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Outline and evaluate the view that religion is losing its significance in the contemporary UK. [33mk]

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Introduction

´╗┐Vasudev Sharan Lawrence School, Lovedale Outline and evaluate the view that religion is losing its significance in contemporary UK? [33mk] An absolute position on, ?religion is losing its significance in contemporary UK? is problematic. In other words, any discussion on whether British society is undergoing secularisation is in turn informed by the discussant?s view of religion itself. For instance, if religion is defined in substantive terms (cognate of sacred and supernatural) evidence of secularisation of British society may become more apparent. However, seen from a functionalist perspective, other evidences would become more conspicuous to indicate that religion is still a potent force in British social life. Sociologists who believe that the British society is undergoing or has undergone significant secularisation are inclined to see that there has been a major displacement of religious belief, practice and sense of community from the moral life of society (Victor Lidz, 1979, Secularisation Ethical Life and Religion in Modern Societies). ...read more.

Middle

Max Weber in his pioneering work -The Protestant Ethics & the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), saw ?desacrilisation? as the ?disenchantment of the world?, the religious world view losing its mystery and magic thus replacing it with technological world view. Further, Berger (1973) argued that Protestantism represented crucial elements of secularism within the tradition of western Christianity itself. Reformation and Enlightenment focusing on the ?this life?, ?work? and ?pursuit of prosperity? provided the pivotal impetus towards secularisation. Talcott Parsons in his book ?The Social System? (1951) posited that with industrialisation and urbanisation societies underwent ?structural differentiation? wherein specialised institutions increasingly assumed the functions of hitherto performed by religion. For instance, the exercise of authority, adjudication, education and entertainment came to be performed by State, independent judiciary, universities and theatre independent of Church. Social differentiation, arising out of geographical and social mobility resulting in religious pluralism, Bruce (1995)(1996) argued, made religion a matter of choice rather than something that can be taken for granted. ...read more.

Conclusion

Bellah (1987) argued that while institutional religion is in decline other aspects of it continue in a variety of form in modern society. Individuation has replaced institutional religion and many have embarked on spiritual journeys in search of themselves. Any debate on how secular or how religious is British society or for that matter any society would ultimately mean understanding the tense cultural dilemma: whether social institutions should draw their legitimacy from Moral Rationalism or Religious Tradition? While there is little doubt that institutionalised Church plays less of a political role today than it did in earlier centuries our national debates on issues such as age of homosexual consent, abortion, women priest and public policies on poverty continue to be influenced by the Church and its leaders. Measuring religiosity or secularisation of British society would also require understanding of religious beliefs and practices of minorities. In a globalised world it also may mean understanding how societies in Africa, Asia and Latin America respond to institutionalised religion. ...read more.

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