Davie's (1994) concept of ‘believing without belonging’ describes the movement away from organised religion and the increasing numbers of people who are ‘spiritual but not religious’ (Davie, 1994). It describes why people feel they no longer need to take part in religious practises, but still classify themselves as ‘Catholic’. This essay will first discuss what it means to believe, secondly the extent to which Davie's concept is applicable to the Irish context by describing the in-depth penetration of religion in history and also will suggest how the contradictory hypothesis ‘belonging without believing’ is also applicable.
Glock and Stark's (1968) multidimensional analysis of the 8 ways of being religious measures religiosity in conventional terms. It describes what it means to ‘believe’. To truly believe you must adhere to the following 8 dimensions. The first dimension is the experimental dimension; a deep connection one feels with God. The ritualistic dimension involves participation in ritual service. The devotional aspect involves private praying and faithfulness to religious teachings. The belief dimension refers to the degree to which a person agrees with the beliefs of the group. The knowledge dimension refers to knowing these beliefs and rituals of the group. The consequential dimension has to do with how religion impacts behaviours and attitudes in everyday life. The communal aspect refers to amount of friends and family one has in the same denomination. Particularism is a measure of the extent to which one believes that one's own faith offers the only hope of salvation (Roberts, 2003). In the Irish modern society to be religious, as reported by Glock and Stark, is an increasingly difficult task. Typically Irish people want to believe to have the rites of passage in their life, but disregard the teachings in other elements of their lives (O'Doherty, 2008).
It is easy to assume that Irish society is an obvious case of believing without belonging as mass participation has fallen rapidly. In a national survey, 90% of Catholics in 1973-1974 responded stating that they attended mass once a week (Inglis, 2007). This has fallen significantly as in The European Value Study reported only 66 % now attend weekly mass (Gallagher, 2009).Yet this significant decrease has not affected the 2011 census which reported that 84.2% of the population referred to themselves as Catholic. People possess high levels of religious beliefs but fail to translate these beliefs into actual institutional religious practise (Davie, 1994). This is due to the contemporary thinking that the church is dead or at least in a steady decline. But in a society so deeply intertwined with religion it is impossible to assume that the majority of Irish people now believe without belonging? (Davie, 1994).
Religion in Ireland is deeply embedded into Irish society and has been for quite some time. The majority of Irish Catholics are born into the church. Before they have reached...