Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2023) | Viewed by 23087

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Faculty of Social Sciences, Education and Administration, Lusófona University, 1749-024 Lisbon, Portugal
Interests: religion–state relations; secularization; cultural diversity; religious freedom; religions in Europe

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Secularization is not a myth (?). Several authors have been trying to answer this question in recent scientific works debating the future of religion and its dialogue on the topics of ageing, individualism, fundamentalism, and insecurity.

In effect, modernization processes have been changing the world’s religious landscape even if it presents forms and consequences different from those traditionally described by secularization theorists. As Peter Berger prophetically said in one of his last works, the world will have many altars (religious and non-religious).

This Special Issue seeks to understand and challenge secularization theories, trying to grasp not only the place of religion in modern societies but especially which of these theories, if any, is currently more useful to describe this socioreligious reality. In other words, it will try to comprehend which modernization processes have more (positive or negative) effects on religion.

As many researchers pointed out, we have come to a stalemate or deadlock in the secularization debate. Some are now asking, more assertively than in the past, that secularization theories be abandoned, namely because of the phenomena of the (public or private) revitalization of religion on a global scale. Others still advocate that its assumptions are too rich to be lightly abandoned and that secularization remains a good way of understanding the workings of contemporary societies in relation to religion.

Despite these divergences, most social researchers converge in the same direction, namely in the idea that, to test the validity of secularization prepositions, there is a need for new methodological and conceptual strategies, new qualitative and quantitative analyses, and new analytical frameworks.

This Special Issue aims to be a step in that direction. To meet this goal, it invites all researchers to explore, for example:

  • The state of the art of the theoretical debate on secularization.
  • New or revised qualitative or quantitative approaches to explore the impact and scientific accuracy of secularization.
  • The relationship between religion and different independent variables, such as: cultural diversity, ageing, science and digital consciousness, demography and geographic mobility, education, populism, individualism, the COVID-19 pandemic, and gender.
  • Global, regional, and local perspectives on secularization.
  • How (non-)religiosity is changing the global religious landscape and what its impacts are in different regions of the world.
  • The future of religion in modern societies and, depending on regional contexts, whether it is undergoing displacement, recomposition, revitalization, or decline.

Dr. Jorge Botelho Moniz
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • secularization
  • religion
  • modernization

