FENN, Richard K., org. The Blackwell Companion to Sociology of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, 292-305.


Religion as Diffusion of Values. "Diffused Religion" in the Context of a Dominant Religious Institution: The Italian Case
Roberto Cipriani

There has been m uch discussion concerning possible definitions of religion. Gen­ erally a distinction is made between a substantive and a functional approach. The substantive approach may be exemplified by Durkheim (1995) when he speaks of “beliefs and practices” as the ground of the “moral comm unity” called a “church.” Luckmann (1967) is said to demonstrate the functional approach when he refers to “symbolic universes” as “socially objectified systems of m eaning” by way of “social processes” considered as “fundamentally religious,” “which lead to the formation of the Ego” and the “transcendence of biological nature.” However, when we make a thorough exploration of Durkheim’s and Luckmann’s writings, we observe that Durkheim is also alive to function (reli­ gion helps solidarity), and that Luckmann is not concerned only with function (religion is a conception of the world made up of specific contents). Thus in reality those quoted as exemplary champions of one or the other perspective emerge as more open to less rigid, more polyvalent formulations. In short, content and function are inseparable, and should be considered as a unique whole which permits the realization of m uch more complex and interconnected analytical and interpretative procedures. For example, we m ight start from the idea that the metaempirical referent in attributing meaning to hum an existence is a particular characteristic of reli­ gion. At the same time, however, it is sensible to leave an opening for responses that do not envisage an explicit referral to the dimension of the empirical non­ verifiability and the inaccessibility of direct experience. Thus, a metaempirical referent would possess a merely indicative character, or, in Blumer’s (1954) term that of “sensitizing.”

key concepts. and ritual procedures. (Cipriani 1 9 9 7 a:1 5 ) From Diffused Religion to Religion of Values Certainly. To say one belongs to a particular religion means essentially to share its general principles. following a reading with more stratified dynamics . the presence of values is a constant both in the historic religions. more deeply rooted at the cultural level. th e canalizing of a n o n -h u m a n presence w ithin reality. and ideological inclinations which watch over the personal and interpersonal actions of individuals and make them reasonable. power). legitimate executive roles (real. those who no longer prac­ tice religion and m ay be ever less believers retain a kind of imprinting which cannot easily be erased. Indeed. It is ra th e r as th o u g h we were to look at th e sam e object from two different view­ points.R E L I G I O N AS D I F F U S I O N OF VAL UE S 293 In this way there is no conflict between th e tran scen d en t level an d th a t of the real. They are not in opposition an d indeed at times they m ay con­ verge on the same conclusion . basic choices. The Berger and Luckmann (1966) teaching in this regard remains authoritative: in fact. every performance of a ritual has multiple functions. and the challenges faced. which is thus endowed with a religious character that is hard to lose. but above all focuses the total values promoted and diffused by a particular religion through its members: the more these participate. the more they become con­ vinced their choice was correct. with socioindividual involvement. parameters of reference. and deepen value-based motivations. the experience of religious prac­ tice (and belief) forms of its own accord an ideal. the social construction of reality is the basis from which the value system branches out. socially relevant. These values represent idealistic motives. a circuitry that directs social action and rests on an objectified and historicized worldview. Thus. The latter allow membership to become visible. and in the new religious movements still in a phase of growth and recomposition. reinforce belonging. life history. The ultimate meaning of life itself is clearly written therein and ori­ entates attitudes and behaviors. and sociologically classifiable.the u nderstanding-explanation of life in a religious key. it m ay now be more convenient to aim at disarticulating religious phenomenology from within. utility (also in “rational choice” terms). not merely sym­ bolic. Undoubtedly m uch is owed to prim ary (essentially family) socialization rather than to secondary (school and friendship within peer groups) socialization. Every religious experience involves dedication to a cause or an ideal. which is more or less marked according to the indi­ viduals’ intentions. However. encounters. The latter effect is so portentous that it remains in a weakened condition even without further continuing participation. permit encounters with coreligionists. basic ideas. In other words. and which presents them as disaffected members with continuing meaningful links to the former reference group. One vision does not exclude the other. value-laden habitus which tends to persist far beyond visible religiosity. opportu­ nities offered.

