A2 Sociology: Religion, Renewal and Choice

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Religion, Renewal and Change
Postmodernity & Religion
Religion is changing not declining
This is because of changes in wider society such as greater individualism and
Argues against the secularisation thesis
Believing Without Belonging (Davie)
Religion is not declining but simply taking a more privatised form
People no longer attend church becos they feel it is respectable to do so
Attendance is now a matter of personal choice rather than an obligation
People now hold beliefs but don't go to church
Vicarious Religion
Davie notes a trend towards `vicarious religion'
Small number of professional clergy practise religion on behalf of a much larger
number of people, who experience it second hand
Davie compares vicarious religion to the tip of an iceberg
Beneath what appears to be only a small commitment to religion is a much wider
According to Davie, secularisation theory assumes that modernisation affects every
society in the same way, causing the decline of religion and replacement by science
Davie argues that there are multiple modernities. Eg. Britain & America are both
modern societies with very different patterns of religion
Davie believes that science and religion will continue to coexist.
× Bruce: If people no longer attend church this reflects the declining strength of their
beliefs. When people no longer believe, they no longer wish to belong.
Spiritual Shopping (Hervieu-Leger)
Agrees w/Davie and Notes there is a dramatic decline of religion in Europe
Cultural Amnesia. The idea that children used to be taught religion in the extended
family. Nowadays, we have lost the religion that used to be handed down to us.
Parents today let children decide for themselves what to believe
As a result, young people no longer inherit a fixed religious identity & they're
ignorant of traditional religion
Individual consumerism has replaced collective tradition
People have a choice as consumers of religion, they have become ­ spiritual
Religion has become a personal spiritual journey, in which we choose the elements we want
to explore. Hervieu-Leger argues two new religious types:

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Pilgrims: Follow an individual path in a search for self-discovery
2. Converts: Join religious groups that offer a strong sense of belonging, usually based
on a shared ethnic background
As a result religion no longer acts as a source of collective identity. Religion does still have
influences on societys norms & values. Eg. Equality & human rights.
Lyon: `Jesus in Disneyland'
Agrees with Davie that believing w/o belonging is increasingly popular. Postmodern society's
features are changing the nature of religion, incl: globalisation, media and communications.…read more

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It is human nature to seek rewards and avoid costs
Religion is attractive becos it provides us w/compensators
When real rewards are unobtainable, religion compensates by promising supernatural
ones. Eg. Promising life after death
Stark and Bainbridge put forward the concept of a cycle of religious decline, revival and
renewal.…read more

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Existential Security Theory (Norris and Inglehart)
× Criticise Religious Market Theory on the grounds that it only applies to America and
fails to explain the religiosity between different societies
× Existential Security: the feeling that survival is secure enough that itt can be taken for
Religion meets a need for security in societies where people feel secure have a low level of
demand for religion:
Poor societies: people face life-threatening risks such as famine and disease have
high levels of insecurity and thus high…read more


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