Theorising religion and Euroscepticism

At the heart of Britain’s Christian heritage are certain glorious principles. . . . Among those principles is a vision of peace and reconciliation, of being builders of bridges, not barriers. . .. The vision of the founders of the European Union was also peace and reconciliation.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbtuy, 11 June 2016

In this chapter, we set out the theoretical basis of this research, including the definition and conceptualisation of ‘religion’, and how its various facets are expected to be related to Euroscepticism. Drawing on an extensive literature on the nature of religion, Euroscepticisin and the relationship between the two, we set out how the various dimensions of religion are expected to affect voters’ support for the principle of European integration and/or their assessments of the benefits of EU membership for their country. Readers more interested in the empirical analyses and conclusions of this research will find sufficient information in the following chapters - this chapter will be of interest to those interested in the theoretical basis for the religion/Euroscepticism relationship and our interpretation of our findings, as well as the conclusions of previous literature on the subject.

What do we mean by ‘Euroscepticism’?

By the time of the UK’s Brexit referendum, anybody with even a passing interest in British politics will have come across the term ‘Eurosceptic’. Originating in the 1980s as a way of journalists describing Conservative MPs hostile to the Single European Act, it has since become a widely used tenu in political campaigning, media coverage, opinion polling and academic research. At its core, the tenu refers to a generalised hostility towards membership of the EU or some specific element of European integration

(Taggert and Szczerbiak 2018; Leruth et al. 2018). While straight-forward, this overlooks considerable variation between different expressions of Euroscepticisni and the different elements or features of integr ation against which they can be directed. There is a considerable difference, for example, between someone who supports the principle of European integration but feels that European institutions are failing to deliver prosperity or good government for their citizens, and someone who is opposed to the principle of integration outright, and still someone else who has no problem with the principle or the performance of European institutions but objects to the free movement of people. Each expression of Emoscepticism could be borne out of distinct values, identities and attitudes, and may even express themselves in different ways (e.g. not all of the individuals may wish to leave the EU as a result of theh Euroscepticisni).

Various conceptual structures of Euroscepticism have been developed to recognise and attempt to capture this depth (Sorensen 2008; Boomgaarden et al. 2011; Wessels 2007; Krowel and Abts 2007). Ideally, we would integrate such richness into our analyses and learn a lot more about religion and Euroscepticisni as a result. Regardless of the conceptual and theoretical depth that can be brought to the term, however, in empirical research, we are constrained by the opportunities to represent that depth available in the data we rely on. Much of the data we use in this research conies from surveys of British voters since 1975, when surveys were more limited and difficult to gather, and the study of Euroscepticism was in its formative stages. As a result, measures of the concept were far more limited, either to expressions of support for leaving the EC or EU, or disapproval of membership. In Chapter 5, we employ a richer, multi-dimensional view that distinguishes between Euroscepticisni based on principled objection to integration and that based on an assessment that the costs of EU membership outweigh the benefits. For the other chapters, however, we are forced to rely on the more limited indicators. Regardless of how it is measured, when we speak of ‘Euroscepticisni’, we are referring to a generalised hostility to the EC/EU, the principle of European integration, or some specific element of it, that manifests itself in either dissatisfaction with EC/EU membership or support for leaving the organisation.

What do we mean by ‘religion’?

When we speak of ‘religion’, it is easy to think of the beliefs people point to (such as in the existence of God) when stating whether or not they are religious. This is, of course, conect; belief in the existence of supernatural entities, and certain moral codes or values believed to stem from them, is a key element of religion, but it is not the only element (Bruce 2018; Clements

