Secularization Theory Of Secularization

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A theory of secularization is principally concerned with analysing the extent to which the role of religion is losing prominence, authority and/or utility in the modern world. As Christiano and Swatos explain, “the principal thrust in secularization theory has…been a claim that, in the face of scientific rationality, religion's influence on all aspects of life… is in dramatic decline.” Dating back to Weber, this claim was supported by evidence suggesting that religious epistemologies were losing credibility and being replaced by a secular epistemology; one that provided knowledge based on human reason, ingenuity and technology. Since then, there has been widespread debate regarding the ability of secularization theory to account for the variety…show more content…
As Bailey keenly points out, “Its meaning keeps changing yet remains consistent. It always means, simply, the opposite of ‘religious’- whatever that means.” Despite the simplicity of this point, it is crucial to understand that any claim about secularization (as a trend, process or result) is fundamentally dependant on a particular definition of “religion.” A case in point is Japan. The Shinto tradition views every Japanese person as a Shintoist by birth. Moreover, some Japanese scholars argue that Shinto is not a religion but a traditional way of life. Thus from an emic perspective, appropriating a Western definition of religion is obviously problematic when it fails to cohere with the subjective experiences of non-Western societies. However, even in the Western world, the same definitional challenge is evident if we look at the work of Bellah and his concept of ‘civil religion’ in America. Using Durkheim’s integration model, Bellah proposed the existence of a civil religion in America consisting of a general reference to God, sacralised national holidays, documents and symbols. According to Bellah, the function of American civil religion is national integration. However, this definition of religion is arguably incongruent with strict European Judeo-Christian definitions of religion since it is exclusively defined according to its primary integrative function. These examples show that a…show more content…
In contrast, they represent societies which do not construct the Eurocentric tension between modernity and religion; and therefore do not conform to unidimensional secularization. Indeed, this fact fits well with the rational choice theorists who have used the comparative data to argue that secularization is actually a myth. Accordingly, differences in the prominence of religious influence are not the result of geographically specific secularization processes but are instead the result of each region’s “religious market”. For the rational choice theorists, the dearth of religious vitality in Europe is an effect of the insufficient supply of religious products. It is not an effect of decreased demand for religion (as secularization theorists would suggest). However, and despite the debatable ad hoc premise of this argument (i.e. defining religious demand as a constant), this approach is further limited by the fact that it still treats secularization as a unidimensional
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