Some dilemmas of sociological study of contemporary political dimensions of religion: the case of the Church of Holy Simplicity
Faculty of Social Sciences University of Ljubljana Ljubljana, Slovenia
In some parts of Europe we have been witnessing certain revitalization of religion in last decades. These processes are quite complex and follow several different directions: sociological surveys show the growth of religious belonging (mostly the type of religiosity British sociologist G. Davie calls "belonging without believing"), in some countries the connection between religion and nationalism is quite common (this connection often derives from the equation of religious and national identity), for decades we encounter the growth of new religious and spiritual movements. These processes pose different theoretical and practical questions and dilemmas concerning the social and political notions (definitions) of religion. What is the role of sociologists and their research approaches in all this? Is this role limited to describing and analyzing of contemporary religious situations and trends? Or can they, on the basis of their knowledge, try to more actively influence the social and political processes, connected to religion?
This paper will offer some possible answers to such questions by presenting a case of the Church of Holy Simplicity, which was founded in 2004 in specific social circumstances by a tiny group of Slovenian sociologists. This unique (and for many controversial) project of participant-observation was designed with the intention to publicly open a serious of pressing questions about the social and political role of religion in modern society, and with launching the official process of registering a religious community maybe also to influence the work of some state agencies to become more competent and in line with legal standards. The church has been denied the registration and the case is after two positive decisions of Slovene Administrative Court and one decision by Supreme Court waiting for the trial by the Constitutional Court.