Sociology - Religion


Functionalist theories of Religion

  • They see society like an organism, with basic needs that it must meet to survive 
  • Each institution performs certain functions to maintain the social system by meeting a need
  • Society's most basic need is for social order and solidarity - according to Functionalists, this is possible through value consensus (a set of shared norms and values for people to follow)
  • Durkheim 
    • Argues that religious institutions play a central part in creating and maintaining value consenus, order and solidarity 
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The sacred and the profane

  • Durkheim
    • The key feature of all religions is a fudamental destinction between the sacred and the profane
    • The sacred = things set apart and forbidden/inspiring feelings of fear and wonder/taboos/prohibitions (Christian Cross)
    • The profane = ordinary things that have no special significance
    • A religion is more than a set of beliefs - it has rituals or practices and these are performed by social groups
    • Durkheim argues that sacred things create powerful feelings in believer because they are symbols representing something of great power, and this thing can only be society
    • So, when people are worshipping symbols - they are worshipping society itself 
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The collective conscience

  • Durkheim
    • The sacred symbols represent society's collective conscience - the shared norms, values and beliefs that make cooperation between individuals possible
    • Without these, society would disintergrate
    • Regular shared religious rituals reinforce the collective conscience and maintain social intergration
    • Rituals also remind people of the power of society - without which they are nothing and to which they owe everything
    • Therefore religion also performs an important function to the individual as it makes us feel part of something greater than ourselves and gives us strength to face life's problems
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Criticism of the collective sonscience


    • In large scale societies where two or more religious communities exisit, religion may cause conflict not consensus
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Psychological functions


  • Religion promotes solidarity by perfroming psychological functions for indivuduals, helping them cope with emotional stress that would undermine social solidarity
    • There are two functions where it perfroms this role:
  • (1) Where an outcome is important but uncontrollable/uncertain - study of Islanders (lagoon and ocean fishing)
    •  Lagoon fishing = safe
    • Ocean fishing = dangerous and uncertain so always accompanied by "canoe magic", a ritual to ensure safe expedition - giving people a sense of control therefore easing tension and giving confidence to undertake dangerous tasks, reinforcing group solidarity
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Malinowski (cont.)

(2) At times of life crisis -

    • Events such as birth/marriage/death are potentially disruptive changes
    • Religion helps to minimise disruption e.g. funeral rituals reinforce feelings of solidarity among surviors, the idea of an after life comforts the bereaved by denying the fact of death
    • Malinowski belives that death is the main reason for the existence of religous belief
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Parsons: values and meaning


Identifies two other essential functions of religion in modern society:

(1) Creates and legitimises society's basic norms and values: by making them sacred - this promotes value consensus and social solidarity

(2) It provides a source of meaning and answers "ultimate" questions about life: such as "why do people suffer?". By answering such questions, religion helps people to adjust to adverse events and maintains stability 

In the USA, Protestantism has sacralised the core American values of individualism/meritocracy and self discipline. 

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Civil Religion


    • Argues that religion unifies society, especially a multi-faith society like America
    • What unifies Amerian society is civil religion - a belief sysetm that attaches sacred qualities to society itself
    • Civil religion is a faith in "the American way of life"
    • Civil religion intergrates society in a way that indivual religions cannot; American civil religion involves loyalty to the nation-state and belief in God - both of which are equated wih being a true American
    • It is expressed in various rituals/symbols/beliefs such as the pledge of allegiance to the flag 
    • Sacralises the American way of life and brings together Americans from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds
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Marxist theories of Religion

  • See society as divided into two clases, one of which exploits the labour of the other - capitalist class exploits the working class
  • This creates class conflict - Marx predicted that the working class would eventually become aware of their explitation and overthrow capitalism, leading to a classless society.
  • Marxists believe that religion is a feature of only class dividied society - it justifies exploitation and inequality.
  • In an equal, classless society, there is no need for religion and it will dissapear 
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Religion as an ideology

  • For Marxists, ideology is a belief system that distorts peoples perception of reality in the interest of the ruling class
  • Ruling class controls the production and distribution of ideas, through institutions such as religion and the media
  • Religion operates as an ideological weapon used by the ruling class to legitimate the suffering of the poor as something inevitable and god-given - religion misleads the poor into believeing that they will be rewared in the after life
  • Such ideas create false conciousness - a distorted view of reality that prevents the poor from acting to change their situation
  • Lenin describes religion as a "spiritual gin" that confuses the working class and keeps them in their place. 
  • The ruling class use religion to manipulate the working class and keeps them from attempting to overthrow the capitalist society - they create a "mystical fog" that hides reality 
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Religion and alienation

