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Purpose – In order to study how religious behaviour is evolving in contemporary societies, the chapter looks at the relation between the individuals' position in social…
Purpose – In order to study how religious behaviour is evolving in contemporary societies, the chapter looks at the relation between the individuals' position in social stratification and their participation to the weekly mass, and at its evolution in contemporary Italy.
Design/Methodology/Approach – The data come from the Italian National Election Study (ITANES) database, including national representative surveys from 1968 to 2006, and are analyzed with logit models.
Findings – Weekly mass participation has decreased from 1968 to 2006. The trend was rapid in the 1960s and 1970s, has slowed in the 1980s, but it has started again in the 1990s. Ceteris paribus, the upper class, shows a consistently more religious behaviour than the intermediate and the lower ones, and that the least educated are more religious. There is also evidence of a strong and consistent cohort effect, persisting across the considered period. Each cohort does not change much its participation to the weekly mass over time, but each new cohort shows a lower level of participation.
Research limitations/Implications – The findings give support to the classical secularization thesis, despite the many critiques addressed to it since the 1990s. Given that Italy is one of the most religious Western countries, this is a quite important finding. Some support is also given to the hypothesis of religion as an ‘instrumentum regni’, according to which it is in the interest of the higher social strata to be more religious, as religion supports and legitimates existing patterns of social inequality. Findings concerning cohorts point to socialization as the actual mechanism changing behaviours and attitudes.
The association between religion and material well-being is fundamental to research on inequality and stratification. Broadly considered, this association includes questions about how religious affiliation and religiosity are associated with work behaviors, education, income, wealth, and related family processes. Early social sciences debated if and how these traits and outcomes are related and offered important insight into the mechanisms that might explain empirical patterns (Simmel, 1997; Sombart, 1911; Weber, 1905/1930). However, the religious landscape and the mechanisms creating religion and well-being have both changed dramatically since the early days of the social sciences. The proliferation of Protestant denominations, the changing role of Catholics, and the increased presence of other religious traditions are beyond the scope of these early works. Moreover, the relationship between religion and stratification is no longer a function of large-scale shifts in the mode of production but rather reflects changing individual and group approaches to human capital, work, and saving. In the 1960s, sociologists revived these debates, but empirical challenges and a narrowing of the discussion to focus on Protestant–Catholic differences weakened and ultimately ended the literature's momentum (Broom & Glenn, 1966; Glenn & Hyland, 1967; Laumann, 1969; Lazerwitz & Rowitz, 1964; Lenski, 1961).