An analysis of the concept of secularization and its meaning

Background[ edit ] Secularization is sometimes credited both to the cultural shifts in society following the emergence of rationality and the development of science as a substitute for superstition — Max Weber called this process the "disenchantment of the world"—and to the changes made by religious institutions to compensate. At the most basic stages, this begins with a slow transition from oral traditions to a writing culture that diffuses knowledge. This first reduces the authority of clerics as the custodians of revealed knowledge.

An analysis of the concept of secularization and its meaning

Questions about the wider secularization of American culture as well as questions about the historical drift from a Bible commonwealth to a pluralistic, post-Christian present became political footballs.

As historical problems, they were hardly less contentious. Part of what makes these questions so vexing for historians is a statistical puzzle presented by changing rates of religious adherence from the colonial period forward. According to most calculations, church membership at the time of the American Revolution hovered around a mere 15 percent of the population, suggesting a nation at best thinly Christianized at its birth.

In the nineteenth century, adherence An analysis of the concept of secularization and its meaning climbed steadily, growing to about 35 percent of the population at the time of the Civil War.

That upward march continued throughout most of the twentieth century, with membership rates leveling off at around 60 percent by the s and s. Little evidence can be found in these statistical measures for either a solidly Christian founding or a gradual secularization of the culture.

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With these calculations in hand, many sociologists and historians are ready to bury both the conservative vision of a once Christian America and the liberal delight in the forward march of secularization. As story lines, both appear vestigial—the one a residue of nineteenth-century Protestant presumptions of empire and dominion, and the other a hangover from freethinking Enlightenment toasts to secular progress.

The continuing growth and vitality of religion in the United States shifted much of the attention away from accounts of secularization and placed the historical emphasis instead on the growing "Christianization" or more generally "sacralization" of the culture.

Whereas, in the other industrial nations of the north Atlantic world, rates of church attendance and adherence have moved downward, often dramatically, the American case stands in direct opposition.

An analysis of the concept of secularization and its meaning

Why, historians ask, has religion, particularly Christianity, proven so resilient and booming in the United States? What explains the upward climb of religious adherence, the movement from sparsely planted and weakly established churches in the colonial period to the vital, oversubscribed religious groups of the present?

The most common answer hinges on an economic analogy to a free market. With the elimination of any established church through the First Amendment and through the gradual legal and cultural elaboration of that principle, religious groups were thrown into an open marketplace of sectarian competition and denominational rivalry.

The loss of a monopoly, feared by many as a potential disaster for Christianity, proved instead a great boon, unleashing a voluntaristic ferment in religion unlike anything known in Europe. The free market combined with a heady dose of democratization to reverse the colonial fortunes of the churches and to chase away the specter of radical Enlightenment secularism.

This freemarket paradigm, as persuasive as it has proven to be, carries limits. First, there are various ways to challenge the statistics of everrising rates of religious adherence.

At a basic level, some sociologists have argued that telephone polls estimating current levels of religious adherence and attendance are grossly inflated. When selfreporting, people claim levels of religious involvement that are not borne out by on-the-ground studies in church parking lots and sanctuaries.

Also, being "churched" or "unchurched" could mean vastly different things from one period to another. The baseline of biblical literacy or doctrinal knowledge, for example, might well be much higher for both the affiliated and the unaffiliated at than at Gauging the gravity of devotional practices from one period to another—from prayers to sacraments to sermons to Bible reading—is much harder than calculating adherence rates.

When qualitative rather than quantitative concerns are made primary, the rates of religious adherence appear as something of a distraction from deeper, more thoroughgoing questions about the day-to-day realities of American religious life.

From this angle of vision, the stories about secularization and de-Christianization remain highly relevant, particularly the ways in which secularizing, rationalistic, consumerist, and therapeutic values have transformed American Christianity from within.

One was more likely, though, to prepare for it by shopping for just the right fashions to parade in after church. Religion, not least Christianity, flourished in the American marketplace, but it often came to carry a substantially different set of cultural values and secular associations within that milieu.

Secularization might move forward under the cloak of religion itself. On another point, would-be defenders of the secularization thesis appear to be on shakier ground, and that is on the question of "privatization.

It has been rendered a private, domestic matter of little consequence to social policystate agencies, and learned public discourse. Religion was thus safely tucked away within the confines of the individual conscience. The assumptions about gender that often inform such privatizing discourses render them problematic: This kind of secularization argument—religion has become a private, domestic affair, and it has been diminished thereby—is, as the historian Ann Braude suggests, almost inevitably also a negative commentary on the feminization of religion in American culture.

There is little evidence to sustain the claim that domestic religion, supported especially by women as was the case throughout the nineteenth centuryis religion in decline. The home, as a religious location all its own and as a springboard to moral reform, has proven one of the most enduringly vital religious sites in the culture.Analysis of social structure will reveal in broad terms to what extent the order and operation of society depend on conceptions of the supernatural and activities .

In an epoch in which religion has explicitly and sometimes violently returned to the forefront of the global public scene, the process of secularization that has fundamentally marked Western and particularly European societies demands attention and analysis.

For example, Berger defines the term as meaning: “The process by which sectors of society and culture are removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols” (). Secularization perspectives are varied, but in general there are three levels upon which secularization is theorized to occur (see Tschannen ).

Secularization, Religiosity, and the United States Constitution Christopher L.

An analysis of the concept of secularization and its meaning

Eisgruber The article then goes on to offer a preliminary analysis of to what extent, ifany, are constitutional factors responsible for sustaining a public cul- People often use the concept of secularization casually, as if its meaning were self-evident. The. And because it an analysis of the concept of secularization and its meaning addresses the most profound existential issues of human life (e g Wij willen hier een beschrijving geven.

Religion. For example, Berger defines the term as meaning: “The process by which sectors of society and culture are removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols” ().

Secularization perspectives are varied, but in general there are three levels upon which secularization is theorized to occur (see Tschannen ).

Theories, Concepts, and Measurements | Secularization