Secularization in North Somerset

Pages: 21 (5882 words) Published: April 17, 2005

Secularisation In North Somerset Page

Rationale 2

Context 3

Methodology 6

Final Questionnaire 8

Evidence 10

Evaluation 14

Pilot Questionnaire 16

Bibliography 18

Research Diary 20


Religion and society has always been a focus of interest for me. I have been intrigued by what kinds of people attend church on a regular basis and whether today’s society is becoming secular. I have noticed the decline in the influence and practice of religion. I have decided to carry out my individual assignment on whether the decline in religion in Somerset is a myth or whether we are becoming a secular society.

I have chosen this area of study as I have noticed the decline in mainstream religion. The definition of secularisation according to Bryan Wilson, the arch proponent for the secularisation thesis, is:

“The process whereby religious thinking, practices and institutions lose their social significance.”

Therefore in my study I will research into the decline of the social significance on those factors. I will look into what influence mainstream religions still have on the society and I will also look into whether sects and cults are increasing in popularity or whether privatised religion is soon becoming the dominant religious type in my local area. So my hypothesis is:

Mainstream religious influences are in decline in the North of Somerset.

The objectives for my individual assignment are as follows:

Carry out my pilot questionnaire and make any needed amendments. Conduct the questionnaire on a wide scale basis using research participants who would be opportunity sampled. Trying to spread the questionnaire to a range of age groups so I can map a trend between religion and the ages of those who attend or participate in religious activities. Collect and analyse the collected data into graphical forms and produce the findings. Reflect on my research process.

Relate my own research with previous studies and determine whether Somerset fits into the natural pattern of previous research. Refer back to my hypothesis and determine whether my findings support or disprove it. Try to find any links as to why Somerset is becoming secular, if my results show this.


Bryan Wilson (1966) introduced the key sociological concept of secularisation; the term used to describe the decline in religion. Wilson defined secularisation as: ‘the process whereby religious thinking, practice and institutions lose social significance’. Wilson argues that religious influence has decreased in the past 100 years. Wilson’s research showed that church attendance has decreased but religion is still important nowadays, this shows belief without belonging. In a later study Wilson looked at the 1987 Church of Scotland Survey and found that over half of the population saw themselves as Christians. And 28% were unsure about their religion. Also over half of the sample regularly prayed. This would show that religion still has a big influence on. This argument would prove my hypothesis worthy as Wilson’s arguments supports it.

However Wilson has been criticised for having a christio-sociological view as he has solely measured secularisation on British Christianity. This would only show a decline in religion in Britain and the trend could not be generalised. Holbourn argues that ‘the national, regional, ethnic and social class differences in the role of religion...make it necessary to relate theories to specific countries and social groups.’ This is why I am focusing my research into a specific area such as Somerset as it would not be an accurate generalisation for different regions.


Bibliography: Bainbridge, W.S. and Stark, R. (1979) ‘Cult Formation : Three Compatible Models, Sociological Analysis no.40
Beckford, J
Beckford, J. (1989) ‘Religion and Advanced Industrial Society’
Bellah, R.N
Bellah, R.N. (1970) ‘Beyond Belief’, New York : Harper & Row
Bellah, R.N
Berger, P.L. (1967) ‘Sociology : An Introduction’, John Wiley & Sons, New York
Bruce, S
Bruce, S. (1999) ‘Sociology: a very short introduction’ Oxford: Oxford University Press
Bruce, S
Caplow, T. (1991) ‘Recent Social Trends in the United States: 1960-1990’, Buffalo: McGill-Queen 's University Press.
Davie, G. (1994) ’Religion in Britain since 1945. Believing without Belonging’, Oxford: Blackwell
Glock, C.Y. and Bellah, R.N. (1976) ‘The New Religious Consciousness’, Berkeley, University of California Press.
Herberg, W. (1956) ‘Protestant, Catholic, Jew’, New York : Doubleday
Haralambos M & Holbourn M (1990) ‘Sociology: Themes and Perspectives 3rd edition’,
Maduro, O. (1982) ‘Religion and Social Conflicts’, Orbis Books, New York
Malinowski, B
Martin, D. (1996) ‘Reflections on Sociology and Theology’, Oxford University Press
Stark, R
Stark, W.S. and Bainbridge, W.A. (1985) ‘The Future of Religion’, Berkeley, University of California Press
Wilson, B.R
Wallis, R. (1984) ‘The Elementary Forms of the New Religious Life’, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
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