Secularisation in America

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Declining Church Attendance


  • Opinion poll research suggests church attendance has been stable for 40% of population since 1940.
  • However, figure does not match Churches' own attendance statistics.
  • Research in Ohio showed claimed attendance was 83% higher than estimated nationally.
  • This exaggeration is a recent trend since the 70s.
  • Opinion polls have masked a decline in church attendance in the USA.
  • It is still seen as socially desirable to attend church.
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Secularisation From Within


  • Religion in America has adapted to the modern world by becoming secular from within.
  • Emphasis on traditional Christian beliefs has declined.
  • Religion has become more psychologised and become a form of therapy.
  • The change has enabled it to fit with a secular society.
  • American religion has remained popular by becoming less religious.
  • Purpose of religioon had changed from seeking salvation to personal improvement.
  • Lack of committment to traditional beliefs can be seen in attitudes and lifestyles.
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Religious Diversity


  • Growth of religious diversity has led to churchgoers becoming less dogmatic in their views.
  • There has been a trend towards practical relativism.
    • American Christians accepting that beliefs are now varied.
  • Counter part to relativism is the erosion of absolutism.
    • Variation of interpretation of truth undermines the idea that our own view is absolute truth.
  • Religious diversity generate competition and encourages religious groups to actively recruit new members counteracting secularisation.
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Criticisms of Secularisation Theory

  • Religion is not declining but changing form.
  • Secularisation theory focuses on decline and ignore revival and growth of new religions.
  • Ignores people who believe but do not attend church.
  • Secularisation is not globally universal.
  • The past was not a golden age of religion and the future will not be an age of atheism.
  • Religious diversity increases participation as it increases choice.
  • There is no overall downward trend.
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