Against Secularisation

Believing without Belonging

  • post modernists reject secularisation thesis, they say religion is changing, not declining 
  • greater individualism and consumerism means a shift from traditional to post modern religion 
  • Davie (2007) religion is more privatised, people still hold religious values but do not attend choice through choice as it is no longer a moral obligation 


  • British Social Attitudes suvey says there is a decline in belief as well as attendance
  • Bruce notes if people are unwilling to spend time going to church this reflects the declinging strength of religion 

Spiritual Shopping 

  • more choice and are consumers of religion 
  • religion is DIY and a personal journey 
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Lyon - Jesus in Disneyland (2000)

globalisation has increased the importance of the media and communications 

time and space has been compressed meaning we can instantly access new ideas

ideas have become disembedded (lifted out of local context) 

Televangelism is important, allowing believers to express their faith without actually attending church 

harvest day crusade held by disneyland not the church 

meta - narratives have lost their meaning 

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Criticism of Post Modernism

they claim the growth of religious media is against secularisation, but research suggests that people choose programmes such as religious media to support existing beliefs 

so it is unlikely religious media attracts new membranes 

the idea of the 'electronic church' is not based on evidence and is unmeasurable 

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Religious Market Theory - Stark and Bainbridge

  • secularisation theory is eurocentric and fails to explain continuing religion in other parts of the world 
  • there was no golden age of religion and religion will not end 

1. people are naturally religions and religion meets human needs 

2. it is human nature to seek rewards and to avoid costs so they make choices and weigh up the costs and benefits 

  • religion is a compensator, providing supernatural rewards 
  • there is a cycle of religius declione, revival and renewal 
  • churches act like companies selling good 
  • competition does not lead to secularisation but improvement in religious goods to offer 
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Supply - Led Religion

Hadden and Shupe (1998) argue that the growth of televangelism in the USA was supply led and that great compentition led to a demand in preaching 

Religion thrives in America because there has always been a wide choice, never dominated by a state church 


  • Bruce says the idea that competition increases the demand of religion is wrong and is not supported by statistics 
  • he claims theres is a misrepresentation of secularisation
  • Norris and Inglehart (2004) high levels of participation occur in catholic countries, whereas where there is great pluralism, like in holland, there are low levels of participation 
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Existential Security Theory - Norris and Inglehart

- religion levels differ due to ther feeling of security, ie.g. when society is secure, there is little demand for religion 

-  in poor societies, there are high levels of insecurity and therefore religion 

- poor people in rich societies also face the same problem 

- demand for religion is not constant and varies within society and between societies 

- population growth in the third world means the majority of the world is becoming more religious 

- in America, there is little help from welfare systems meaning they are more religious 


  • they only used quantitative data about things such as income levels and dont ask what peoples own definitions of security are 
  • they see religion as a negative response to deprivation and dont look at the positive reasons for participation 
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