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No, not a typo, apparently a real thing - it's based on a Dutch word. I'd never heard of it until I just stumbled across the Wikipedia page, which defines it as:

Ietsism (Dutch: ietsisme (pronounced [itsˈɪsmə]) "somethingism") is an unspecified belief in some higher force. In some Eastern European censuses (Albanian, for example), those having ietsistic beliefs are counted as believers without religion. It is a Dutch term for a range of beliefs held by people who, on the one hand, inwardly suspect - or indeed believe - that there is 'More between Heaven and Earth' than we know about, but on the other hand do not necessarily accept or subscribe to the established belief system, dogma or view of the nature of God offered by any particular religion. Some of the English language equivalent terms are agnostic theism and deism ... The name derives from the Dutch equivalent of the question: "Do you believe in the conventional 'Christian' God?", a typical 'ietsist' answer being "No, but there must be something ("iets" in Dutch)".

The term became known in the Netherlands after the atheist political columnist Ronald Plasterk (who later served as the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science) used it in a feature for the television programme 'Buitenhof' ('Outside the Binnenhof'). But the term possibly existed already.

In October 2005, the word 'ietsisme' was included in the 14th edition of the Dutch Language Dictionary 'Dikke Van Dale', but has also recently begun to circulate among English-speakers as a loanword. More recently; the word 'ietsers' ("somethingers") has emerged in the Netherlands to describe people of this viewpoint, but this has not yet been borrowed into English.

In contrast to traditional agnostics who often hold a skeptical view about gods or other metaphysical entities (i.e. 'We can't or don't know for sure that there is a God"), 'ietsists' take a viewpoint along the lines of, 'And yet it feels like there is something out there...." ... An opinion poll conducted by the Dutch daily newspaper 'Trouw' in October 2004 indicated that some 40% of its readership felt broadly this way.

The word itself is new to me but the concept is of course as old as the hills - it's simply the believing without belonging thing again.

From casual conversations I've had over the years I think that describes very,very many people. Some of those are regular church attenders, going for the social aspect as much as anything, feeling 'there must be something' go along to wherever is handy and to enjoy a sense of fellowship and belonging "Of course I don't really believe that stuff the vicar/pastor spouts on about".

Which is why I take all census figures with a tablespoon of salt.

IvyOwl wrote:
From casual conversations I've had over the years I think that describes very,very many people.

I think you're absolutely right, but because we don't have a word for it as such (and Ietsism is still to catch on widely outside the Netherlands) it's not something that gets a lot of coverage. People who have vague beliefs and feel no need to do anything in particular to parade them are clearly always going to fly under the radar.

I do still wonder why so many people who initially think it at least plausible that there is a god of some kind attach themselves to a definite and concrete organised religion (and all the baggage thereof) rather than the alternative, though. There must be countless people who for one purpose or another label themselves Christian, but who, on further examination, don't actually hold many if any of the tenets of Christianity at all. Christianity includes theism, but theism doesn't entail Christianity. Forum Index -> All faiths and none
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