Beliefs in society - Secularisation

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  • Created on: 26-03-15 09:18

Secularisation - Reviewing the evidence

Crockett: Church attendance statistics in Britain shows a drastic decline compared to the past. From looking at the ‘Census of religion’ he found that in 1851, 40% of the adult population attended church, however in 2005 church attendance was only 4.7%.

Wilson: There has been a long term decline in church attendance in Britain. In the mid-19th century attendance was 40% , but only 10-15% by the 1960’s and only 6.3% of the population attending church on Sundays in 2005.

Gill: Reviewed 100 national surveys on religious beliefs and 1939 to 1996 and found they show a significant decline in the beliefs in a personal God, Jesus, and teachings about the afterlife and the Bible.

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Secularisation - secularisation at industrial leve

Martin: Talks about the principle of Disengagement. He suggests that there has been a decline in the power, wealth and influence of the church in society. He argues that in the Middle Ages there was a union of the church and the state, however today, the church has little involvement with the state other than the 26 ‘Lord Spirituals’ that sit in the British House of Lords.

Martin: Despite this Martin also suggest that today the churches specialisation in specifically religious matters could indicate a ‘purer form of religion’.

Casanova: Questions the concept of disengagement and believes instead differentiation has taken place. He doesn’t believe that religion has withdrawn from public and political and instead suggests that in the 1980’s religion went public and gained publicity. For example religion is still the main source of conflict in society today, such as the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland

Parsons: Agrees that the church, as an institution has lost many of its former functions due to structural differentiation. However he argues that this does not lessen the importance of the institutions, religious beliefs still give meaning and significance to life.

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Secularisation - secularisation at industrial leve

Bruce: Has a similar view to Parsons but calls it ‘Structural Differentiation’. He believes that religious faith and morality become less and less significant in the culture and institutions of modern societies. He argues that because people frequently mix with strangers of different status’, and greater social and geographical mobility, it is increasingly difficult for people to see themselves as subject to the power of the omnipotent God. Therefore institutional religion has less significance over the individual.tiTalks about the principle of Disengagement. He suggests that there has been a decline in the power, wealth and influence of the church in society. He argues that in the Middle Ages there was a union of the church and the state, however today, the church has little involvement with the state other than the 26 ‘Lord Spirituals’ that sit in the British House of Lords.

Bruce: Uses the term societalisation to describe how social life has become fragmented. He argues that modern societies do not have close knit communities and people’s lives are largely dominated by impersonal bureaucracies e.g. the internet. According to Bruce, the decline of community undermines religion in three ways; churches no longer serve as the focal point in society, peoples greater involvement in wider society leads them to look far more widely for services, the cultural diversity of society leads people to hold beliefs with less certainty.

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Secularisation - Importance of religious pluralism

Bruce: The plurality of religions reminds individuals that their beliefs are a personal preference, a matter of choice and no longer part of their membership of society.

Kepel: Argues there has been a resurgence of religiosity in ethnic minorities. He sees this as a sign of rejection of the fragmentation of modern society.

Bruce: Ethnic minorities use religion for cultural defence and cultural transition. However this can still be seen as evidence for secularisation because they serve a particular purpose and are not used for spiritual reasons.

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Secularisation - Sects, cults - Arguments against

Brierley: Reports a rise in the number of sects and cults. He found that in 1995 there was 14,350 and in 2000 it had increased to 21,336. This shows a fragmentation in institutional religion and therefore shows the weakening hold of religion over society.

Stark and Bainbridge: Deny the fact that secularisation has taken place. They believe that some established churches may have lost part of their emphasis but new religious groups with more emphasis on the supernatural are constantly emerging. Stark and Bainbridge suggest that in different states in the USA, cults thrive where conventional religions are weak.

Heelas: Argues that it is just that individuals have turned within themselves in the search for spirituality rather than looking to the external authority of church religions.

Herberg: The evidence for secularisation in the USA is not to be found by a decline in the participation in religion but rather a decline in the religiosity of churches and denominations themselves. He argues that they have compromised their religious beliefs to fit in with wider society.

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Secularisation - Sects and cults - Arguments for

Wilson: Argues that sects are nothing more than ‘the dying breath of a religion’. He sees members of new religious movements as living their own enclosed lives and says they offer little more than self-indulgence, titillations and short-lived thrills.

Wallis: Suggests that New Religious Movements involve only a small proportion of the population and for only short periods of time during the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Bruce: Sees the New Age as posing little or no threat to the theory of secularisation. Bruce simply sees the new age as an extreme form of individualism that is the characteristic of modern societies.

Bruce: The advances in technology have reduced the number of things that need to be explained in religious terms. It has given people more control over the natural world and so they feel less of a need to resort to supernatural explanations or remedies.

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Secularisation - Sects, cults - Arguments against

Thomas: States that we do not know enough about our ancestors to be certain of the extent to which religious belief and practice have actually declined.

Norris and Inglehart: Religion meets a need for security and therefore societies where people feel secure have a low level of demand for religion.

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