English title: The Rise and Fall of Fuzzy Fidelity in Europe

Author(s): D. Voas -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2008


Two issues have been especially contentious in debates over religious change in Europe: the unity or diversity of the trends observed across the continent, and the significance of the large subpopulation that is neither religious nor completely unreligious. This article addresses these problems. An analysis of the first wave of the European Social Survey (ESS) shows that each generation in every country surveyed is less religious than the last. Although there are some minor differences in the speed of the decline (the most religious countries are changing more quickly than the least religious), the magnitude of the fall in religiosity during the last century has been remarkably constant across the continent. Despite these shifts in the prevalence of conventional Christian belief, practice and self-identification, residual involvement is considerable. Many people are neither regular churchgoers nor self-consciously non-religious. The term ‘fuzzy fidelity’ describes this casual loyalty to tradition. Religion usually plays only a minor role in the lives of such people. Religious change in European countries follows a common trajectory whereby fuzzy fidelity rises and then falls over a very extended period. The starting points are different across the continent, but the forces at work may be much the same.

Volume: 25

Issue: 2

From page no: 155

To page no: 168

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1093/ESR/JCN044

Journal: European Sociological Review

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