Secularization Theory: The Course of a Concept Author(s): William H. Swatos, Jr. and Kevin J.

Christiano Source: Sociology of Religion, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 209-228 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 08/01/2010 06:17
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1999,60:3209-228 of Sociology Religion

Secularization The of Course



H. William Swatos, Jr.*
Executive Associaion theSociology Religion Office, for of

Kevin Christiano J.
Dame of University Notre

Thisessay an to debate provides introductionthesecularization as it presents at theendof itself the1990s.After conceptual a to we fromthemid-1960s thepresent, focuson theempirical survey andhistorical elements undergird theclaims secularization andthose itsprincipal that both of of theory critics.Secularization both theoryis placedin relationship to the Religion Reasonof the of and in Enlightenment developmentsEuropean religious historiography thenineteenth during century. Theunderlying with to beresolved respect "secularization" to is whether term beused the can conflict in a relatively value-neutral it carries value unsubstantiated analytic or whether inherently way presuppositions.

In 1967the Journal theScientific a for Study Religion of published collectionof essays on church-secttheory that some people at the time interpretedas an for be intending obituary the church-sect concept.Ifso, it mustinstead taken as evidenceforthe resurrection the dead,forat leasta decadeof both debate of and research, and abuse,of the church-sectframework use occurred beforea consensus arrivedin the 1980s,whereinsociologists religionin the of gradual UnitedStatesachieveda level of comfortin talkingaboutsectarian and religion mainlinedenominations, whereinwe defend our use of sparedprolegomena these concepts. In that process,though, somethingelse happenedas well; becamedroppedfrom use in the namely,the concept of "cult" increasingly too loadedto carry scientificfreight sociologyof religionas already emotionally in we (see Richardson 1993).Likethe concept"race" ethnicstudies, at leastput in "cult" scarequotes. can talk aboutanticultism, racism, to terma We like but a bad it fromthe start. group cult is sociological manners: biasesanalyses Like church-sect and so manyother seminalconceptsin the sociologyof the termsecularization given to us by MaxWeber(1930), but ever was religion, so lightly,andwaspickedup by his sometime associate ErnstTroeltsch(1958). It did not appearsignificantly Americansociology,however,until the late in
Direct to the correspondence ASRExecutive Office.


StarkandBainbridge (1985) on level of practiceor saturation the part of traditionalreligion in modern and societies.firstso revealed. of Wilson. Shinerin 1967. ideas" indeed. KarelDobbelaere and would BryanWilson.comprehensive.g.we mightnow say." is.the higherthe likelihoodof NRM activity.All wereproducts a European of Christian intellectual herithe tageandeducational systemthat.) attackis a fourfold The secondthrustof Hadden's challenge:(1) Seculariof zation theory is internallyweak in its logical structure "a hodgepodge .TheGlasner (p. waspresaged a the past.secularization the reigning was by dogmain the field.(This flankof Hadden's assault. ideology secularization the in as a matterof fact.andalthough-his it the cited had is frequently in passing.In spiteof a cautionary articleby Larry Shineras earlyas 1967 aboutthe muddledmeanings that had come to be attached to the term. trencha and of ant analysis the weakness secularization of theoryin both in its genesisand its is predictedoutcomes.a point also made by Glasner (1977) in his critique of a secularization (3) theoryas a "myth" decadeearlier.romanticized religious pastof theirnations.. PeterBerger. bookalsosuffers the Matthew from to substance beginwith" 15).sees the riseof NRMsas a "proof" view. represent taken-for-granted a of ideology" socialscientists"rather than a systematic of interrelated set Over propositions.Not insignificantly. 3 An alternative of alia.210 SOCIOLOGY RELIGION OF 1950s.proposed Wilson(e. Dobbelaere Europeans.3 finally. Berger a European emigreto the United States. becomethe principalproponents the concept. It was in his 1986 presidential to address the SouthernSociological Society that Jeffrey Hadden(1987:588) presented clear." time in socialscientific idea circles(which continuedto widenin their influence)." of relieson beliefsabout statement aboutthe present.indeed." ."the of secularization Evenmorethan a "on became that sacralized. 1985)inter by it and this thesis. 2 Similarly of wrotein 1992of the sociological PeterBerger "theory": the "By prediction secularization with a vengeance. apparently no effecton stemming tideof secularization theory..The core of his argument that in and from its genesis secularization more constituteda "doctrine than a theory" basedon "presuppositionsthat. a beliefsystemaccepted faith.nevertheless the early1970s.(4) religion Merton(1968) hascalledthe case of I The course the Shinerarticleis an interesting of whatRobert article in no Shiner continued publishing "Matthew effec'tin the sciences: program thisarea. and are is and Luckmann.2 New ReligiousMovesecularized in and ments(NRMs)have appeared persisted the mostsupposedly have shownthat the lowerthe societies. hence his that (see suggestion "wedropthe word entirely" also Martin1965). it turnedout. Berger unpersuasive." judges to be "singularly 9) (1996-1997: now terms idea'the last-gasp secularization.(2) such looselyemployed as does exist is unsupported dataaftermorethan twenty secularization theory by years of research. as seriesof piecesby RolandRobertson beginning earlyas 1971. In between.1 of about TwentyyearswouldpassbetweenShiner's expression reservations secularization and "theory" the next majorassaulton the thesis. the theoryneverhad muchempirical As late 1970sit had been falsified effect.