  • Marxists see religion as the product of alienation - becoming seperate from or losing control over something that one has produced or created
  • Under capitalism, workers are alienated because they do not own what they produce, have no control over the production process and in the facotry based division of labour, the worker endlessly repeats the same task
  • In these dehuminising conditions, religion is a form of consoltation - it is the "opium of the people" and "the sigh of the opressed creature"
  • Religion acts as an opiate to dull the pain of explotation - its promises of the after life distract attention from the true source of suffering; capitalism
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Feminist theories of Religion

  • Feminists see society as patriarchal - based on male domination
  • Religious institutions are patriarchal
  • Religious beliefs are patriarchal ideologies that legitimate women's subordination
  • However, some feminists argue that women have not always been subordinate to men within religion, Armstrong argues that early religions often placed women at the centre 
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Examples of patriarchy within religion

  • Religious organisations; are mainly male dominated e.g.  Orthodox Judaism forbid women from becoming priests. Armstrong sees womens exclusion from the piresthoods of most religions as evidence of their marginalisation.
    • However, there have been recent changes in the Catholic Church towards the movement of women being allowed to become priests
  • Places of worship; often segregate the sexes and marginalise women in acts of worship e.g. not being allowed to preach or read from sacred texts. Taboos that see menustration, pregnancy and childbirth as polluting may also prevent participation
  • Sacred texts; largerly male dominated e.g male gods. Often reflect anti-female sterotypes e.g Eve being responsible for humanitys faill from grace and explusion from the Garden of Eden
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Examples of patriarchy (cont.)

  • Religious laws and customs; often give women fewer rights than men e.g. acsess to divorce, dress codes etc. They may also lead to unequal treatment e.g. genital mutilation or punishment for sexual transgression. Many religions legitimate and regulate womens traditional domestic and reproductive role e.g Catholic Church bans abortion and the use of contraception, giving women less control over their bodies
  • El Saadawi believes that religious patriarchy is the result of patriarchal forms of society coming into existence in the last few thousand years and re-shaping religion. 
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Religious Feminism

  • Woodhead
    • Argues that although much traditional eligion is patriarchal, this is not true of all religions
    • There are "religious forms of feminism" - ways of women to use religion to gain grather freedom and respect:
        • While western feminists often see the hijab worn by Muslim women as a symbol of opression, to the wearer it may symbolise resistence to opression - a symbol of liberation that enables her to enter the public sphere without losing her culture and history
        • Women may use religion to gain status and respect for their roles within the home and family e.g. a strongly held belief among evangelical Christians is that men must respect women - this gives women the power to influence mens behaviour by using religion to insist that men refrain from "macho" behaviour 
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Woodhead (cont.)

      • The position of women in some religions is changing; since 1992, the Church of Enland has admitted women to the priesthood.
      • About a fifth of its priests are now female
      • Other Protestant denominations such as Sikhism allow women priests 
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Religion and Social Change

  • Religion can be seen as a conservative force in two different senses: 
      • (1) Conservative in the sense of "traditional"; defending traditional customs/institutions/moral views - it upholds traditional belifes about how society should be organise
      • (2) Conservative becuse it functions to conserve or preserve things as they are, maintaining the status quo 
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Religions conservative belifes

  • Most religions have traditional conservative beliefs about moral issues and oppose changes that allow individuals more freedom (in personal and sexual matters). 
      • E.g the Catholic Church forbids divorce, abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraception
  • Most religions hold strong "family values", supporting traditional patriarchal domestic division of labour. 
      • E.g Hindusism endorses the practice of arranged marriage 
      • Catholic Church marriage ceremony 1602 => bride vows to "love, honour and obey" whilst the groom only vows to "love and honour". Since 1966, the bride has been allowed to drop the vow to "obey" her husband if she wishes
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Religions conservative functions

  • Religion is also a conservative force functioning to conserve/preserve things as they are
  • This view of religion is held by Functionalists, Marxists and feminists
  • They each argue that it contributes to social stability in different ways:
      • Religion and consensus: Functionalists see religion as a conservative froce maintaining social stabilty and preventing disintergration. E.g promoting social solidarity by creating value consensus and helping individuals deal with disruptive stresses (Malinowski)
  • Marxists and feminsits see religion as an ideology that supports the existing social structure as a means of social contorl in the favour of the powerful
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Religions conservative functions (cont.)

