Sociology of Religion- Approaches to Secularization

Topics: Sociology, Religion, Sociology of religion Pages: 5 (1840 words) Published: December 17, 2013
Sociology of Religion- Final Assignment 2013
1. One of the definitions of secularization is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward nonreligious (or irreligious) values and secular institutions. The Secularization thesis states that as society progresses, particularly through modernization and rationalization, religion loses its authority in all aspects of social life and governance. Max Weber described this process as the "disenchantment of the world". One of the most significant sociologists who wrote about the Secularization Theory, Jose Casanova, spoke of three major approaches to secularization, referring mostly to Western Christian cultures (Casanova, 2007, p. 8). His works generally referred to the process of secularization as it took place in Europe, sparked by the Age of Enlightenment, and later on, constitutionalized in the US. One major approach to secularization by Casanova is the process of secularization as social differentiation. Casanova defined this approach as "conceptualization of the process of societal modernization as a process of functional differentiation and emancipation of the secular spheres—primarily the state, the economy, and science—from the religious sphere and the concomitant differentiation and specialization of religion within its own newly found religious sphere". In other words, as modernization carried out the ideas of rationalization, methodological individualism and scientific research, European societies had become much more differentiated. That resulted in all social spheres leaving the regulation by religion and developing according to their autonomous laws. Hence, gradually, the Church had lost most of its influence and control on most social spheres. Furthermore, social differentiation caused religion to become another autonomous sphere among others, a sphere which is designed to fulfill special religious or spiritual functions- religion became another social activity. Deprived of religious influence, the rise of the modern state as an autonomous institution allowed religious toleration as long as the domestic security is maintained, thus resulting in more secularization. In addition, as Weber stated, as rationalization proceeds both in religion and in other institutional spheres, the tension between religion and other spheres grow. The rise of scientific research which led to question metaphysical perception, and the new capitalistic economies, gave a boost to secularization and formed a new order of society. The effect of secularization in Europe took place in the states, as the liberal American model believed that the true church, constituted by all those who have a commitment to faith, becomes “Invisible”. The assumption is that everyone who has commitment to fate becomes a part of the religious community. There is no need of knowing who is a member of the church as there's no church elite which can rule over society. The individual doesn't express himself in religious institution but in politics and in work ethic. Thus, in practice, all the churches are basically unnecessary. The emphasis is that one has to work in a calling in the world for the greater glory of God. If one perfects the work based on his faith in god, he is part of the religious tradition and framework, a framework which can be described as holy community. This holy community is what leads to separation of church and state as church is not that important anymore. As mentioned above, social differentiation causes religion to be just another social sphere. This process leads to the second approach of Casanova which is the decline of social significance of religion - one does not need religion in order for the social systems to function. According to Bryan Wilson ( 1982, p. 151), individuals devote less time, energy and resources to the supernatural, their thinking becomes more rational, empirical and instrumental, they rely less upon...

Bibliography: Berger, P. L. (1967). The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. New York.
Casanova, J. (2007). Rethinking secularization: a global comparative perspective. Religion, Globalization, and Culture, 101-120.
Eisenstadt, N.S. (2000), Between Europe and Islam: Shaping modernity in transcultural space. Brussels
Wilson, B. R. (1982). Religion in sociological perspective (Vol. 7). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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