• Created by: rdowd40
  • Created on: 10-02-19 17:11

Key ideas

Secularisation: The process of becoming less religious. 

Secularisation thesis: The claim that religion is declining in social significance and personal importance. 

However, this isn't straightforward, since not all sociologists agree on this definition.

Two views of secularisation (Heelas and Woodhead)

Disappearance: modernity is bringing about the death of religion - signficance for society and individuals is declining. 

Differentiation: religion is declining in social significance, but retains importance to individuals - changing form. 

Broad and narrow approach (Sharon Hanson)

The broad approach is concerned with whether religion has lost significance in the social system. 

The narrow approach focuses on religion at the level of individual consciousness an awareness. 

Secularisation may not be happening on both levels. 


  • Declining proportion of the population going to church 
  • Increased average age of churchgoers 
  • Fewer baptisms, church weddings and religious ceremonies
  • Decline in numbers holding traditional Christian values
  • Increased religious diversity

Attendance and affiliation 

Attendance: 1851 = 40% vs 2015 = 5%

Weddings: 1971 = 60% vs 2012 = 30%

Baptisms: increased bogus, but >half the number in 1964

Census: No religion 2001 = 15 vs 2011 = 25%

BSA: No religion 2015 = 50%

12% of Anglican clergy are under 40 

Belief without belonging 

Evidence suggests there has been a belief in personal belief in God and collective religious practices. Hence, some argue that religion has become privatised. Davie argues that there has been a separation of belief and belonging - beliefs are widespread but we no longer belong to a church. 

New religious movements

Religious groups outside of Christianity have grown in Britain

(e.g. Census - Muslims - 2001 = 2.8% vs 2011 = 5%)

The last 40 years have seen a growth in 'new religious' and spiritual movements, such as yoga and meditation but also new religious denominations such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. 


  • Some choose Christian simply because they are white british - methodological issue?
  • Is the census outdated?
  • Bruce: NRMs are insignificant - not enough numbers.
  • Davie: concept is difficult to measure.
  • Going to church may have different meanings at different times.
  • Secularisation isn't universal. 

Karl Marx

Capitalism is the penultimate era of human society. The final era - communism - will follow the revolution against capitalism. Religion is rooted in class society, and without class divisions, religion would disappear. The death of religion is inevitable. 

Max Weber - Rationalisation

This refers to the process by which rational ways of thinking and acting come to replace religious ones:

  • Medieval Catholicism - 'enchanted garden'
  • Protestant reformation - disenchantment 

New rational ways of thinking replaced religious ones - no longer a need for it. 

Steve Bruce - Technology

The growth of a technological worldview has


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