Roberto Cipriani

After the wave of secularization and the more recent development defined as “religious revival”, social scientists studying the religious phenomenon are becoming far more cautious about the use of certain data, which even today give importance to either the secularization or the revival hypothesis. It has already become apparent that in both cases this process is probably due to a tendency towards the “sociological construction of inconsistency” by means of purely theoretical reasoning, or of a marked use of figures and results which are put together in scientifically unacceptable ways.
If we then examine other hypotheses which on the international level, in the field of sociology of religion, are frequently under discussion, we can see that they are not totally applicable in many cases. In fact, any effort to verify these hypotheses has generally failed.
Thomas Luckmann’s theorization regarding the “invisible religion” (Luckmann 1967) has attracted much attention on the part of sociologists, even though it has not always brought scientific consensus. The idea of a functional substitution of church religion by a series of topics such as “individual autonomy, auto-expression, auto-fulfilment, mobility ethos, sex and familism” has developed parallel to the theory of secularization.
The debate was very lively at that period, as has been well demonstrated first by Karel Dobbelaere (1981) and, lastly, Olivier Tschannen (1992), and involved such authors as Sabino Samele Acquaviva (Italian edn. 1961; 1979), Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark (1965), Hermann Lübbe (1965), Bryan R. Wilson (1966), Peter L. Berger (1967; 1969), Thomas O’Dea (1967), Richard K. Fenn (1969; 1970 and 1978), David Martin (1969, with a later addition, 1978).
Today we must ask if we are faced with an absolute novelty or whether, rather, the Luckmann’s “modern religious themes” are nothing more than the sedimentation of pre-existing, more or less subterranean channels, long incorporated in traditional religious modes, and surfacing now not for simply contingent reasons. The lack of research in this regard and the great weight of social control found in some particular historical and geographical contexts may be among these reasons.
An example is provided by the sociological trajectory of the Polish Solidarnosc movement. Its link to the Polish Catholic church was useful for a while. Then, once liberation from the communist system was attained, its influence began to wane, to the point of reducing to a glimmer. Meanwhile, other individualistic and familistic demands had been able to prevail, damaging the previous solidarity between the politico-trade union movement and religious membership. Today, religious practice, though still high in comparison with other European nations, is marking time, indeed retreating, in the face of the new modern demands of the rising generations unaware of the previous experience and, in addition, not averse to welcoming the westernising (and secularising) breezes of consumerism and the use of free time. But this occurred not only because of the passage from one age cohort to the next but also because of prior sources already functioning within the formal, compact facade of solidarity of the past. Thus even in a Poland sacralized to the utmost there were the forerunners of a future secularization in nuce. In fact, “opinion surveys showed a lessening of confidence in the church from (82% in 1990 to 57% in 1992, and a falling acceptance of its involvement in Polish political life” (Jasinska 1995:451)
To complete the argument one must, however, point out that this has not involved the total supersession of Catholic religious experience, but has rather favoured the regeneration of previously existing impulsions not wholly evident and visible (Erenc, Wszeborowski 1993; Gorlach, Sarega 1993). In short, in the practicing, believing Pole too there was concealed the individualist, familistic subject, wholly inclined towards self-realization and -expression. Again, we see the ambiguous, ambivalent character of secularization. It seems to erode the religious institution, but really only assists the principal factors of a very complex acceptance, made up of consensus on values and dissent in fact, of facile decision and conflicting choices. The new mode of belief supplants the church-religion model but re-adapts it to new behavioural spheres which proclaim individual autonomy and independence. This seems not so much different from the Oevernann’s (1995) “structural model of religiosity”.
Luckmann further believes that the modern sacred cosmos has a relative instability depending on the various social strata in which it is active, as proof of its internal incoherence and disarticulation. In fact, Luckmann reminds us, traditional, customary religious themes are re-ordered in the orbit of the secular and the private, especially by the young and urban dwellers. Thus Durkheim’s prediction of a wholly individual religion would seem to come true.
Robert N. Bellah and collaborators (1985; 1995) define the intensification of individualism by the term “Sheilaism”, as a wholly personal religious form which can thus take the name of the person who embodies it (Sheila Larson). “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice” (Bellah 1985: 221). On the other hand, as Bellah makes clear, religious individualism may be present in “church religion” itself, but historic roots go back in time, in the exemplary case of Anne Hutchinson, to the eighteenth century. She “began to draw her own theological conclusions from her religious experiences and teach them to others, conclusions that differed from those of the established ministry (Bellah 1985:233). Still more typical is the religious individualism shown by Tim Eichelberger: “I feel religious in a way. I have no denomination or anything like this” (Bellah 1985: 233). For these subjects, as in invisible religion as hypothesized by Luckmann, one of the main objectives is ” self-realization” (Bellah 1985: 233), and perhaps in Freud’s terms the Ich-Leistung, the autonomy of the individual.
The “invisible religion” perceived by Thomas Luckmann, which is based on the assumption of a crisis of the institutional apparatus, seems to be applicable only in relation to certain aspects of modern societies, and does not completely destroy so called church religion.
Bellah’s “civil religion” (Bellah 1967) has not really been taken into consideration because of the ethnocentric perspective of the sociological reading of the “religious dimension” which is specifically applicable to United States society. It is a well-known fact that Bellah attaches major importance to a series of beliefs, symbols and rituals which have not removed the religious factor from politics. The contents of this kind of “civil religion” are furnished by the perception of a universal reality bearing religious characteristics which is reflected in a people’s initiatives, especially those referring to biblical concepts: exodus, chosen people, new Jerusalem, sacrifice, etc… The religious element often acts as a unifying factor among individuals or groups otherwise in contrast. Religious identity can thus partly make up for the lack of a national identity. Seen from this dimension, “civil religion” was held to be the unifying element which made possible the birth and development of the United States of America.

After Luckmann
The Berger and Luckmann (1966) lesson remains authoritative: the social construction of reality is the basis from which the value system branches out, a circuitry which directs social action and rests on an objectified and historicized world-view which is thus endowed with a religious character it is hard to lose. The ultimate meaning of life itself is clearly written therein and orientates attitudes and behaviours.
However, it may now be more convenient to aim at disarticulating religious phenomenology from within, following a reading with more stratified dynamics and multiple faceting. In practice it is not clear there are only church religion and invisible religion à la Luckmann (1967). Rather, we may propose another hypothetical solution which envisages intermediate categories more or less close to the two extremes defined in terms of visibility and invisibility.
An initial post-Luckmann interpretation was articulated in 1983 and applied to the Italian situation during the International Conference of Sociology of Religion (held at Bedford College, London): “beside the interests and pressures coming from ecclesiastical sources, are there any other premises or factors which can explain religious bearing on Italian politics? In particular, it is important to verify first of all how the institution fares under the pressure of an extended “religious field” containing varied and attractive options, including anti-institutional purposes. Secondly, we must ask ourselves whether in practice religious influence in political choices concerns only Catholicism (or Christianity) or any religious expression in general. Thirdly, we must see whether the country’s history or its national culture mark the existence of fixed elements, bearing common values leading (directly or indirectly, in specific or vague ways) to a widespread model of religious socialization (based prevalently on patters of Catholic reference)” (Cipriani 1984: 32).

