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Assess the sociological for / against view of secularisation occurring.

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Introduction

Assess the sociological for/against view of secularisation occurring (2000). Although sociologists have disputed whether religion encourages or inhibits social change, most agree that changes in society will lead to changes in religion. Furthermore, many have claimed that social change would lead to the weakening or even disappearance of religion. In the nineteenth century it was widely believed that industrialisation and the growth of scientific knowledge would lead to secularisation, which very broadly can be defined as the process of religious decline. Functionalist Durkheim did not agree that religion was 'doomed' to total obsolescence. He once commented that there was 'something eternal in religion' (Durkheim, 1961). Nevertheless, he did anticipate that religion would be of declining social significance. In an industrial society in which there was a highly specialised division of labour, religion would lose some of its importance as a force for integrating society. Social solidarity would increasingly be provided by the education system rather than the sort of religious rituals associated with the more 'simple societies'. Weber too anticipated a progressive reduction in the importance of religion. He thought that in general people would act less in terms of emotions and in line with tradition, and more in terms of the rational pursuit of goals. 'Rationalization' would gradually erode religious influence. Marx did not believe that industrial capitalism as such would herald the decline of religion, but he did believe it would set in motion a chain of events that would eventually lead to its disappearance (Marx, 1950). ...read more.

Middle

While much of this increase may be explained by births to parents following these religions, and by immigration, some has been due to conversions. For example, some people from a Christian background have converted to Buddhism. New religious movements, which take the form of sects or cults, involve much smaller numbers than the major non-Christian religions. The UK Christian Handbook lists 18 such movements and has estimated the membership of these organisations along with that of other new religious movements rose by nearly 5,000 between 1980 and 1995, an increase of approximately 130 per cent. All of the figures described here should, however, be viewed with some caution. Many of the figures are estimates, and, interpreting religious statistics is difficult and controversial. Nevertheless, they do give some indication of membership trends. Overall there does seem to have been a decline in membership of religious organisations in the UK. Institutional, Christian religions have declined most, while many non-Christian and smaller religions have gained members. A very different impression is given by statistics on religious participation in the USA. There, rates of religious participation are much higher than those in Britain and on the surface do not provide support for theories of secularisation. Writing in 1993, C. Kirk Hadaway, Penny Marlerm P.L. Church and Mark Chaves noted that rated of self-reported church attendance in the USA were around 40 per cent. By this measure, Protestants had about the same attendance rates in the early 1990s as they had in the 1940s. ...read more.

Conclusion

He maintains that there is no necessary connection between the various processes lumped together under the same heading. Because the range of meaning attached to the term 'secularisation' has become so wide, Martin advocates its removal from the sociological vocabulary. Instead, he support a careful and detailed study of the ways in which the role of religion in society has changed at different times an in different places. Glock and Stark (1969) argue that researchers have been unable to measure the significance of religion because they have not given adequate attention to defining religion. There is some evidence that contemporary theorists of secularisation do pay more attention to differentiating between different issues that have been considered under the heading 'secularisation'. For example, Steve Bruce (1995, 96) accepts that religion can remain an important part of the individual beliefs, but he believes that religion has lost its social and political significance. Casanova believes that recent history shows that religious beliefs and practices are certainly not dying out, and that 'public religions' have increasingly re-entered the public sphere. Thus, to him, it is only in the first sense that secularisation has taken place. Religion no longer has a central position in the structure of modern societies, but neither does it fade away. Most theorists who either support or stack the theory of secularisation are now willing to admit that the theory cannot be unproblematically applied to all groups in modern societies. It can therefore be argued that the national, regional, ethnic, and social class differences in the role of religion discussed by Martin and others make it necessary to relate theories to specific countries and social groups. Sanjay Mistry 'Secularisation' 10/02 ...read more.

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