From Lutheran Dominance to Diversity
Religion in Finnish Newspapers 1946–2018
Keywords:religion, newspaper, media, Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, the Lutheran Church, diversity, secularism, quantitative content analysis
This article examines religion in Finnish newspapers, arguing that
religion-related discourses have changed from one of Lutheran dominance to one of diversity. The main data consists of a longitudinal
sample (1946–2016) of the most popular Finnish newspaper, Helsingin
Sanomat, and especially of its editorials and readers’ letters. Additional
data covers a wider variety of newspapers from the 1990s to 2018. The
data is analysed using quantitative content analysis and a discursive
approach. It will be suggested that it is possible to discuss diversity
both as an emergent discourse and a theme in the Finnish media since
the mid-1990s, thereby overcoming earlier frameworks that took Lutheranism for granted or gave it a special role in the private sphere.
The analysis shows that these shifts do not provide clear support for
the idea that newspapers and journalism are anti-religious; rather, it
suggests that they may be understood as having a ‘liberalizing’ effect,
especially when religious values are not seen as compatible with those
of journalists and newspapers.
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