Several weeks ago I posted a summary of Steve Bruce and Roy Wallace on the “orthodox model” of secularization. In that work, Bruce & Wallis argue that the defining mark of secularization is the diminution of religion’s public influence, and, we might quickly conclude, the loss of its public character (they distinguish the process of secularization from the trends of modernization, such as inclusion into a national center, &c.). Regarding this loss of public character, there is a section from Reinhard Hütter’s book, Bound to be Free, where he asks some very pointed questions about the Church as public: he thinks the Church is essentially public, and ponders what it means for her to lose this characteristic feature. Continue reading
In 2012, I would often work at my mother’s house in the late evenings until early morning, trying to finish the first of what are now four bookshelves. There is and was simply not enough space at our rented house to work on it, but I could then occupy both a barn and a workshop at my mother’s.
There is an old radio in that workshop which turns on whenever the lights do. It is in an inconvenient location, and the antenna is super-finicky, so I simply end up listening to whatever station it’s tuned to when I’m not in the barn. Back then it was Pop music. My musical diet is fairly strict: I make it a point of largely only listening to Classical, Folk, and some British/Irish stuff (Radiohead, etc.). I’d forgotten what Pop was like. So I thought: this was another chance to examine it anew.
Of the many things I’d wished to write about after the dozens of hours listening to Pop radio in those months, after looking at my notes, three main points emerged. Continue reading
Religion and Modernization: Sociologists and Historians Debate the Secularization Thesis (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992) ed. by Steve Bruce (photo above), is a collection of nine essays written by nine authors on the exact topic suggested by the volume’s title. After a short introduction by Bruce, the first full essay by Roy Wallis and Steve Bruce “outlin[es] the main elements” of “the ‘secularization’ thesis” (3) mentioned in the book’s title, which thesis is “one of sociology’s most enduring research programmes” (8). In the introduction, Bruce had mentioned that secularization is descriptive, rather than prescriptive, so that it
primarily refers to the beliefs of people. The core of what we mean when we talk about this society being more ‘secular’ than that is that the lives of fewer people in the former than in the latter are influenced by religious beliefs. […] (6)
If this phrase about “the beliefs of people” make it sound as though Wallis & Bruce are interested in individuals, the authors are quick to clarify that the theory they are advancing is really about “the diminishing social significance of religion”. This is not the same as “the decline of religion”, only of its “public role” (10). It is also certainly not an “even and irreversible decline” (27). Wallis & Bruce together reiterate that the “explanatory model” attached to this secularization thesis predicts that
the social significance of religion diminishes in response to the operation of three salient features of modernization
[…] (1) social differentiation, (2) societalization, and (3) rationalization. (8-9)
So that, in sum,
modernization […] brings in its wake (and may itself be accelerated by) ‘the diminution of the social significance of religion’. What features of modernization are involved? There seem to be three that are particularly salient: social differentiation, societalization and rationalization. (11)
Before examining these three features (social differentiation, &c.), we should ask: what is “religion”, such that secularization is the loss or diminution of the large-scale social influence of it? Continue reading