“Diffused religion”
Before going further, however, we should clarify what is “diffused religion”. “The term “diffused” is to be understood in at least a double sense. First of all, it is diffused in that it comprises vast sections of the Italian population and goes beyond the simple limits of church religion; sometimes in fact it is in open contrast with church religion on religious motivation (cf. the internal dissension within Catholicism on occasion of the referendum on divorce and abortion). Besides, it has become widespread, since it has been shown to be a historical and cultural result of the almost bi-millennial presence of the Catholic institution in Italy and of its socializing and legitimizing action. The premises for the present “diffused religion” have been laid down in the course of centuries. In reality, it is both diffused in and diffused by. As a final outcome, it is also diffused for; given that – apart from the intents of so-called church religion – we can remark the spread of other creeds (the easy proselytism of other Christian churches, of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, of “sects” of oriental origin etc…), as well as the trend towards ethical and/or political choices (an eventual conflict – far form disproving this hypothesis – confirms, from the outset, the existence of a religious basis, be it weak or latent). In brief terms, it is licit to think of religion as being “diffused” through the acceptance of other individual or group religious experience, and also because it represents a parameter which can be referred to with regard to moral and/or political choices” (Cipriani 1984: 32).
“Diffused religion” concerns broad strata of the Italian population. More than one study has established this conviction over time. However, the most relevant aspect is still the strong historico-geographical – and thus cultural – rootedness of the religion most practiced in Italy. It is precisely the strength of tradition, the practice of habit, the family and community involvement which make membership of the prevalent religion compelling and almost insurmountable. Where socialization does not arrive within the family home, pastoral and evangelizing activity carried out in a capillary way by priests and their lay parish workers moves in. In fact, Catholicism is diffused in every part of the country by means of a church structure well-equipped over time and particularly able to draw on its quite effective know-how. The best proof of this effectiveness is provided by the easy proselytism effected by other religious groups and movements which have disembarked in Italy.
“What “diffused religion” consists of can be understood even by means of its peculiarities. In a broad sense, its presence is clearly visible in forms which are not as evident as church religion, but which are not totally invalidated. This visibility may appear somehow intermittent” (Cipriani 1984: 32). “It is easy to presume that the widespread model of “diffused religion” is different from that of its source of origin, that is, this widespread religious dimension ends up by differing from the system it derives from (the institution). In this way, however, it reaches degrees of freedom which the concentrated and centralized pattern of church religion would not favour” (Cipriani 1984: 32). We might even speak of “diffused religion” as a perverse effect of the dominant religious system which thus generates what is different from itself, even though in continuity with it.
“The fragmentation of the areas of diffusion and distribution cannot, however, cover all existing spheres; all aspects are not equally widespread and reach vague, undefined limits which empirically are difficult to define. This diffusiveness broadens foreseeably into complex and multiple options (especially political options: from extreme right to extreme left). Meanwhile, original religious contents diminish and lose their intensity, they disperse, they mingle, they are integrated in new syntheses. Consequently, this expansion also causes a certain lack of positive reactions with respect to the center of propulsion, either because of increased separateness or because of a weakening of the basic ideological nucleus. It is thus a “passive” religion which may become active again in specific circumstances. Rather than the dynamics of accelerated religious transformation, this provokes a certain stagnation. Even within the prevailing passivity, the underlying echo remains persistent and pervasive, it penetrates large groups of persons. At this stage “diffused religion” appears rather under false pretences: as a feeling, a sensation which “contaminates” both the religious and political fields. Thus re-emerges the link with processes of socialization. It remains, however, to be seen if the future generations will maintain such a religious form which becomes more and more socially diluted to the extent of losing all influence on politics” (Cipriani 1984: 32-3).
Usually, cluster analysis outlines three levels of “diffused religion”: the first seems closest to church religion, the second departs partially from it, and the third is situated on the margins of the continuum between church religion and “diffused religion”.
The problem of change within “diffused religion” itself had already been posed some years ago. In fact, in 1989 it was written that “even for someone who has always kept his sociological interest in current events alive, it is not easy to disentangle the guiding threads of the social, political, and religious dynamics which have characterized Italy in the last two decades. The fact is that one finds oneself in the present situation almost naturally, as though it had been expected, without even letting questions, doubts, or scientific curiosity about what has been happening to more than 50 million citizens, from the mid-1960s to the threshold of the 1990s, break the surface” (Cipriani 1989: 24).
“Diffused religion” also represents a kind of functional substitute for divergence from the ecclesiastical structure. This differentiation appears through other ways of believing and practicing, even though the real base remains Catholic thanks to primary socialization in the initial phases of life. It should thus be stressed that “”diffused religion” refers to the characteristic conduct of believers who have received at least a Catholic education and who relate to it in a general sense. In fact, it refers to citizens who appear to be less than completely obedient to the directives of the Catholic hierarchy but who, on the other hand, refuse to reject completely certain basic principles which form part of the set of values promoted by Catholicism” (Cipriani 1989: 28).
As Calvaruso and Abbruzzese (1985: 79) emphasize, “diffused religiosity then becomes the dominant religious dimension for all those who, immersed in the secular reality of contemporary society, though not managing to accept these dimensions of the sacred cosmos which are more remote and provocative compared with the rational vision of the world, do not thereby abandon their need for meaningfulness. In the immanent dimension of individual everyday existence, diffused religiosity, rather than bearing witness to the presence of a process of laicization in a religiously oriented society, seems to enhance the permanence of the sacred in the secularized society”. Thus “diffused religion” appears as an antidote to the process of secularization of which at the same time it is an expression which is meaningful as a taking of distance from church religion. In fact “diffused religiosity is located in an intermediate area between a secular society in crisis and a resumption of the ecclesiastical administration of the sacred. It remains too “lay” to accept the more specific elements of church doctrine and too much in need of meaning to survive in an epoch which is “without God and without prophets”” (Calvaruso e Abbruzzese 1985: 80).
“Diffused religion” is thus quite dynamic in itself as regards its development despite the constancy of the chief frame of reference. However, “diffused religion lacks the kind of clear-cut characteristics which would be visible in, for example, church attendance, but it works through long-range conditioning, which is due, above all, to mass religious socialization, and to which there is a corresponding kind of “mass loyalty” of a new type” (Cipriani 1989: 46).
Rather than seeing a parallelism between church and state, with the development of a politically organized church structure, we can perceive an indirect legitimation, which, instead of having an ecclesiastic institution as its starting point and converging on the state, is based on “diffused religion” with strong principles and widely shared views. These are not the ones identified by Hans Baron quoted by David Martin (1978b: 5) in the “Civic Humanism” of Republican Florence. They come in fact with a phenomenon of non participation and non observance which characterizes many sectors of modern society. “Diffused religion” does not only evolve around the nucleus of the church but also that of the family as well as other centres of socialization. There are different levels of stratification of “diffused religion” which reaches out to almost all social categories and classes, with no distinction as to context, and proposes various solutions.