Meanwhile the anti-institutional spirit has lessened. Indeed. in specific or vague ways) to a w idespread model of religious socialization (based prevalently on patterns of Catholic reference). In practice it is not clear that there is only church religion and invisible religion a la Luckmann (1967). linked to church structures and quite visible in its forms. On the other hand. London): besides the interests an d pressures com ing from ecclesiastical sources. I should clarify what we originally intended to investigate in our research. While the preponderant influence of official Catholicism has waned. Jehovah’s Witnesses. given that the Catholic Church is the institution least contested by Italian citizens. however. (Cipriani 19 84 :3 2) The starting point was thus represented by the influence of Catholic religion on politics in Italy. Secondly. Only Judaism has managed on a few special occasions to have its celebrations and customs recognized. circles m uch wider than politics. because it became increasingly possible to show that such influ­ ence involved. after nearly 20 years it can be asserted that the weight of religion in m atters regarding deci­ sions of a party and government nature has been reduced. having started from the concept of “diffused religion” referring mainly to links with the political dimension. and involves. we m ust ask ourselves w hether in practice religious influence in political choices concerns only Catholi­ cism (or Christianity) or any religious expression in general. defined in terms of visibility and invisibility. The ability of Muslims. but remains quite solid as regards society in general. This is an alternative to distinguishing to the utmost between traditional religiosity. privatized. and others to gain a hearing at a political level is negligible. Thirdly. In fact. it is im po rtan t to verify first of all h ow the institution fares under the pressure of a n extended “religious field” co ntaining varied an d attractive options.294 ROBERTO C I P R I A N I and multiple facets. This was a fortuitous indicator that showed itself to be very illuminating. and thus less visible religiosity. the connection between Catholic religious values and values diffused in the social environment has been amply demonstrated. we m u st see w hether the c o u n try ’s history or its n atio n al culture m ark the existence of fixed elements. including anti-institutional purposes. bearing com m on values leading (directly or indirectly. who moreover assign it a noteworthy portion of their taxes (0. we m ay propose another hypothetical solution which envisages intermediate categories to the two extremes.8% of taxable income). on the other. and a more individualized. In m any instances the two are superimposed. An initial post-Luckmann interpretation was articulated in 1983 and applied to the Italian situation during the International Conference of Sociology of Reli­ gion (held at Bedford College. Before going further. are there any other premises or factors w hich ca n explain religious bearing on Italian poli­ tics? In particular. Rather. on the one hand. other religious confessions have not replaced it. . if not wholly identical. we then arrived at a conception of religion in Italy as a web of value elements directly derived from the baggage of Catholic socialization.

In itself church religion should also be basic to the origin of diffused religion itself.ap a rt from th e intents of socalled c h u rc h religion . for reasons of exposition and to avoid m isun­ derstandings. The best proof of this is . These characteristics of diffused religion make it a nonautocratic experience. as regards diffused religion’s diversifi­ cation as compared to institutional Catholic religion. and it has been enriched gradually.we ca n rem a rk th e spread of other creeds (the easy proselytism of other Christian churches. from the outset. (Cipriani 19 84 :3 2 ) First of all. pastoral and evangelizing activity carried out in a systematic way in the area by priests and their lay parish workers moves in. open to other options. careless of the theologicodoctrinal boundaries between manifold confessional memberships. which make membership of the prevalent religion compelling and almost insurmountable. . given th a t . in this research. of the “Jehovah’s W itnesses. the family and community involvement. and they do not contest others over viewpoints that cannot always be shared. sometimes in fact it is in open co ntrast w ith c h u rc h reli­ gion on religious m otivation (cf. Moreover. However. In reality. Where socialization does not arrive within the family home. by new varia­ tions on the theme.).rootedness of the religion most practiced in Italy. it is still valid to claim that diffused religion concerns broad strata of the Italian population. to be decon­ structed. it h as become w ide­ spread. the practice of habit.” of “sects” of oriental origin etc . the most relevant aspect is still the strong historico-geographical and thus cultural . it is diffused in th a t it comprises vast sections of the Italian population an d goes beyond the simple limits of c h u rc h religion. The subjects of diffused religion are little inclined to join battle in the nam e of their ideal referents. it is preferable to regard it as a category by itself. As a final outcome. Besides. an d also because it represents a param eter w hich ca n be referred to w ith regard to m oral a n d /o r political choices. It is pre­ cisely the strength of tradition. it is also diffused for. this should be stressed from a sociological point of view so as to determine the differences between orthodox and heterodox modes in relation to the official Catholic model. it is licit to think of religion as being “diffused” th ro u g h the acceptance of other indi­ vidual or group religious experience. on the basis of attitudinal and behavioral differences of the subjects interviewed (usually grouped together according to stratification derived from cluster analysis). be it w eak or latent). it is both diffused in an d diffused by. the existence of a religious basis. the in tern al dissension w ithin Catholicism on occasion of the referendum on divorce an d abortion).R E L I G I O N AS D I F F U S I O N OF VAL UE S 295 The leading concept.far from disproving this hypothesis . The premises for the present “diffused religion” have been laid dow n in the course of centuries. without distortion. if required. First of all. as well as the trend tow ards ethical a n d /o r political choices (an eventual conflict .confirms. since it h as been show n to be a historical a n d cu ltural result of the almost bi-millennial presence of the Catholic institution in Italy an d of its socializing and legitimizing action. However. In fact. In brief terms. is th a t of “diffused religion. Catholicism is dif­ fused in every part of the country by means of a church structure well-equipped over time and particularly able to draw on its effective know-how. More than one study has established this conviction over time.” The term “dif­ fused” is to be understood in a t least a double sense. .

