Countervailing Forces: Religiosity and Paranormal Belief in Italy

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Due to the unique cultural niche inhabited by “paranormal” beliefs and experiences, social scientists have struggled to understand the relationship between religion and the paranormal. Complicating matters is the fact that extant research has primarily focused upon North America, leaving open the possible relationship between these two spheres of the supernatural in less religiously pluralistic contexts. Using data from a random, national survey of Italian citizens, we examine the nature of the relationship between religiosity and paranormal beliefs in a largely Catholic context. We find a curvilinear relationship between religiosity and paranormal beliefs among Italians, with those at the lowest and highest levels of religious participation holding lower average levels of “paranormal” belief than those with moderate religious participation. This pattern reflects how two influential social institutions, religion and science, simultaneously define the paranormal as outside of acceptable realms of inquiry and belief.