“Diffused religion” and “common religion”
According to what we have discussed up to now, “diffused religion” can be confused with other similar meanings, such as, for example, that of “common religion” described by Robert Towler (1974) as “those beliefs and practices of an overtly religious nature which are not under the domination of a prevailing religious institution”. It is worth specifying immediately that this type of “common religion” hardly forms part of “diffused religion” and a very minor one at that. Whilst “common religion” almost corresponds to popular religion (but this term is too ambiguous) “diffused religion” is vaster and is not only based on the still existing folk religion or the vaguely nationalistic Volksreligion. Both of these avail themselves of deeds and teaching of the church according to changeable modalities, which are based on the existing relations between official religion (or church religion) and unofficial religion. The difference lies in the possibility (or the lack of it) of a continuum between the institution and real life experience. Thus “common religion” would tend to detach itself from all orthodoxy, whilst “diffused religion” would keep (in a more or less latent form) some sort of link with the church structure.
Towler himself specifies that his religion is not common to a people but it is that of the common man. At this point, the difference between popular and common religion seems to have disappeared completely, especially when we take into consideration the fact that the adjective “popular” gives more a sense of something particularly widespread, of public domain, than of something typical of popular classes, who are more dependent on the economic and cultural level. It is, however, again necessary to make distinctions, notwithstanding the numerous parallels. The very fact that both “common” and “diffused” religion are situated outside the bounds of official religion does not make them lose any importance. Moreover, both one and the other have no specific organizing structure, but they manage to maintain both plausibility and force of influence. However, though in “common religion” we can find some institutional trends (Towler gives convincing historical examples of this) in “diffused religion” this characteristic does not show out clearly but works by ways and means which are made available by processes of socialization and legitimation, long active. In this case, it is not easy to speak of a solid and effective support of church religion: in fact there are many recurring contrasts, with marked conflictual developments, indifference and rare consensus (except with regard to certain more liberal and humanitarian themes). A reciprocal functionality does not seem possible between church religion and “diffused religion”, at least in the same way as it is possible in the case of “common religion”. In other words, although formally “diffused religion” is not organized, it is nonetheless widespread. It does not constitute an easy field for proselytism for the official orthodoxy, but then neither is it open to only natural forms of religion, as according to the Luckmann theorization, which presupposes totally profane channels of transmission, whilst at its origin “diffused religion” draws solely (or almost) from ecclesiastical doctrine. “Common” and “diffused” religion co exist in the same frame, but the characteristics of the latter are only a partial expansion of certain elements of the former and in fact they have a far more articulate spectrum of solutions which do not only regard the idea of fate, fortune, beliefs and superstitions linked to “conception, birth, adolescence, courtship, menopause, failing health, sickness and death” but many other aspects besides.
Ultimately, it would seem almost legitimate to broaden the criterion of relevance to “diffused religion” so as to include all the more typical manifestations of church religion. But the theoretical and empirical effectiveness of this approach would here fade away into a vagueness which throws little light and obscures a quite significant and alternative dimension, with respect to the institutional one. Obviously the results that ensue take on particular aspects in specific contexts.
It is to be noted that “diffused religion” constitutes one of the most recurring forms of legitimation, inasmuch as it always remains a ready solution, which can resolve various situations, even of political choice. Let us not forget that religious institutions often contain their own means of socialization, they have schools, radio and television programmes in both private and state networks, specialized publishing houses, and so on. In fact religious based socialization legitimation is obviously prevalent. Even many of those who do not share opinions of such orthodoxy often recur to this element, for reasons of convenience. It is true that the condition of youth comes with profound crisis of reaction against teaching received. However, the dissent is, necessarily, even a complementary form of consensus, because to a certain extent it uses the same orientative general framework present in the contested religious modality.

The indicators of “diffused religion”
It is not easy to establish what, in general, can the indicators of “diffused religion” be. We can however take into consideration a fact which greatly characterizes the education in the family and at school of millions of people. It can be supposed that in a constant or temporary way which may be satisfactory or insufficient, direct or indirect, the majority of the adult (and even youth) population have been stimulated by the religious model of the family, of kindergarten, of primary school and religious teaching in secondary and upper secondary schools, as well as the use of free time which in many cases is linked to religious or parareligious structures: scouts and artistic groups; amateur theatricals and sports; etc… Even though this kind of link disappears or lessens with the passing of time, the ethical memory keeps functioning even far from the church religion. Neither is there any lack of moments of strong recovery or recollection which occur at different periods of the life cycle: from baptisms to funerals, from marriages to other celebrations. Moreover, three periods which are particularly favourable to the renewal of religious communication with respect to guidelines and key values can be numbered. We are referring, for instance, to Christmas and Easter festivities, as well as those marking the local religious feasts. It thus occurs that in major urban centres, where there is a widespread lack of religious practice, the same people may attach great importance to the religious celebrations of their place of origin, and will go back at these times, and perhaps take leave for the occasion. We must not forget the macroscopic phenomenon of pilgrimage visits to the thousands of sanctuaries.
Two further considerations help complete this picture. The first deals with the spreading of the religious message through the mass media (radio and television dedicate ample space to religious events; there are also chains of dailies, weeklies, and monthly papers with a religious basis, as well as numerous local radio and television networks whose “raison d’être” is the religious message). The second consideration deals with the “participatory” and “eye catching” policy of a certain part of the religious world which has been stimulated, for instance, by the initiatives of the present Catholic pontiff. Today, the figure of the pope is far more conspicuous than in the past. This occurs not in a particularly Catholic manner, but rather within frameworks which do not contrast with that of “diffused religion”. In fact, in his encyclical letter Redemptor Hominis, pope John Paul II appeals to human rights, to the values of freedom and democracy, to the sentiments of fraternity and solidarity, to the peace. Such appeal finds vaster approval, beyond the context of church religion. The influence of religion in the political field is thus laid out differently, but without any fundamental break ups or oppositions. Thus the continuum exists: taking religious teaching as its starting point, it passes through the associations which are better linked with church religion, penetrates through the folds of more autonomous organizations and is finally connected to the vast net of “diffused religion” where there is, however, a more dynamic interrelation with other systems of value: on the ideological, political, trade union, party levels.

