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Bryan Wilson's definition.

Bryan Wilson defined Secularisation as:

'The decline in the importance of religious thinking and practices' and one in which religious institutions are loosing their social significance.

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Criticism of Wilson's definition

What is meant by significance?  How do we measure significance?

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Bryan Wilson-Evidence for secularisation

Can be shown statistically in the declining church attendance and also how religion is losing influence over public life. For example, individuals can now turn to doctors, counsellors or teachers for support and advice rather than turning to religion, as they may have done in the past.

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Criticism of Wilson's evidence

Statistical data can be questionable because of reliability and validity.

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support for the secularisation thesis

statistics of falling church attendance- As the population has continued to grow since the 20th Century, a negative correlation is clear as church attendance has dropped by over 15%.

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Support for Wilson’s argument

Church attendance is age bias, as the percentage of churchgoers are mainly over 65%, which could suggest that they may be attending for company which supports Grace Davies suggestion of ‘Belonging without Believing’. For example, older people may attend church for social or emotional reasons rather than being religiously committed.

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‘Belonging without Believing’

This can affect the validity of the statistics of church attendance as the % of churchgoer’s may not necessarily support the argument against secularisation.

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Bruce- lower status of the clergy

Lower status of the clergy has influenced the declining number of individuals attending church, and is a good indicator of religious popularity as the number of clerics has drastically declined, even though population has increased. As society is patriarchal, the status of the clergy may be reduced as women are being ordained.

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Evidence of reduced moral influence

Statistical evidence of increased cohabitation and divorce, and also the increase of marriages outside of church (much fewer church weddings). The proportion of children now being born outside of marriage is also seen as evidence of little religious influence on society today.

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Criticisms of the statistics

The statistics collected were taken from as early as the 19th century. This is a criticism as data collection in the 19th Century is not of the same high standard as it is today and the method of collection has also changed.

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Criticisms of the statistics

The evidence may not be representative of standard church attendance as the statistics of church attendance are from an annual survey from 1 day in November.

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Criticisms of the statistics

The validity of the data is also questionable as people attending church in today’s society may be for various different reasons such as wanting their child to attend a catholic school, whereas people in the past may have attended church as a sign of respect.

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Rationalisation is the process by which logical explanations replace religious ones.

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Example of rationalisation

For example, science relies on evidence rather than faith. Rationality can lead to disenchantment (a loss of religious faith and belief in the supernatural) as it helps explain magic which is a natural phenomenon.

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Disengagement and Differentiation

Focuses on the declining influence of the church in social life and loss of power. Wilson explains how the church today has become disengaged from wider society and how religious organisations are distancing themselves from institutions such as education.

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Against Secularisation - 'Believing without Belong

People may commit to having religious beliefs but are not involved in attending religious services. Church membership and attendance figures do not show the % of people who privately hold religious beliefs.

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Bellah- 'Invisible Religion'

It is wrong to claim that religion is in decline just because there is a decline in attendances in place of religious worship as people do not have to be part of a religious organisation to be religious. This is known as ‘invisible religion’.

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Change in Society

Change in society is natural and traditional religious belief systems will change and new ones will be brought into place, which supports the argument against secularisation, there is no decline, just constant change.

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Luckman believes that there will be an increase in ‘privatised’ forms of religion rather than large religious gatherings such as set mass times.

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Heelas and Woodhead

More people were taking part in spiritual new age activities than the tradition community church participation.

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Holistic Milieu

'new age beliefs emphasising the whole person'.

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Heelas and Woodhead- Holistic Milieu

Holistic Milieu is growing which led them to argue that there is a constant change in types of religious beliefs that individuals choose to follow rather than a decline in religion

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Heelas and Woodhead - Individualised Religion

New religious movement have come into place as people have become more individualised.

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Heelas and Woodhead

Two groups that intertwine with the secularisation process. These are the congregational domain (favouring traditional ways) and holistic milieu (seeking self-spirituality).

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