PostModernity & Religion

Lyon theory and Spiritual Shopping.

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  • Created on: 22-05-11 12:39

Spiritual Shopping

Danielle Hervieu-Leger believes that there is personal choice and believing without belonging. She agrees that there has been a dramatic decline in institutional religion in Europe, with few people attending church in most countries.

This is partly because of CULTURAL AMNESIA (a loss of collective memory). For centuries, children used to be taught religion, however we have lost the religion which has been handing down through generations because few parents now teach their children about religion. Instead parents allow children to decide for themselves what to believe. As a result young people no longer inherit a fixed religious identity and are ignorant of traditional religion.

Traditional religion has declined, religion however has NOT dissapeared. Instead individual consumerism has replaced collective tradition. People today now feel they have a choice as consumers of religion, where they have become spiritual shoppers. Religion is now INDIVIDUALISED - we develop our own 'do it yourself' beliefs that give MEANING to our lives and fit in with our aspirations.

Hervieu believes two new religious types are emerging: Pilgrims: they follow an individual path in search for self discovery, for example exploring New Age spirituality. Converts: these join religious groups that offer strong sense of belonging; sense of community or for ethnic minorities.

Can be related to late modernity; decline of tradition and increaseing individualism.

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Lyon agrees with Davie that believing without belonging is increasingly popuar.

He argues that traditional religoon is giving way to a variety of new religious forms. In Lyon's view, postmodern society has a number of features that are changing the nature of religion. These include; globalisation, the increase importance of the media, and the growth of consumerism.

The relocation of religion

Globalisation refers to the growing interconnectedness of societies, which has led to increased movements of beliefs and ideas across countries. This is due to the role play in the postmodern society by the media and technology which produces images and messages from around the globe, decreasomg time and space to give us access to the ideas and beliefs of previously distant religions. 

These ideas have been 'disembedded' - the media lift them out of their original contexts and move them into a different place and time. For example 'the electronic church' disembed religion from real, local churches and relocate it on the Internet, allowing believers to express their faith without physically attending church.

Religion has become de-institutionalised. They have been removed from their original location in the church and become a cultural resource that individuals can adapt for their own purposes.

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Religious Consumerism

Postmodern society also involves the growth of consumerism, and especially the idea that we now construct our identities  through what we choose to consume.

Hervieu-Leger says this is also true of religion, where we act as spiritual shoppers, we choose religious beliefs and practises to meet our individual needs. We no longer have to sign up to any ONE religious tradition; instead we can PICK AND MIX elements of different faiths, to suit our tastes and make them our own identity.

Lyon believes religion has relocated to the 'sphere of consumption'. While people do not belong to religious organisations, they have NOT abandoned religion. Instead they have become 'religious consumers' making conscious choices about which elements of religon they find useful.

One effect of having great variety of religious products to choose from is a loss of faith in META-NARRATIVES - theories which claim to have the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. These include traditional religions.

Now that people have access to a wide range of different and contradictory religious ideas and beliefs, people become very sceptical that one religion holds the ABSOLUTE TRUTH.

New religious movements are created which allow us consumers to sample.

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Re-enchantment of the world

Lyon criticises secularisation theory for assuming that religon is declining and being replaced by a rational scientific worldview.

Opposite to Weber's prediction of increasing rationalisation and disenchantment of the world, Lyon sees the last few decades as a period of RE-ENCHANTMENT, with the growth of unconventional beliefs, practices and spirituality.

Although traditional forms of religion have declined, Lyon points to the growing power of non traditional religion in the West.

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Postmodernists claim that the growth of religious media and the electronic church is evidence against secularisation.

However research shows that people choose to view programmes that confirm their existing beliefs. It is unlikely therefore that the religious media attract many NEW converts.

Lyon criticises the evidence used by secularisation theorists, such as church attendance statistics.

Bruce argues that consumerist religion of the sort Lyon describes in WEAK RELIGION. It has little effect on the lives of the followers. As such, he sees it as evidence of secularisation.

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