Accepted Paper:

Implosion of beliefs: an inner journey from theology to atheism  


Sidonia Grama (Romanian Academy, Cluj)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the dissolution of religious beliefs and the embracing of another persuasion in late life, as symptom of secularisms in Europe. It focuses on in depth life narratives of elder people from UK who have changed beliefs, scrutinizing also the inter-subjectivity of the interviewing.

Paper long abstract:

Fateful or crucial moments in life histories might trigger the reassessment of a life creed, sometimes leading to the collapse of beliefs and to changes of rituals of life and death. Although the subtly inner process could hardly be captured, in depth interviewing might be revealing for the ethnography of the implosion of beliefs. The paper explores late life reviews on long, gradual process of dissolution of religious beliefs and conversion to a humanist life stance. It focuses on the questioning mood, on doubtfulness and meaningful oblivion involved in such transitional thinking towards a new system of (dis)beliefs and (un)certainties.

How is the implosion of a personal system of reference possible, and what makes a previously religious worldview crumble? How apostasy and late life conversion to a God free persuasion happens? What such personal histories could say on a broader level, on the symptoms of secularisms, (ir)religiousness and ambivalent beliefs in Europe?

In life narratives the belief deconstruction seems intimately related to key moments of the death of significant others and fading of a figure of authority, while new ways of celebrating life and death are reinvented. The analysis focuses on life stories with elder people from UK, contrasting them with other interviews conducted in Romania and Bulgaria. It also problematizes the dialogic aspect of the interviewing and the transcultural second analysis as modes of inter-subjectivity and otherness.

Panel W112
What happens when we stop believing in/believing that?