  • Religion and capitalism: Marx sees religion as a conservative ideology preventing social change by legitimating inequality and creating a false conciousness in the working class which aims to prevent a revolution, therby maintaining the stability of capitalist society
  • Religion and patriarchy: Feminists see religion as a conservative force because it legitimises patriarchal power and maintains womens subordination in the family and society
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Weber: religion as a force for social change


  • Argues that the religious beliefs of Calvinism helped to bring about major social change - the emergency of modern capitalism in Northern Europe
  • However, Tawney argues that technological change, not religious beliefs first led to capitalism. The bourgeoisie then adopted Calvinist beliefs to legitimate their pursuit of economic gain 
  • Weber basically said that the calvinists were strongly religious, very disciplined, worked hard and saved up money for their business (he called this the spirit of capitalism) which led to social change - capitalism
  • They prosperred and came to see this as a sign of God's favour and their salvation
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Weber (cont.)

  • The "spirit of capitalism" had unconcious similarity to the Calvinists' beliefs and attitudes. Calvinists had several distinctive beliefs
    • (1) Predestination: "The elect" - god pre-determines who will be saved, individuals can do nothing to change this
    • (2) Divine transcendence: God is so far above and beyond this world that no human being could possibly claim to know his will - leaving the Calvinists to feel "an unprecendented inner loneliness", leading to a "salvation panic" 
    • (3) Asceticism: Abstinance, self-discipline and self-denial (not spending their well earned money on luxuries
    • (4) The idea of a vocation: or calling to serve God in everyday world of work
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Weber (cont. 2)

  • Kautsky criticies Weber for overestimating the role of ideas and underestimating economic factors in bringing capitalism into being
  • Kautsky argues that capitalism actually came before rather than after Calvinism


      • Also argues that Calvinists beliefs were only one of the causes which lead to capitalism
      • He argued that certain materials or economic factors were also neccessary. Such as natural resources, trade, legal systems, a mone economy etc.
      • He gives examples of where there have been other sociesties with some of these factors, but capitalism did not take off due to the lack of a belief system such as Calvinism 
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Weber (cont. 3)

  • Hinduism: acient India was an ascetic religion, but was directing followers towards the spirutal world
  • Confucianism: acient China, directed followers towards the material world but was not ascetic
  • Both Hinduism and Confucianism lacked the drive of Calvinism to systemaically accumulate wealth, therefore, the societies did not result in capitalism
  • Weber has also been criticised because capitalism did not develop in every country where there were Calvinists
      • Scotland: large Calvinists population but was slow to develop Capitalism 
      • However, Marshall argues that this was because of lack of investment capital and skilled labour - supporting Webers point
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Religion and social protests

  • Bruce is interested in the relationship between religion and social change, comapring two cases studies of the role of religiously inspired protests movements in America
      • (1) The American civil rights movement:
      • 1950/60s, attempted to end racial segregation as blacks were denied legal and political rights e.g. schools were segregated/inter-racial marriages forbidden/blacks excluded from voting
      • Began in 1955, direct action through protest marches, boycotts and demonstrtions followed until 1964, were segregation was outlawed
      • Bruce see's the civil rights movement as an example of religion becoming involved in secular struggle and helping to bring about change 
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Bruce (cont.)

  • The black clergy led by Dr Martin Luther King were the backbone of the movement, according to Bruce. Giving support and moral legitimacy to activists e.g churches provided meeting places, prayer meetings acted as a source of unity in the phase of opression
  • They shamed white into changing the law by appealing to their shared Christian values of equality
  • Bruce sees religion in this context as an ideological resource - it provided beliefs that protesters could draw on for motivation and support
  • Using CRM as an example, Bruce argues that religious organisations are well equipped to support protests and contribute to change through things such as:
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Bruce (cont. 2)

  • Taking the moral high ground: pointing out the hypocrisy of white clergy who supported racial segregation but preached "love thy neighbour"
  • Chanelling dissent: Religion provides channels to express political dissent. e.g. Martin Luther Kings funeral (assasination) was a rallying point for the civil rights cause 
  • Acting as honest broker: Churches can provide a context for negotiating change because they are often respected by both sides in a conflict 
  • Mobilising public opinion: Black churches in the South sucsessfully campaigned for support accros the whole of America 
  • In Bruce's view, the movement achieved its aims because it shared the values of wider society and those in power
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Bruce (cont. 3)