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

15 pages, 928 KiB  
Article
Revisiting Secularization in Light of Growing Diversity: The European Case
by Grace Davie
Religions 2023, 14(9), 1119; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14091119 - 30 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1658
Abstract
This article brings together two rather different trends in the religious life of twenty-first century Europe. On the one hand, secularization continues—faster in some places than others and with varying implications for the society in question. On the other, Europe—and especially western Europe—is [...] Read more.
This article brings together two rather different trends in the religious life of twenty-first century Europe. On the one hand, secularization continues—faster in some places than others and with varying implications for the society in question. On the other, Europe—and especially western Europe—is becoming increasingly diverse, an equally inexorable development brought about by immigration. Is it possible to reconcile the two, keeping in mind that secularization erodes religious literacy, thus impeding constructive conversation about religion in public life, whereas the management of religious diversity demands this capacity on an almost daily basis? All too often the result is an ill-informed and ill-mannered debate. Can anything be done? Is it possible, in other words, to encourage a better conversation about religion in this part of the world? Understanding the religious dimensions of the current conflict in Ukraine raises similar—but distinctive—issues; they are central to the underlying discussion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
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22 pages, 401 KiB  
Article
Secularization Theory’s Differentiation Problem: Revisiting the Historical Relationship between Differentiation and Religion
by Kevin N. Flatt
Religions 2023, 14(7), 828; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14070828 - 25 Jun 2023
Viewed by 2738
Abstract
Much theorizing about secularization tells a “differentiation story” that puts a historical process of structural differentiation at the center of its understanding of secularization. The heart of the story is the claim that the increasing differentiation of social spheres over time freed the [...] Read more.
Much theorizing about secularization tells a “differentiation story” that puts a historical process of structural differentiation at the center of its understanding of secularization. The heart of the story is the claim that the increasing differentiation of social spheres over time freed the “secular” spheres of life (politics, economics, etc.) from religious control or domination. This conceptual framing has been widely shared by scholars in the field, not only by adherents of the classical secularization paradigm, but also their leading critics in the supply-side and historicist–revisionist schools. While the story sometimes serves a purely descriptive function, at other times it is used to explain secularization (i.e., differentiation causes secularization). A close examination of the differentiation story, however, raises questions about the historical accuracy and theoretical plausibility of some of its core assumptions. Aspects of the differentiation story that require critical reconsideration include the empirical accuracy of its historical generalizations, its underspecified notion of “spheres,” and its explanatory assumption that some spheres are innately or properly nonreligious. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
16 pages, 812 KiB  
Article
Explaining Religious Revival in the Context of Long-Term Secularization
by Jörg Stolz and David Voas
Religions 2023, 14(6), 723; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060723 - 30 May 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2678
Abstract
Secularization theory has often been criticized for not being able to explain counterexamples. However, secularization theorists argue that transitory religious resurgences are expected to occur even in modernizing conditions. The aim of this article is to identify mechanisms that can explain the temporary [...] Read more.
Secularization theory has often been criticized for not being able to explain counterexamples. However, secularization theorists argue that transitory religious resurgences are expected to occur even in modernizing conditions. The aim of this article is to identify mechanisms that can explain the temporary upswing of religion against the backdrop of long-term modernization. We classify the mechanisms under five broad headings: crisis, reaction, transition, state intervention, and composition. Historical examples are provided to illustrate these mechanisms. The mechanisms are not mutually exclusive and can be understood within the framework of rational action. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
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18 pages, 2710 KiB  
Article
Moving Away from Religion: Age, Cohort, or Period Effect? Evidence from a Longitudinal Survey in Switzerland
by Christophe Monnot and Boris Wernli
Religions 2023, 14(4), 493; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040493 - 4 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1625
Abstract
Since Voas and Crockett (2005), a consensus has emerged in the sociology of religions on the fact that secularization is largely due to a cohort effect. That is, each birth cohort is less religious than the previous one. We use data from the [...] Read more.
Since Voas and Crockett (2005), a consensus has emerged in the sociology of religions on the fact that secularization is largely due to a cohort effect. That is, each birth cohort is less religious than the previous one. We use data from the Swiss Household Panel (SHP), a multi-thematic survey based on a random sample representative of the general population since 1999, to understand what is the cohort effect in Switzerland on three indicators of religiosity: religious affiliation, frequency of religious service attendance, and personal prayer, taking into account the socio-demographic characteristics of individuals, which could interfere with cohort, period, or age effects. A first general observation can be drawn from the SHP: for the three religious indicators, a cohort effect is a key factor in explaining the decline of religiosity. Each birth cohort is less religious on all three indicators, that is, younger individuals are less affiliated, practice less often, and pray less than the older cohort. More subtly, we also observe an effect of age or life cycle, especially on the practice, and a period effect on the religious disaffiliation of individuals. Each birth cohort shows a more religious profile of individuals at the start of the cohort than at the end. There is, therefore, an initial movement of distancing from religion by birth cohorts, but this is further accentuated by a period effect for disaffiliation and sometimes accelerated and, at other times, slightly contained by a life-cycle effect. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
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13 pages, 667 KiB  
Article
New Age and Environment: New Forms of Spirituality and Lifestyle in the Context of Secularization?
by Tiago Pinto and Helena Vilaça
Religions 2023, 14(4), 468; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040468 - 1 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2781
Abstract
