Return of Religion in the Public Sphere? Comparing the Nordic Countries

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Oral Presentation
Inger FURSETH , University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
This paper analyses the role of religion in the public sphere in the Nordic countries during the past twenty years. While some scholars have claimed that there is a return of public religion in Western countries, this paper asks if this is a reasonable claim for the five Nordic countries. These countries harbor a combination of common and different features that make for an interesting comparative study.  The public sphere is here identified as the state, politics, the media and civil society. The study is based on a wide range of quantitative and qualitative data. The data show a trend towards disestablishment, with the exception of Denmark and Iceland. Although religion is not a major issue among the political parties, it is more debated in the parliaments, except in Sweden. The media do not seem to center more on religion than before. Finally, religious communities seem to deal with the growing diversity by engaging with current political issues and dialogue initiatives. This study indicate that religion has had more of a continued role in the public sphere in the Nordic countries, although it is changing, most notably in Sweden, followed by Denmark, and Norway, and the least in Finland and Iceland.