Everything you need to know about Secularization
Okay I’m gonna break this stuff down in the following parts what is secularization, the origin of secularization, the different types of secularization and their criticisms and I might add a bit later about consequences of secularization but that’s gonna make it too long for now.
So here goes
Secularization is for instance the gradual decline of visitors to church and more general the influence it has on society and the power of the church under the European populace.
Secularization is a purely descriptive term that says that in the modern world the societal and political importance of religion has strongly declined.
It must be strictly separated from the political – philosophical doctrine that has the normative idea that the public role of religion must be controlled/contained.
The central point of the secularization thesis and secularization is the difference between private life sphere of personal convictions and domestic life or the life in family circles and the public sphere of school media and politics. This public sphere is something different than the state or government sphere. It is quite possible that religion is strictly separated from the government while religion plays a big role in society. For instance the united states of America, the America constitution denies the government influence on the religious life of the individual and at the same time religion is everywhere in the society, media and politics. The secularization thesis holds the claim that religious claims and practices will disappear from the public sphere. Secularization has the normative belief that religion also doesn’t belong in the public sphere. I’ll come back to The difference between public and private but first I’ll focus on the stand of secularization.
The secularization thesis that religion has lost importance in the modern world is closely tied to the modernistic social sciences views on religion. It actually in some way coincides with the birth of sociology . the 2 fathers Durkheim and Weber of the field proclaimed similar theorems. According to them in a modern world the role of religion will be inescapably reduced.
Because of political developments in the sixteen and eighteenth century ( the reformation the Anglican church the rise of bourgeoisie and the absolute kings and lastly the modern state) the catholic church was disintegrated and lost a large part of its political and economic power. But in the nineteenth century religion also seemed less relevant as a societal and moral power. The rapid urbanization and industrial revolution en increasing prestige and success of growing science undermined religion as source of moral authority, social cohesion and political power.
The decreasing societal importance and more important the societal power. Mostly because of the success of science and more general the rationalization of the modern state and society. Meaning practices who are typically rational and not religious. Processes of urbanization, bureaucracy and so on have a caused a more efficient stream lined large scale society. But the downside is that modern society has no place anymore for the feeling of community and security of the pre-modern religiously ordered world .
Durkheim is describing the disappearance of cohesion and meaning and holiness of every day life that religion had to offer as anomie ( Dutch word don’t know the English one) and Weber talks about the inescapable and irreversible disillusion. Both visions are modern and see religion as fundamentally illusionary and doomed to disappear with the advance modernization. Durkheim also shares the positivistic belief that scientific knowledge is superior to religious or metaphysical statements. Including the basis for social order but both recognize that with the modernization something potentially precious or important is lost.
This bit will be followed up on at a later date see chapter 3.1.1
Is the secularization thesis refuted ?
Nowadays the stand of inescapable and irreversible secularization is under pressure. In modernizing Europe church visits en religious experience was indeed decreasing, but if you looked outside of Europe you saw entirely different developments. A early problem case was at first called America’s exceptionalisme. The fact that despite the total separation of state and religion in the constitution, religion was a all controlling factor in American society and remained so. But also elsewhere in the world religion wasn’t really declining. The Islam had a unheard of expansion during the nineteenth century mostly in Africa and south east Asia. Thanks to intensive mission work Christianity also grew in these regions gradually. And in the twentieth new forms of religion have developed around the world in the media and public life: in America and elsewhere tv priests are a familiar phenomenon and on the internet completely new forms of religious practices have formed lately.
Is the secularization thesis refuted with that?
That conclusion is to premature. The modern world has definitely undergone deep religious change and churches no longer play the dominant role they used to. To judge the worth/value of the secularizations thesis better we must define what it means more precisely. For that I call in the help of Spanish religion-sociologist Jose Casanova , who separates secularization in three forms.
The first one he calls is (which literally translates as dechurchinalisation but dictionary just calls it secularization). Traditional churches have indeed lost many of their following these last decades, but this decline must also not be exaggerated. At the same time diverse new forms of religious organizations have arisen., who attracted (young) groups of people. Furthermore this form of secularization isn’t a straightforward process : in my country the Netherlands churches gained influence in society in the nineteenth century. The great secularization is something that happened in recent past. Around 1960 the Netherlands was the most religious country in Europe. And outside of west Europe it is even less clearly a process of secularization. Secularization in the sense of worldwide secularization is untenable
Casanova calls the second form of secularization a increasing ’’societal differentiation’’ in other words the separation of autonomic spheres such as politics, the state and the economy who were independent of the church and no longer expressed in religious terms/statements. This version originates from Weber’s notion of modernizing as a irreversible disintegration of the social world in autonomic spheres . but a increasing differentiation doesn’t imply that religion has less to do with economics or politics: in contrary in the last couple of years you see more interest/ attention for religious or moral considerations in the politics, and new economic dimensions in contemporary religions. Spheres such as religion politics and economics may have become more independent but they are not separate from each other. Secularization as a linear and irreversible process of societal differentiation is also untenable.
A third version of the thesis describes secularization as the privatization of religious belief. This one says that the core of religion in the modern world is increasingly formed by individual experience and inner conviction and experience and less by collective rituals. According to Casanova this version of the secularization thesis is tenable because it doesn’t need to exclude the forming of new public and even political manifestation of religion. Think for instance about religious movements and political parties , who focus more on individuals than communities as church organizations do.
Ok that’s it for now as stated before I will add a bit about the consequences of secularization at a later date and perhaps a bit about the role of secularization in the modern nation state. And I reserve the right to alter this text for potential typos cause I don’t feel like checking now. And I think I will ad the rest in the same post for clarity for future readers.