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'Modern Britain is now a Secular Society.' To what extent do Sociological arguments and evidence agree with this statement?

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Introduction

"Modern Britain is now a Secular Society." To what extent do Sociological arguments and evidence agree with this statement? Secularisation has become more of an issue among Sociologists recently than it has been in the past, it is the argument of whether or not Religion is losing it's importance in today's Society. Bryan Wilson defined Secularisation as being "The process whereby religious thinking, practices and institutions lose social significance." This definition itself and not just the topic alone causes problems, it might be argued that it is not possible to measure the significance of such a personal thing as religion and if it is possible it may not even be true that Religion held such a significance in the first place. It may not be true that Modern Britain is a Secular Society or perhaps it is and it always has been. These are just some of the problems that arise with the discussion of Secularisation. 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. ...read more.

Middle

It is also possible that more people may 'worship' as individuals or may not be able to attend church, surely this doesn't mean that they are not religious and therefore evidence that Secularisation is not occurring. Martin also argued that growth of New Religious Movements is not evidence of Secularisation, if more people find their beliefs in Sects or Cults then that should not count as proof that Relgion is losing significance but perhaps that Religion is developing a new form. Sociologists such as Demereth and Hammond believe that religious beliefs cannot be measured by quantitative methods and should be studied by more qualitative methods. ie. Reliosity, which is the extent to which religious belief influences a person's actions and values. They thought that such social indicators as church attendance didn't measure religiosity. For example, there are some people that may attend church as it is considered the 'Done Thing' and not because they have any particular religious beliefs also a person may choose not to attend church because they prefer private worship but this does not mean that such a person is not religious. ...read more.

Conclusion

Weber's ideas here are not unlike the Pheneomenological perspecive and their theory of the new 'Universe of Meaning'. The likes of Shiner, Thomas and Williams all spoke on behalf of the 'Golden Age' Critique. Larry Shiner disagreed with Sociologists such as Wilson who believe that religion is losing it's significance, Shiner said that there is "a problem in determining when and where we are to find the supposedly 'religious' age from which decline has commenced". More simply Shiner was asking the question, whether or not religion ever did hold such an influence over people's lives. On a similar note, KV Thomas said in reference to 16th and 17th century England that because we do not know enough about the religious beliefs and practices of this time that we cannot be sure that a decline has occurred. W Williams determined in study of Gosforth that church attendance has always been low. Parish records indicated that there was low church attendance for 400 years but new Anglican vicars had assumed that this was a recent trend. These Sociologists bring an important issue into the debate, if we are to believe their views then it will not be true that "Modern Britain is now a Secular society" but that it has always been this way. ...read more.

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