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Religion in Nordic Party Platforms 1988-2008
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, The Centre for the Study of Religion and Society. (Impact of Religion)
2013 (English)In: Nordic Journal of Religion and Society, ISSN 0809-7291, E-ISSN 1890-7008, Vol. 26, no 2, 121-139 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article, I will analyse how Nordic political parties refer to religion in party platforms from the late 1980s until 2008 in light of increased religious diversity and changed relations between church and state in the Nordic countries. Four questions are asked: (1) Does the number of issue-areas related to religion increase or decrease over time in the party platforms? (2) Does the connection between religion and other political issues, such as national identity, foreign policy, and human rights, change during this period? (3) How do the political parties view the positions of the majority churches and do they change over time? (4) What differences can be observed between the political parties in their approach to religion? The data consist of 136 party platforms from all the five Nordic countries in 1988, 1998, and 2008. The analysis shows that issues-areas related to religion increase in Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Sweden, but decrease slightly in Norway. Religion is often mentioned in connection to religious diversity and globalization. The position of the majority churches in party platforms is fairly strong over time, although to decreasing degree, particularly in Sweden and Norway. Finally, the traditional religious cleavage (Lipset and Rokkan 1967) is still evident in Nordic politics, although the right-wing populist parties complicates this picture as they tend to use religion to defend national values against consequences of religious diversity.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 26, no 2, 121-139 p.
Keyword [en]
Religion, political parties, Nordic countries, Scandinavia, party platforms
National Category
Religious Studies
Research subject
Sociology of Religion
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-211200OAI: diva2:665833
Impact of ReligionNOREL
Available from: 2013-11-21 Created: 2013-11-21 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Religion in Nordic Politics as a Means to Societal Cohesion: An Empirical Study on Party Platforms and Parliamentary Debates 1988–2012
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Religion in Nordic Politics as a Means to Societal Cohesion: An Empirical Study on Party Platforms and Parliamentary Debates 1988–2012
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this study, I address the relationship between religion and politics in the Nordic countries, 1988–2012, against a background of increasing religious diversity alongside more or less continuous relationships between church and state. My aim is to analyse possible changes in the way religion is referred to by Nordic parliamentary parties, and in the way these parties use religion as a means to societal cohesion. I use theories on religious change and on the motives for using religion in politics to discuss a possible re-emergence of religion in politics, with the help of concepts such as functional differentiation, glocalisation and politicisation. I apply different forms of content analysis in a mixed-methods approach, using both substantial and functional definitions of religion. The thesis is based on four articles published or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed international journals: First, a study on religion in Nordic party platforms from around 1988, 1998 and 2008. Second, a study on religion in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish parliamentary debates, 1988/89, 1998/99 and 2008/09. Third, a study on the role of the majority churches in the final Nordic parliamentary debates on same-sex unions 1989–2012. Fourth, a study on Danish and Norwegian parliamentary debates on the wearing of veils among judges and policewomen in 2009. The major findings are that the references to religious diversity in party platforms and parliamentary debates have increased, which leads to a more complex understanding of the religious cleavage in politics, and that right-wing populist parties in particular politicise religion to achieve political influence. Furthermore, human rights have been increasingly used to address religious diversity as a political issue. I interpret these findings as continuous use of religion for societal cohesion in Nordic politics, through a model of different forms of politicisation using the concepts civil religion, human rights and nationalism. The thesis contributes to a better understanding of the religious cleavage, politicisation of religion, the impact of globalisation on the political debate about religion and changes as well as continuity regarding the use of religion in Nordic politics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. 143 p.
Studies in Religion and Society, ISSN 1654-630X ; 13
Religion, politics, Nordic, Scandinavia, church, diversity, secularisation, globalisation, politicisation, cleavage, civil religion, human rights, nationalism, right-wing populist, privatised religion, content analysis, mixed methods
National Category
Religious Studies
Research subject
Sociology of Religion
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-241250 (URN)978-91-554-9146-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-03-06, Ihresalen, Campus Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3H, Uppsala, 14:15 (Swedish)
NORELImpact of Religion
Nordic Council of Ministers

Cover photography: Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (chairman of The Moderate Party) debates with Member of Parliament Jimmie Åkesson (chairman of The Sweden Democrats) in the Swedish parliament Riksdagen on 19 January 2011. Photographer: Melker Dahlstrand/Riksdagsförvaltningen.

Available from: 2015-02-13 Created: 2015-01-09 Last updated: 2015-07-23Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA