Constructions of Religion and the Secular in Contemporary Swedish Public Debate

This project aims to give a multidisciplinary analysis of the construction of boundaries between “religious” and “secular” in cases from contemporary Swedish public debate. Previous research within the Impact Program, as well as from the US and France, indicate a need for a deeper analysis of the implications of such boundaries for the construction of Swedish identity.  The project runs from 2014-2017. Researchers from the Faculty of Theology and the Faculty of Law cooperate in the project: Mia Lövheim, Ulf Zackariasson, Per-Erik Nilsson and Victoria Enkvist.

Research questions:

  • How are boundaries between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ constructed in three cases within contemporary Swedish public debate: Freedom of speech and religion, discrimination and equality, and the status and rights of faith based communities?
  • What norms and values are attributed to ‘religious’ and ‘secular’?
  • Who are the main participants in these debates and in what contexts are they situated?
  • What are the implications of these distinctions for conceptions of the public role of ‘religion’ and how do they shape conceptions of national identity, minority identity, and religious pluralism?

The Missionary Church of Kopimism
A completed case study concerns the Missionary Church of Kopimism (see Nilsson, P., Enqvist, V. (2016)
Techniques of religion-making in Sweden: The case of the Missionary Church of Kopimism. Critical Research on Religion, vol. 4). The Church is built on the idea that copying and the spreading of information is an ethical right, and was recognized as a faith based community (trossamfund) in 2011. As a registered faith based community the Church qualifies as an organized and by the state approved religion, as such it is protected by Swedish constitutional law where it is stated that freedom of religion is absolute. The overarching question asked in this project is how the category of religion enables the state apparatus to produce legitimate and illegitimate subject positions and what the consequences of this production are in relation to power and ideology.

Participating researchers

IMPACT_Mia Lövheim

Team leader

professor at Department of Theology, History of Religions and The Social Sciences of Religion; Sociology of Religions
researcher at the Religious and social change theme

Faculty of Theology
Uppsala University
Web page

Ulf Zackariasson


senior lecturer at Department of Theology, Studies in Faith and Ideologies; Philosophy of Religion
researcher at the Science and Religion theme

Faculty of Theology
Uppsala University
Weg page


Nilsson, P., Enkvist, V (2016). "The Hidden Return of Religion: Problematizing Religion in Law and Law in Religion in Swedish Regulations on Faith Communities". I Lind, Anna-Sara, Mia Lövheim & Ulf Zackariasson (eds.) (2016) Reconsidering Religion, Law, and Democracy. New Challenges for Society and Research. Lund: Nordic Academic Press.

Nilsson, P., Enkvist, V. (2016). "Techniques of religion-making in Sweden: The case of the Missionary Church of Kopimism". Critical Research on Religion, vol. 4

Lövheim, M. (accepted for publication, forthcoming 2017) “Religion, Mediatization and ‘Complementary learning processes’ in Swedish Editorials”. Journal of Religion in Europe, special issue Religion, Media, Politics.

Nilsson, P. (accepted for publication, forthcoming 2017) “20 Minutes of Christianity? Christianity and the Church of Sweden in the Sweden Democrat's Ideological Text”. I Poirier, P. Boktitel okänd. Bryssel: Éditions Larcier.

Presentations - conferences:

Per-Erik Nilsson. “20 Minutes of Christianity?”, konferensdeltagande, Les populismes et les religions, Collège de Bernardins, Paris, 3-4 June 2016.

Per-Erik Nilsson. “Legalizing Internet Piracy through State-Invented Religion? a Case Study of the Swedish State's Acknowledgement of the Missionary Church of Kopimism As Religion”, konferensdeltagande, ISA World Congress of Sociology, 13-19 July 2014.

Public lectures and media:

Per-Erik Nilsson. “Grundmurade stereotyper om ondskefull religion”, SVT Debatt, 12 October 2013

Per-Erik Nilsson. “SD inte endast ett missnöjesparti”, Expressen, 24 May 2015.

Per-Erik Nilsson. “Religion - en modern myt?”, lecture, Sida Partnership Forum, Härnösand, Sweden, 2 November 2015.

Mia Lövheim "Religionens återkomst – en utmaning för demokratin?”, SAMspråk 2016, arranged by Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish research council), Almedalen, 4 July 2016.

Mia Lövheim "Mediebilder av kvinnor och religion", lecture ”Delaktig, stark, synlig”, The commission for government support for faith communities (SST) and the Interfaith Council of Sweden, Mentorship-program for women, 22 October 2016

Mia Lövheim, expert member, governmental committee: SOU Översyn av statens stöd till trossamfund, Ku 2016:01, 2016-2018

Last modified: 2021-03-12