NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Public and private religion in the media

Marta Axner

This theoretical paper will address some questions concerning the concept of public religion, especially in the context of media. When researching religion in the media, the concepts “public” and “private” are central, but the concepts can mean different thing. Is “public religion” all religion that appear in a public space, or does the concept need a more precise definition? According to secularization theory (which of course has been questioned), religion is more and more privatized in the Western world, but at the same time, the media have more and more loosened the borders between public and private, giving a public arena to what has previously been considered private. When celebrities as well as religious leaders speak publicly about their faith, is that an expression of public or private religion? Or does the concept of public religion mean a religion that claims authority or at least concern something more than the individual? This paper will discuss such questions in the theoretical context of secularization/sacralization, privatization/deprivatization and late modernity.