Existential security theory

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  • Alternative View: secularisation & security
    • Norris & Inglehart (2011) reject RMT due to only applying to America & failing to explain variations in religiosity between different societies
    • Existential Security Theory
      • Reasons for variations in religiosity is due to different degrees of existential security
        • This means 'the feeling that survival is secure enough that it can be taken for granted'
      • Religions meets a need for security, therefore societies where people already feel secure have low level of demand for religion
        • Poor Societies - people face life threatening risks so have high levels of insecurity & high levels of religiosity
        • Rich Societies - where people have high standratd of living & are at less risk have greater sense of security & low levels of religiosity
    • Europe vs America
      • In Western Europe, the trend is towards increasing secularisation
        • Norris & inglehart argue this isn't surprising as they are among the most equal & secure in the world
          • Have well developed welfare states offering comprehensive health care, social services & pensions
            • Reduces poverty & protects lower classes from poverty
      • Comparison with Europe, the US remains much more religious
        • Norris & Inglehart argue this is because America is also the most unequal of the rich societies
          • 'Dog eat dog' values & inadequate welfare
            • Creates high levels of poverty & insecurity which increases need for religion
    • State welfare & Religiosity
      • Norris & Inglehart's argument is supported by Gill & Lundegaarder (2004)
        • They found that the more a country spends on welfare, the lower the level of religious participation
      • Gill & Lundegaarde note that in the past  religion use to provide welfare for the poor & still does in poorer countries
      • However, don't expect religion to decline completely because although welfare provision provides security it doesn't answer 'ultimate' questions
    • Evaluation
      • Vasquez (2007) accepts that Norris & Inglehart offer a valuable explanation of different levels of religious participation globally
        • However makes two criticisms:
          • They only use quantitative data about income levels & they don't examine people's own definitions of 'existential security'
            • Argues qualitative data is also needed
          • They only see religion as a negative response to deprivation
            • They ignoire the positive reasons people have for religious participation & the appeal some religions have for the wealthy


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