Religion, Ethnic Intolerance and Homophobia in Europe- A Multilevel Analysis Across 47 Countries

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Stefanie Doebler


The University of Manchester, Stefanie Doebler, Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD); Title: Religion, Ethnic Intolerance and Homophobia in Europe - A Multilevel Analysis Across 47 Countries; Manchester, 3 September 2013:This thesis is a multilevel analysis of relationships between religion, intolerance towards ethnic out-groups and homophobia across 47 European countries based on European Values Study data (EVS 2010, wave 4).The analysis accounts for associations between the religiosity of individuals and their likelihood of being disinclined to accept people of a different race, immigrants and homosexuals as neighbours, or to accept homosexual behaviour as justifiable. Secondly, relationships between religious and socio-economic national contexts on the two forms of intolerance are studied. Religion is conceptualised as a three-dimensional phenomenon, thus a distinction is made between believing, belonging and religious practice. The main research question motivating the individual-level analysis is: To what extent is religion in Europe associated with intolerance towards ethnic out-groups and homosexuals? The research question of the contextual analysis is: How do the national religious, socio-economic and political contexts citizens live in matter for their tolerance towards out-groups? The key results of the analyses can be summarised as follows: religion is significantly related to both ethnic intolerance and homophobia. Believing in a Higher Power was found to be strongly negatively and fundamentalism strongly positively related to ethnic intolerance in most countries. Religious devoutness and observance, on the other hand, are positively related to ethnic intolerance only in a minority of mostly South-Eastern European countries. All of them have legacies of ethno-religious conflict, poverty and political instability. High religiosity, alongside poverty, nationalism and right-wing authoritarianism are strong predictors of ethnic prejudice in these contexts. In most of Europe, however, neither religious belonging nor religious practice is statistically significantly related to ethnic intolerance.Regarding homophobia, strong positive relationships with all three dimensions of religiosity were found. Contrary to the author's expectation, religion matters most for the citizens' dislike of homosexuals in Western European countries where the overall levels of homophobia are comparatively low. In large parts of post-communist Eastern Europe homophobia appears to have a secular face. The finding surprises, given the frequent utilisations of Orthodox and Catholic Christian symbolism that could be observed at public protests against eastern European gay pride parades of the last couple of years. Plausible explanations are explored alongside modernisation- and identity theory: religion has less impact on homophobic attitudes in societies where homophobia is generally more socially acceptable, while in highly modernised Western societies, where liberal values and a general acceptance of homosexuality are prevalent, religious fundamentalism appears to be strongly associated with anti-modern and traditionalistic identities that are exclusive towards out-groups.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2013