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Assess the view that religious beliefs and practices are changing to reflect a new era of diversity and choice

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Assess the view that religious beliefs and practices are changing to reflect a new era of diversity and choice There is a view held by some that religion is in fact changing to reflect changes taking place in society, as opposed to declining. There have been numerous examples noted by sociologists to highlight the way in which religion may be changing in today's society. Some believe that changes in religion occur due to changes in wider society, such as greater individualism and consumerism and a shift from modern to late modern or postmodern society. One idea that sociologists use to back up the theory that religion is not declining is the "Believing without belonging" theory. This theory states that religion is not declining, where as it is taking different, more private form. An example being, people no longer feel that they have to go to church because it is "respectable" to do so. Thus although church going is declining has declined this is simply because attendance to church is now a personal choice and not something which is an expected practice. Believing without belonging is essentially people holding religious views but don't go to church. This highlights a change from traditional church going religion to a more privatized form of modern religion. The idea of believing without belonging and personal choice regarding religious practice is carried on by Danielle Hervieu-Leger, she agrees that there has been a decline in institutional religion in Europe, with fewer and fewer people attending church in most countries. ...read more.


An example being how the "electronic church" and televangelism disembed religion from real local churches and relocate it to the internet, allowing believers to express there faith without having to physically attend a church. Similarly, Lyon describes a Harvest Day Crusade held not in church but at Disneyland, an example of how the boundaries of different areas of social life become blurred in postmodern society. As a result religion itself become de-institutionalised, its signs and images become detached from their place in religious institutions. Removed from their original location in the church, they become a cultural resource that individuals can adapt to their own purposes. Post-modern society also involves the growth of consumerism and especially the idea that we now construct our identities through what we choose to consume. As already mentioned, Leger shows how this is true of religion where we now act as spiritual shoppers, choosing religious beliefs and practices to meet our individual needs from the vast range available in the religious marketplace. We no longer have to sign up to any one religious tradition, instead, we can pick and mix the elements of different faiths to suit or tastes and make them part of our own identity. Its Lyons view that, religion has relocated to the "sphere of consumption". While people may have ceased to belong to religious organisations, they have not abandoned religion completely. ...read more.


For example when churches decline, they leave a gap in the market for sects and cults to attract a new following. Stark and Bainbridge's Religious Market Theory, is rejected by Norris and Inglehart, who argue reject it on the ground that it only applies to America and fails to explain the variations in religiosity between different societies. For example, international studies of religion have found no evidence of the link between religious choice and religious participation that Stark and Bainbridge claim. Norris and Inglehart argue that the reasons for variations in religiosity between societies are not different degrees of religious choice, but different degrees of existential security. By this, they mean "the feeling that survival is secure enough that it can be taken for granted". Religion meets a need for security and therefore societies where female feel secure have a low level of demand for religion. In poor societies where people face life threatening risks have higher levels of religiosity, where as in rich societies where people have a high standard of living, have a greater sense of security thus lower levels of religiosity. Thus showing that the demand for religion is not constant as is claimed By Stark and Bainbridge in their religious market theory. Demand for religion is much greater among low-income groups because they are less secure. This is an explanation of why third world countries remain religious while prosperous Western Countries have become more secular. ...read more.

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