Viewpoints of Durkheim, Marx, Freud and Webber on Secularisation.


Religion helps to maintain social cohesion, collective worship brings people together, as societies develop, religion looses this role. 

Religion is the 'opium of the masses', a tool of the ruling class and helps provide false consciousness, promises a better life after death for those who suffer. 

Religion is an illiusion, god takes the place of parents and rationality replaces religion.

Religion answers important questions: why am i here? 
Science and rationality replace religion  
Religion is a force for social change  

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Key Issues

1: What do religious practice and thinking actually involve? 

2: How do you measure significance? 

3: Any account of the secularlisation process depends on the definition of religion adopted in the first place. 

'Perhaps the most important attribute of those who percieve secularisation to be going on is their commitment to a particular view of what religion means' Glock and Stark.

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There are 2 main approaches to Secularisation

1: The Institutional Approach 

Looks at religious institutions and their importance in peoples lifes. 

2: The Societal Approach

Studies the role and impact of religion on society and the individual 

The Institutional Approach

  • Participation 
  • Disengagement and differentition 
  • Religious pluralism 
  • Secularisation of religious institutions 
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  • Going to church, getting married and church christenings have all declined 
  • But most people have church funerals 
  • Do attendence figures really measure religiosity? 
  • Attendence in the past was based on social rather that religous reasons 
  • A decline in church related attendence does not necessiliary provide evidence of secularisation 
  • Many christian churches have a high percentage of regular attenders over the age of 65 
  • Briefly suggests that many congregations will disappear together
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Disengagement and Differentiation

The church seems to have little influence in society as specialised state agencies taken over many activities formerly carried out by the church. The church today is merely involved in symbolic rites of passage, hatching, matching and dispatching and has become disengaged from wider society. 

Media, Education and the welfare state and the family have all taken over many functions of the church. 

Argues that this is a structurally differentiated society, religious institutions may become more specialised but this does not mean less important.  

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Religious Pluralism

Some believe that the more religious groups there are, the more watered down the message becomes. 

The competition between religions undermine their credibility, religion does not reinforce the values of society as a whole and cannot promote social solidarity. Credibility is lost as religions compete for spiritual shoppers. 

See's evidence of re-sacrilisation - more interest in spiritual things.

Glock and Bellah:
See New Religious Movements as demonstrating a new spiritual sensitivity and search for meaning - a stable social setting, coherent set of symbols for young people, helps those who are disorientated by drug culture and disillusioned politics.  

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Secularisation of religious institutions

Suggests secularising tendanices exist within the church itself.

Church membership provides a sense of belonging and demonstrates commitment. Emphasis is on religious practice not belief, a religion without a god.
Churches place little emphasis on belief but stress the values of democracy, freedom, attainment and success.

Problems with this argument:

The view on secularisation depends on what the view of religion actually is.

In Europe, beliefs have not been comprimised so much and the churches are empty

In the USA, the church has adapted itself to a changing society and churches are full.




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