Topic 3 - Secularisation

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Evidence of secularisation:
Increase in average age of churchgoers
Wilson - 6.3% of adults attended Church on Sundays (2005)
2005 - baptisms of children = 41%
Explanations of secularisation:
1. Weber
Society has undergone process of rationalisation
Protestant reformation brought about disenchantment - events no longer explained as the work of
supernatural beings
Started rationalisation process - enables science to thrive and provides basis for technological
advancement
Growth of technological worldview has replaced religious/supernatural explanations for why things
happen except in areas where science doesn't have the answer (e.g. May pray for help if someone is
suffering from an illness for which scientific medicine has no cure for)
2. Parsons
Structural differentiation leads to the disengagement of religion
Functions are transferred to other institutions (e.g. Education and welfare were taken over by
the state)
This results in the church losing influence
3. Social and cultural diversity
Bruce - industrialisation resulted in a growth of large, loose knit urban communities with diverse
beliefs and values
This undermines consensus of religious beliefs which holds small communities together
4. Religious diversity
With religious diversity, no one religion can claim to have a monopoly of the truth
Berger - religious diversity creates a crisis of credibility for religion
When there are alternatives people are likely to question them which erodes the absolute
certainties of religion - may opt out of religion altogether
BERGER HAS SINCE CHANGED HIS VIEWS, BELIEVING THAT DIVERSITY AND CHOICE STIMULATE
INTEREST AND PARTICIPATION IN RELIGION
Secularisation in America:
1962 - Wilson - 45% of Americans attended Church on Sundays
Sometime's argued to be more of an expression of the American way of life than of deeply held
religious beliefs
Bruce - America is becoming increasingly secular:
Declining church attendance - opinion polls exaggerate attendance rates - Hadaway et al:
headcounts at services in Ohio, then interviews asking if they attend - claimed attendance was 83%
higher than estimated in county
Secularisation from within - religion has turned into a form of therapy, away from emphasis on
traditional Christian beliefs. The church has remained popular by being less religious
Criticisms of secularisation theory:
Religion is not declining but simply changing form
Evidence from falling church attendance ignores people who believe but don't go to church

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