Laterthe term would come to be used to distinguish betweencivil and ecclesiastical In law. 5 The secularization also likechurch-sect debate. Sommerville Yamane Laermans al. 1998). process" e. otherwise agreesthat "[i]fthis wereall that secucontendingwith Dobbelaere."weredistinguished 'ecular"clergy." as of centuries. larization What Starkargues. termwasadoptedformally the Britishfreethinker by 4 Curiously..reflectsome of the same concernsthat ran through church-secttheory three decadesago?In other words. we write. It could be used to mean somethinglike unendingtime (the phrases "world withoutend"or "forever ever" and that still often appear the end of formal at Christian are of or saculorum). Hadden Shupe as of 1989). . at leastby the fourthand fifth "theworld.furthermore. 1985. 1994. analytic though"inpianissimo"compared his earlier concept. future takeusbackto whereWeber (Hadden1987:598. began" To what extent does the debateover secularization in theory.. probably an extension of the idea of a "spirit an this date." By developed meaning. itself whichcould be takento meanboth an age (or era) but also.and possessions.5 the BACKGROUND The word"secularization" comesfromthe Latinsaeculum. lands.too.concluding searchfor should"return once moreto the pastto see the future.THEORY: COURSE A CONCEPT 211 THE SECULARIZATION OF and has emerged a vital forcein the worldpoliticalorder(cf.4AlthoughStark that and his colleagues once usedsuch phrases "limits secularization" secuas to or larization a "self-limiting as (in. StarkandBainbridge he nowwishesto bury "secularization" an Karel Dobbelaere refers a "descriptive to conanalytictool or a valuejudgment? in thatdenotes"theparticularizationthe religious of the general cept" subsystem on processof functionaldifferentiation the macrolevel.there wouldbe nothingto argueabout. Starkremains of thosesociologists religion one of who continues tryto use"cult" an to as as to work.and is by no meansrestricted the articles this volume(recentexamples to in includeBruce1992. the wordhad already an ambiguous age. the nineteenth the century. in continues burgeon to even as "theory" its heyday.who were"enclosed" undera and formal "rule life.MaxWeber's clues about the place of religionin humansociety took him deeplyinto the The will major studyof the world's religions."And RodneyStark.g. makesassertions aboutpeople'sreligiousness are not so. 1987). et 1997. Haddenconcludesthis thrustwith a seriesof forecasts the place of that we religionin societyand in sociologyfor the next fiftyyears.1998.1998. it wasalsousedto meana but clergy life or life-stylethat is at oddswith God (thuspeoplewouldentermonastic life to flee "the world").represented the articlesof this issue.monasticpriests. means. the world prayers translations the Latinin saecula "outthere"(for example.609 et passim)." is that the conceptcarries muchmorefreightthanthis andin so doing however.meaning parish of from the who servedthe people"outin the world").

212 OF SOCIOLOGY RELIGION who founded Secular the to G. theprocesses therationalizationaction. Priests. increasingly but useby the time it wasadapted into negative."thereligious point and rabbis. To the extent that one mayever speaklegitimately a single integrating of it focusin a bodyof workas extensiveas MaxWeber's corpus. it 139). hadan ambiguous. the worldwas "aself-contained causal nexus. de-magi-fication dethoughperhaps did Disenchantment not simplymeanthat peopledidnot believe myster-ization. He referred this as the "spirit him a forward His studies convinced thatfromthe sixteenthcentury capitalism.but ratherthat the conceptof mystery "the of to wasseen not as something be entered itselfwasdevalued. specificform of of of social that enabled to '"hemodemworld" come into being. political level. amongmanycompetingclaimsto authority.Webergave the namesecularization this double-sided was in rationalization-disenchantment process religion. medicaldoctorsare scientists. socialscience(see Shiner1967). the proby to ducts of technology. mulministers." in as had process beenoccurring Wester civilization a resultof whichone after for anothersphereof life had becomesubjectto the belief that explanations and the applicationof could be found within this-worldly events experience humanreason. Mark or the societallyrecognized expertsat the individual microsocial .it is also the case that the term processand the resultof the process. ways sociologyof knowledge.Weber's (see ways sureknowledge relativeto the pastas providing have lost credibility authority to economicconsiderations contrasted a Shiner (1967: 216) puts it.Holyoake. or in the old mysteries religion.and that practical (as the role heavenlybankaccount)have come to playan increasing in measuring as of view"will be treated one At worthof knowledge.Weberwas change in of calculation cometo domihad interested how it wasthat methods rational of to nate virtuallythe entiretyof modernlife.ingenuity.In his essay"Scienceas a vocation" (1946: is used as a virtualsynonym.J. and than economists. intellectualization an considered aspectof the seemsthat secularization oughtto be moreproperly the hence to deal with questionsof epistemology. the termalready problems explanations. of or people"know" the conditionsupon which we receive"knowledge" "the to claimis that appeals divine the worldworks" Glock 1988).while psychologists. and socialworkers. most. mustbe saidto be or the that of rationalitit.In some respectsthen. Societyas a groupcommitted a just worldorderand moralprogram individual of actionthat wouldaddress human withoutthe use of supernatural Thus. lahsare lesssoughtforsolvingworldproblems physicists. Mystery mysterious" and into but somethingto be conquered humanreason. in occurs writing."The consequence of this worldviewwas that explanations to beinglaidaside.The flip referring forcesoutsideof this worldwereconstantly translated Webertermed side of rationalization Entzauberung a wordusually or moreaccurately rendered disenchantment.Secularization both the however. onlyrarely Weber's to secularization be a specific It is not clearthat Weberhimselfconsidered domainof the sociologyof religion.

