Giuseppe Bonazzi

Religious beliefs as forms of life: faith, reason and imaginary in front of the "ultimate questions"

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The paper argues that most studies of Italian sociology concerning attitudes towards religious Catholic beliefs reveal two main features: the adoption of quantitative research methods involving large samples of peoples, and the assumption that it is possible to plot attitudes on a continuum from total believers to total unbelievers passing through intermediate positions of "weak faith" and/or of semi-belonging to the Church. The paper contest this view, and maintains the need of qualitative research with in-deep interviews to explore i) loose coupling between religious beliefs and church attendance, ii) selective attitudes toward Catholic beliefs as a whole, iii) original, private elaborations of such beliefs. Twelve in-deep interviews both from believers and unbelievers are analyzed, and a number of main typical modes of defining themselves with respect to the Catholic beliefs are outlined. As a whole, the most relevant results are: i) the unfitness of the continuum hypothesis if confirmed; ii) the importance of discourses in depicting emotional rather than rational attitudes toward religious beliefs (such as I'd like to... I figure out... I scare... etc); iii) the relevance of religious attitudes in defining the whole personality of the examined subjects. As a conclusion of the paper, to what extent the results of the research fit the Wittgenstein's concept of form of life is discussed.

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