  • (2) New Christian Right 
      • Politically and morally conservative, Protestant fundamentalist movement - gained prominence since the 1960s because of its opposition to the liberalising of American society
      • The NCR movement aims to make abortion, homosexuality and divorce illegal and take USA "back to god", going back to a time before the liberalisation of American Society
      • The NCR is an example of a religious movement aiming for "conservative social change" - changing society back to a previous form
      • NCR believes in traditional family and gender roles, campaigns for teaching of "creationism" (the view that the Bibles account of creation is literally true) and wants to ban the teaching of sex ed. in schools
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Bruce (cont. 4)

  • NCR uses televangelism, where church-owened tv stations raise funds and broadcast programes aimed at making converts and recruiting new members
  • The Moral Majority, a right-wing Christian pressure gorup and part of the NCR, became the focus for political campaigning and for strenghtening links with the Republican party
  • However, the NCR has been unsuccseful in acheiving its aims, Bruce belives that this is for the following reasons;
      • The "Moral Majority" was never a majority but 15% of the population at most
      • Its campaigners find it difficult to cooperate with people from other religious groups, even when campaigning on the same issues
      • Numerous surveys showed that most Americans are comfortable with legalising activities that they personally believe are immoral, such as abortion, and are unwilling to accept other peoples opinions on how they should live their lives
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Marxism, religion and change

  • Although Marxists are often thought of as seeing religion as an entirely conservative ideology ( a set of ruling class ideas that legitimate class inequality), this is not always the case
  • Marxists recognise that ideas, including religious ideas can have realtive autonomy - they can be partly independent of the economic base of society
  • As a result, religion can have a dual character, being a force for change aswell as stability
  • For example, Engles argues that although religion inhibits change by disguising inequality, it can also encourage social change. E.g. lower ranks within the church hierachy have sometimes supported/inspired/organised  popular protests, 
  • Religion sometimes preaches liberation from slavery and misery
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Marxism, religion and change (cont.)

Bloch - "the principle of hope" 

    • Sees religion as having a dual character
    • Accepts that religion often inhibits change, but argues that it can also inspire protests and rebellion.
    • Religion is an expression of "the principle of hope" - our dreams of a better life, containing images of utopia (perfection)
    • These images of can sometimes deceive people, e.g. promises of rewards in heaven - but can also help people to create a vision of a world and therefore strive for social change which can be achieved with the combination of a political organisation and leadership
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Liberation Theology

  • For centuries, Catholic Church in Latin America = very conservative institution encouraging acceptance of poverty and supporting wealty elites 
  • Movement that emerged within the Catholic Church in Latin America a the end of the 1960s, with a strong commitment to the poor and opposition to military dictatorships that then ruiled most of the continent
  • LT emerged because of the  human right abuses following military take overs (false imprisoment, torture), growth of rural poverty and urban slums throughout Latin America, growing commitment among Catholic priests to an ideology that supported and opposed violations of human rights
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Liberation theology (cont.)

  • The emphasis in liberationt theology is on "praxis" - practical action guided by theory set out to change society e.g. priests leading literacy programmes and raising political awareness, priests helped the poor to establish support groups called "base communities" and helped the disadvantaeed to fight opression under the protection of the church
  • Otto Maduro believes that religion can be a revolutionary force that brings about change. In the case of liberation theology, religious ideas radicalised the Catholic clergy in defence of peseans and workers, making them see that serving the poor was part of their Christian duty.
  • However, though LT helped bring about democracy, it did not threaten capitalism 
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Gramsci: religion and hegemony

  • Intrested in how the ruling class mintain their control over society through ideas rather than simply through force
  • Hegemony - ideological domination or leadership of society - is the way the ruling class are able to use ideas, such as religion, to maintain control 
  • However, hegemony is never guaranteed. It is possible that the working class to develop an alternative vision of how society should be organised (counter hegemony) 
  • Gramsci, like Engles, believes that religion has a dual character - in some circumstances it can challenge aswell as support the ruling class
  • Popular forms of religion can help the working class see through the ruling class hegemony by offering a vision of a better, fairer world
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Gramsci: (cont.)

