Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Torben Fridberg, Mikael Hjerm and Kristen Ringdal

Providing highly rigorous and up-to-date data, with a wide coverage of topics, this book will be of great interest to academics and students in sociology, social policy and political science. It will also appeal to anyone interested in the Nordic countries in general.

Chapter 12: The Meaning and Implications of Religiosity

Heikki Ervasti

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Heikki Ervasti INTRODUCTION Religious life is one of the many issues that distinguish the Nordic countries from the rest of the European countries. All Nordic countries share a strong Lutheran tradition and uniquely close connections between the state and the church. The Nordic countries were already completely Lutheranized in the sixteenth century, and unlike in other parts of Europe, the Reformation eliminated Catholicism among the Nordic native populations (Madeley 2001). This homogeneity of religious life is still visible. In contrast to the purely Catholic countries and the ‘mixed’ Continental Protestant countries with notable proportions of Catholics, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland constitute Europe’s only mono-confessional Protestant region. The levels of membership in the dominant Protestant churches are high in all Nordic countries. At least nominally a clear majority of the population, well above 80 per cent in Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, and only slightly below 80 per cent in Sweden, belong to the Lutheran/Protestant church. Other denominations constitute only small minorities. Despite the high nominal church membership rates, the Nordic countries have a reputation for being the most secularized countries in the world (e.g. Gustafsson 1994). Undoubtedly, the overall influence and authority of the church in society has diminished during the post-war period. Similarly, religious attendance has declined. To a certain degree religious values have lost status or have been replaced by new sets of values, which only retain remote links with traditional religious beliefs and the church. Religious institutions, activities as well as modes of thinking...

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