New network on religion as a resource for young people


Mia Lövheim

A network of qualified researchers in youth and religion research has been established at Religion and Society. The research focus on issues of religion’s importance for young people from several perspectives:
– There is much ignorance within this area and many prejudices exist, a multidisciplinary approach is therefore needed, says Professor Mia Lövheim.

The network: ”Youth and Religion” was formally established a year ago and consists of eleven researchers from five different disciplines:sociology of religion, psychology of religion, educational science, ethnology and political science.

In the year 2008 the collaboration began with a joint survey financed by the Church of Sweden and the Sigtuna Foundation, which included questions about religion and outlook on life, conditions growing up, lifestyle, recreational activities and attitudes, and was sent to young people aged 16-24.

The survey was produced after an earlier study had shown that a lack of knowledge existed about young people’s existential issues.

– Previous surveys have primarily studied young people’s participation in religious activities organized by religious societies and how they relate to the belief in God that prevails there. Here we experienced that there was a lack of knowledge about how religion may serve as a resource for young people when it comes to creating a meaningful life and shaping values, says Mia Lövheim who is the leader of the network.

The purpose of the questions was to gain knowledge about religion’s importance in young people’s lives outside the religious institutions.

In 2012 the book ”Religion as a resource? Existential issues and values in young people’s lives” was published containing a presentation of the survey results and a chapter illustrating the various survey questions. 

Of the respondents 13 percent came from religiously influenced homes and only 7 percent practiced their faith through activities in a religious association or organization, once a month or more. Approximately 44 percent felt, however, that to believe in something was important for a good life, just over 15 percent of the young people were of the opinion that their outlook on life is based on a belief in God or a higher power or force.

– These figures correspond quite well with what we know from previous research on the percentage of young people who have been trained in and express their religion according to traditional forms of religiosity. They are a minority in today's society, and the most interesting is perhaps that their answers in other issues do not differ significantly from their peers.

A follow-up of the survey is now planned by way of a new survey as well as qualitative studies in the form of interviews and observations:

– There is much ignorance within this area. The fear of religious extremism among young Muslims is mixed with a perception that young people are individualists who do not wish to get involved in religious associations. An overall approach is needed whereby religion’s importance in young people’s lives is examined from different perspectives, says Mia Lövheim.

”Youth and Religion” will now further deepen its research into the significance of religion for young people’s health, young people’s knowledge of and ability to understand other people’s religion and young people’s participation in a democratic society.

The network will participate in two international conferences during 2013. First the Impact Programme’s International Conference, May 20-22 and then ISSR’s Conference, June 27-30.

Several publications that address various issues within this area have also been published by the members.

For further information please visit the web page

News from 2013