Egbert Ribberink Peter Achterberg Dick Houtman

A post-secular turn in attitudes towards religion? Anti-religiosity and anti-Muslim sentiment in Western Europe

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Post-secular theory nowadays critiques the secularization notion that religion has increasingly become a private issue. It does so by pointing out how religion has once again become paramount to public and political debate, central to which are assertively voiced critiques of Muslims and Islam. Therefore, in this paper, we analyse cross-national survey data from Western Europe to study the attitudes of the non-religious vis-à-vis religion in general and vis-à-vis Islam in particular. Consistent with privatization theory and inconsistent with the postsecular theory, we find that the non-religious do not contest religion more in the most secular countries. As to anti-Muslim sentiment in Western Europe, however, a markedly different pattern emerges. The non-religious are more intolerant towards Muslims in the most secular countries. Rejections of Islam and of religion generally hence appear driven by different logics. Even though that clearly calls for further in-depth research, indeed anti-Muslim sentiment appears to have more in common with ethnic prejudice and xenophobia than with anti-religiosity in general.


  • Anti-Muslim Sentiment
  • Anti-Religiosity
  • Post-Secularity
  • Secularization
  • Western Europe


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