Italian surveys
Essentially we might speak of diffused religion in Italy and at the same time of diffused secularization, but the latter does not have the contents identified by Nicholas J. Demerath III in another context (2001: 225).
During the Seventies the search for material welfare remained a prominent item, at all events, as we find in other studies. Consumerism reached rural areas. Saving no longer attracted as it used, and there were few content with their property (Cipriani 1978: 42).
The 55% of residents in the provinces ready to have their wives work outside the home probably thought more of the family budget than the need for autonomy and self management of her own life by the woman herself (Cipriani 1978:45).
On the basis of these empirical finding it was not hard to conclude in the terms cited as still penetrating today, a distance of more than twenty years. In fact it seems as if sex and family were really the outstanding themes in the modern sacred cosmos Luckmann speaks of referring to the so-called “invisible religion” in which self-expression and sexuality as well as the family as source of “ultimate” significance for the individual barricaded in the “private sphere” occupy a key position, all the more so if the two elements are closely linked (Cipriani 1978: ibid).
However, these data are not in themselves sufficient to support the hypothesis of invisible religion, as the latter is still well demonstrated and documented by our own and other studies.
Another useful indication came from a relevant table on the relation between religion and society. Obviously in the less urbanized areas of Abruzzo and Molise the data seemed rather more in line with official religion or, in the words of James (1961:41) “we are struck by one great partition which divides the religious field. On the one side of it lies institutional, on the other personal religion. As A. P. Sabatier says, one branch of religion keeps the divinity, another keeps man mostly in view. Worship and sacrifice, procedures for working on the dispositions of the deity, theology and ceremony and ecclesiastical organization, are the essentials of religion in the institutional branch; were we to limit view of it, we should have to define religion as an externals art, the art of winning the favour of the gods. In the more personal branch of religion it is on the contrary the inner disposition of man himself, which forms the center of interest, his conscience, his desert, his helplessness, his incompleteness. And although the favour of the gods, as forfeited or gained, is still an essential feature of the story, and theology plays a vital part therein, yet the acts to which this sort of religion prompt are personal not ritual acts, the individual transacts the business by himself alone, and the ecclesiastical organization, with its priests and sacraments and other go-betweens, sinks to an altogether secondary place. The relation goes direct from heart to heart, from soul to soul, between man and his maker”.
Luckmann’s hypotheses are not easily verified. At most they seem to have a consistent analytical effectiveness only as general theoretical outlines of so-called “invisible religion”. There is no noteworthy territorial mobility, religion has not lost its “ultimate significance”, and has not been supplanted by other alternative forms of life orientation. I do not thereby wish to deny the privatization of the religious phenomenon, the isolationism, lack of sociality, obvious utilitarianism, consumerism and other characteristics typical of a secularized society. The church’s official models are undergoing an extensive erosion if we note – as in our research – how the hierarchy’s teachings receive minimal credence.
It is not for nothing that religion occupies one of the first places in the classification of values set out by the interviewees. Needless to add too that Italian familism (especially in the Southern regions) has historical roots sunk in the past of a centuries-old culture.
Individualism phenomenon is an effect typical of ecclesiastical religiosity, though at times its ultimate results involve taking a position regarding the religious institution (Cipriani 1978: 69-70).
In this picture largely marked by orthodoxy and orthodox practice, some closure towards the other was not absent, along with a certain territorial resistance: “they prefer to guarantee themselves a rigid set of privileges for the group. Where there is no work, the order of precedence is clear – Italians before foreigners, local people before outsiders, men before women” (Abruzzese 2000: 453).
Love for one’s children stands at 32.3% while does not exceed 9.2%; love for one’s children stands at 32.3% while good use of money arrives at 9.6%, and earning a lot is just 4.5%.
Among values received through socialization before 18 years of age, the importance of sexuality is less. In any case, opinions on sexuality have the dimension of affection and conjugality prevail.
Until the end of the 1980s, strangely enough there were no scientific results available providing adequate reliability as products of serious, thorough and really representative studies at that statistical level in relation to the whole of Italy. It was thus in the wake of the questions raised by theorizing about “diffused religion” that a fruitful season of field research began – from the Sicilian study on “the religion of values” (Cipriani 1992) to the major national research on “religiosity in Italy” (Cesareo, Cipriani, Garelli, Lanzetti, Rovati 1995) and the most recent one, on an international level and with a comparison between some European countries on “religious and moral pluralism”.
An empirical research has been conducted in Sicily by means of questionnairing a group of people selected by statistical sampling. The results were compiled from the completed questionnaires of 719 subjects, and the objective was to illuminate the concept of “diffused religion” as observed in the presence of common social values which tend to unify behaviour and attitude deriving from both the religious and lay perspectives. Cluster analysis has been used to identify six different groupings: religious (church) acritical; religious (church) critical; religious (diverging from the church) critical; religious (diffused) as a condition; religious (critical and distancing self from the church); and not religious. The starting point for the research is the hypothesis that Catholicism (as the dominant religion) pervades many sectors of social life and maintains its influence over common values, despite the effect of increased distance between people and institutionalized religion. This appears to refute the theory of secularization (Cipriani 1993: 91).
Here are the general data from the study (Cipriani 1992):

Religious (church) acritical 101 (14.0%)
Religious (church) critical 261 (36.3%)
Religious (diverging from the church) critical 79 (11.0%)
Religious (diffused) as a condition 190 (26.4%)
Religious (distancing self from church) critical 47 ( 6.5%)
Non religious 41 ( 5.8%)
Total 719 (100%)

