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The process whereby religion looses its influence over social life and society is known as secularisation.

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Introduction

The process whereby religion looses its influence over social life and society is known as secularisation. Secularisation is of concern to all churches in Ireland because, (Sociology Lecture 1,1996: 1) secularisation is supposedly a result of the processes of industrialisation and modernisation, both of which have occurred in the growth of the 'Celtic tiger' in the past four decades. (Goldthorpe and Whelan, 1992: 265) Secularisation has meant that religious institutions have lost some of the predominance they used to have and lost some of the social position they occupied. However secularisation is not just an institutions process, it is also a process within human consciousness. (Berger, 1981: 10) In order to assess whether religion is still relevant in contemporary Irish society, or whether a process of secularisation is taking place, this essay will look at (INTRODUCTION) From the most recent European Values Study (EVS), statistics show that over 8% of the Irish population can be loosely categorised as secularists, that is, they reject any denominational label. This has risen from 2.5% in the 1981 EVS survey. (Cassidy, 2002: 1) Surveys show that weekly mass attendance has declined from a figure of 87% of Catholics, to around 60% in the period 1981-1998. Only 14% of 18-24 year olds saw mass attendance as important. There has also been a huge decline in the use of religious medals, holy water and pilgrimages. (Sociology Lecture 1,1996: 3) A further indication of the erosion of ideological power in the Irish church is the 29% decline in attendance at confession from 1984-1989. Whilst sacramental confession weakens the new issue of 'public' confession, in the form of phone in /write in chat shows, strengthens. The 'radio confessional' differs from the sacramental in its public exposure of problems, the church refuses to discuss, such as child sexual abuse. The extensive use of 'phone-ins' represents the search for new norms by consensus rather than church teaching. ...read more.

Middle

(Inglis, 1998: 203) Around 95% of the population of the Republic of Ireland declare themselves as catholic. 'It is the only predominantly roman catholic country in the English speaking world'. With the loss of the Irish language the Catholic Church became very important as a mark of Irish identity. (269) Religion also appears to be important in an ideological sense in the Republic of Ireland, as is evident in the growth of special purpose groups and the ways in which they revitalize faith. These lay-run organisations have been very successful in the Republic of Ireland in mobilising catholic' in defence of traditional positions regarding divorce and abortion. The churches institutions role has changed from a close collaborator of the state and more as a social critic on behalf of the poor and vulnerable as a result of social and economic change. It is appropriate to regard the change as evidence of revitalisation of Catholicism and the increase of the relevance of religion in contemporary Irish society. (277-279) Also not all indicators of religious practise support a secularisation thesis. (Goldthorpe and Whelan, 1992: 283) For example a number of reasons for the decline could be due to the previously mentioned church scandals. Also the media provides alternative ways of passing time and socialising. (Sociology Lecture 1,1996: 3) Rather than secularisation being the cause of decline in church attendance a process of social polarisation may actually be taking place. For example fewer that half of the unemployed attend church weekly. Evidence shows that the unemployed are less likely to participate in community rituals such as church attendance. Failure to attend church is not necessarily an increase in the relevance of religion, as more than nine out of ten continued to believe in god, nine out of ten thought it was important to hold a religious service for births marriages and death and eight out of ten people drew strength and comfort from prayer. ...read more.

Conclusion

(http://irishchurches.org/statistics/body_statistics.html) Segregated education is also a feature of NI society. Each community sees it important that they were schooled within their own religious system. (Whyte, 1991: 46) YES Ecumenists attribute the conflict to the churches stressing their differences, rather than their similarities and believe that it is no 'holy war' it is an actual fact profane. (176) And so if religion is defined in terms of scripture to be non-violent, religion is irrelevant in NI. Nationalist politicians propose secular policies, such as policies for economic reforms. (192) The argument that the church is indirectly responsible for republican violence is questionable. The churches lack of control and religious relevance was demonstrated by the failure of pope John Paul 11 plea on bent knees in Drogheda for peace, in 1979. (206) If one wants to argue that there is an important religious dimension to the conflict it is more reliable to argue that the conflict is between 'secular religions'. (Mc Garry and O'Leary, 1995: 212) For most Catholics religion is not the central feature of conflict in NI, religion being defined to issues of doctrine and practise. Catholics have tended to regard political and economic inequality as the root of the NI problem. (158) The churches in NI have mirrored the divisions of secular society and have given them an institutional shape and ideology. (165) Other factors to suggest that religion holds less relevance in contemporary Irish society is the increase in mixed marriages from 6% in 1989 to 9% in 1998 and data from a survey of the population in 1995 suggests that conversion is now less common occurring in about one in seven intermarriages. (http://irishchurches.org/statistics/body_statistics.html) Also an article in the Belfast Telegraph showed how Sunday trading laws have revolutionised the way we spend the Sabbath. Ron Lewis, a former member of the house of commons stated, " We should be prepared to defend Sunday against further secularisation and commercialisation...if by our actions we pass on to the next generation a de-Christianised Sunday, they will pass on a de-Christianised Britain." (Belfast Telegraph, April 15th 1999: 13) (find stats for increase in integrated education.) ...read more.

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