Religion Entering Public Life Again in Austria, Says Sociologist

Egotistical Approach Believed to Be Disappearing

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VIENNA, Austria, MARCH 24, 2002 ( Religion is no longer defined as a private matter in Austria, says a sociologist.

This conclusion is the result of a study directed by Paul Zulehner, dean of the Institute of Pastoral Theology of the University of Vienna, who has analyzed religion in his country over the past 30 years.

The results of the study were presented during the recent plenary assembly of the Austrian Catholic bishops´ conference.

What is surprising is that many Austrians believe that «the religious dimension of one´s view of the world must have visible consequences,» Zulehner said.

In statements reported by the SIR news agency, Zulehner explained that there are «concrete signs» that «indicate that an intelligent ´reinstitutionalization´ of the faith is taking place,» especially through the creation of new networks among those who are interested in religion.

According to the study´s coordinator, what is disappearing is «an egotistical attitude toward religion, in a faith lived only for oneself or because it makes one feel good.»

These new factors «underline the falsehood of the forecasts that perceived a progressive disappearance of faith in the secularized West,» Zulehner said. Yet, they exact greater pastoral effort from the Church, he added.

The study classifies 30% of the believers analyzed as «those whose faith is pure noise.» There is also an increase of those who profess a tailor-made religion, that is, they «alternate Christian positions with models of thought from the Far East, but also with a humanist or natural conception of life,» the report states.

Of those interviewed, 56% said they «belong formally» to a church, and 42% were described as «Christian-Social.» The latter expect «decisive involvement» on the part of the church «in the public and civil life of the country.»

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