which thus generates what is different from itself. either because of increased sepa­ rateness or because of a w eakening of the basic ideological nucleus. The greater freedom in putting ourselves outside the church permits spaces for action otherwise prohibited. R ather th a n the dynam ics of accelerated religious transform ation. (Cipriani 1 9 8 4 :3 2 -3 ) . (Cipriani 1984 :32 ) We might even speak of diffused religion as a perverse effect of the dominant religious system. political inclinations. this w idespread religious dim ension ends up by differing from th e system it derives from (the institution). almost bordering on total absence of socioreligious indicators). In a broad sense. to be seen if the future generations will m a in ta in such a religious form w hich becomes m ore an d m ore socially diluted to the extent of losing all influence on politics. however. nor yet a clear link of diffused religion to church religion. this provokes a certain stagnation. the underlying echo rem ains persistent an d pervasive. W h at “diffused religion” consists of can be understood even by m ean s of its pecu­ liarities. It is easy to presum e th a t the w idespread model of “diffused religion” is different from th a t of its source of origin. It rem ains. In this way. Even w ith in the prevailing passivity. cover all existing spheres. it reaches degrees of freedom w hich the concentrated a n d centralized p attern of c h u rc h religion w ould not favor. particularly the Christian ones. Thus reemerges the link w ith processes of socialization. The fragm entation of the areas of diffusion an d distribution cannot. At this stage “diffused religion” appears ra th e r u nd er false pretenses: as a feeling. however. its presence is clearly visible in forms w hich are not as evident as ch u rc h religion. however. though in reality it manifests that peculiarity of partly relating to church religion by way of participation in liturgical practices and religious rites. there is no clear opposition. M eanwhile.296 ROBERTO C I P R I A N I provided by the easy proselytism effected by other religious groups and move­ ments that have arrived in Italy. all aspects are not equally w idespread a n d rea ch vague. they mingle. This diffusiveness broad­ ens foreseeably into complex an d multiple options (especially political options: from extrem e right to extrem e left). a sensation w hich “co n tam in ate s” both th e religious an d political fields. they disperse. even though in continuity with it. It is th u s a “passive” religion w hich m ay become active again in specific circum stances. Consequently. though not only these. original religious co ntents dim in­ ish an d lose their intensity. th a t is. it penetrates large groups of persons. they are integrated in new syntheses. This visibility m ay appear som ehow interm ittent. and partly to a “semimembership” or even nonmembership (in its most peripheral forms. Another piece of evidence can be found in ethical and. (Cipriani 19 84 :3 2 ) Thus diffused religion also runs the risk of being classified as an “invisible reli­ gion” sui generis. undefined limits w hich empirically are difficult to define. this expansion also causes a certain lack of positive reac­ tions w ith respect to the center of propulsion. especially in the past. b u t w hich are no t totally invalidated. In short.

