Secularization Theory

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    Berger, Peter L.


    Secularity: West and East

    "There now exists a body of thought in the historical and social sciences that has, quite accurately, been called secularization theory. This theory, of course, has not been without its critics, but even for them it has served as a useful foil for various explorations of the fate of religion in the contemporary world. Most broadly, secularization theory proposes a positive relationship between modernity and secularity, in the sense that modernization has brought about a decline in the importance of religion both on the level of institutions and on the level of individual consciousness. In other words, secularization theory proposes a certain view of the way in which modernity has acted upon religion. It is important to point out, however, that there is another aspect of secularization theory, which deals not with the effects but with the roots of modernity. This version of secularization theory proposes that modern secularity, however inimical it might now to toward religion, has religious roots itself. In other words, it is here proposed that religion has served as a causal factor in the genesis of modernity. This proposition (which, incidentally, has had an interesting career within recent Christian theology) refers specifically to the allegedly secularizing consequences of the Judaeo-Christian tradition."
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    Lechner, Frank J.



    "Secularization refers to the historical process in which religion loses social and cultural significance. As a result of secularization the role of religion in modern societies becomes restricted. In secularized societies faith lacks cultural authority, religious organizations have little social power, and public life proceeds without reference to the supernatural. Secularization captures a long-term societal change, but it has consequences for religion itself. In Western countries, where it has been most pronounced, it has made the connection to their Christian heritage more tenuous. Yet secularization is important beyond the formerly Christian West, given that many of the forces that first sustained it there affect other societies as well."
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    Martin, David


    Does the Advance of Science Mean Secularization?

    "The classic procedure of sociology in the absence of controlled experiment is cross-cultural comparison, so the core of what I argue has to turn on something obvious, so crucial and to my mind so compelling that it is a sociological question as to why educated people do not take it on board. In terms of cross-cultural, that is cross-national comparison, countries at roughly the same level with regard to scientific advance have religious profiles pretty well across the complete range. But that means I have to offer explanation in terms of different histories, almost indeed in terms of different cultural gestalten. I set such general tendencies to secularisation as may exist (other things being equal) against the contingencies of history and against the particularities of cultural context where things are hardly ever equal."
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    Stark, Rodney and Laurence R. Iannaccone


    A Supply-Side Reinterpretation of the “Secularization” of Europe

    "We propose a theory of religious mobilization that accounts for variations in religious participation on the basis of variations in the degree of regulation of religious economies and consequent variations in their levels of religious competition. To account for the apparent ‘secularization' of many Eurupesn nations, we stress supply-side weaknesees - inefficient religious organizations within highly regulated religious economies - rather than a lack of individual religious demand. We test the theory with both quantitative and historical data and. based on the results, suggest that the concept of secularization be dropped for lack of case to which it could apply."
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    Stark, Rodney, Laurence R. Iannaccone, and Roger Finke


    Religion, Science, and Rationality

    "A fundamental debate has surfaced within the social-scientific study of religion. Though fueled by new, economic models of religious behavior, the debate finds its origins in a growing body of empirical findings. These findings challenge the received wisdom that religious beliefs and behavior are grounded in primitive, pre-scientific, and non-rational thinking. The distorting force of the received wisdom is underscored by the body of “stylized facts” that it has spawned. For example: (1) religion must inevitably decline as science and technology advance; (2) individuals become less religious and more skeptical of faith-based claims as they acquire more education, particularly more familiarity with science; and (3) membership in deviant religions is usually the consequence of indoctrination (leading to aberrant values) or abnormal psychology (due to trauma, neurosis, or unmet needs)...Our review of traditional claims and contemporary data leads us to conclude that standard social-scientific theories of religious behavior have accorded unwarranted status to the assumption of nonrationality. The view of religion as nonrational, not to mention irrational, emerged from a 19th century scholarly tradition largely devoid of empirical support and tainted by prejudice, ignorance, and antireligious sentiment."