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Journal of Religious Education

, Volume 63, Issue 2–3, pp 117–128 | Cite as

‘One needs to be free’: making sense of young people’s talk about religion in multicultural Sweden

  • Anders Sjöborg
Article
  • 174 Downloads

Abstract

This article unfolds patterns of pupils’ talk about religion and Religious Education in upper secondary school in Sweden (age 18–19). At the same time highly secularized and increasingly religiously diverse, Swedish society provides an interesting case for understanding better the role of religion in the contemporary world. A recent and nationally representative survey among pupils in upper secondary school demonstrated the role of the pupils’ religiosity along with background variables such as gender, study program, and parents’ educational level for the pupils’ attitudes towards both Religious Education and religious diversity in society. However, attitudes towards such a complex phenomenon as religion may hardly be fully captured by quantitative survey methodology. Therefore focus group interviews were conducted with in all 45 pupils representing a range of religious traditions and none. The composition of interview groups also catered for aspects such as gender, ethnicity, living region and study programme. Patterns emerging from the analysis suggest that central themes in the pupils’ understanding of religion involve framing themselves as reflexive agents, seeing themselves as free from structures which they argue would hinder them from leading fulfilled lives. This pattern was interestingly recurring both among pupils who saw themselves as religious or believers and among pupils who saw themselves as nonreligious. In their talk about the role of religion in society, in school, and for themselves it was just different things that were seen as obstacles and liberators. These ways of talking about religion reveals sociologically salient configurations regarding how religion is constructed in contemporary Sweden. In this paper findings are discussed using perspectives from post-colonial theory.

Keywords

Religion School Secularization Individualization Othering Reflexivity 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The research reported in this article was funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR Grant number 2007-8139). This contribution was written within the framework of the multidisciplinary research programme Impact of Religion: Challenges for Society, Law and Democracy, established as a Centre of Excellence at Uppsala University and funded by the Swedish Research Council.

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Copyright information

© Australian Catholic University 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Uppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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