Is gratitude not religious

Life without faith"Atheists too have a worldview"

Monika Dittrich: Ms. Schnell, you are currently doing a large study on non-denominational identities, as it says there. Tell us what exactly do you want to find out?

Tatjana Schnell: We would like to know what those who were previously considered to be virtually devoid of a worldview, what attitudes and values ​​exist here.

Dittrich: What do we know so far about these people without religious affiliation?

Fast: In social research they were excluded for a long time, the assumption was made that whoever is not religious is nothing and nothing is simply very difficult to investigate. That is why there are very few studies here, we carried out one seven or eight years ago where we interviewed convinced atheists and there we saw, for example, that there is already a great deal of diversity within this very narrowly defined group, so above all with regard to the sense of purpose. We found some there who lived very self-centeredly but saw little meaning in their life, others who were very broad and named completely different sources of meaning. And now we would like to take a closer look at what kind of diversity there is in these worldviews that we have in our society.

Pastoral care for people without denomination

Dittrich: What sources of meaning you are talking about could that be?

Fast: We have a lot of possibilities, as we have seen in empirical research on meaning: On the one hand, there is the possibility in oneself to find meaning in one's own potentials and strengths, which is something like performance and creativity, but meaning is more likely to arise then , if we also do things that are not only related to us, that means on the one hand in relationships and in community and on the other hand in self-transgression, which can also happen horizontally, as we call it, within this world, through social things Commitment, closeness to nature and so on.

Dittrich: Then what role does spirituality play?

Fast: First of all, spirituality is very difficult to define, we have spirituality as a central characteristic of religiosity, so actually all religious people also describe themselves as spiritual, but now there are also many voices of non-denominational people who say, well, we are also spiritual . Because here the point is that we are not pure matter, that spirituality plays a role, that, for example, we perceive the world in its complexity and beauty and there can also perceive something like awe and gratitude.

Dittrich: Now you are doing this current study - this is a comparative study in several European countries - do you expect different results for the countries, ie Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark?

Fast: That fits very well with the post (about the knowledge bar) we just heard. Because even people who do not belong to any denomination are happy when, for example, they receive something like pastoral care in times of illness or there are offers in the palliative sector and also in the education sector and all of this is much more natural in the Netherlands and Denmark. In Germany it is slowly happening, in Austria it is still very different, so we expect here that people who are non-denominational will probably perceive themselves differently in society, depending on how strongly they are heard.

Dittrich: We have also made the link to the online questionnaire available on our website, at, you can take part in it until the end of December. How do you actually ensure that they are actually convinced non-denominationalists and atheists who then take part?

Fast: So actually everyone is allowed to participate first, of course we then ask, do you belong to a religious community and how spiritual or religious do you see yourself. And so we will then be able to use the data to see who took part here and to compare people with one another.

Dittrich: How many people do you think will be attending? How many do you have in your bag?

Fast: This is going very well so far, we already have over a thousand complete questionnaires and we hope that there will be a few hundred more.

Atheists speak up

Dittrich: As you said before, what you are doing is fairly new - the attitudes of non-denominational people have hardly been explored. Why is that so, what is the reason?

Fast: Religion is something that can be ascribed to a person, that one can investigate, and if this religiosity is not there, then it has long been assumed that there is nothing else instead, but lately more and more atheists have become Word reported and said, we also have a dedicated worldview, we have a position that represents a counter-draft or an alternative to the religious worldview, and as a result, it has come more to the fore that we see that this is not just nothing, To live without denomination, there are also certain attitudes and values ​​behind it, but we do not yet know how they differ, depending on the organization or depending on the name and that is what interests us.

Dittrich: When we talk about the multi-religious society, especially in these times when we are experiencing in Germany, but also in Austria, that many Muslims come to us, what place could or should the non-denominational take?

Fast: It seems to me that because of the fact that many Muslims who live their faith very convincingly, this topic of religion has come into consciousness again in our society. We had settled down in a relative indifference, thought we all believe the same anyway, we are an enlightened society and now people are coming who live a very convinced religiosity, who then challenge Christianity again to position itself and thus of course also make it clear to those who cannot agree to Christianity to locate themselves and to say that we have a different opinion and that should also be heard, please. Therefore, through this development, I believe that this worldview is brought into society in a completely different way.

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