  • In order to do this, they need organic intellecutals to take the role of leaders/educators/organisers who can help the working class see the situation they are in and offer support through things such as trade unions 

Religion and class conflict:


    • applies Gramscis ideas in a case study comparing class struggle in two communites - coalminers and textile workers, both w/c and evangelical Protestant, but the miners were much more militant, struggling for better conditions
    • Argues that differences in levels of militancy can be understood in terms of hegemony and the role of religion
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Billings (cont.)

  • Billings identifies 3 ways in which relgion eiher supported or challenged employers' hegemony
      • Leadership: miners benefited from leadership of organic intellectuals - helped to convert miners to the union cause. Textile workers lacked such leadership - easily influenced by the views of people who identified with the employers and denounced unions as "ungodly"
      • Organisation: miners were able to use churches to hold meetings and organise, whereas textile workers lacked such spaces - remained in "company churches" that were under the control of the textile mill owners
      • Support: churches kept the miners morale high with prayer meetings, group singing etc. 
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Billings (cont.)


    • Found that religion was an important factor affecting the level of class struggle 
    • He concluded that religion can play " a prodominent oppositional role" - his study shows that the same religion can be called upon either to defend the status quo or justify the strugle to change it 
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Secularisation in Britain

  • Crockett estimates that in 1851, 40% or more of the adult population of Britain attened chuch on sundays, which led to some to claim that the 19th century was a "golden age" or religiosity 
  • Wilson argues that western societies have been undergoing a long term process of secularisation, where "religious beliefs, practices and institutions lose social significance"
  • However, religion may have declined in Europe, but not necessarily in America or elsewhere, so secularisation may not be universal
  • There have been some major changes in religion in the UK since the 19th century; 
      • a fall in the proportion of the population attending church
      • an increase in the average age of church goers
      • a greater religious diversity 
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Church attendance today

  • Only 6.3 of the adult population attended church on sundays in 2005, halving since the 1960s and likely to fall further
  • But, evidence of falling church attendance ignores people who "believe without belonging"
  • Very few children attend sunday schools
  • Decline in church weddings and baptisms
  • The english church consensus (2006) shows attendance at and memerships of larg religious organisations (church of england) have declined
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Religious belief today

  • Evidence about religious beliefs from over 60 years of attitude surveys shows that:
      • more people claim they hold christian beliefs than actually go to church
      • Gill et al - reviewed almost 100 natonal surveys on relgious belief from 1939 to 1996, showed significant decline in belief in a personal god and in traditional teachings about the afterlife 
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Religious institutions today


    • supports Wilsons point about all the evidence on secularisation has shown that "there is a steady and unremitting decline"
    • the influence of religion as a social institution is declining - religion once affected every aspect of life, but now is relegated to the private sphere of the individual and family 
    • the state has taken over many of the functions that the church used to perfom, such as schooling
    • However, there is an increasing number of "faith schools" in the UK which implies contiued religious involvement in education but, they are mainly state funded and must conform to the states regulations
    • he predicts that the methodist church will fold by 2030, and the church of england will be merely a small volutary organisation with a large amount of heritage property 
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Explenations of secularisation

  • Secularisation and the decline of religion have been linked to major social changes such as modernisation (the decline of tradition), industrialisation and increased social and religious diversity
  • Rationalisation is the process by which logical ways of thinking and acting replace religious ones. 
  • Weber
      • argues that western society has undergone a process of rationalisation in the last few centuries 
      • the world has become "disenchanted" - evens no longer explained through religion and religious forces but through the use of rational thinking 
      • there was no longer a need for religious explenations as people could use reason and science to discover the laws of nature, understand and predict how the world works and control it through technology 
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Weber (cont.)

  • Bruce argues that a technological worldview has largely replaced religious explenations of why things happen (answering the "BIG" questions) 
  • Religious worldviews only survive in areas where technology is least effective e.g. praying for help if you are suffering from an incurable illness
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Parsons: structural differentiation


      • structual differentiaion = process that occurs with industrialisation.
      • many specialed institutions develop to carry out different functions previously performed by a single institution e.g the church
      • religion dominated pre-industrial society but with industrialisation it has become a smaller and more specialised institutuion 
      • Bruce agress that religion has become sepereatred from wider society and privatised in the home and family - relgious beliefs are now largely a matter of personal choice
      • even when religion is involved in education or welfare, it must conform to secual controls e.g. teachers in faith schools must hold qualifications recognised by the state; church has lost its political power 
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Social and cultural diversity