secularization be said to referto the may of the separation state and churchin Europe." is." " definitionas paradigmatic secularization theory. of The culmination secularization would be a religionless In this issue RodneyStarkmost fully acceptsthis society. differentiation.state. (cf. secularization as Shinerpointsout however." it is this one with of and whichhe takesissue. Churchandstatewereconstitutionally separated. law. and the the like wereso intertwined that sundering them causeda significant shockto all sectorsof the system.Finkeet al. According RalfDahrendorf for example. andfreemarket. even in the UnitedStatestheregrewto be a viewthat "religion" in decline. the boldestterms. our At the purelydescriptivelevel.Conserand Twiss 1997. economicscircumscribed roleof the stateas far the laissez-faire as otherinstitutional sectorsof the socialsystemwereconcerned.simply.The United was fromits earliestyears States. This suggests only that the "definition religionquestion" is not an arcanephilosophical can debate. With this there is no arguin mentamong contributors. on evidence. of whichwasmuchmore process in the UnitedStates.the entire European socialsystemwas characterized a state of by whereinone institutional and another.. 1996. religion's "previously accepted symbols. an enormously in significant change the waysin whichsocietyandreligionhave interacted the past fromthe waysthey do now. Olivier Tschannen (1991) has provided a graphic summaryof the infrastructure" "primitive or that may be cognitive apparatus" "exemplary secularization In derivedfromthe effortsof various theorists. The or is relative secularity.from which religionwas not immune. eachhada superimposition systemoverlay hand in the other.but it also showshow premises influence evidenceand outcomes. Nevertheless. keepschanging remains yet It alwaysmeans. the secular always to somedefinitionof religion the religious.FinkeandStark1988). education. for example. "[S]ecular Baileyputs is reallyquiteeasyto define!Its meaning consistent. claimsmeanthe "decline of theory's that and doctrines.but we have also said that we know how religiouspeople werea . Church." have not only invokedsomepresumed of religion.Tschannen's of complexthan it was application his mapto theoristsshowsthat the one elementthey have in comspecificsecularization mon is thatof institutional to (1959). characterized relativepluralism by Butler1990. was Two important observations beforewe discussthe thesisand the evidence further: firstis that secularization.SECULARIZATION THEORY: COURSE A CONCEPT 213 THE OF Chaves (1994). Edward or As it.hence why it is important examinepremises to The second observationis that the "truth" secularization of claims carefully.the oppositeof 'religious' whateverthat means" not of (1998: 18). and tions lose theirprestige and welfare. contrast.All of the propositions advanced Shineras well as the by sharea commonpresupposition: that therehas been mapof Tschannen namely.Christiano1987: 49-60. explicates secularization along these lines in to it as a decliningscopeof religious referring authority.'peoplearelessreligious thanthey now depends historical werea hundred we definition yearsago.If we say.

) of Thereis no doubtthat the separation churchand statehas consequences citizens(see Finke1990.214 SOCIOLOGY RELIGION OF hundredyearsago. of life . in the faceof scientificrationality. whileat the sametimehe doesnot see the pillarization process in Europe emerging the samewayin an earlier in as epoch.If only this is what is meant by religionswithout suffering then thesis. aboutthe topic. underlying "lessreligious. on as established religionmaylose tax support. as also happenedin colonialVirginia. or support rejectreligious The principalthrustin secularization theoryhas. the other hand. otherreligions to zations get gainfreeaccessto the religious operateon an equalbasis. and forreligious organizations forthe livesof individual for example. happenedin people can choose to may open alternatives. Yves Lambert makesthis point clearlyin setting contemdata in context. At the organizational level. has beena influenceon all aspects claimthat." have tion wasthat"people" becomeor arebecoming Manysocial ." if this But secularization. no Individuals longermaybe required an becomes empirical therefore.Whetheror not this meansthe decline of religion.been stronger It issuesor the scopeof religious than simplychurch-state authority." fact that once the term is usedin this uncontroversial to describeinstitutions way and werecontrolledby a religiousorganization now are not. thereis no debateover"thesecularization therewouldalso have been far lessexcitement is all that secularization meant. that people are capableboth of living their lives apartfromdirect on and "interference" the partof religion thatpeoplemaychooseamongvarious civil disabilities. THE ARGUMENTS There is no questionthat in mostof the Westernworldtherehas been at least sufficientseparationof church and state.and they mayalso be required conformto namesof children at birth ratherthan certain state norms (like registering These or rituallike baptism circumcision). however. waitingto namea babyin a religious or close religiousoptions and freedoms. religion's decline. but it somewhat bedevilsDobbelaere's porary survey argument thatNRMsin effectvalidate secularization the thesisbecause theyareresponses to secularization. Indeed. the primarylocus of in dramatic the level of assumpRegardless the sociostructural of the argument.a previously Finkeand Stark1992). to to pay taxes to supportreligion.frompersonal habitsto social institutions. thus a school or in hospitalmaybe said to have been "secularized 1983. It wouldnot have been so muchsomethingto investigateas simplyto state as a factualcondition(or as not existing in other partsof the world).other religiousorgani"market" that is.on this basis we could develop a fairlysimple classification (In systemof thosesocietiesthat had or had not been legally"secularized."meaningthat in that of to it wentfrombeingunder formal the organization ownership a religious year or board trustees a for-profit of controlbyan independent corporation. question.