the whole ideological party spectrum has its followers distributed among the three large areas of dif­ fused religion. (Cipriani 1 98 9 :2 4 ) The fact is that while the contents of diffused religion change almost impercep­ tibly. the area of strictly religious ones seems to be narrowing. At the level of values. 1995) and the most recent one. hones its instruments of empirical research. doubts. Usually. and the third is situated on the margins of the continuum between church religion and diffused religion. The problem of change within diffused religion was posed some years ago. but there is an increase in the area of lay principles . or scientific curiosity about w h at h as been happening to m ore th a n 50 million citizens. digs deeper into reality and searches for verifications and falsifications of its guiding hypotheses. it has been argued that relations between the Catholic Church and the Italian state. The fact is th a t one finds oneself in the p resent situation alm ost naturally.from the Sicilian study on “the religion of values” (Cipriani 1992) to the major national research on “religiosity in Italy” (Cesareo et al. Until the end of the 1980s. In fact: even for someone w ho has always kept his sociological interest in c u rre n t events alive. the second departs partially from it. political. consider the diatribes of the 1970s and 1980s on divorce and abortion. there were no scientific results available provid­ ing adequate reliability as products of serious. Indeed. thus excluding the extreme right.” is still awaiting publication. It was thus in the wake of the questions raised by theorizing about diffused religion that a fruitful season of field research began . It thus seems that diffused religion is destined to remain inert. .lay but vaguely inspired by. w itho ut even letting questions. it is not easy to disentangle the guiding threads of the social. and religious dynam ics w hich have characterized Italy in th e last two decades. on an international level and with a com­ parison between Europe and the United States on “religious and moral plural­ ism. it cannot easily be catalogued using homogeneous indicators. The members of these classes of diffused religion prefer solutions running from the right to the extreme left. as is shown by a study carried out in Rome in 1 994-5 (Cipriani 1997b). or capable of drawing inspiration from. the sociological approach also mutates. as th o u g h it h ad been expected. orthodox religious models. though its greatest attraction lies in relation to ongoing socialization. diffused religion is not present in every case and every context. cluster analysis outlines three levels of diffused religion: the first seems closest to church religion. from the m id-1960s to the threshold of th e 1990s. For the past. though they have not wholly disappeared as a strategic point for examining the interinstitutional political-religious link based on citizens’ interest in problems of a legislative kind. Especially during the last decade. at the mercy of other confes­ sions. break the surface.R E L I G I O N AS D I F F U S I O N OF VAL UE S 297 Despite its pervasion. If we look particularly at political placement. thorough representative studies at that statistical level in relation to the whole of Italy. are no longer a key test of the ability of the dom inant religion to influence Italian political affairs.

ra th e r th a n bearing witness to th e presence of a process of laicization in a religiously oriented society. refuse to reject com ­ pletely certain basic principles w hich form p a rt of th e set of values prom oted by Catholicism. To some extent it is diffused religion itself that also represents a kind of functional substitute for divergence from the eccle­ siastical structure. thanks to its prior socializing activity. diffused religiosity th e n becomes the d om in an t religious dim ension for all those who. it refers to citizens w ho appear to be less th a n completely obedient to the direc­ tives of the Catholic hierarchy b u t who. do no t thereby aban do n their need for m eaningfulness. diffused religiosity. th o u g h not m a n ­ aging to accept these dim ensions of the sacred cosmos w hich are m ore rem ote and provocative com pared w ith the ratio nal vision of the world. on the same terrain of social action. taking its lead from the jubilee program. (19 85 :7 9) . 1985. a close adherence to orthodoxy and orthopractice as taught by the Catholic Church. legitimated agreement which has now lasted over 70 years. There is no longer. even though the real base remains Catholic. The movement defined as Catholic contestation has also long ago shipped its oars and seems now reduced to a sporadic attempt at dissent as regards the Establishment . there runs a large part of decisions for enactm ent by social subjects. seems to en h a n ce the perm anence of the sacred in the secularized society. thanks to primary socialization in the initial phases of life. Once the major questions on the diplomatic level had been regulated solemnly on February 18. In the im m an e n t dim ension of individual everyday existence. which renewed the Concordat of 1929 between the Italian state and the Vatican hierarchy. intervening in a mediated way. This differentiation appears through other ways of believing and practicing. if there ever was. although the essential param eter remains Catholicism as the ideology determining perspective. It should thus be stressed that: “diffused religion” refers to th e characteristic conduct of believers w ho have received at least a Catholic education an d w ho relate to it in a general sense. im m ersed in the secular reality of contem porary society. As Calvaruso and Abbruzzese emphasize. In fact. (Cipriani 1 98 9 :2 8 ) The essential core of diffused religion is to be found precisely in those sets of values that are the basis for the sharing of outlook and practices that bring together Catholics and non-Catholics. believers and nonbelievers. It is precisely this which permits collaboration between the Italian state and the Catholic Church without major disturbance and indeed with a formal.298 ROBERTO C I P R I A N I which are not comparable to the current one on financing Catholic schools.unless the Holy Year of 2000 provides new possibilities for a recovery of a critical kind. The ecclesiastical Establishment stays in the background. the so-called “Catholic question” seems to have lost its bite and its interest. 1984 and by law on 20 May. on the other hand. through this cultural mediation of shared values. In fact.

