This year the EASR (European Association for the Study of Religion) held its annual conference in Helsinki. The four-day conference hosted a wide range of panels with different topics, included a panel on “defining apostasy and research on leaving religion” – arranged by myself and Daniel Enstedt from Gothenburg, Sweden. We were joined by Kati Tervo-Niemelä, who presented her longitudinal research on leaving church in Finland, as well as leaving church in few other countries.
The summer is time of conferences, and next one I will attend to is held in Helsinki in August (Nordic Conference for Sociology of Religion) – where we will continue with the same topic of apostasy research. Both conferences highlight one theme, of differences in leaving religion between different religions and religious groups. Hopefully we will succeed in developing our research and ideas into a book, dealing with how minority/majority positions of religious groups in society, and differences between leaving institution/tradition-centered religious cultures will affect on how and why people are alienated from religion and feel the need and motivation to resign or distance themselves from the community.
Nordic Lutheran churches are part of larger societal culture and national identity, whereas Pentecostal movements in Nordic Countries are groups to which people identify, in general, with more subjective emotions. Therefore shared experiences of societal cultural events and developments affect more leaving churches than minority religions, where individual experiences (which might deal the same issues, though) are the major denominator of why people are motivated to resign officially from religious community. However, at the same time there are similarities – both indicate that the religious community does not have a function, be it shared or individual, nor does it define their identity anymore (if it ever has).