religionappeared these theorists denuded almostall of to perform.however. sequences. these.Although the religiousinstitutions continuedto provide"the reassurance urgently so in needed" the face of "the of these organizations facinga future were world.Three more showedno trend. Threefourths believein the possibility life afterdeath of and in the messianic of Around70 percent. but neitheryieldedpositiveoutlooks.the NationalScienceFoundation fundeda re-study of Middletown: III. In the as This view was evoked in some formsof empirical Research sent Robert 1920s. Reacting the basisof a functional to definitionof religion. religious organizations.for example. the Lyndsconcludedthat "religious as represented the churchesis less life by pervasivethan a generationago"(1929: 407.THE OF THEORY: COURSE A CONCEPT 215 SECULARIZATION couldcombinereligious theorists(e. RobertLyndreturned Muncieagainin 1935 to see how typical to Middletown. .religion In it the functions hadpreviously harked appeared to backto somepriorlevel of humanevolutionandwasnowuselessly appended areawedby humanachievements. religion for Muncie between 1924 and 1978. but note that neither they nor on anyoneelse had done research the community's religiouslife a generation assessment. and They went to Lynd's community.religiouslife seemed to have previously).In the Depression-era declinedfurther: churchwereolderandappeared peopleattending morepassive. this view. organizational and so on.This project or of data religion" plotted15 timeserieS. only two (which wouldindicatea secularization pointeddownward effect)." "Middletown If religiousorganizations were on the skids alreadyin the mid-1930s. high-technologymultinationalcapitalism.In the firstbook.while the remaining (67 percentof the total) displayed 10 an in Middletown the 1970sthan the in curve. displacement In the 1970s. cultural the modern Peopletoday repertoire.what wouldbe their state fifty yearsout from the The cameas a surprise the proponents the "decline to of of original study? results thesis. Among the 15 trend lines. was the Middletown transition the was of Both of these booksincluded assessments Muncie's of product this research.g." perplexities a too-perplexing of continued (1937:315).showinggreater upward religiosity 1920s(Caplow1982.not notionof the "sacred. on bureaucratic life. Wallace 1966) doubtedthat modernity featuresof our time: scientific traditionswith the overpowering impersonal humanisticeducation. In Religious in AndrewGreeleyreported that in everyGallup change America. research. as if reflectingthe economic downturn.the Instituteof Social and Religious and Helen Lynd to the American midwestto study the life of a "typical" home stateof Indiana settledon Muncie. Poll that has askedwhetheror not the respondent believesin God. a town sufficiently to unexceptional allowthem to attachto it the pseudonym. withonly divinityof Jesus Nazareth.Caplow al 1983:34-35. in "Middle America" surviving Depression.. around societiesof the futurewouldbe constructed not divineforces." antiquity's research well. et Nationalsurvey datafromthe late 1940sto the present this support finding.294-97). morethan 90 percentsaytheydo.

andthis fractionhas alteredlittle overthe lastthirtyyears(Greeley 1989:13-15. Secularization. cf. it is also only half the religiousorganithat zational membership we findin the UnitedStatestoday. Now.6 The churching America(1992) has Roger Finke and Rodney Stark's of acrosstwo data to undergird these observations a provided wealthof historical for thatonly 17 percent to seemsmoretruethaneverthatthe predicted the research no empirical supports Virtually bablywrong.certainlypremature. thoughit shouldbe remembered the prediction been wrongeverytime it has been made" (1969: 6. do not appearto secularization have abandoned theory's dyingreligion.the issues conceptual thirtyyearsago by Shinernow for seemall the moreurgent socialscientific theorydevelopment.About 40 percentof Americansclaim to attend religiousservices each week.while over 50 percent also believe in hell.butcf. generally Starkand lannaccone1994). significantly fifty years. of Americans claimedreligious membership nineteenth of of that in spiteof the revivalism the GreatAwakening the early a While this represents 1850. thirtyyearsafterGreeley's generouscondemiseof religionis procession." sciencepredicted Greeley in notedtongue-in-cheek the late 1960s. century. same: perperson.movements 6 Recently. Deathis one suchexample. Theymineearlyrecords. one Hence. example.'The replacement religioussuperstition enlightened Lynds' since the timeof Voltairemayat lastbe takingplace.. estimate and at the time of the Revolution. in conceptualformssuitedto one historical ded to the needs and conditions of core epoch becomeless effectivein addressing problems humanexperience. of RodneyStarkandWilliamSimsBainbridge Thefuture andcultformation (1985: 1) claim"thevisionof a revival.nor to have fulfilledthe of by predictions. according surveydata. arisefromwithinexisting on Two thingshappen: the one hand. the needfora solutionremains.whensecularization theorywasall the has that rage. by 100 percent increaseover the span."Itmaywell be. . The deathrateis the The problem doesnot go away. credibility American has of of the reports high weeklychurchattendance beencalledinto etal. Woodberry (see question Hadaway 1993. religion: theoriesof religious to futureis but illusion. to Americansin a vast majority.216 SOCIOLOGYOFRELIGION the slightest thinkthat "people have ledgoodlives"receivesome who deviation." Contrary the unilinear religionless reminiscent thereadopta morecyclicalapproach decline. Greeley1995. 1998).58).As inevitable changetakesplacein socialsystems. Ninety in claimmembership a percentof Americans prayto God. andabouttwo-thirds in neitherof these percentages changed has religious congregation. to Freud who referred religionas "thefutureof an illusion.only 34 percentclaimedmembership. Caplow1998. rewardin the hereafter." It wasSigmund in butto the contrary.Starkand Bainbridge of of the generaltheoryof sociocultural development PitirimSorokin(1937that responreligions 1941).. into a valleyof secularity. slide froma peakof sacrality of prediction a societal raised confusion of indeed.