Cluster analysis w as used to identify six different groupings: religious (church) acritical. religious (diverging from the church) critical. church attendance. however. We can discover these links between the social and the religious. This appears to refute the theory of secularization. an d not religious. the variables in “diffused religion” are. despite the constancy of the chief frame of reference. an d th e objective was to illum inate the concept of “diffused religion” as observed in the presence of com m on social values w hich tend to unify behavior an d attitude deriving from both th e religious an d lay perspectives. The results were compiled from the com ­ pleted questionnaires of 719 subjects. “diffused religion lacks the kind of clear-cut characteristics which would be visible in. an expression which is meaningful as a distancing from church religion. which is due. between implementation in the every­ day and the context of origin by way of certain value indicators. They are achieved on levels determ ined by the dialectic between the basic values of prim ary an d secondary legitimation an d th e “different” ones w hich appear on th e horizon in the long confrontation w ith other ideological perspectives. for example. However.” (Calvaruso an d Abbruzzese 19 85 :8 0 ) In particular. (Cipriani 1 99 3 :9 1 ) . but it works through long-range conditioning. In fact diffused religiosity is located in a n interm ediate area between a secular society in crisis an d a resum ption of the ecclesiastical adm inistration of the sacred. The “n e w ” value is in tern al­ ized bu t alm ost never taken up in a wholly pure form or according to a form ula th a t could totally replace the previous perspective.R E L I G I O N AS D I F F U S I O N OF VAL UE S 299 Thus diffused religion appears as an antidote to the process of secularization of which it is. religious (critical an d distancing self from the church). religious (diffused) as a condition. and to which there is a corresponding kind of ‘mass loyalty’ of a new type” (Cipriani 1989:46). at the same time. despite the effect of increased distance betw een people an d institutionalized religion. to mass religious socialization. The new way of seeing reality. by contrast. religious (church) critical. T he starting point for the research is the hypothesis th a t Catholicism (as the dom in an t religion) pervades m any sectors of social life an d m aintains its influence over com m on values. th e result of the collision-encounter betw een w h at already exists an d w h at is still in th e process of becoming. m ore changeable according to the syntheses w hich it produces from time to time. It rem ains too “lay” to accept th e m ore specific elem ents of ch u rc h doctrine an d too m u c h in need of m eaning to survive in a n epoch w hich is “w ith o u t God and w ith o u t p rophets. above all. is. the different Weltanschauung. A particular example of this is provided by a piece of em pirical research conducted in Sicily by m eans of questioning a group of people selected by statistical sampling. (Cipriani 19 89 :2 9 ) Diffused religion is thus quite dynamic as regards its development.

