Asses The Nature And Extent Of Secularisation In Society Today

625 words - 3 pages

Asses the nature and extent of secularisation in society today (33 Marks)

Over the years there have been a growing number of theories and arguments that say that society
has become more secular in recent years. A secular society is where religious beliefs and values
have lost their impact on society.
There are many sociologists that agree with this statement. For example, Wilson argued that
western society is undergoing a long term process of secularisation.Wilson defined secularisation
as “the process whereby religious beliefs, practices and institutions loose significance”. His
argument is backed up with statistics, church attendance has dropped from 40% in 1850 to
10-15% in 1960. This is a major decrease in members, however statistics on church attendance
must be questioned, if the statistics were acquired by a questionnaire or telephone interview, the
person being questioned could easily give a false answer, often people in ...view middle of the document...

These new expressions are very different from traditional religions,
Bauman expects to see a decline in traditional religions and and increase in New Age Movements
A sociologist that agrees with Bauman is Grace Davie, she uses the phase, ‘believing without
belonging.’ This links to people who have ties to the church or a religion, but do not necessarily
take part in services or meetings. This relates to the privatisation of religion, with more and more
people practising their religions at home, this in turn further undermines the validity of statistics
collected on religious participation due to people carrying out their religious activities at home. An
example of this is the Nordic populations, who for the most part remain part of their Lutheran
churches; they use them extensively for the occasional offices and regard membership as part of
national just as much as religious identity. More pertinently for the churches themselves, Nordic
people continue to pay appreciable amounts of tax to their churches. This does not mean they
necessarily attend church with any frequency, nor d other believe in the tenets of Lutherism.
On the other hand, Weber says that there is a definitive decrease in the amount of people
practicing religion, this is the process of rationalisation. The idea behind rationalisation is that
society changes due to the world becoming ‘demystified’, where magic and mystery are taken
away. Ironically, Weber says that religion spearheaded the process of rationalisation. Weber
claimed that the spirit of capitalism had its origins in early forms of Protestantism, particularly
Calvinism. The spirit of capitalism was one of the main factors in the development of rational
capitalism. Once on its way, modern society no longer needed religions to guide action - reason
was now a sufficient guide. Hamilton (2001) summarises Weber’s views. “Calvanistic
Protestantism was its own gravedigger. In many ways, it could not help but sow the seeds of
secularisation in modern society by its own promotion of worldly activity and consequent expansion
of wealth and material well being.”

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