On the basis of these results, we have argued that religion of values embraces the central categories of the above table. In particular the area that can be ascribed to the religion of values runs from the category defined as religious (church) critical to that described as religious (distancing self from church) critical, and thus includes both a part of church religion (the less indulgent part) and the whole gamut of “diffused religion”, along with all forms of critical religion.
“The majority of the population is thus characterized by a slackened religious referent, persisting in the impulse of tradition or whatever responds to certain needs of contemporary man, but without producing a particular mobilization of conscience. Thus there are obvious signs of ambivalence present in the adherence of a large part of the population to the model of Church religion. Contrary to many predictions and many commonplaces, religious orientations persist in current society, demonstrate a certain persistence and signs of vitality… This seems strange in a supposedly advanced and secularized society. Religion persists insofar as it has adapted to current conditions of life, insofar as it takes part in the process of meltdown which in the present the great ideal referents and ideologies are encountering… Religion is thus fenced in on the backdrop of life, behind the scenery of existence, like an ultimate beacon of meaning whose sure presence now has a reassuring function. It is in this disjunction of ultimate reference and contingent choices, original identity and everyday orientations that the paradox of the persistence of religion in contemporary society is hidden” (Garelli 1992: 65-6)
In essence, we have gone from a dominant church religion to a majoritarian “diffused religion”, and then to a religion compounded of values. The conclusion is that religion can be defined as a mode of transmission and diffusion of values; indeed, that it performs especially this functional task and does so efficiently.
“In fact, religion, which never really stopped playing its part in society, has reappeared beneath the surface of secularization. Even if we admit that there has been a significant occlusion, this has only involved secondary, external and formal aspects, especially at the level of ritual. The decline in participation at official, preordained services has not thus meant the end of every resort to the sacred. The trajectory of religiosity is not set towards definitive extinction. Simultaneously, secular impulses seem also to have exhausted their impetus. Their efficacy now affects only the less fundamental aspects of belief, which tends to remain in essence more or less stable. Between religiosity and secularization there seems to reign almost a tacit compromise. They are reinforced and weaken virtually in unison. Aspects steeped in religion continue (or return) to manifest themselves in secular reality, whilst in the reality of the church and of religious culture we see a progressive surrender to demands that are less orthodox from the viewpoint of the official model” (Cipriani 1994: 277).
The case of Rome, described as the Holy City par excellence even though it is heavily secularized, is emblematic. The world capital of Catholicism, the meeting-place of universal import for millions of pilgrims in the jubilee year, 2000 (Cipolla, Cipriani 2002; Cipriani 2003), manifests rather low levels of religious practice. That which is described as regular, once a week, stands at 23.3% (Cipriani 1997), whilst 22.1% never go to mass. Yet the number who pray is significant – 71.5% of those interviewed who turn to prayer maybe only a few times a year (14.9%) or much more often, like the 32% who do so once or more times every day. This means that there is at once slight attachment to practice but equally a broad interest in prayer, and so religion lies not wholly in rituality. Rather, the most frequent link with divinity runs through prayer, a direct conversation, as at the interpersonal level. In this regard we might argue that whereas practice of the festal mass is more linked to church religion, that of recourse to prayer maybe has a more spontaneous character, free and removed from social control but nonetheless an index which reveals a belief, a tie, a sensitivity at the religious level. In practice, if Rome is not by any means a city of many practitioners, neither is it one with many atheists, agnostics or religious indifferent people (however, it should be noted that 21.3% of those interviewed – the highest number in the whole of the country – show no sign of religiosity at all). The capital of Italy manifests in a heightened manner some of the characteristics revealed in the 1994-5 study on “religiosity in Italy” through a national sample. For example, in a year a more 7.6% had taken part in pilgrimages and 13.6% had made or satisfied a vow. Essentially, the Romans’ religion is two-sided: on the one hand it appears imbued with a dramatic crisis, on the other it seems quite lively (though at a due distance from the habits of the official church). The religious future of the city seems destined to proceed along these two parts, divergent but tendentially parallel.
The same may be said in general for Italy, though with certain essential differences. “A double religion is the result: a majority and a minority religion, explicable also in terms of the historic presence of the Catholic church in Italy in the past century and especially since the Second World War. The Italian minority religion is for those who identify with the church quite closely and also involve themselves significantly in religious practices. The majority religion, on the contrary, lacks these characteristics” (Cipriani: 1994: 281). This majority religion is rooted in the individual conscience, guided by the law of God, according to 40.4% of those interviewed in a systematic sample of 4500 (Cesareo, Cipriani, Garelli, Lanzetti, Rovati 1995: 180), in individual conscience alone in 36% of those sampled, and exclusively in the law of God for 22.1%. On the level of values lived with satisfaction, we find first the family that can be depended upon (73% of the sample), followed by working honestly and with commitment (68%), having friends (38%). A smaller response was obtained as regards devotion to others (25%) and commitment to changing society (22%).
The overall picture is a varied one, but it confirms the image of religiosity diffused but fractal, tattered, with heterogeneous outlines. According to the results of the cluster analysis, 32% of the sample could be classified as belonging to church religion, 59.1% to diffused or modal religion, and 8.9% to non-religion.
In detail, the proportions of Italian religiosity demonstrate the following typology:

1) Oriented church religion (hetero-directed) 9.4%
2) Reflexive church religion (self-directed) 22.6%
Church religion total (1+2) 32.0%

3) Modal primary (diffused) religion 16.5%
4) Modal intermediary (diffused) religion 21.6%
5) Modal perimetric (diffused) religion 21.0%
Diffused or modal religion total (3+4+5) 59.1%
Continuing religion total (1+2+3+4+5) 91.1%

