Living Simultaneity On religion among semi-secular Swedes

University dissertation from Huddinge : Södertörns högskola

Abstract: This thesis aims at contributing to a critical discussion on the supposedly far-reaching secularity of Sweden on the one hand, and on the incongruence and inconsistency of lived religion on the other. At the center are people referred to as semi-secular Swedes – a group that is often neglected in the study of religion. These people do not go to church or get involved in any other alternative organized spiritual activities, neither are they actively opposed to religion or entirely indifferent to it. Most of them describe the ways they are – or are not – religious as in line with the majority patterns in Swedish society.The study is qualitative in method and the material has been gathered through interviews and a questionnaire. It offers a close reading of 28 semi-secular Swedes’ ways of talking about and relating to religion, particularly in reference to their everyday lives and their own experiences, and it analyzes the material with a focus on incongruences.By exploring how the term religion is employed vernacularly by the respondents, the study pinpoints one particular feature in the material, namely simultaneity. The concept of simultaneity is descriptive and puts emphasis on a ‘both and’ approach in (1) the way the respondents ascribe meaning to the term religion, (2) how they talk about themselves in relation to different religious designations, and (3) how they interpret experiences that they single out as ‘out-of-the-ordinary’. These simultaneities are explained and theorized through analyses focusing on intersubjective and discursive processes.In relation to theorizing on religion and religious people this study offers empirical material that nuance a dichotomous understanding of ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular’. In relation to methodology it is argued that the salience of simultaneity in the material shows that when patterns of religiosity among semi-secular Swedes are studied there is a need to be attentive to expressions of complexity, contradiction and incongruity.

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