Secularisation in America


  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 31-05-11 14:33

Declining Church Attendance in America

Wilson found that 45% of Americans attended church on Sundays. However, he argued that churchgoing in America was more an expression of the 'American way of life' than religious beliefs held.

Declining Church Attendance

Opinion poll said 40% of the population in America attended church, however churche's own statistics did not believe this was to be true as the churches would be full, but they are not. 

Many sociologists have studied and found that many opinion polls have over-exaggerated in their church attendance statistics.

Due to going to church is seen as being 'socially desirable' may say they are still going when really they have stopped if they are asked in a survey.

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** Secularisation from within ** America

Bruce argues that the way American religion has adjusted to the modern world amounts to secularisation from within.

The emphasis on traditional Christian beliefs had declined and religion in America has become 'psychologised' or turned into a form of therapy. This change has enabled it to fit with a secular society. In short, American religion has remained popular by becoming less religious.

The purpose of religion has changed from seeking salvation in heaven to seeking personal improvement in this world.

This decline in commitment to traditional beliefs can be seen in people's attitudes and lifestyles. Churchgoers are much less strict than previously, with a decline in people thinking premarital sex is wrong.

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Religious Diversity in America

The growth of religious diversity has also contributed to secularisation from within. Churchgoers are becoming less dogmatic in their views.

Bruce identifies a trend towards practical relativism among American Christians, involving acceptance of the view that others are entitled to hold beliefs that are different to one's own.

However this was not the case in the past, as they used to believe Christianity was the ABSOLUTE TRUTH.

Therefore undermining our own views to be the absolute truth, leading to a decline in our own beliefs.

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Criticisms of Secularisation Theory

Secularisation theory has been criticised:

- Religion is not declining but simply changing form.

- Secularisation theory is one-sided. It focuses on decline and ignores the growth of new religions.

- Evidence of falling church attendance ignores people who believe but don't go to church.

- Religion may have declined in Europe but not in America or globally so secularisation is not universal.


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