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Religious knowledge, beliefs, and practices in life-world:
 interconfessional peculiarities (Orthodoxy and Protestantism)

The research project complete with the support of Russian Foundation for Humanities.

The research includes the study of the religious component of the life-world of believers (Christians) in St.-Petersburg from the comparative (interconfessional) perspective. The following components of the life-world will be used as the major ones: religious knowledge, beliefs (convictions), practices, and their interconnection. The project presupposes the use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches in studying the religious components of the life-world. The results of the research are supposed to promote the theoretical consideration of today's changes in the spiritual life of the society and the analysis of certain expressions of the religious life.

During the first year of the project, our investigation was mainly of theoretical and methodological character. In correspondence with the phenomenological perspective, we operationalized the term “religious life-world” as the total unity of religious knowledge, beliefs, and practices. Additionally we developed a typology for religious life-world of religious believers based on levels of salience for various structural elements of religious life-world (knowledge, beliefs, and practices). 

We elaborated a typology of Protestant denominations in St Petersburg. It allows us to consider distinctive features of Protestantism as a complex historical, cultural, and theological phenomenon. Our typology of the Protestant churches in St. Petersburg is based on their attitudes to the Russian Orthodoxy and their general cultural positions. We divide the consists of conservative and liberal sub-types. Besides, considering the attitudes of the denominations towards the culture of the society in general, we found that the religious organizations usually hold a counter-cultural, sub-cultural, or “cultural” (or pro-cultural) position.

“Religious biography,” our next term, means narrativization by a believer of his/her own religious life. An individual’s narration on his/her religious experience in a process of social communication suggests individual’s rationalization of his/her own religious life-world. Due to this narrativization, a scholar gets an access to the individual’s religious experience: his/her religious knowledge, beliefs, and practices. The structure of the religious biography represents an interconnected unity of key points for an individual’s life trajectory: the religious conversion, baptism, and enchurchment. 

The first part of our field research in 2013 was qualitative one. Our semi-standardized interviews included three relatively independent sections directed at an elucidation of religious knowledge, beliefs, and practices. Additionally, the interviews included a narrative section (“religious autobiography”), the questions of which specified details of respondents’ coming to the religious faith and details of their life in the church. To analyze the autobiographical narratives we adapted actant model, one of methods of structural semantics. The study showed that this method works fits well for developing of spiritual life’s typology.

Altogether we took 33 interviews from Orthodox (17 persons) and Protestant (16 persons) believers. Our informants are of different age and belong to nine Russian Orthodox and ten Protestant parishes.

We also used our interviews in order to understand ideas of the informants on their professional activities, because, according to our opinion, work attitudes, values and motivations in professional activities, and a choice of occupation are important indicators that show how deeply religious beliefs and knowledge penetrated in daily practices.

During the second part of our empirical research this year, we obtained more than 220 questionnaires filled by our respondents. Their analysis showed a correlation between intensity of participation in the Sacraments and participations in various social and church ministries.

The study confirmed that B-Index (the Index of enchurchment) originally designed to investigate the Russian Orthodox religiosity could be used with certain modifications for studying the level of religiosity in the interdenominational perspective. To our opinion in order to study religious practices properly B-Index should include a variable that reflects a number of ministries in which a believer takes part more or less frequently.

One can use the results of the research for further development and grounding of methodological tools for sociological studies of religiosity and individual spirituality.

The main results of the project are described in nine academic publications and are presented on the website -