6) Non religion 8.9%
Overall total (1+2+3+4+5+6) 100.0%

As can be seen from the percentage of the six attitudinal and behavioural classes, religion in the broad sense (church or diffuse/modal) is broadly preponderant and clearly almost all of Catholic imprint. Church religion is in a minority percentage-wise, and “diffused religion” (called modal as statistically it is in practice the mode, the characteristic with the greatest frequency) is the majority. But between minority and majority there is no break and indeed it is often hard to establish the distinction between one and the other, especially between reflexive church religion (more autonomous and individualized, less inclined to accept the directives of official ecclesiastical teaching), and primary diffused or modal religion (more diversified as regards church membership). In fact, church and diffused or modal religion are in a close relation with one another, the second arising from the first, whereby one can speak of a genuine religious continuum which involves 91.1% of those interviewed, without breaks or interruptions in the religious argument and its content, especially in the field of values.
Even more convincing, if that is possible, is what emerges from the more recent (March-April 1999) international comparative study on “religious and moral pluralism” in Europe, involving in Italy the universities of Turin, Padua, Trieste, Bologna and Rome. The Italian sampling was carried out by Doxa and involved 2149 interviews (1032 males and 1117 females from 18 and upwards), carried out in 742 cases in provincial capital cities and in 1407 in non-capital centers. 97.5% said they were Catholic; 31.2% said they were very close to the church and 45.5% close to it. 51.1% remembered at 12 years old they went to church at least once a week, but 21.7% spoke of more than once a week, and 6.7% of daily participation in religious functions.
Significant confirmation of the satisfaction with religion comes from the judgement of whether it was more or less important, 22.2% a little more, and 12.8% much more.
As for the relation between education and religion, a very close link is taken for granted especially if we bear in mind that 35.9% seemed much influenced by the education they received.
It should also be noted that 81.2% of those surveyed explicitly owned to belonging to a church, confession, group or religious community.
Finally, 86.4% said they used prayer, though with differences both quantitative (once or more) and temporal (daily or during the year).
The characteristics seem definitely established:
1) the essential content of religion is values, much more than rituals and beliefs;
2) the function of religion appears to be that of diffusing values.
There is little difference between past and present as regards the spread of religions in Italy. Even the conspicuous presence of Islam in Italy is not entirely new. Events in the past have left indelible traces of a Mediterranean culture which is not “italocentric”, so to speak, but linked to the Arab world, first and foremost in Sicily. The current situation undoubtedly features activities and behaviour of a different nature to that usually associated with Italy and Roman Catholicism. However, the greater visibility of these items, at least for the moment, does not carry with it great weight. In Rome, the capital of Roman Catholicism, Islam may be the second religion as regards the number of followers, but it cannot be claimed that “Islam has conquered Rome” as an Istanbul daily splashed across its front page (a sort of historical nemesis, after the Crusaders’ conquest of Jerusalem in 1099). Having said that about the Moslem religion, it is easy to imagine that other religions, whether institutions or movements, find it hard to gain ground in a terrain made fertile by Catholic and Christian evangelism, but unreceptive to other religions. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been trying for many decades, but with unremarkable results compared to the efforts made in the course of repeated door-to-door, house-to-house campaigns. The Religious and Moral Pluralism (RAMP) survey shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses are numerically superior to other minority religions, but their presence in absolute terms is minimal if we consider that they constitute 0.6% of those interviewed. Moreover, as proof of the limited extent of pluralism, it should be noted that for several decades the proportion of members of Christian Churches other than the Roman Catholic Church all put together amounts to one per cent. There cannot be much pluralism if 97.5% declare themselves Catholic, while those declaring themselves Protestant, Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist, Jehovah’s Witness or other types of Christian or non-Christian account for 2.5%. Little changes if we consider those who replied on religious affiliation: 79.3% declare themselves Catholic, whereas 2% chose other responses.
In line with this is the feeling of attachment to the individual church community, as testified by responses to a question on the subject to which almost half said they felt close or very close (total 45.5%) to their own religious institution. This leaves little room for other solutions or other experiential pathways. It is a singular fact that the percentage of affiliated Catholics is identical to the percentage of those who have always belonged to the same church, religious confession, group or religious community. Shifts from one situation to another amount to just over 1%. There is also a tendency to make friends with people of one’s own religion, although it is difficult to establish to what extent it is deliberate. In many cases (42% of the whole sample), none of the male or female friends practices another religion. Only 3% claim to have friendships only with people of other religions.
As regards religious obligations imposed on women in certain circumstances, there is little sensitivity in Italy, since this experience is not part of common everyday life. However, it is interesting to note that 66% of those interviewed reacted negatively to the obligation imposed, for example, on girls of a certain religion to cover their heads at school. In this particular case, it is probably not so much a question of sensitivity to a gender issue as greater attention to one’s own customs and traditions which place neither obligations nor prohibitions on such matters. However, the basic attitude is a value-judgement stemming from one’s own religious orientation.
Still higher percentages emerge from issues of moral importance with religious motivation, such as taking drugs as part of a religious ritual (83.4% disagreed), refusing blood transfusions (91.5% disagreed entirely), resorting to suicide (94.8% do not accept this solution as a result of a religious choice). Attitude and behaviour are even more closely connected if we consider the social importance of the presence of a plurality of religions in Italy. Only a third of those interviewed acknowledge the cultural enrichment stemming from the variety of forms of religious expression to be found in Italy. One third is distinctly opposed to this contribution, while a further 16.5% are unfavourable. So, almost half the sample (48.7%) do not appreciate the cultural contribution of religions other than their own. Similar proportions are recorded when we consider conflicts which might result from the presence of other religions, albeit with a slightly lower percentage, showing greater readiness to accept differences. Inter-religious relations seem to be marked by conflict. A quarter of those interviewed are unwilling to recognize useful elements for educational purposes in other religions. Uncertainty is shown by 14.3% of the sample, but the majority (60%) declare themselves favourable.
There is no lack of awareness of religious pluralism, since 98.8% are in some way familiar with the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses and 33.4% know something about Scientology. In fact, their knowledge is fragmentary, based on impressions, somewhat generic and superficial, but nonetheless there is a clear perception of religious differentiation. As regards freedom of religion, there is more deference toward Jehovah’s Witnesses than to Scientology.
To sum up, Italians can be divided into defenders of the Catholic religion (roughly a quarter), a majority of what we might call possibilists (who see elements of truth even in religions other than their own), and a minority of don’t knows and those who reject any religious experience.
As regards religious affiliation, the situation in the sample is reported in Table 1. There is a clear preponderance of Roman Catholics (79.3% of the sample) among those claiming affiliation to a Church, whereas those who declare themselves not to be affiliated to any Church, whom we shall henceforth refer to as the non-affiliated, amount to 18.8% of the sample (403 units).

Table 1 -Religious Affiliation
JEWISH 3 0.1
MOSLEM 3 0.1
NONE 403 18.8
TOTAL 2149 100.0

Given the very small number of non-Catholics in the sample, it was decided to focus on a comparison between the Catholic and non-affiliated sub-samples. It should be pointed out, however, that the 403 non-affiliated are not necessarily non-believers. Indeed, 25% of them say they believe in a superior being. What we intend to analyse first of all is the influence of religious affiliation on the morality of the individual. Religiosity will be considered in the final part.

Moral attitudes of Catholics: hypotheses for a prevalent typology
Let us now take a detailed look at the characteristics of the 6 groups which arose from analysis.


Size : 362 subjects (21.3% of the Catholic sample)
– Moral attitudes:
Members of this group are convinced of the positive effects of capital punishment in tackling crime. They also maintain that the influx of immigrants has had a negative effect on everyday life and generally do not like the presence of diversity near them. The educational value they most appreciate is obedience. They are proud to be Italian and hold that tax evasion may be justified in certain conditions. They tend to be somewhat egocentric. In the world of work, they are against favouritism towards family members and think it useful to change the way work is organized to solve the problem.
– Religious characteristics and background:
The level of education is often medium to low. Although they feel that the role of the Catholic Church in society is important, members of this group do not participate much and do not do voluntary work. They show remarkable tolerance towards abortion and think that science has an important role to play.

Size: 215 subjects (12.6% of the Catholic sample)
– Moral attitudes:
Members of this group have indecisive attitudes to the various moral issues put forward. Their scores vary between 4 and 5 (on a scale of 1 to 7). Nevertheless, there was a tendency, higher than the sample average, to agree with favouritism toward family members at work and suspicion of immigrants.
– Religious characteristics and background:
Here again the educational level is middle to low, probably due to the large proportion of old people. This fact, perhaps, also explains the low incomes and the greater number of jobless. Another feature is religious exclusiveness.

Size: 309 subjects (18.1% of the Catholic sample)
– Moral attitudes:
Unlike the previous two groups, where members were more or less conservative and in favour of capital punishment, this group combines a certain fear of immigrants with opposition to the death penalty. Moreover, rigorous opposition to favouritism for family members at work is counterbalanced by acceptance of tax evasion since the state wastes taxpayers’ money and levies high taxes. As regards education and upbringing, the importance of obedience was stressed. According to this group, jobs should be given first to men and then to women.
– Religious characteristics and background:
Certain background variables are similar to the previous group (a generally low educational level and a certain religious exclusiveness). However, members of this group attach more importance to religious practices, the role of the sacred object and participation. This group is totally against abortion.

Size: 305 subjects (17.9% of the Catholic sample)
– Moral attitudes:
The basic characteristic of this group, and the following one, is an open-minded attitude to the moral issues considered in the survey. Members show more tolerance toward homosexuality and euthanasia. Immigrants are considered as equals and not as a danger to Italians. They often believe that men should not enjoy more privileges than women.
– Religious characteristics and background:
The educational level of this group is medium to high and the presence of 35-44 year olds and single people is considerable. Members often say they do not feel close to the Church and show tolerance and interest in other religions. Their open-mindedness also extends to attitudes on abortion and they tend to favour a secular State.

