Less Than Believing and Belonging: Weak Inclination Towards Spirituality in Estonia

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marko UIBU, University of Tartu, Estonia
Due to historical-cultural factors Estonians demonstrate the lowest level of importance of religion in several European or worldly surveys. Some non-theistic beliefs (e.g. in spirit or life-force or supernatural powers) and spiritual practices, however, enjoy high popularity, especially when not labeled as religious. In the modes of religious involvement the transition from the traditional commitment-obligation model towards the “demand-based” or “situational” model is visible. Therefore, instead of looking for the spiritual identity of a person we should ask how likely would he/she in case of need turn to spiritual milieu to find a solution there. The concept of ‘inclinations’ offers some new options to talk (and think) about involvement in post-believing-and-belonging era.

The presentation focuses on Estonians who are not regular participants in spiritual or esoteric seminars but have only some generally positive attitude towards spiritual principles. These weakly inclined people could be just readers of some spiritual books and internet news portals for general interest, or members of a thematic group in social media. They belong to the ‘fuzzy fidelity’ or ‘nones’ and are usually left unexplored. However, this group of people is especially relevant in Estonian context because they compose the ‘religious majority’. Weak inclination also exemplifies the flexible nature of spiritual milieu that allows constant and mutual cultural influences. For some scholars of religion this feature seems to weaken the social significance of the spirituality as it is too easily becoming “co-opted by the cultural mainstream and trivialized by the mass media” (Bruce 2000: 233). I will argue that (alternative) spiritualities are, in any case, strongly related to wider societal values and increasingly influence societal mainstream. The presentation is based on the analysis of qualitative interviews and representative survey data aiming to map the values and orientations the spirituality cultivates.