Secularisation Debate

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Secularization Debate:

  • Secular: Can be referred to anything that is not religious or as in something that is the opposite to religious belief.
  • Secularization: Refers to the idea that society and social behaviour is becoming increasingly less influenced by religious views and practices religion and religious practices/ideas are becoming increasingly less important.
  • Bryan Wilson (1966):
  • Refers to secularization as the process whereby religious thinking, practices and institutions lose their social significance.
  • 3 levels of Secularization testing:
  • 1. Religious practice: Cultural level of analysis that involves thinking about the extent to which people involve themselves in Church membership attendance.
  • 2. Religious organizations: Level of society as a whole and involve thinking about the extent to which religious organizations are actively involved in day to day secular order. The extent to which religious org. are able to exert influence /control over the running of society
  • 3.Religious thought: Level of individual consciousness that involves thinking about the extent to which people believe in ideas like god, good and evil. This may be significant in terms of secularization since religious activity while possibly showing  a relative decline in terms of practice and organization may still exert a powerful influence over peoples lives in terms of personal belief.
  • Peter Berger (1969):
  • Argues that secularization is the process by which sectors (hospitals, religious schools, land/government) of society and culture are removed from the denomination of religious institutions and symbols.
  • Measuring concept of secularization:
  • 1.Must be comparative: We need to examine religious activity in both the past and the present. 2. We have to develop a set of indicators by which we can measure religious activity.
  • Indicators: Attendance of religious services, Membership of religious organization and time devoted to religious activities.
  • Sociologists have found it difficult to agree about the relative importance of different indicators.
  • Disadv of measuring secularization: Knowledge of religious activity in past is limited, participation in religious activities is not necessarily caused by strong-held religious beliefs, accurate records of religious participation are hard to find or non-existent, we don't know if people willingly volunteer to attend church, We don't know what religion meant to people, We don't know how important religious activity was in people's everyday lives.
  • Religious organization:
  • To examine the involvement of religious institutions in day-day running of society we must historically compare the relationship between religious institutions and the state.
  • Pro-secularization:
  • In feudal Britain the church:
  • 1. Monopolized Knowledge: Religious officials were able to define and control the way people viewed the social and natural world. In society's, deprived of communication/education, religion was able to control knowledge.
  • 2. Church had close relationship with state an secular powers. Church leaders were involved in all government activities. Feudal Britain= A political dictatorship organised around religious principles.
  • 3. Had a powerful social control over individuals.
  • 4. Involved itself in all economic, political and cultural spheres of life. 
  • Statistics show that the percentage of christian church members is relatively small in terms of population as a whole. Church membership declined significantly in the 20th…


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