that religion theme within the Durkheimian formulation. behindthis is his presumption and of the Durkheim's searchfor the sourceof social solidarity. solidarity unitesall who adhereto it into a singlemoralcommunity.W. that is." still persist OF THE "RELIGION" SECULARIZATION of decisionat the outsetof his sociology religionnot to define MaxWeber's is well known.Although Durkheimis generallycited for "abolishing role of individualjudgmentand subjectivemeaningfulness social reality in his of he two theory" (Sahay1976:167)."Runciman(1970: of than the worship 98) asks." fact.however. is the definitionof lmile Durkheim (1915). "religion" at as it was refabricated the hands of Talcott Parsonsand his preeminently or was thrust the integrationist Central the Parsonian to schoolof functionalism.harking is that secularization a healthypartof a cycle of religious growthand develsay with all humanactino longerbe coterminous may opment. but . but encountered with pluralism for bat (wherein.OF THE THEORY: COURSE A CONCEPT 217 SECULARIZATION that religiousorganizations attemptto restatewith even greatercertitudethe on the sameanswers traditionhas alwaysprovided. new movementsalso arisefromoutsidethe existing traditions." however. instance.afterall.'The transcendent "butthe 'really real'will (if ever it was). that are not in fact structural psychoemotional. have a place always In backto Sorokin. religiousanswerswill Hence religionas a whole is the conceptof solidarity reintroduces types and of stuff"(the glue that (mechanical organicsolidarity) sociological "sticky holds society together). the most telling of which is that Durkheim's "explanation" beliefsin a this-worldly terminus does not actually"explain" religious (society) them at all (except to explainthem away):"Why. too. as Greeley(1969: 169) observes.its latentsource solidarity andproclaim as "real" religion and ceremony.first.some sociologistsnevertheless this of of might is and secularization "self-limited. vity" of are wherethe coreproblems interpretability faced. in caseswhere it was manifestly among the in the action systemtermed"religion" not integrate social did participants to undaunted searchout the proceeded system. the other hand.offeringnew Becausethe existentialquestionsare perennial to answers the samequestions. Runciman summarized has problems of three of these.a number to inherentin Durkheim's workitself.So.the Marxist regimesof the Soviet Union or ChairmanMao'sChina). of What is wrongwith this approach religion? Thereare. Religion was the glue of believedwasthis proposition So society.the sourceof socialsolidarity.BabeRuth's wasproclaimed problems of the "sacred "national [of object" the UnitedStates' religion" baseball]). This approach successin the sociology sacredrite enjoyedgreat of religion when applied in monopolisticsettings (for example. and their solutionslie beyondrationaldetermination."isthe worship societyanymorereadily explicable of gods?'Intimately connectedwith this "explanation. strongly clear that what social scientiststhat. in humanexperience.

Theelementary paradigm aboutreligion. but a is observed." "didnot wrestlewith the fact that modern'primitives' Admittedly. Not only is the notion of solidarityas of definitive societynow suspect(see Beyer1989). in Frenchwordelementaire." sensewasthe farmorecrucialcontribution to research namely. than mation'sincipientdoctrine secularization was elemental. an evolutionary approach employed increasingly schemebut with Durkheim's 1977).218 SOCIOLOGY RELIGION OF As thoughcollective ratherthan individual.for Parsons in his workoverthe years(e.but was also evolutionary to Durkheim's This balanced thereby "elemental." English JosephWard In so doing he gave a particularly chose the former.7 in but a wordthathasa doubleconnotation French.buteven if we do acceptsome of solidarity ourtheoretical into arsenal. the translator. close.a studyof "what of Durkheim's pertains or is one of the constituent parts or basic components .Ratherthan a of statement formsbecamea doctrinaire studyof religion. withinDurkheim's these problems Compounding theoryis the problemof of the translation the title of Durkheim's of centraltext in the sociology religion is into English Theelementary of thereligious The difficulty with the as forms life. twist work that was in the original.The choice of was development. . CalvinRedekop(1967: 149) has "theintegrating in societyof religion" nota socialfact. thereis no reasonto presume concept an integrated wholenessthat certainlyis now difficultto see N and may well have neverexisted.. That this is morethan a semanticexercisemaybe seen quite clearlywhen work as the majorinterpretivetreatmenton we turn to Talcott Parsons's of Durkheimin Westernsociologyfor over a quarter a century. sources. the of that is basedon the view that religion is secularization is. Swain. .Durkheim but have justas manyyearsof historybehindthem as do the restof us to-day." not the centralthrustof Durkheim's fact reflects"thefarfrominsignificant that the over "elementary" "elemental" was madeat a phase in Westernculturalevolution when sophistranslation tendedto hold that chronologically ticatedsecularintellectuals earlyand in its or moremanageably life wakepresent-day tribalreligious wascloser. work. the slightly a future life religious (Durkheim notedhereis not altered historical thereby. power largely unsubstantiated social-anthropological belief stemming from Durkheimian This belief underlies "religion" secularization." formsof religious in the senseof an earlystageof the use of "theelementary life. of humanity'sreligious life."elementary" moreconsistentwith the GreatTransfor28-29). problematic . contemporary theory defined by this integrativefunction. as or mustbe rendered either "elementary" " the than our moredevelopedforms" truthaboutreligiongenerically (Smith 1984: was In short.g. Wheredid Parsons begin his evolutionary of (andothers') people? aborigines a contemporary descriptions the Australian 7 The recentretranslation Durkheim's by Karen Fieldsunderthe title Theelementary of text of forms but of for this 1995)mayhelpresolve problem generation scholars.