From the middle of the 20th century, the rise of anthropocentric beliefs partly inherited from the Abrahamic religions led to a change in mentality about ecosystems. The measurable signs of environmental exploitation and destruction and their consequences for human health, the shift to [...] Read more.
From the middle of the 20th century, the rise of anthropocentric beliefs partly inherited from the Abrahamic religions led to a change in mentality about ecosystems. The measurable signs of environmental exploitation and destruction and their consequences for human health, the shift to post-materialist values, and the growth of ethical philosophies (Land ethics, the Gaia Hypothesis, and Deep Ecology) were predictors of global ecological awareness. Progressively, human cultures (which are inseparable from religion) have become a priority for understanding relationships with the natural world. Alongside beliefs, individual subjectivities, influenced by the New Age, also positively affect sustainable values and practices. One of the community manifestations that demonstrate this is the ecovillage phenomenon. The sociological study of these new social realities influenced by the New Age is a relevant field of research in the frame of secularization or the criticism of this paradigm. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
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11 pages, 275 KiB  
Article
Secularization in Europe: Causes, Consequences, and Cultural Diversity
by Jorge Botelho Moniz
Religions 2023, 14(3), 423; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030423 - 21 Mar 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3677
Abstract
This paper explores the timeliness and relevance of secularization theories in Europe. It seeks to understand how the classical theories of secularization—rationalization, societalization, functional differentiation, and existential security—and their theoretical innovations—namely, cultural diversity—help describe religious phenomena in a specific set of European countries—Austria, [...] Read more.
This paper explores the timeliness and relevance of secularization theories in Europe. It seeks to understand how the classical theories of secularization—rationalization, societalization, functional differentiation, and existential security—and their theoretical innovations—namely, cultural diversity—help describe religious phenomena in a specific set of European countries—Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain. In this context, cultural diversity shows the strongest negative correlation with religiosity. These findings arise from the correlation between the different theories of secularization, the independent variables, and an index of religiosity, the dependent variable. Cultural diversity, as a good predictor to explain secularization in Europe, shows how contact with different religious and non-religious worldviews enhances a mutual fragilization that can lead individuals from uncertainty to the rejection of religious beliefs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
21 pages, 392 KiB  
Article
Tension and Transaction: Dynamics of Religious Recomposition from a Multiscopic Perspective
by Alfredo Teixeira
Religions 2023, 14(3), 376; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030376 - 13 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1534
Abstract
This review article is based on re-reading the Joas vs. Weber discussion about the macro-concept of “disenchantment”. For Joas, the Weberian thesis brings together, in a single explanatory model, different social processes that must be differentiated. Joas’s proposal highlights the need to build [...] Read more.
This review article is based on re-reading the Joas vs. Weber discussion about the macro-concept of “disenchantment”. For Joas, the Weberian thesis brings together, in a single explanatory model, different social processes that must be differentiated. Joas’s proposal highlights the need to build research models sensitive to the interaction and the play of different logics of action between tension and transaction. The collection of some of the most recent tendencies shows how research on religion and modernity has renewed its interest in “visible religion”, granting a fundamental place to study the different modalities of religious agency in the recomposition of the public domain. Reading these results allows the reconstruction of an epistemological model centered on the logic of action, considering that religion can no longer be studied only on the terrain of its institutional reproduction. Instead, the plurality of religious agency requires observation at different scales: a multiscopic and multisite perspective. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
13 pages, 261 KiB  
Article
Secularization Vindicated
by Steve Bruce and David Voas
Religions 2023, 14(3), 301; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14030301 - 23 Feb 2023
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2267
Abstract
In the 1960s, it was taken for granted that modernization eroded religion. In the 1980s, this consensus was challenged by the rational choice, supply-side, or market model proposed by Rodney Stark and associates. In particular, they argued that the UK was hardly less [...] Read more.
In the 1960s, it was taken for granted that modernization eroded religion. In the 1980s, this consensus was challenged by the rational choice, supply-side, or market model proposed by Rodney Stark and associates. In particular, they argued that the UK was hardly less religious then than it had been in 1880. Clive Field’s compendium of statistical data allows us to test Stark’s approach to the religiosity of the UK. We follow this with data on Europe and the USA. While we may still argue over some of the precise levers, there is now so much evidence in favor of the secularization approach that we regard it as vindicated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
15 pages, 2320 KiB  
Article
Portuguese Youth Religiosity in Comparative Perspective
by José Pereira Coutinho
Religions 2023, 14(2), 147; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020147 - 26 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1950
Abstract
Portugal has been a good example of sociocultural changes during the last decades which have influenced the levels of religiosity, namely among young people. In this context, this article studies Portuguese youth religiosity in a comparative perspective. First, it compares Portuguese youth religiosity [...] Read more.
Portugal has been a good example of sociocultural changes during the last decades which have influenced the levels of religiosity, namely among young people. In this context, this article studies Portuguese youth religiosity in a comparative perspective. First, it compares Portuguese youth religiosity with the other Portuguese age groups’ religiosity. Second, it compares Portuguese youth religiosity over time. A supplementary analysis compares Portugal with Catholic Europe in both aspects. Portuguese youth are less religious than the other age groups, mainly the older group, and are becoming less religious over time. Comparing Portugal with Catholic Europe, differences in young people have decreased in the last two decades, reaching similar values in 2020. Quantitative analyses based on four religiosity dimensions (community, practice, belief, and norm), using the European Values Study, were applied. These data confirm secularization, including the theories of individualization and cohort replacement, in line with other studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Quo Vadis? Secularization in the Modern World)
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