Religious tolerance and fundamentalism have been subjects of intense discussion and debate in the European political and social sphere for decades. The results of the research conducted by COST Action COREnet STSM (Short-Term scientific mission) grantee Dr. Alessandro Indelicato in 2022 revealed certain socio-demographic factors that influence a lower or higher level of religious fundamentalism and religious tolerance in Europe.
Religious tolerance is an essential aspect of a peaceful and harmonious society, as it involves respecting and accepting diverse religious beliefs and practices. It is a key factor in promoting social cohesion and peaceful coexistence between individuals and groups of different religions. On the other hand, religious fundamentalism is characterized by a strict adherence to traditional religious beliefs and practices and often involves a rejection of modern ideas and values. It can lead to social tensions, conflicts, and even violence when it results in intolerance towards people of other religions or beliefs. Religious fundamentalism is a complex phenomenon that can have a variety of underlying causes. Hence, understanding the socio-demographic factors influencing religious fundamentalism is crucial in developing strategies to promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence in an inclusive Europe and the whole world.
Sociodemographic factors influencing religious fundamentalism and religious tolerance
Alessandro’s Short-Term scientific mission was conducted at Heidelberg University, in Germany, in 2022, which consisted of data analysis extracted from the Religious Fundamentalism and Radicalization Survey module of the WZB – Berlin Social Science Centre dataset, a large-scale cross-sectional survey administered in several countries.
The results of Alessandro’s research indicate that younger generations exhibit a decreasing level of openness towards other religions. This suggests that as generations progress, they may become more exclusive and less accepting of other belief systems. However, the study also found that higher levels of education and income have a positive influence on religious tolerance. This implies that education and economic well-being may help promote a more accepting and inclusive society.
Furthermore, the research highlights the strong association between religious fundamentalism and prejudice towards different groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities. Religious fundamentalism is characterized by a strict adherence to a set of religious beliefs and a resistance to change or alternative views. This inflexibility may lead to prejudice towards groups that do not conform to the fundamentalist worldview. This finding underscores the importance of promoting tolerance and understanding among individuals of different religious backgrounds to create a more harmonious and accepting society.
What is more, this study also introduces a novel approach in the field of religious tolerance and fundamentalism, using a Fuzzy-Hybrid TOPSIS method to complement and extend other studies using mathematical and statistical approaches that have yet to be commonly used in the field. The study provides insights into the sociodemographic traits that affect religious fundamentalism and emphasises the importance of religious tolerance in maintaining harmonious behaviour among groups.
Ideas on further research
Further research, according to Alessandro, could expand the analysis to other countries and religious groups to determine whether the sociodemographic factors influencing religious fundamentalism vary across different contexts. Additionally, it could explore the impact of other factors, such as political and cultural factors, on religious fundamentalism. For instance, in some countries, religious fundamentalism is encouraged or suppressed by the government or cultural norms. Therefore, studying the impact of these factors is crucial in understanding the underlying causes of religious fundamentalism. Finally, exploring the relationship between religious fundamentalism and violent extremism and the role of religious tolerance in preventing radicalisation could be a crucial area for future research.
Benefits of STSM for the implementation of the study
“The Short-Term scientific mission experience in Heidelberg proved to be an invaluable asset in augmenting my research on the subject of religion and fundamentalism. Collaborating with my supervisor and being immersed in a scientific environment provided me with a wealth of knowledge and insights that greatly enhanced the quality of my work,” – expressed STSM grantee Alessandro Indelicato.
In 2022 eight STSM grantees, including Alessandro, received COREnet funding for their missions on the issues of religious diversity and migration. The COST Action “Connecting Theory and Practical Issues of Migration and Religious Diversity” (COREnet) opened a call for Short-Term scientific mission applications in 2022 and 2023. If a third call is launched, it will be announced in December 2023.
COST Action COREnet is an interdisciplinary network that aims to produce, exchange and build knowledge and collaborations across Europe on migration and religious diversity. COREnet draws in researchers from all stages of their careers and across different European countries, training a new generation of interdisciplinary action researchers capable of connecting the study of religions and theology, migration and the social sciences, and working that into action through processes of co-production.
Article prepared by
Dr. Alessandro Indelicato
Università IUAV di Venezia
COST Action COREnet STSM grantee
Prof. Juan Carlos Martìn
Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
COST Action COREnet member
Dr. Gintare Poce
Vytautas Magnus University
COST Action COREnet Science Communication Coordinator
Noah Holm (unsplash.com)