A sociologist of religion from the University of Copenhagen has interviewed 21 young patients diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer about their religious beliefs. She concludes that a cancer diagnosis will not make young people, who are not religious already, turn to religion. But it can confirm already existing beliefs.
“My research shows that young cancer patients’ views on existential issues show consistency before and after the diagnosis: Their faith and their religious practices remain the same. However, the beliefs they already had can be confirmed and strengthened — this applies both to religion and science — so the patients may feel more strongly for the beliefs they had before they were diagnosed,” explains sociologist of religion Nadja Ausker from the University of Copenhagen.
It has been a theoretical staple of sociology of religion that major religious conversions are preceded by personal crises; a person’s feelings toward religion are significantly altered when confronted with an existential crisis such as a cancer diagnosis.
But Nadja Ausker challenges this theory with her thesis “Time for a change? Negotiations of religious continuity, change, and consumption among Danish cancer patients.” In the thesis, she interviews 21 young cancer patients about the religious consequences of life crises, both shortly after the diagnosis and during treatment.
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