Size: 379 subjects (22.3% of the Catholic sample)
– Moral attitudes:
The distinctive traits of this group would appear to be the powerful influence of religion and social conscience on personal choices and an interest in politics. There is also open-mindedness toward immigrants and tolerance of homeless persons. Members of this group are strongly against capital punishment and predominantly against both favouritism for family members at work and tax evasion under whatever circumstances.
– Religious characteristics and background:
The educational level of this group is also medium to high, in some cases this is accompanied by a high income. Religious beliefs are firmly held and often influence everyday life. Many started taking part in religious activities during adolescence and church attendance is also important. Moreover, there is a certain tolerance of other religions. Their political commitment can be roughly placed as centre-left, with anti-Northern League tendencies. They show willingness to help the afflicted, whether nearby (the local tramp) or from other countries. In some cases, members engage in voluntary work.

Size: 133 subjects (7,8% of the Catholic sample)
– Moral attitudes:
The answers supplied by this group to moral questions were all in the negative (“I totally disagree” or “absolutely wrong”). Most negativists feel there is no control over their own lives and claim not to be influenced by religion, still less by social conscience and upbringing. They do not see the presence of foreigners in Italy in a positive light, but neither do they regard Italians as hard workers. Issues concerning children’s education are not considered of interest or importance.
– Religious characteristics and background:
The religious and social variables of this group fully confirm their moral attitudes. What is striking is this group’s particular concentration in two Italian regions, Lazio and Piemonte, and its almost complete absence from the North East. There is scant tolerance of other religions and little interest in the message science has to offer.

A comparison with the moral attitudes of the unaffiliated
We will now analyse the distribution of the unaffiliated in the 6 groups described above. We should note that over 57% of the unaffiliated belong to groups 1 and 4. Comparing this result with the analogous one for Catholics, we find a substantial increase in the proportion of open-minded radicals with respect to committed practicing Catholics and traditional celebrants, as would be expected since the subjects of the non-Catholic sample we are assigning to the 6 groups are for the most part non-believers.
Within each group there emerge certain behavioural differences between Catholics and the unaffiliated. As regards the first group, Catholics show a greater degree of moral rigour and attention to matters of upbringing, tend to justify tax evasion less and are less nationalistic and male-chauvinist. They are also more intransigent in their disapproval of favouritism for family members. The differences between the two sub-samples in the other groups is more hazy. They involve: in the second group, more nationalism and male-chauvinism among the unaffiliated; in the third, greater intransigence toward family favouritism among Catholics (which also occurs in the fourth, fifth and sixth groups); in the fourth, moreover, Catholics are more tolerant of homosexuality and euthanasia and are less willing than the unaffiliated to accept those who refuse to work; in the fifth group, the unaffiliated see the situation today compared to that of ten years ago in a less negative light; in the sixth, Catholics are a little less negative in their assessment of education and refusal to work. No differences appear to emerge as regards attitudes to the death penalty.

In general, almost a quarter of those interviewed were somewhat reticent about their religious beliefs. Many more showed a weak sense of belonging to a religion, but not so weak as to be reduced to nothing. There was no lack of don’t knows and those with no religious belonging, but their presence was very limited. There is an almost unbroken continuum which extends from strong identification to total separation. The typology which emerged from our statistical analysis shows religious practice as the major element (22.3%) with just a one per cent advantage over the group marked by their rigour (21.3%). If to these we add the 18.1% of traditional celebrants, this completes the picture for alignment with the main reference contents of religious membership. Nevertheless, the proportion of radicals (17.9%) and don’t knows (12.6%) is by no means negligible. Finally, the proportion of negativists (7.8%) is not so different from that revealed in a previous national study (Cesareo, Cipriani, Garelli, Lanzetti, Rovati 1995), which showed 8.9% in Italy as a whole. If we add together the practicing Catholics, rigorists and traditional celebrants, we obtain an absolute majority of 61.7%, which remains within the overall Catholic framework, albeit with variations. The combination of rigorists (21.3%) and traditional celebrants (18.9%) constitutes a sound base of religious membership come what may, with 39.4% of those interviewed. This proportion of the sample is by no means dissimilar to the number of those who said they felt close to their Church. The presence of 21.3% of rigorists can be paired up with the attitude of total lack of acceptance of other religions expressed by a quarter of those interviewed. Further confirmation comes from the number of don’t knows expressed on this matter (14.3%), only slightly larger than the category of timorous don’t knows which emerged from our analysis. Along with the rigorists and traditional celebrants, there emerged a broad front of those “open” to other religious experiences: these are the committed practicing Catholics and open-minded radicals who together form 40.2% of the sample. However, the don’t knows for the most part are in favour of State finance only for the Catholic Church. Of particular interest is the category of open-minded radicals, which perhaps represents this work’s major novelty. Their attitudes are pervaded by a marked sense of modernization and secularization. Their commitment to society and in society is particularly clear, as is demonstrated by their opposition to the death penalty. There is evidence of religious conditioning, but it is weaker than that of the rest of the sample. This group has the highest degree of tolerance towards immigrants. There is a definite shift from typically religious values to more secular ones. They do not completely abandon the religious fold, but cast aside typically institutional references. This is also due to the higher educational level of the group. They are generally in favour of innovations, such as the introduction of women-priests. But perhaps the most distinctive feature is their open-mindedness towards other religions, a sort of unconditional, unreserved, unhesitating propensity to ecumenism. In the meantime, church attendance is reduced to a personal matter, which ties in with their divergence from the opinions of the Church.
The findings for the rigorist group, with its medium to low educational level, are largely predictable. They are in favour of the death penalty and against immigration, but strict on moral issues in general. They are not particularly involved in religion. Among traditional celebrants, the predominant feature is old age, but they also share some items with the rigorists (especially on immigration). However, there is a clear difference between the two groups as regards religion. Traditional celebrants attach importance to religious rites, belief in God is widespread, they feel close to the Church, they vigorously support the exclusiveness of the Catholic Church, they are not reticent about their religiosity and they are not in favour of religious innovations. The two groups may be similar in many aspects but not as far as religion is concerned; religion dominates the traditional celebrant group, but has a weaker role among the rigorists. The open-minded radicals are almost the direct opposite of the rigorists, especially on issues of immigration and capital punishment, whereas they are closer (but not completely the same as) the traditional celebrants on religious matters, but without involvement in church attendance and with no preconceived bias against innovation. The committed practicing; Catholics, the majority in our sample, show clear socially-oriented attitudes (in favour of immigrants as well as religion, ethical conduct as well as political commitment; against capital punishment, favouritism and tax evasion). But their distinctive feature is undoubtedly their full-circle religious profile: militant, practicing, orthodox, altruistic, broadly left-wing, Church-attenders. The timorous don’t knows are marked by their scant attention to a well-defined moral perspective, since they are inclined to keep the death penalty, are against the growing influx of immigrants and tend to tolerate tax evasion. In effect, some of the characteristics of the rigorist group are here inverted, but the common element is the tendency not to be open-minded. On religious matters, the don’t knows refer only to some general issues.
The last group we consider is the negativists, who form the significant minority in our sample. They combine non-altruistic tendencies toward immigrants with a refusal to accept fiscal disobedience. Among this group there is a total lack of religious sensitivity.
Among rigorists in particular, both moral and religious pluralism is absent. Moral pluralism is to be found among traditional celebrants, timorous don’t knows, negativists and open-minded radicals, but not among rigorists and committed practicing Catholics. Religious pluralism is only to be found among committed practicing Catholics and open-minded radicals. It is usually absent among rigorists, traditional celebrants, timorous don’t knows and negativists. The highpoint of both religious and moral pluralism is found among the open-minded radicals, as their name would imply.
In terms of a continuous flow from group to group, we go from a total absence of pluralism among the rigorists to full confirmation of pluralism by the open-minded radicals. In between, along the continuum, we find the four other categories, with differing degrees of, at times, the presence or absence of one of the two forms of pluralism. However, it is clear from our empirical data that the traditional celebrants are closer to the rigorist group, which precedes them, and the committed practicing Catholics which follow them. The timorous don’t knows form a link between the practicing Catholics and the negativists. The radicals are the greatest exponents of pluralism and bring the continuum to its conclusion, yet they seem in fact to be halfway between those who claim (and are inclined to be) pluralist and those who deny pluralism. Lastly, we should consider that the overall profile of the timorous don’t knows, traditional celebrants and negativists all have similar connotations of moral pluralism and religious exclusiveness; quite the contrary of the committed practicing Catholics who show moral exclusiveness and religious pluralism.
Rigorists: -M -R
Traditional celebrants : +M -R
Practicing Catholics -M +R
Don’t knows: +M -R
Negativists: +M -R
Radicals: +M +R
The following table gives more detail on the composition of the greater or lesser pluralism of each group:

