Understanding Human Dignity. Theoretical Groundings and Empirical Findings Among the Youth in Belarus

Part of the Religion and Human Rights book series (REHU, volume 2)


Together with a comparative analysis of secular and theological approaches to human dignity, this article will present evidence from empirical research on attitudes to human dignity. The first findings from the international research project ‘Religion and Human Rights’, about the attitudes of young Belarusians (N = 458) to human dignity and their predictors, will be presented – together with attempts to discover if and how the cultural, social, and religious identity of respondents affects their distinct attitudes towards human dignity. The goal of this paper is to apply the multi-dimensional scale of human dignity suggested by Lennart Nordenfelt, and to explore the differences in attitude of Belarusian youth towards the dignity of merit, the dignity of moral stature, and inherent dignity.

In this paper, we will present an analysis of the overlapping meanings of Nordenfelt’s multi-dimensional scale of human dignity, and of various approaches to the understanding of human dignity articulated in the official documents of the Russian Orthodox Church. The differences and similarities revealed in both approaches will be used for a further exploration of empirical results: to ascertain whether the position of Belarusian youth is in consensus with the convictions of the Russian Orthodox Church on human dignity.

This research is explorative in nature; it questions the relationships between religiosity, the personal characteristics of respondents and the socialising process in the family, and attitudes towards the three kinds of human dignity: dignity of merit, dignity of moral stature, and inherent dignity. We assume that empathy and authoritarianism are personal characteristics that predict the choice of attitude towards human dignity.

The survey outcomes show that the religiosity of young people in Belarus negatively influences the human dignity of moral stature; students with a greater predisposition to authoritarianism support the dignity of merit more strongly than those with a lesser predisposition to authoritarianism; and the empathy of young Belarusians (as a personal characteristic) and the religiosity of their fathers have the strongest influence on attitudes towards inherent dignity. We also want to establish whether the empirical outcomes support our assumption concerning the predictors of choice of attitude towards moral dignity, for the adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).


Human dignity Empirical research Youth Religiosity Empathy Authoritarianism Russian Orthodox Church Belarus 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PaduaPaduaItaly
  2. 2.University of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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