Explanations for secularisation

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: charl_w
  • Created on: 22-02-16 13:07
View mindmap
  • 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.


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Religion and beliefs resources »