1 shows the general data from the study. since they have been diffused chiefly through prim ary and. whilst in the functional sense the task of religion. espe­ cially when it appears prevalently in a particular historicogeographical frame­ work. the conclusion is that religion can be defined as a mode of trans­ mission and diffusion of values. that it performs especially this functional task and does so efficiently.0%) (36. along with all forms of critical religion. As we shall attempt to show later. is that of providing key linkage points for community life. commencing with education received up to the age of 18. we have argued that the religion of values embraces the central categories of table 16.1. In essence. In the substantive sense the constituent elements of a religion are the values it teaches and propagates. Thus we resolve the polemic between substantive and functional definitions. and the “rational choices” to be made in the light of established guidelines. it is reasonable to m aintain that we are faced not only with a religion based on values largely shared. 101 261 79 190 47 41 (14. being based on shared values which are represented essentially by choices acted upon (to a m aximum of four responses) by those interviewed in terms of guiding principles of their life. and then to a religion compounded of values. Thus the framework of noninstitutional religion appears m uch broader. As can easily be deduced from table 16. On the basis of these results. profane.3%) (11. reflecting different value elements. and to be brought to life in everyday life and basic existential choices. we have gone from a dominant church religion to a majoritarian diffused religion.4%) (6. social action.” and thus includes both a part of church religion (the less indulgent part) and the whole gamut of diffused religion.0%) (26. secondary socialization. but that these very values can be seen in them ­ selves as a kind of religion. .5%) (5. This religion has lay.1 Groupings Numbers in each grouping Religious (church) acritical Religious (church) critical Religious (diverging from the church) critical Religious (diffused) as a condition Religious (distancing self from church) critical Nonreligious Total Source: Cipriani 1992.300 ROBERTO C I P R I A N I Table 16.8%) 719 (100%) Table 16. secular threads. later. In particular the area that can be ascribed to the religion of values runs from the category defined as “religious (church) critical” to that described as “religious (distancing self from church) critical. indeed.2.

7%) (14. religion. even though it is heavily secularized. secular impulses seem also to have exhausted their impetus. this has only involved secondary. Between religiosity an d secularization there seems to reign alm ost a tacit compromise. probity Faith in God Respect for others Having a clear conscience Attachm ent to work Friendship.6%) (32. . 2000.6%) (9. especially at th e level of ritual.2 Values of respondents Particularistic values Attachm ent to the family Love of one’s children Good use of money Managing by oneself Earning a lot Universal values Honesty. (Cipriani 1 9 9 4 :2 7 7 ) The case of Rome.3%) (9. The trajectory of religiosity is n o t set tow ards definitive extinction. w hich never really stopped playing its p a rt in society. In fact.2%) (16. whilst in the reality of the ch u rc h an d of religious culture we see a pro­ gressive su rren der to dem ands th a t are less orthodox from th e viewpoint of the official model. with a hegemonic position. pre­ ordained services h as no t th u s m e an t the end of every resort to th e sacred.5%) (74.8%) (13. Simultaneously. w hich tends to rem ain in essence m ore or less stable.6%) (18. described as the Holy City par excellence. Their efficacy now affects only th e less fun dam ental aspects of belief. ex ternal an d formal aspects.7%) (29. has reap­ peared beneath th e surface of secularization. the meetingplace of universal import for millions of pilgrims in the jubilee year.2%) (4.4%) Content and Function of Religion Our reading of the Italian situation is largely applicable to those social realities where a specific religious confession is conspicuously present and active in the area. They are reinforced an d w eaken virtually in unison.0%) (53. solidarity Being content with little Generosity. The world capital of Catholicism. Aspects steeped in religion continue (or retu rn ) to m anifest themselves in secular reality.6%) (13. is emblematic.---------------------- R E L I G I O N AS D I F F U S I O N OF VALUES 3 01 Table 16. 450 232 69 66 32 532 386 213 131 120 105 99 96 (62. Even if we adm it th a t there h a s been a significant occlusion. charity Source: Cipriani 1992. The decline in participation at official.

