9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS02 Dynamics and Complexity of Minority Statuses in Plural Societies

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Indigenous Minorities and Religious Minorities Building II, C3.02

Identity of Polish nonbelievers as a patchwork and as a process

The main subject of my paper is identity of nonbelievers, one of the Polish minority groups (in Louis Wirth´s sense). I want to put the stress on two matters - types of identities and its dynamics. My conclusions are based on my own research, which I currently conduct on community of nonbelievers in Poland (web survey and in-depth interviews).
Unbelief is usually associated with lack of affiliation to any religious institutions and lack of any religious beliefs. It is an ideal, "pure" type of consistent unbelief. Meanwhile in Polish conditions I observed two mutations of such unbelief. Firstly there are nonbelievers who, in consequence of dominant Catholic culture pressure, accept some of their elements (usually religious practices, sometimes beliefs). Their identity soaking in Catholic lifestyle, way of thinking, system of norms and values, become a kind of synthesis of unbelief and Catholicism. Secondly circa one fifth of my survey respondents declare sympathies to some forms of non-catholic religious beliefs (for example faith to other than personal form of God). It is interesting combination unbelief and spirituality drawing inspiration from many different sources (like Buddhism, Neopaganism or New Age). It is a good example of fact that non-religiousness, similarly to religiousness, subject to processes of pluralization and privatization in postmodern societies. Both of above mentioned kinds of nonbelievers identities, far from "pure" type, I called patchwork-identities.
I am also interesting in the matter of dynamics shaping of unbelief as a one of individual identity's dimensions. I treat identity in the processual way - as something changeable and liquid. It may be more or less important for particular nonbelievers and place different positions in their individual hierarchies of identities. Furthermore it may be stimulate, periodically get stronger or weaker due to many different factors. Moreover, in my opinion, that feature of nonbelievers' identity could be generalized to identities of other kinds of minority groups (religious, ethnic or sexual).