplinary context where social sciences, such as sociology of religion, inform the understanding of theology’s role, function, and contribution to human life. The author welcomes this change, as theology according to him needs to relate to human experience in order to be relevant for people. The time is over when theology can ignore critical questions that other disciplines direct towards it. Furthermore, theology must recognize that it has its own origin in experience, and the theological tradition is always transmitted through social and historical contexts shaping form, content and emphasis.

From Sin to a Gift from God

The Changing Nature of Sport

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Nils Martinius Justvik

Abstract

This is a study about changing attitudes and practices related to sport in conservative, Pietist Christian milieus in Southern Norway. In the early 1950s many conservative Christians saw Christian participation in organized sport as problematic. Three barriers can be identified. There was a ban on competitions on Sundays. The second difficulty was that Christians could not be members of organizations where it was possible to find swearing, occasional use of alcohol and even dancing. The third barrier was of a more abstract nature: Sport could for some become so all-consuming that one forgot the importance of a close relation to God. Gradually a liberalization took place, so one could be an active sportsman (women were still very much on the outside of sport) provided that one witnessed about Christ for one’s fellow sportsmen, or at least acted as a moral role model. From the late 1970s onward, skepticism against sport disappeared. An interesting point in this study is that practice has changed first, followed by theological legitimations.

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Inger Furseth

Abstract

This chapter is based on experiences from a large Nordic research project called norel, led by Furseth. norel studied changes in religious life in the Nordic countries over the last thirty year. The project especially focused on the role of religion in relation to the state, politics, the media and civil society. It is a story about different theoretical frameworks in the sociology of religion meeting empirical realities. The use of secularization theory was a mixed success. Secularization is one trend in the Nordic population, but it is not the whole story. Nor did the researchers find definite trends of desecularization, postsecularity or the return of religion in the public sphere. Since religion never disappeared from the public sphere, they found continuity. The norel study showed the need to theorize multiple, complex religious trends at macro, meso and micro levels. Hence, a theory of religious complexity was introduced to capture the combination of declining individual religious practices and increasing public significance of religion. Complexity theory tends to emphasize nonlinearity, ruptures, and to reject reductionism.

Hell, Perdition and Feelgood

Changes in Plausibility Structures, Changes in Beliefs

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Pål Repstad

Abstract

The article presents an overview of changing beliefs about Hell and perdition in Norway over the last four or five decades. Today a minority of the Norwegian population believes that after death people go either to Hell or to Heaven. These beliefs were shared by a majority in earlier times, but the percentage decreased quickly in the 1970s. This was the case also for members of the Church of Norway, while many members in minority churches still share beliefs in Hell and perdition. Pastors in minority churches also share such beliefs but add that they do not preach about such topics any more. In the Church of Norway, there is a doctrinal diversity in this area. Furthermore, all pastors and clergy underline that they do not believe in Hell as a place with eternal physical pain. The author lists several possible causes behind the changes, such as liberal schools and media, as well as increased acknowledgement in churches of the historical relativity of doctrines. This sociological essay ends with some challenges directed to theologians.

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Pål Repstad

Abstract

The introduction gives an overview of the structure of the book. In the first part, experienced scholars like James A. Beckford and Inger Furseth reflect on recent trends and challenges in the discipline. Concepts like religious diversity and religious complexity are presented and discussed. In the second part, the significance of sociological work for normative disciplines such as ethics and theology is discussed. Furthermore, in this section the implicit normativity of sociology of religion is analyzed, and the question is raised to what extent institutional affiliations and personal religious convictions color perspectives and interpretations in the sociology of religion. In the third part, many of the sociological approaches discussed earlier in the book are used in empirical sociological analyses from young scholars, mainly about lived religion and political religion in Northern Europe. This third part can be seen as an attempt to weaken the geographical limitations of international sociology of religion, still characterized by Anglo-American dominance.

Series:

Tale Steen-Johnsen

Abstract

The author reports from a study that started out sharing a widespread assumption that religion can be an important factor in peace-building. However, one important conclusion from the study is that religion can be overrated in peacebuilding processes, especially in authoritarian societies. The author got access to political and religious leaders in Ethiopia for this interview study through contacts from her former occupation in Norwegian Church Aid. She understood gradually that fear was a big issue for her informants, both when they were engaging with religious peacebuilding as well as when meeting her in the interviews. She concluded that in Ethiopia, religious dialogues against violence were deeply embedded in the political strategies of the regime. The firm emphasis on religion as the main cause of conflicts, and the lack of political criticism from the religious leaders, were most likely based in fear of sanctions from the government. Thus, the findings from this case study constitute a reminder against seeing religion as something disentangled from the rest of society.