Explanations for secularisation

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  • Created by: charl_w
  • Created on: 22-02-16 13:07
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  • Explanations of secularisation
    • Max Weber: Rationalisation
      • Rationalisation is the process by which rational thinking and acting replace religious ones.
      • Max Weber (1905) argues western societies has undergone a process of rationalisation in the last few centuries.
      • The 16th century protestant reformation undermined the religious worldview of the middle ages, replacing it with a modern rational, scientific outlook.
      • The medieval catholic worldview saw the world as 'enchanted' in which God changed the course of events through supernatural powers.
      • Disenchantment
        • The protestant reformation brought a new worldview that saw God as existing outside the world but not intervening in it.
          • The world had become disenchanted- left to run according to the laws of nature.
            • Events were no longer explained as unpredictable supernatural beings but as predictable workings of natural forces.
            • Through reason and science, humans could discover the law of nature, and understand and predict how the world works.
              • Religious explanations were no longer needed.This enabled science to develop giving humans more power to control nature.
                • This further undermining the religious worldview.
      • A technological worldview
        • Bruce argues that a technological worldview has replaced religious explanations of why things happen.
        • Religious worldview only survive in areas where technology is least effective. e.g praying for a incurable illness.
    • Social and cultural diversity
      • Wilson argues that in pre industrial societies, local communities shared religious rituals that expressed their shared values.
        • But Industrialisation destroys these stable local communities and so it destroys religions base.
      • Bruce see's industrialisation as undermining the consensus of religious beliefs that hold small rural communities together.
        • Small, close knit communities give way to large, impersonal loose knit urban communities with diverse beliefs and lifestyles.
      • Social and geographical mobility not only breaks up communities but brings people together from different backgrounds.
        • This creates more diversity in culture and lifestyles which undermines religion. Even when people continue to hold religious beliefs, people around them hold different views.
          • Bruce argues that the believability of beliefs is undermined by alternatives and individualism.
    • Berger: Religious diversity
      • Berger argues another cause of secularisation is the trend towards religious diversity.
      • In the middle ages, catholic church had an absolute monopoly- it had no competition. As a result everyone lived by a set of shared beliefs.
        • This gave  these beliefs greater believability because they had no challengers and the church version of the truth went unquestioned.
      • This changed in the 16th century with the protestant reformation when protestant churches broke away from the catholic church.
        • Since the reformation, the number and variety of religious organisations has grown, each with a different version of the truth.
          • So society is no longer unified by a single canopy provided by one church.
      • Berger argues this religious diversity undermines religions believability.
        • Alternative versions of religion enable people to question all of them and erodes absolute certainties of traditional religion.
      • Bruce sees the trend towards religious diversity as the most important cause of secularisation.
        • because it is difficult to live in a world containing a large number of incompatible beliefs without concluding that none of them are true.
    • Cultural defence and transition
      • Bruce identifies two counter trends that seem to contradict the secularisation theory.
        • 1. Cultural defence: Religion provides a focus for the dance of a national or ethnic group identity in a struggle against external force.
          • 2. Cultural transition: Religion provides a sense of community for ethnic groups living in a different country or culture.
        • However Bruce argues these examples don't disprove secularisation but show religion is most likely to survive where it performs functions other than relating individuals to the supernatural.
    • Spiritual revolution
      • Some sociologists argue that that 'spiritual revolution' is taking place, with traditional christianity giving way to New Age sprituality that emphasises personal development and experience.
      • The spiritual market place is growing- huge number of books about self help and spirituality and therapies from meditation to crystal healing.
      • Heelas ans Woodhead studied kendal to investigate whether traditional religion has declined and how far the growth of spirituality is compensating for.
        • They distinguish between: 1. The congregational domain of traditional and evangelical churches. 2. The holistic milieu of spirituality and new age.
      • Heelas and Woodhead found in a typical week in 2000, 7.9% population attended church (the congregational domain) and 1.6% took part in spiritual activities (the holistic milieu)
        • Within the congregational domain, the traditional churches were loosing support, while evangelical churches were holding their own.
          • Although fewer people were involved in the holistic milieu, it was growing.
      • H+W explain these trends:
        • New age spirituality has grown because there has been a shift in todays culture towards exploring your inner self by following a spiritual path.
        • Evangelical churches are more successful than traditional ones because they emphasise spiritual healing and growth through personal experience of being 'born again'.
          • Within the congregational domain, the traditional churches were loosing support, while evangelical churches were holding their own.
            • Although fewer people were involved in the holistic milieu, it was growing.
        • In the spiritual marketplace, the winner are those who appeal to personal experience as the genuine source of meaning and fulfilment, rather than commandments of traditional religion.

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