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Religion, Secularization and Social Change: Congregational by Paul Chambers

By Paul Chambers

This entire account of social and non secular switch in modern Wales combines thought and fieldwork with a deep feel of the ancient dimensions of those alterations and their implications for the way forward for non secular associations working inside a post-Christian society.

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Additional resources for Religion, Secularization and Social Change: Congregational Studies in a Post-Christian Society (University of Wales Press - Politics and Society in Wales)

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I have described the origins of the term secularization and its subsequent development as an analytical concept for examining and understanding social and religious change. As I have noted, academic acceptance of what has come to be known as the secularization thesis has not been universal and the idea has increasingly been subject to sustained criticism. Moreover, theories of secularization are necessarily tied to theories of what religion is. The more open and inclusive the definition of religion, the harder it is to identify secularizing currents.

It follows that statistics of church decline (merely one indicator of secularization) are wrongly taken as heralding the withering away of religion itself. While employing the term, he questions whether secularization, in the sense of the widespread decline of religious beliefs, can really exist, as religion is an enduring constituent feature of society, coextensive with social life itself. For Luckmann, because religion is rooted in existential experience, it cannot die. Institutional transformations can and do take place, and in this sense we may talk of ‘secularization’, but religion can never be eliminated.

Notwithstanding such a diversity of opinion, in recent years, particularly among those theorists operating at the more empirical level (Gill, 1993; Hornsby-Smith, 1992; Finke, 1992; Davie, 1994), criticism of the secularization thesis has grown apace, further undermining its paradigmatic status. Academic rivalries apart, one could be forgiven for wondering how so many theorists, and the list is not exhaustive, could come to such a diverse set of conclusions about the same subject, religion. Sharpe suggests that much of this discourse is merely a reflection of continued confusions as to what secularization might be in the first instance, rather than how it might be measured (Sharpe, 1983).

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