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Denominational Pluralism and Chur Ch Membership in Contemporary Sweden

In: Journal of Empirical Theology
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Abstract

Recent theoretical developments within the sociology of religion assume a positive relationship between religious pluralism and religious participation. The relationship is explained by rational choice theory, which suggests that the more competition churches face, the more likely they are to adapt their services to the demands of their potential members and participants. Such market adaptation is expected to result in a diversified supply of religious services and hence to increase the likelihood that consumers can find a religious suply well adapted to their individual tastes. In order to overcome the weaknesses of previous cross-sectional analyses, this study investigates whether increases in denominational pluralism are followed by the theoretically expected increases in denominational membership. The results for the free church sector of 269 Swedish municipalitites show that, other things equal, increases in free church pluralism led to a comparatively better development of free church membership. The effect of the increases in religous pluralism was particularily evident where the level of free church pluralism was relatively low at the beginning of the period under study.

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