Sociologists use the term ‘religiosity’ to refer to the significance of religion within a society.
There are numerous indicators which sociologists use to measure the degree of ‘religiosity’ within society, such as the strength of religious beliefs, the number of people who actively engage in religious practices, and the amount of power religious institutions have within a society.
Indicators of ‘religiosity’
Clements 2015 notes that
“scholars of religion often analyse how faith influences individuals’ experiences, attitudes and values by looking at the three Bs: belonging (identification and membership), behaving (attendance) and believing (in God)
Belonging – this aspect of religiosity is typically measured by how many people are members of religious organisations and actually identify with formal religious institutions.
Behaving – this aspect of religiosity can be measured by the religious activities people actually engage in… such as how often they attend places of religious worship, whether they get married via a religious institution, and how often they pray in private,
Believing – this is the most subjective aspect of religiosity, and can include whether people believe in God, the afterlife, spirits etc…
Problems with measuring ‘religiosity’
Someone’s faith is largely subjective, which makes it very difficult to measure quantitatively.
Changes in religious belief and practice make religiosity difficult to measure…. now we have moved into a postmodern society, which is more individualistic, people are more likely to practice religion privately and individually, and less likely to engage with traditional religious institutions such as the Christian church – but does this shift mean society is necessarily less religious?
Sociologists disagree over how we should define religion, which will influence how religious they perceive a society to be. For example, someone who uses a substantive definition of religion, and says that a religion must involve a belief in God, would probably believe that religiosity is in decline. However, someone who uses a functional definition could argue that religiosity is just as strong as ever, it has just changed – with civil religion having taken over from ‘traditional’ religions, for example.