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Assess the view that we are now living in a secular society.

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Introduction

Assess the view that we are now living in a secular society. Secularization is described by Bryan Wilson as, 'the process whereby religious thinking, practice and institutions lose social significance'. Contemporary sociologists argue that society is becoming more secular due to science and rationality, the decline of traditional values and the specialized division of labour. This appears to be confirmed by statistics, who claim that church attendance has fallen from 1,200,000 in 1980 to 850,000 in 2001. However, David Barrett has documented the emergence of some 6,300 New Religious Movements since the 1960s and the number of UK Muslims has increased from 40,000 to 1,400,000 which suggest that religion is developing to meet the needs of people in a modern society rather than decreasing altogether. On an international level Gilles Kepel states that there is little evidence of a general trend towards secularization and that in fact there is much evidence, such as the popularity of the Christian New Right in the US, Islamatization movements in Algeria and the Jewish political group Lubavitch in Israel, to suggest a religious revival. ...read more.

Middle

Bryan Wilson partially supports this view in terms of the loss of the social welfare and control functions, stating that due to societalization the church is no longer a focal point, people no longer rely upon the local priest for advice and cannot decide what to believe due to cultural diversity. David Matin blames disengagement for society allegedly becoming more secular, saying that the wealth, influence and prestige of the church has declined, it is no longer a major employer (one in thirty adults were employed by the church in previous times) and its ideological power has decreased. Functionalist Talcott Parsons disagrees, arguing that although the church may have lost its functions and become disengaged from the state and politics, religion can still be significant in everyday life and encourages shared values in society. However, Bruce did admit that religion is still used as a last resort when all rational and scientific options have been exhausted, stating that, 'when we have tried every cure for cancer, we pray...'. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, these dimensions further illustrate the difficulties of measuring religiosity, such as what needs to be taken into account, whether religion has to satisfy all of these dimensions, and which is the most important. To conclude, the secularization process cannot be proved or disproved, with the term 'secularization' being used in many different ways by sociologists. As Glock and Stark pointed out, as we have not adequately defined religion or religiosity, one cannot accurately test the secularization thesis and many sociologists also agree that religion varies according to national, regional, ethnic and class differences and so it is difficult to relate the secularization thesis to the whole of society. Therefore how secular contemporary society has become cannot be determined. However, society is not entirely secular, and with the emergence of New Religious Movements and New Age Movements religion appears to be developing and changing rather than declining altogether. ?? ?? ?? ?? Marilyn Wilkinson 13S ...read more.

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