Moral pluralism: absent Religious pluralism: absent
Yes to capital punishment No to religious movements
No to immigrants Yes to State support for religious
No to favouritism Yes to only one true religion
Moral pluralism: present Religious pluralism: absent
Yes to favouritism Yes to only one true religion
Yes to capital punishment Yes to State funding only for
No to immigrants
Moral pluralism: present Religious pluralism: absent
No to immigrants Yes to only one true religion
Yes to justified tax evasion No to religious movements
No to favouritism Yes to State funding only for
No to capital punishment
Moral pluralism: present Religious pluralism: present
No to suicide Yes to Scientology
Yes to immigrants Yes to women-priests
No to capital punishment Yes to truth in many religions
Yes to the freedom to learn from
other religions
Yes to religious symbols banned in
state schools
Yes to Jehovah’s Witnesses
Yes to State :support for religious
Yes to State: funding only for
Moral pluralism: absent Religious pluralism: present
Yes to immigrants Yes to Jehovah’s Witnesses
Yes to the influence of religion
Yes to the influence of a social
No to favouritism
No to justified tax evasion
No to capital punishment
Moral pluralism: present Religious pluralism: absent
No to justified tax evasion No to the freedom to learn from
other religions
No to immigrants No to Jehovah’s Witnesses
Yes to favouritism No to Scientology
No to religious movements

If we turn our attention from the affiliated to the unaffiliated sub-sample, the characteristics outlined above do not undergo substantial changes. The proportion of open-minded radicals increases, but we also observe, especially among the rigorists, a subtle difference between Catholics and non-Catholics on moral and educational matters, with undoubtedly more interest shown by the religious, who are also more against favouritism and more broad-minded in their attitudes to women. Moreover, Catholics classified as open-minded radicals are a little more willing to tackle the issues of homosexuality and euthanasia than unaffiliated radicals.
The issue of capital punishment requires more careful consideration. Catholics are slightly more inclined to oppose the death penalty than the unaffiliated, and the higher the educational level, the greater their opposition. But it should be stressed that religious affiliation does not account for attitudes to capital punishment in a statistically significantly way.
In the last analysis, our findings confirm that there is a limited tendency toward religious pluralism, whereas moral themes would appear to be much more fragmentary. The cultural setting seems to have a more decisive role than religious affiliation, in view of the fact that attitudes do not change substantially in the two groups of those claiming to be religious and those who do not. Moreover, both samples show internal similarities and differences in directions which largely coincide and even appear to be mirror-like reflections of each other. Is this the result of Catholic conditioning on Italian culture in general or does it stem from a widespread ethos which also contains variables depending upon Catholicism? The question remains unanswered and points to the need for further study.
Reinforcing Pace’s viewpoint, Italo De Sandre (2001: 53) reverses the formula which dates to the thirteenth century, according to which ‘outside the church there is no salvation’ and transforms it into ‘outside the church there is salvation (extra ecclesiam, salus).
In essence, invisible religion, at least for now, does not seem to have a solid future at the start of the new century. Franco Garelli seems convincing, as is also attested by his many empirical studies in Italy, when he says “contrary to many predictions God is not dead in Europe, nor is the social trajectory of Christianity exhausted. Religion seems still strongly integrated with the culture, even if we witness the disempowering of faith, the melting of beliefs, the discontinuity of practice; even if religious values increasingly slide into the background of existence and are exposed to a distinctly subjective interpretation” (Garelli 1996:205).
This does not leave the religious hierarchy tranquil, however. Not by chance, pope Paul VI, as a sharp intellectual, had already grasped what was happening in the post-conciliar phase, as he expressed it to Jean Guitton: “What strikes me when I consider the Catholic world, is that within catholicism at times a non-Catholic thinking seems to prevail, and it may be that this non-Catholic thought within catholicism becomes tomorrow the stronger”. In this way catholicism itself would become invisible. But this would be another story, and maybe the object of study for future sociologists of religion.

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Roberto CIPRIANI is full professor of Sociology and chairman of the Department of Educational Sciences at the University of Rome 3. He has been visiting scholar at the University of Berkeley, and visiting professor of Qualitative Methodology at the University of Sao Paulo, of Political Science at the Laval University, and of Methodology and Visual Sociology at the University of Buenos Aires. He has been President of the International Sociological Association Research Committee for the Sociology of Religion. He is Past Editor in Chief of “International Sociology” (International Sociological Association official journal). He has been member of the Executive Committee of the AISLF (International Association of French Speaking Sociologists), and of the IIS (International Institute of Sociology). He is Vice President of the Italian Sociological Association. His publications include: Sociology of Religion. An Historical Introduction (Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 2000), Sociology of Legitimation (Sage, London, 1987), Aux sources des sociologies de langue française et italienne (L’Harmattan, Paris, 1997). He has researched in Mexico and Greece.
ADDRESS: Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Educazione, via del Castro Pretorio 20, 00185 Roma, Italia. Phone and fax: 0039 06 447 03 014 [email:].