it draws fromcommonsense abouthistoryrelated systematic to studiesof generalizations the present. that sometime. in the private realm. Peter Raedts maintainsthat there is a growingconsensusthat both the Catholic MiddleAges and the Age of Reformation nineteenth-century are "A creations. THE MYTHOF THE AGE OF FAITH The underlying as religious mythof secularization theory. possibly. rearranged forma general to peoples. And it wasnot until then that the new massmediaandthe schoolingof all the population madethe christianization everyonea reality" of (Ruyter1996: 7)." it everexisted.In due course. .)Europeans usually andEuro-Americans pointto the Medieval YetDutchhistorian often era. Lyman1984:78. corollary a swept is in fact basedon almost historical no evidence.THEORY: COURSE A CONCEPT SECULARIZATION THE OF 219 accountsof "contemporary As his workdevelops. historical of societalevolution.The point." while admitting that he is "ableto say sequence little about the detailedsequenceof events in the courseof which primitive societiesbegin their differentiation morestratified into societies" (Vidich and that is easilylost in such 1988).although Parsonshimselfsaw secularization morepositivelythan manysubsequent far secularization theorists. purposes The Parsonian schemeis notbasedupona studyof religious evolutionary history but on the more-or-less lives of peoplesthroughout the religious contemporary worldwhose evolutionary has been determined somea priori defini"stage" by tion of development. In thought. and the practice." Although this statementimplieshistoricaldescription. HaddenquotesC. "Ageof "Secularization" into this evolutionary feeds structure a as "modern" entailment of universaldevelopmentaltendencies .someplacein the past there was a solidary Age of Faith in which "theworldwas filled with the sacred. Kuper an analysisis that it is forall practical a completely ahistorical analysis. also The if . new eraforChristianity Europe in beganwhenafter1800the churches gradually lostthe support the stateandhadto organize of themselves. WrightMills's(1959:32-33) succinctcriticalsummary of Parsons's "Oncethe worldwas filled with the sacred. theory: and form.he addsothercontemporary distributed over the earth's that "inthe past" morereligious than they aretoday." (People who accept this myth believethat the Age of Faithgavewayto the Age of Reason. the Age of Faithmythreflectsa particular educational that did not beginto occur process until about two hundredyearsago.That peopleweresignificantly is..Afterthe Reformation the Renaissance. institutional forcesof modernization acrossthe globe and secularization. What happenedin that processwas that as was the a precisely a serious attempt madeto "Christianize" entirepopulation..the sacred shall disappearaltogether except.loosenedthe dominanceof the sacred. Ratherthan systematic studiesof the past.however. Starknotes. counterattemptat resistance emerged.

At this point the in Reformation constituted renewed a demandfor sacrality all relationships in whichwasthen itselfundermined due time.for example.and Christians of Toledotranslating fromthe ancienteast. Brigid's for of that "ascriptorium the production writtenbooksseemsto have Kildare that the as and becomeactive" earlyas the seventhcentury.Jews. example. whydid people A betterhistory.wouldsuggestthat this was a "secular" popular world(as the term itself implies).was a monk.that our ideasof "thewaysthe worldworks" epistemologies .Arabs. medical.that is withdrawal fromthe worldIf the Medievalworldwasso full of the sacred. of If we thinkonly a little aboutthe Medieval for we period. PLURALISM now?We can say that over time our What can we say of secularization have have changed. lessand lessconcernaboutthe supernatural day"practical . Whence this interest.not particularly moreor less "religious" any thananyother"world.220 SOCIOLOGY RELIGION OF didso forat mosta fewdecades the nineteenthcentury. John but Monasteries foundation at Cathedral Paterson (1982: 26) writesin his historyof St. runinto the contradictionsof the putative Age of Faith. allowingMaxWeberat the turn ethic of the twentiethcenturyto write TheProtestant andthespirit capitalism." of Not cleareitherwithinthe secularization accountis the derivation much The great and agricultural from the monasteries." that this world. asidefor a momentthe questionof how "really the Leaving religious" motivations of those who enteredthese monasticcommunities were(or even actually whetheror not people enteredof their own free will). history geneticistMendel.which moreand moreas it drew and the cameto displaywhatAgnes Heller(1981) has termed toward Renaissance in atheism" (that is. the monastic communities are as throughout Europe adduced evidencefor this designation. the capital scientifictexts important The monasteries were the essentialrepositories the texts of Aristotleand for otherancient Greekphilosopher-scientists so much so that the historical novelistUmbertoEco couldframehis Thenameof therose(1983) convincingly in sucha setting. In this era. "thiswouldsuggest Priorto the heavyhand of had becomeinvolvedin secularaffairs.moreattentiveto wantto withdraw fromit in such numbers? religiosity(and lack thereof)." monastery in collaborated in the Christian reconquista Spain.and some of the earliestexperimentswithelectricity wereconducted the abbotandmonksof the monastery by of Nolet. scientific. of has to say moreconciselythat "Christianity been and PeterBerger (1967: 129) its owngravedigger.slowlypenetrated until it was even the monasticfoundations to-dayaffairs) hard in many cases to distinguish between the two. if these foundationswere so unworldly? also preservednot only "sacred" seculartexts as well. considerthe paradox: monasticlife is understood be other-worldly to asceticism.