so religion lies not wholly in ritualism. if Rome is not by any means a city of m any practitioners. or religiously indifferent people (however.1% to diffused or modal religion. once a week. guided by the law of God. 32% of the sample could be classified as belonging to church religion. and exclusively in the law of God for 22. On the level of values lived with satisfaction. 1995:180): in individual conscience alone in 36% of those sampled. 59. In practice. 1995). According to the results of the cluster analysis. A double religion is the result: a m ajority an d a m inority religion. divergent yet parallel. and 8. The religious future of the city seems destined to proceed along these two parts. Essentially. on the contrary. The capital of Italy manifests in a heightened m anner some of the characteristics revealed in the 1 994-5 study on “religiosity in Italy” through a national sample (Cesareo et al. stands at 23. but it confirms the image of religiosity dif­ fused but fractal. This means that there is at once slight attachm ent to practice and a broad interest in prayer. The Italian m inority religion is for those w ho identify w ith the c h u rc h quite closely a n d also involve themselves significantly in religious practices. (Cipriani 1 9 9 4 :2 8 1 ) This majority religion is rooted in the individual conscience.9% to no religion. with heterogeneous outlines.4 percent of those interviewed in a systematic sample of 4. in a year a mere 7.3 percent of those interviewed . it should be noted that 21. lacks these ch a ra c ­ teristics. The overall picture is a varied one. tattered. The m ajority religion. That which is described as regular. a tie. the Romans’ religion is two-sided: on the one hand it appears imbued with a dramatic crisis.5% of those interviewed.1%. Yet the num ber who pray is significant . like the 32% who do so one or more times every day. according to 40. For example. free and removed from social control.1% never go to mass. followed by working honestly and with commitment (68%) and having friends (38%).3% (Cipriani 1997b). the most frequent link with divinity runs through prayer. though with certain essential dif­ ferences. we find first the family that can be depended upon (73% of the sample). that of recourse to prayer may have a more spontaneous character.show no sign of reli­ giosity at all).71. In this regard we might argue that whereas practice of the festal mass is linked more to church religion.6 percent had made or satisfied a vow. on the other it seems quite lively (though at a due dis­ tance from the habits of the official church). a direct conversation. a sensitivity at the religious level.9%) and some m uch more often. .302 ROBERTO C I P R I A N I manifests rather low levels of religious practice. neither is it one with m any atheists. but nonetheless an index that reveals a belief.6 percent had taken part in pilgrimages and 13. A smaller response was obtained as regards devotion to others (25%) and commitment to changing society (22%). Rather. agnostics. Some turn to prayer only a few times a year (14. The same m ay be said in general for Italy.500 (Cesareo et al. whilst 22. at the interpersonal level.the highest num ber in all the country . explicable also in term s of the historic presence of the Catholic ch u rc h in Italy in the past cen tu ry an d especially since the Second World War.

church and diffused or modal religion are in close relation with one another. But between minority and majority there is no break. Even more convincing. religion in the broad sense (church or diffused/modal) is largely pre­ ponderant and clearly almost all of Catholic type.117 females from 18 and upwards). especially between refle­ xive church religion (more autonomous and individualized.407 cases in noncapital centers: 97. whereby one can speak of a genuine religious continuum which involves 91.1 91.4 22.3 Groupings 1 2 3 4 5 Attitudinal and behavioral groupings Percentages 9. The proportions of Italian religiosity demonstrate the typology shown in table 16.” involving in Italy the universities of Turin.0 59. as statistically it is in practice the mode. without breaks or interrup­ tions in the religious argum ent and its content. carried out in 742 cases in provincial capital cities and in 1. the second arising from the first.5% close to it. and 6. 31.6 32.7% of daily participation in religious functions. and Rome. .1 8. Indeed it is often hard to establish the distinction between one and the other.5% said they were Catholic. less inclined to accept the directives of official ecclesiastical teaching).1% remembered that at 12 years old they went to church at least once a week.9 100. Bologna. As can be seen from the percentage of the six attitudinal and behavioral classes. 51.7% spoke of more than once a week.0 16.032 males and 1. if that is possible. and prim ary diffused or modal religion (more diversified as regards church membership). especially in the field of values. Trieste. Church religion is in a m inor­ ity percentage-wise. The Italian sampling was carried out by Doxa and involved 2.3.149 interviews (1. 1995: 146.1 percent of those interviewed. is what emerges from the more recent (March-April 1999) international comparative study on Europe and the United States on “religious and moral pluralism.2% said they were very close to the church and 45.R E L I G I O N AS D I F F U S I O N OF VAL UE S 303 Table 16. but 21.5 21.0 6 Church-oriented religion (heterodirected) Reflexive church religion (self-directed) Church religion total (1 + 2) Modal prim ary (diffused) religion Modal intermediary (diffused) religion Modal perimetric (diffused) religion Diffused or modal religion total (3 + 4 + 5) Continuing religion total (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5) No religion Overall total (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6) Source: Cesareo et al. the characteristic with the greatest frequency) is the major­ ity. and diffused religion (called modal. In fact.6 21. Padua.

