Beliefs in Society - Secularisation in the UK

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  • Does religion continue to be an important influence in society in the modern industrial age.
  • Wilson and Bruce - society is experiencing 'secularisation', which they describe as a decline in the social significance of religious beliefs, practices and institutions.
  • However, Davie - methodological problems in accurately measuring religious beliefs and practises.

Defining Secularisation

  • Wilson - 'the process whereby religious thinking, practise and institutions lose social significance'.
  • Woodhead and Heelas - can be interpreted in 2 ways:
  • (1) The decline of religious belief and practices among individuals.
  • People no longer believe in the supernatural and that they are becoming:
  • (a) More agnostic (not sure about the existence of God)
  • (b) Apathetic (indifferent to the existence of God)
  • (c) Atheist (sure that God does not exist)
  • (2) Relgion is no longer important as part of the social system of society - it no longer has an effect on other social institutions such as the family, education, the arts, the law and the political system.

Measuring secularisation: the statistical evidence

  • Official religious statistics
  • (a) Church attendance statistics.
  • (1) Crockett - 40% of the adult pop in 1851 attended church.
  • However by 1950, this figure had dropped to 20%.
  • (2) In 2010, around 923,700 people or 1.5% of the UK population attended Anglican churches on a Sunday.
  • (3) Between 1979 and 2005, attendance at Catholic, Anglican, United Reform and Orthodox churches declined by nearly 50%.
  • (4) In 2007, two thirds of the UK population attended a religious service no more than once a year or less or never.
  • (5) Wilson - statistics suggest that religion has been reduced to traditional 'hatching, matching and dispatching' rituals.
  • (b) Church membership.
  • Church membership (being born into, baptised, confirmed or married) has significantly decline over that last thirty…


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