Abstract: Most Danish youth participate in the traditional Lutheran ritual of confirmation. However, a growing minority does not. Based on survey data collected in 2011 from over 600 Danish pupils, this study examines the ways in which Danish ‘nonfirmands’ are different from their peers who participate in confirmation in relation to religious background, personal religious beliefs, intellectual engagement, and demographic factors. We further explore key motivations for ‘nonfirmation’ expressed by the nonfirmands in the sample. Broadly speaking, our findings highlight secular socialization and individual beliefs about God as key elements in understanding the nonfirmand and his or her reasons for opting out of confirmation. We expect confirmations to continue to decline in popularity as nonfirmation gains social acceptance, as nonfirmands raise their own children, and as Denmark becomes increasingly secular.
Abstract: Despite growing insights into the secular practices of former socialist states, we are yet to grasp fully their resonance in religious lives. Taking socialist modernity and Old Belief as distinct ethical projects, in this article I discuss the ethical engagements of Russian Old Believers in socialist Romania as reflected in individual biographies. Their struggle to maintain an ascetic Orthodox culture in the midst of an intrusive atheist state was at odds with the urge to join a modernizing project that preached the collective good. This tension was managed through a temporary ‘secularization’ which allowed for differentiated generational commitments and the successful reproduction of their tradition within the socialist system. Old Believers’ return to the church in old age reveals their attempt to shape their lives through ethical action based on the obligation to continuity, to carry on the old faith. It shows how the pursuit of continuity in the Old Belief is a virtuous practice leading to moral exemplarity in a space of equivocal moralities.
Abstract: Given measures of religious belief and participation, young adults in Poland are becoming increasingly disengaged from the Catholic Church. Broad theories of secularisation are less useful for making sense of this trend than an analysis of the role of Catholicism in Polish society in the twentieth century, which demonstrates the ways in which forms of belief are contingent upon wider social and political transformations. This article argues that, since 1989, attempts by the Catholic Church in Poland to influence public life through conservative social and political interventions have alienated young people who are looking for religious resources with which to make sense of their lives in a rapidly changing social milieu. Alongside disengagement from conservative, propositional forms of Catholic truth and rejection of direct authority, young people still possess ‘religious capital’ and look upon religious ideas to orientate their personal lives. However, disaffection from the propositional truths offered by the Church and disengagement from rituals and practices of ‘folk Catholicism’ at the level of the family and local parish have not led to widespread expressions of atheism among young people. Instead, there is a sacralisation of everyday life and there are attempts to use ‘religious capital’ to help young people make choices for life. The reconfigured ‘religious capital’ is often expressed through diffuse Catholic symbols and sentiment as well as the periodic use of major religious festivals as a means of finding access to some form of collective religious experience. The article concludes by reflecting on the implications of these changes for the future religious landscape of Polish society.
Abstract: The distinction between understanding persons as dividuals versus individuals began to develop in the latter half of the twentieth century. Originating in Louis Dumont’s comparative work into the differences between Western and Indian subjects in the 1950s, it perhaps reached its zenith in the 1980s when Marilyn Strathern used it to differentiate between Melanesian and Western concepts of the person. By the end of the century, critique and reconceptualisation of the individual:dividual distinction was so well established in the anthropological literature that its explanatory capacity was largely negated. The aim of this paper is to attempt to clarify the different modes of personhood that the dividual:individual distinction sought to elucidate by introducing a useful distinction between the self and the human subject and further developing Charles Taylor’s distinction between porous and buffered selves.
Abstract: this article, I introduce the idea of “ambient faith” in an effort to clarify the stakes in long-standing debates about public and private religion. I take as my starting point the increasingly common recognition that conceptual distinctions between publicity and privacy are difficult to maintain in the first place and that they are, in any case, always relative. The idea of “ambient faith,” which I connect to work on the turn to a materialist semiotics, can serve as both a critique of and supplement to the ideas of “public” and “private” religion. Introducing ambience—the sense of ambience—allows one to raise important questions about the processes through which faith comes to the foreground or stays in the background—the extent to which faith, in other words, goes public or stays private. I use my research on a Christian organization in England, the Bible Society of England and Wales, to illuminate these points, discussing the society’s campaign in 2006 to bring angels to Swindon and its promotion of Bible reading in coffee shops. I also consider Brian Eno’s music and recent advertising trends for additional insights into the notion of “ambience.”