Unit 3: Religion in Contemporary Society (Summary)

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  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 23-04-13 10:52


- Religion is changing rather than declining.

- Changed in religion are largely the result of changes in wider society, such as greater individualism and consumerism, or even a shift from modern to late modern or postmodern society.

Believing without belonging:

- Davie: religion is taking a different, more privatised form. i.e. attendance of church is not a matter of personal choice rather than the obligation it used to be. We now have believing without belonging- where people hold religious beliefs but don't go to church. Thus, the decline of traditional religion is matched by growth of a new form of religion.

- Vicarious Religion:

Davie also notes a trend towards 'vicarious religion', where a small number of professional clergy practise religion on behalf of a much larger number of people, who experience it second hand.

Many people still use the church for rites of passage i.e. weddings

Reginald Bibby's Canadian study found that only 25% attended church but 80% said they had religious beliefs, identified positively with religious traditions and turned to religion for rites of passage.

Davie: what appears to be onlt a small commitment to religion is a much wider commitment. i.e. people being draw to the church during times of national tragedy such as Princess Diana's death. The same is true for individuals and families when they face tragedy and loss.

Davie argues that there are mutliple modernities. i.e. Britain and America are both modern societies, but with very different patterns of religion- high in America, low in Britain, but accompanied with believing without belonging.

She also rejects the view that science will replace religion and that they will continue to coexist.

- Criticisms:

Voas + Crockett: British Social Attitudes surveys from 1983 to 2000 shows that both church attendance and belief in God are declining.

Bruce: if people are not willing to invest time in going to church, this just reflects the declining strength of their beliefs.

Spiritual Shopping:

- Hervieu- Léger: there has been a dramatice decline in institutional religion in Europe because of cultural amnesia, or a loss of collective memory > we have largely lost the religion that used to be handed down from generation to generation, because few parents now teach their children about religion > parents today let their children decide for themselves what to belief

- Also, the trend towards greater social equality has undermined the traditional power of the Church to impose religion on people from above = children who are ignorant of traditional religion.

- However, religion itself has not disappeared. Instead, individual consumerism has replaced collective tradition > People today now feel they have a choice as consumers of religion- they have become spiritual shoppers. DIY beliefs that fit with people's lives.

- Religion has thus become a spiritual journey in which we choose the elements we want to explore and the groups we wish to join. Hervieu-Léger argues that two new religious types are emerging:

1) Pilgrims follow an individual path in…



You've delivered a very good overview of postmodernity, brilliant demonstration of breadth of knowledge..

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