Thus religion can be understood as basically an agent for diffusing values. Beyond the socializing.2 percent of those surveyed explicitly owned to belonging to a church. P. 196 6.8 percent m uch more. As for the relation between education and religion. confession. The following characteristics seem definitely established: 1 2 The essential content of religion is values. Conclusion The concept of diffused religion has often been employed over the last 15 years to test its heuristic efficacy. it is possible to move on to presenting it in other contexts in which the cen­ trality and size of a specific religious confession are characteristic. especially if we bear in mind that 35. m uch more than rituals and beliefs. Starting from an initial applicability to the Italian case. S. group.L. The Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico (1983:600) was thus correct when about three centuries ago he wrote that “religions are the only means by which m en can understand virtuous behavior and practice it. Garden City. an d Abbruzzese. H. though with differences both quantitative (once or more) and temporal (daily or during the year). the most significant result is the demonstration of the centrality of values as the base of every religious expression. consol­ ing participation in ceremonies and belief or faith in something which in socio­ logical terms escapes any empirical analysis. NY: Doubleday. Turin: SEI.2 percent said a little more. Blumer. an d L uckm ann.9 percent seemed to be m uch influenced by the education they received. it is perhaps values which serve as the master key of the religious system. The function of religion appears to be that of diffusing values.” References Berger. 195 4. The Social Construction of Reality. It should also be noted that 81. . 86. a very close link is taken for granted. “W h at is W rong w ith Social Theory?” American Sociological Review 1 9 (1 ):3 -1 0 . Calvaruso. However.304 ROBERTO C I P R I A N I Significant confirmation of satisfaction with religion comes from the judg­ m ent of whether it was more or less important: 22. Finally. Indagine sui valori in Italia. T. 1 9 8 5 . Dai postmaterialismi alla ricerca di senso [An Inquiry into Values in Italy: From Postmaterialism to the Quest for Meaning]. or religious community. and 12.4 percent said they used prayer. C.

Lanzetti. Cipriani. “ ‘Diffused religion’ an d New Values in Italy. G. R. 1 9 9 7 a. 19 89 . 2 4 . an d Rovati. C. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. R. Milan: M ondadori.. La religione dei valori.” Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions 5 8 (1 ):2 9 -5 1 . Cipriani. Poems. 1 9 9 3 . “De la religion diffuse a la religion des valeurs. Cipriani. Eds. T. Garelli. E. Durkheim. Religious Secularism a n d Secular Religions. R. New York: Free Press. “Religiosity. Manuale di sociologia della religione [Handbook of Sociology of Religion].” Social Compass 4 0 (1 ):9 1 -1 0 0 . A Survey in Central Sicily ]. Milan: Garzanti. . The Invisible Religion. Cipriani. Cipriani. Cipriani. 199 5.” in The Changing Face of Religion.. Caltanissetta-Roma: Sciascia.A. G. V. Beckford an d T. R. 1997b. R. J. 1 9 6 7 . 19 9 4 . Rome: Bulzoni. New York: Macmillan. L uckm ann. Indagine nella Sicilia centrale [Religion of Values. Rome: Borla. Vico. R. R. L uckm ann. The Transformation of Symbols in Industrial Society . La religiosita a Roma [Religiosity in Rome]. Autobiografia. Cipriani. Scienza Nuova [Autobiography. pp. F. London: Sage. The Italian Case: Diffused Religion. Cipriani. 1 9 9 2 . Poesie. 198 4. La religiosita in Italia [Religiosity in Italy].. New Science].4 8 .” International Social Science Journal 1 4 0 (Ju n e ):2 7 7 -8 4 . R. “Religion a n d Politics. 198 3. 1995.R E L I G I O N AS D I F F U S I O N OF VAL UE S 305 Cesareo.