Secularisation in the Industrialised West

1821 Words8 Pages
According to observers such as Steve Bruce, all industrialised western societies will eventually become fully secular. Do you agree? The term secularisation is open to interpretation and has been demonstrated to hold different meanings for different theorists (Hamilton, 2002). Secularisation can been defined as ‘the process by which religious institutions, actions and consciousness lose their social significance’ (Wilson, 1996: 14). In this essay I shall argue that all western industrialised societies will eventually become fully secular at a state level, and also that secularisation effects can be seen at organisational and individual levels of religion. I shall briefly introduce the origin of the theory and outline my definition of religion, before looking at the differentiation of religion and state across the industrialised west and deducing that marginalised religious authority lessens social relevance. I will then use generational trends to establish that the position of religion in society is challenged by the cohort effect. Finally, I shall consider the changing nature of religion on the individual level before finally considering the rise of new religions, concluding that these do not void my thesis. Max Weber’s proposal that ‘science and rationality would eclipse religion’ (Hunt, 2002a; 15) was core to the original secularisation theory, which Peter Berger succinctly summarised as the concept that ‘modernity inevitably produced a decline in religion’ (Thuswaldner, 2014). While modernity has given rise to religious pluralism and science has undermined certain religious beliefs, it has not caused a universal rejection of religion predicted by Weber (Hunt, 2002a). Scientific and religious beliefs do coexist - there are living Nobel Prize winning scientists who define themselves as religious. Many theorists note that a loss of religion is not a necessary
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