will continueto arisemaking this thoughnew religions simultaneously precisely claim. all-or-nothing type doesnot holdup. Renaissance. the is Each"new" Furthermore. is PeterBerger its is not surprisingthat its epistemology has not fully jelled. a threatto the integrity Islam. in factgoingon withoutlimitaround globe. 1996-1997. That is. thatthesehaveentailedcorresponding of emphasis global or or structures basesuponwhichwe attribute The credibility truth.As a by matterof fact. however.the createsa contestationamong religiousepistephenomenonof globalization in themselves that. the Romanticism.SECULARIZATION THEORY: COURSE A CONCEPT 221 THE OF shifts in and changed. of the leadinglightsof secularization unprecedented mologies it he because is nowan American. such alternative When we the eraof moder science represent epistemologies. As a result. religion morenew religions. there map is a world religiousfermentof contesting epistemologiesthat. the more one becomes aware of more and more religions in it thatany competing a marketplace-like setting. consider the relatively short history of the scientific worldview. that specifically .and as some secular(or newly imported religion)spawns izationtheoristsrightlynoted.Perhaps (1992. Enlightenment. Islamicnationsmaybe moresensitiveto this historically than some of the liberaldemocracies the West.While it is to and certainly possible make'"etter" "worse" comparisons." Becausethe (1899).these nations of " free commerce" religion that has become a of intentionallyprohibitthe hallmark Western of Accountsof the Ayatollah Khomeini's democracy. natureof pluralism multiplicative. ever-increasing does undermine the pluralism elementof absolutecertainty that has been claimedby at least some religions. rigidity simply In somerespects. Whereas UnitedStatescouldonce settleon a shared the ethic "Judeo-Christian" (see Silk 1984). program for Iran.bothgeographically cognitively.makeit quite clear that he saw the Westernpresence. PopePiusX attempted sketcha similar to at program the end of the nineteenth centurywhen he issueda ruling. furthermore. is.the apostolic letter Testem benevolentia condemned"Americanism. thoughit has analogsin the past. fullyto repudiate The theoryof secularization a self-limiting as by processas proposed Stark some of the important and Bainbridge.for example. though it is moreimmediately citizenof the West than to to probably apparent the average the average the MiddleEasterner.has come it.the harder becomesto assert one religioncontainsall truthand that othersmustbe all wrong. is worldviews in immeare meansthat farmorereligious Contemporary pluralism diate competitionwith each other than has ever been the case in the past. theorywasan attemptto accountforhow pluralism that the and reshaping religious .1997) who.In many was secularization respects. as of particularly exemplified Americans.explanatory the and Medievalworldview.can help us to understand in socialdynamics lie behindreligious that developments ourown day. its religious map now must accommodateMuslims and in Buddhists increasing numbers.

like Communistideology in the Soviet regimes. Nevertheless.but that these changeswere often churcheswere not counted in religiouscenas unreported newer.hence so closelyidentified culture. decrease religious that this increaseextendedto ruralareas. antithesisof pluralism. the of that the authority religious noted.however.The qualityof motivation officermaychange.With certain notableexceptions.European activityfollowsthis patternleastwell.Finkeand Stark(1988) have shown clearlyshifting citieswasnot a that the realityof increasing religious competitionin American Stark(1992) has also shown but in mobilization an increase. has been referred as "religion la carte" the result bricolage Chaveshas passing on officersis reducedin this process. over rich saucesand heavystarches. in a doublesense.or the social condition of should not be assumedthat as a result they will eat irresponsibly three and desserts no veggies.choosinga la cartedoes mean fixe that people do not simplytake whateveris dished out to them. Certainlyit is true. pluralism are at claimsfor ultimacy always somedegreeof placeof ideaswhereinabsolute and risk(see Borhek Curtis1975). clearlycreatesa marketideological) Religious morebroadly.European religiousparticigranted immifor pation has been historicallylow.Peoplemayjustas often use the carteto choosewisely.222 OF SOCIOLOGY RELIGION at of resources the disposal the Popeat that time lackedthe political-economic his Ayatollahin the 1980s."marginal" because suses. (or.and along with their immediate than wasthe customin theircounat leastorganizationally active) (or religious triesof origin..This givesriseto a modelof religious compeand tition or marketplace. to its having "good" religionis simplya less desirable with a taken-forfor been takenforgranted so long. of the prejudice that part RomanCatholicsin the United Statesfor a considerable wasdirectedagainst numberof years must be seen in light of this document. The outcomeof increased competitionis (e.perhaps religious traditionthere has createda mind-setto which any and all the state-church due than it is elsewhere.Bibby1987).it must on who have become"hyped" the religious message. That people are more likely to want their religiona la carte does not is The mean that they are "less religious.but in factthis mayagain a that leadsto becoming religious .." metaphor helpful:first. there is also the freedom the partof buyers amongreligions waresthat different to pick and chose amongthe ideological religions (people) as a and to This proffer. are officers nothingbutlayfolk that be remembered religious otherhand. necessarily morethan they would peoplewho ordermealsa la carteoften actuallyspend have if they boughta prix meal.However. Not only is there competition on but themselves. example. is an attemptedmonopolyof the thoughtcontrol .g.Of course. Each case. Luckmann marketshares. rulingcouldnot have the dramatic impact that the actionsof the Ayatollahdid. However. yet curiously.European grantsto the United States generallyacted quicklyto recreatethe churchof weremuchmore descendants theirhomeland.

