The sociological secularization thesis and supply-side approach to religious change are associated with competing expectations of the effects of religious diversity; decline in the former and growth in the latter. A systematic comparison of three Scottish islands from 1843 to 2011 shows that the most diverse also saw the greatest decline in religiosity. However, the unusual circumstances of Lewis suggest a partial reconciliation of supply-side and secularization approaches. That the people of Lewis remained religious while those of Orkney and Shetland secularized with the rest of Scotland shows that a de facto religious establishment can benefit from the energy and commitment normally associated with sects competing in a voluntary system.
How can the concept of religious liberty be interpreted and understood in Swedish public discourse? Possible interpretations of religious liberty within a democratic frame are investigated through an interview study of prominent Swedish leaders in the religious and secular (although not political) arenas in 2010–2012. The results indicate wide differences in the interpretation of religious liberty. The keys to discrete interpretations of religious liberty in democracy are whether religion as such is perceived as an individual characteristic or a collective representation, and the valuation of religion as a social phenomenon. The interpretation of religious liberty is thus not defined by the view on individual agency: respect for free agency is ingrained. Against this backdrop, religious liberty in a democracy may be interpreted both as the state’s guarantee of minimal tolerance for personal choices and as a right to state-supported inclusion of collectively espoused religious beliefs that add particular value to democracy.
The present article is meant as a challenge to theology, based on a specific theoretical approach to religion. It argues, first, that studies of everyday religion can benefit from a pragmatic approach that focuses on what religions are used for. From a theoretical perspective, religions provide symbolically mediated resources for orientation and transformation, and are only then relevant to investigate with regard to how theological doctrine elaborates, explains and legitimates practices related to such use. The article develops a sketch for such a theoretical approach and demonstrates its relevance through a reading of two recent studies of everyday religion, Ammerman (2014) and Mercadante (2014). The results of this reading suggest that the recent and growing recognition of how religion needs to be studied – as practices, more than as beliefs and doctrines – is supported, and that theological reflection and reasoning matter less than practices of orientation and transformation. Thus the predominant view in theological studies of religion, that still seems to focus mainly on the aspect of doctrine, is challenged.
This case concerns conflicts related to the theology of baptism within the conservative Christian group called “The Community” (Menigheten Samfundet in Norwegian). The process culminated in the leadership’s decision in 2012 to maintain an exclusive theology of baptism. In this study, we thematically analysed interviews with twenty-five members and ex-members; we used typologies of religion and authority and theoretical perspectives on organisational culture and transformation to investigate the case. We identified two main positions among our informants: the traditionalistic-theocratics emphasised everyday implications of membership together with fundamental theology, while the challenger-hermeneutics focussed more strongly on principle theological elaborations. Traditional authority, existing organisational culture, and criteria for exclusivity were challenged, during the process of which we identified it to have four phases: initial, negotiation, conflict and schismatic. Traditionalistic-theocratics “won” the case since the existing view of baptism was upheld; the implication of this was that The Community would continue as a religious sect.