    • Argues that in pre-industrial society, local communities shared religious rituals that express their shared values, but industrialisation destroys these stabel local communites and so destroys religions base
    • However, Aldridge points out that a community does not have to be in a particular geographical area. It can be a shared source of identity on a worldwide scale e.g Jewish communities. 
    • Bruce sees industrialisation creating large, impersonal, loose-knit urban centres with diverse beliefs/values/lifestyles - this diversity undermines the believeability of religion
    • The rise of individualism leads to a decline in community-based religious belief and practice 
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Religious diversity


      • argues that another cause of secularisation is the trend towards religious diversity
      • in the middle ages, the catholic church held the monopoly of truth and had no challenges
      • since the 16th century the number and variety of religious organisations has grown, each with a different version of the truth
      • berger argues that this religious diversity undermiines religious bealiveability. Alternative versions of religions enable people to question all of them, causing uncertainity
      • However, opposing views may strenghten a religious groups commitment to its existing beliegs rather than undermine them 
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Religious diversity (cont.)

  • Bruce sees the trend towards religious diversity as the most important cause of secularisation, because it is difficult to live in a world contaning a large number of conflicting beliefs without concluding that none of them is wholly true
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Cultural defence and cultural transition

Bruce - identifies two counter trends that seem to contradict secularisation theory:

      • Cultural defence: relgion provides a focus for the defence of national or ethinc group identity in a struggle against an external force e.g. Catholicism in Poland before the fall off Communism
      • Cultural transition: religion proves a sense of community for ethnic groups living in a different country and culture
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The spiritual revolution

  • Some sociologists argue that a "spirutal revolution" is taking place, with traditional Christianity giving way to New Age spirituality that emphasises personal development and experience
  • The "spirutal market" is growing  - e.g. increase in services such as meditation, spirtual yoga
  • Heelas and Woodhead - Kendal project
      • investigated whether traditional religion has declined and how far the growth of spirituality is compensating for this. They distinguished between:
      • the congregational domain: of traditional and evangelical christian churches
      • the holistic milieu: of spirituality and new age
      • typical week in 2000, 7.9% of the population attended church. and 1.6% took part in spiritual activities 
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Heelas and Woodhead (Cont.)

Explain these trends as follows:

  • NA growth due to massive "subjective turn" in todays culture - a shift towards exploring your inner self by following a spiritual path
  • as a result of this, traditional religions (which demand duty and obedience) are declining
  • Evangelical churches = more succsesful than traditional churches because they empahsises the subjective aspects: spiritual healing and growth through the personal experience of "being born again"
  • However, this does nnot mean tha a spiritual revolution has taken place, the smaller growth of the holistic milieu has not compensated for the larger decline of traditional religion
  • In the spiritual market place, winners = those who appeal to personal experience as a source for meaning and fullfilment, rathr than the received teachings and commadmnets of traditional religion
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Secularisation in USA


    • in 1962, found that 45% of Americans attend church on sunays, but this was more an expression of the "american way of life" than of religious beliefs
    • For wilson, america is a secual society because religion there has become superficial
    • Bruce, shares Wilsons view. Uses 3 sourses of evidence to support his claim that America is becoming increasingly secular;
      • (1) Declining church attendence: Opinion polls asking people about church attendence suggests it has been stable at 40% of the population since 1940 - however this figure may be an exaggeration. 
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Secularisation in USA (cont.)

  • Hadaway et al found that in one county in Ohio, the attendence level claimed in opinion polls was 83% higher than researchers actually counted going into church
  • Hadaway presents the problem of simply asking people whether they attend church - the 40% rate of self reported attendence masks a decline in actual attendence in the USA, because many people who have stoped going will still say they attend if asked
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Secularisation in USA (cont.)

(2) Secularisation from within

    • Bruce argues that in america, the emphasis on traditional christian beliefs and god has decline. Instead, relgion has been psychologised - a form of therapy. 
    • American religion has remained popelar by becoming less religious - it has become secularised from within. Its purpose has changed from seeking salvation in heaven to seeking personal improvement in this world

(3) Religious diversity and relativism

    • Bruce identifies "practical relativism" among American Christians - accepting that others are entiled to hold beliefs different to one's own 
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Secularisation in USA (cont. 4)

Lynd and Lynd

    • found in 1924 that 94% of churchgoing young people agreed witht the statement "christianity is the one true religion", by 1977, only 41% agreed
    • Nothing is certain - we not live in a society where many people hold views that are completely different to ours, undermining our assumption that our own views are absolutely true
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