Assess the view that religious beliefs and practices are changing to reflect a new era of diversity and choice (33 marks)
Postmodernists argue that the changes in religion are largely the result of changes that have occurred in the wider society such as greater individualism and consumerism or even because of the shit from modern to late modern or postmodern society.
Davie focuses on how many believe without belonging and so therefore rejects the secularisation theory. In her view, religion is becoming more privatised. For example, people no longer go to church because they feel they have to or because it’s respectable to do so. Therefore church attendance is declining because attending church is now a matter of personal choice rather than an obligation. Therefore people hold religious beliefs but don’t attend church. The decline of traditional religion is matched by the growth of a new form of religion.
Davie also notes that there is a trend towards vicarious religion. This can be supported by the secularisation theory because it focuses on how a small number of professional clergy practise religion on behalf of a much larger number of people, who experience it at second hand. According to the secularisation theory focusing on religious institutions today, in 1900 there was around 45,000 members of clergy, which had declined to around 34,000 by 2000. Had it kept up with the growth population occurring at the same time there would be around 80,000 members of clergy. Davie also focuses on how this pattern is typical of Britain and Northern Europe even though there is a low level of attendance in attendance, people do still attend church for events such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. However there’s also been a decline in the number attending these, although the secularisation theory does focus on how church attendance for weddings and baptisms is higher in comparison to attending church regularly on Sundays. Bibby found results similar to Davie’s. He found in the Canadian survey that only 25% of Canadians attended church regularly on Sundays but 80% claimed that they held the religious beliefs. Davie notes that the secularisation theory assumes that modernisation affects every society in the same way, causing the decline of religion and its replacement by science. Although the secularisation theory tends to focus on a single version of modern society, she argues there are multiple modernities. Britain and American are both modern societies but with very different patterns of religion especially in relation to church attendance. Although Britain, argued by Wilson, has become a secular society this isn’t universal. Although America’s church attendance has declined since the 1960s like in Britain, many Americans still hold religious beliefs – supporting Davie’s believing without belonging. The secularisation theory also focuses on how religion is declining but Davie argues that religion is simply changing, not being replaced by science. Her view is that religion will continue to coexist. However there have been criticisms made against Davie. Firstly Voas and Crockett don’t accept Davie’s claim that there’s more believing than belonging. Evidence from British Attitudes surveys from 1983 to 2000 shows that both church attendance and belief in God are declining and if Davie was right then we would expect to see higher levels of belief. Also Bruce points out that if people are not willing to invest their time going to church then this just shows the strength of their beliefs is also declining.