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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

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Friday, March 04, 2005

the failure of secularisation theory, or why religion refuses to lay down and die

The following primer on the secularization theory is based upon the work of Jeffrey K. Hadden from the Department of Sociology at the University of Virginia

Secularization is
"...a process of transfer of property, power, activities, and both manifest and latent functions, from institutions with a supernatural frame of reference to (often new) institutions operating according to empirical, rational, pragmatic criteria."

Bryan Wilson

It can be safely asserted that secularization is one of the givens of the modern world, particularly, but not soley, in the West.

Secularization theory seeks to explain the fate of religion in the modern world. The most popular version of Secularization theory is outlined as follows:

1. Reason and science are incompatable with religion.

2 As reason and science advance religion will recede from public life and eventually disappear altogether.

3 Human societies pass through three developmental stages
a)Primative societies
b)Developing societies
c)Modern societies

4.The dominant mode for understanding the world during each of these stages is

5. This developmental model effectively forecasts that human societies will outgrow the need for religion. Science and rational thought will dominate human beings' understanding of their world. The essence of this view is captured by Rodney Stark and William S. Bainbridge in their book The Future of Religion:
At least since the Enlightment, most Western intelletuals have anticipated the death of religion as eagerly as ancient Israel awaited the messiah. Social scientists have particularly excelled in predicting the triumph of reason over 'superstition.' The most illustrious figures in sociology, anthropology, and psychology have unanimously expressed confidence that their children, or surely their grandchildren, would live to see the dawn of a new era in which, to paraphrase Freud, the infantile illusions of religion would be outgrown."

The underlying assumptions of secularization theory are:

1.Religion is irrational

2.People who believe are irrational

3.As the world becomes more rational, guided by science, knowledge rather than superstition, religion is destined to disappear.

While some view the disappearance of religion with concern atheists celebrate its disappearance. In fact it is an atheist wet dream!

The evidence for the validity of secularization theory seems to be massive, even overwhelming, but the past quarter-of-a-century has seen a wide array of evidence, both historial and contemporary, which challenges this position. There is a growing consensus among scholars in the field of the sociology of religion that it is an inadequate explanation. The challenges come from many directions, but the main intellectual perspective is the theory of religious economy (also referred to as rational choice theory, or the "new paradigm"). This new paradigm does not deny that secularization is a powerful force in the modern world, but that secularization theory does not adequately explain what has happened in the modern era.

The new paradigm grew out of research that showed that the growth of conservative religous beliefs in the US accompanied the period of greatest secularization.

The theory of religious economy posits the rise of five worldwide phenomena that contradict the traditional secularization thesis:

1)Global Fundamentalism

2)Nationalist Movements

3)Liberation Theology Movements

4)Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements

5)Religious revivals in Post-Communists Societies

It is now just as much a given that there is a backlash against secularization most demonstratably in the rise of militant Islamic "fundamentalism", but also in the rise of "new age consciousness" in the West and and the revival and resurgence of conservative religious beliefs in many parts of the world.

7:24:00 pm