2015; Park and Smith 2000; Ben-Nun Bloom and Arikan 2012,2013). Religion is a far more complex and varied institution than is often assumed, and it is vital to recognise this complexity if we are to have a hope of hilly appreciating how religion could affect political attitudes or behaviour. Religion also refers, for example, to the conununities (such as Anglicans or Jews) and institutions (such as churches or mosques) that people identify with. These can be the basis of forms of social identity, as well as social networks that can influence the values people express and act as a source of communal or individual resource (Caputo 2009; Fox et al. forthcoming). Association with religious beliefs, conununities and institutions also implies behavioural practices. Some are associated with religious ritual or worship (such as baptism), some are the result of identification with and participation in a religious community (such as going to church), while others are the consequence of participation in religious social networks (such as taking part in activities to feed the homeless or a book group). When we talk about ‘religion’, therefore, it is important to remember that we are not referring to a single belief or conununity, but to a number of shared beliefs, values, actions, institutions and conununities (Bruce 2018). It is also important to note that the expression of these different facets of religion varies between individuals. Some may hold religious beliefs (such as in the existence of God) and values (such as believing that abortion is a sin) and participate in religious activities (such as going to church) every week. Others may hold such beliefs and values without regularly going to church or interacting with religious conununities. Some may believe in God but have very different beliefs about sin or right and wrong, while still others may attend church and be active in religious conununities while not believing in God (Clements 2015; Davie 2015). In other words, there is not only considerable variety in the characteristics associated with religion that we must account for when studying how one's religion affects then behaviour, but there is considerable variety in the configur ation of those characteristics between individuals.

There is also a generational element to the complexity with which religious characteristics can be expressed. Older people are less likely to vary in tenus of their religious characteristics: identifying as a member of a religious conununity is likely to be accompanied by religious behaviour and beliefs consistent with the traditional expectations of that community (such as a Catholic regularly attending Mass, believing in Original Sin and in Heaven and Hell). Younger people, however, are likely to be more varied: it is far more common for them to, for example, hold certain religious beliefs (such as in God) without identifying with a religious conununity; to participate in religious services without holding religious beliefs; and to combine traditional elements of religion with new forms of

Theorising religion and Euroscepticisni 19 spirituality (Vincett and Olson 2012; Wuthnow 2002, 2007; Dinham et al. 2009). Finally, different elements of religion can have different effects on social and political attitudes or behaviour (McAndrew and Voas 2011; Ben-Nun Bloom and Arikan 2012; Fox et al. forthcoming). Lam (2002), for example, shows that people who attend religious sendees are less likely to volunteer in their community, but identification with religious conununities makes volunteering more likely. Fox et al. (forthcoming) similarly showed that older people who identify as Anglicans are likely to be less socially trusting than younger people who do so, and that participating in religious services has a positive effect on social bust while holding religious beliefs is of little importance. When we talk about ‘religion’, therefore, we are neither speaking about a single belief, community, practice or institution; nor a single characteristic that is expressed universally by members of society or one that has a constant effect on other characteristics -such as Euroscepticism. We are talking about a combination of identities, beliefs, practices, values and behaviours that can vary from one individual to another, that have different effects on social and political characteristics, and whose effects can vary depending on the social context and socialisation of the individual expressing them.

This presents a substantial challenge to academic research, particularly that based on survey data, such as this, because we need to use measures of ‘religion’ that are sufficiently sensitive to the range of communal, attitudinal and behavioural expressions it can take without losing the breadth of perspective that makes generalisations about gr oups of individuals possible and informative. Previous attempts to address this problem have led to scholars considering religion in terms of ‘dimensions’, each representing one of the major expressions of religion. The most common is a three-dimensional structure developed by Kellstedt et al. (1993) and shown by Clements (2015) to be a powerful conceptual tool for studying religion and public opinion in Britain. First is ‘religious belonging’, which refers to someone’s identification with a religious community and the institutional framework it provides for social networks and shared beliefs (e.g. identifying as ‘Catholic’). Second is ‘religious behaviour’, which refers to activity that expresses one’s religious beliefs or is connected to one’s religious community (e.g. attending religious services). Thud is ‘religious belief’, which refers to the beliefs that one holds based on their religious values, and the strength with which they are held (e.g. belief in God). The advantage of this dimensional approach is that it allows for considerable variation to be expressed in how a given individual’s religion may manifest in their social identities and networks, behaviour and beliefs, while being based on traits that are fairly easy to measure in social surveys and being straightforward enough so as to be informative. Throughout this book, we ttse thistlrree-dimensional approach wherever possible, examining how religious belonging, behaviour and belief are related to Euroscepticism and voting behaviour.

 
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