Finkeet al. the Confessions of of Hippoin North Africaduringthe fifth century. did not exist in the past. straightand gay) priestsin the Episcopal Church. changeas to necessitate unique conceptual 8 Recently.OF THEORY: COURSE A CONCEPT 223 SECULARIZATION THE the of thanless:consider surplus (maleandfemale. has of coursehas occurred.on the one hand.Olson 1998. of RomanCatholicmembership whereas has of whileits number clergy shrunk.the literature the questionof pluralism's on effectson religionhas mushroomed (cf. has If Muslims the United Statesoutnumber in (or Episcopalians even active membersof the Churchof Englandin England!).no secularization occurred.where beinga a to bishophasbeen likenedto shepherding herdof cats.married resultin morerather and single.whichcontainsa fairly of on thorough bibliography work the topicto date). later. if peopleceaseto believethatJesusChristis God important understand and instead believethat SaythaSai Babais God.pluralism that might be called "de-Christianization": is.8Althoughwe do not think this is likely to happen. Christianity versusthe consolidated officialchurch. Studies by Nielsen (1990a. this will have consequences the and for Religious change societiesin which it takesplace. Christiano 1987:118-49. has grown The numbers optionsamongwhichpeoplemaychoose (or the degreeof of with globalization with the advanceof alterand increases pluralism) obviously native knowledge it is not the case that pluralism However.compared the shortage of (celibate male) priestsin the RomanCatholic church wherehierarchical has churchmembership shrunk clericalauthorityis still maximized. With respect the secularization to two aspects pluralism of must thesis. there is a substantial On bodyof evidencethat pluralism belief. claim to is sociologically to that.again.then.One mayread.including of disbelief.andFinkeand Stark1998. heterodoxChristianbeliefs first. the other forcesus to makea distinction betweensecularization what and hand. new religiousmovementsmay over Christianity the in emergeor other worldtraditions maygain dominance West. no secularization occurred. paradigms. 1996. the Romanworld into which Christianity came was filled with competingideowhereinpartof the putativeuniqueness Christianity its was of logicalsystems. the one hand. Episcopal while its number clergyhasgrown.Indeed. .RodneyStarksuggests that we focusourwork on religious of whereas changewithoutthe conceptual baggage "secularization." KarelDobbelaere othersurgethat thereis somethingespecially and significant about religiouschange that sufficientlydifferentiates from other formsof it institutional a framework.. 1990b) of both the early Christianera and of the Inquisitionshow how much people were willing to suffer persisting holdingalternative for in beliefsfromthe dominant tradition versusthe imperialcult. be taken into consideration.RodneyStarkmakesa similarpoint in the chapter martyrdom his Theriseof Christianity on in (1996: 163-89).has been an option On throughouthistorythat is simply intensifiedby globalization.and find that he Augustine tried out several belief systemsbeforesettling on Christianity.

ideational in are with material socialstructure. . not realize. but simultaneously recognizethat the spiritualseeks coherenceover time .there is far morereasonto conceivereligionas variable Sociologically.and human experience is alwaysand everywhere.and individualpersonalities.objectifying dispositiontoward therebythe subjective that becomessacred.indeed. This sacredalwaysreflectshumanexperiencepreciselybecauseit arisesfrom to human experience. that other action orientationsare not.yet it is not the worship the social.Hence the sacredalways the of social. other we can do better. rather than essentially variable. that our paradigm" finds of spirituality-religion-sacredness its root in the limitless understanding In of that is a speciescharacteristic homo dissatisfaction sapiens.religionis infinitely nonempirical.but rather feeblesimultaneous of of seeking-grasping a transformation presentsocial relationsthat we can imagine. religions always interaction systems.224 OF SOCIOLOGY RELIGION An underlyingassumptionof secularization theory that pluralismthus is the idea that "religion" something is fixed. As Anthony Blasihas written (1990: 151): "Thesociologistof religionneeds to see this tentativeness.sociologists of challenges needto recognize tentativeness fragility religious the and of of structures religion to As Religious meaning. the reflectsthe extent that it is human experience.Instead. culture. The theologicalbias of withinthe sociologyof religionhas underwritten secularization theory concepas tions of "religion" essentially fixed.thusanalyses the sociology religion in attentiveto changeas inherent religion. other words.the casuist thanattemptto explainthe natureof muchreligious conduct. yet In takingthis approach.preciselybecausereligionis a sociocultural institution.or at leasta a realityrather factorsand environas an unreflective outcomeof predisposing activityaway warrant and prejudices mentalinfluences. as changeis in otherinstitutional just spheresand culturaldimensions. whereasamong social institutionsreligiondeals uniquelywith a "uncontrollable" variablein a way referent. AND THE SACRED IMPLICITRELIGION.SECULARIZATION. conceptseasilylend themselves reification. or humansare neversatisfied. at leastenoughhumansare neversatisfiedas to and for to createsocialformations increasesatisfaction themselves others. ultimacyinto an seems to us that we are standingwithin "new ratherthan "oldparadigm" sociologyof religion. culthat is To speakof "implicit religion" to acknowledge in the pluralistic ture of high-technology multinational capitalism (which some call postmodernity)the historicalreligionsare less likely to carrythe level of isomorcultural context that has been and experience larger phismbetweenindividual to the case in the past." Only ecclesiological presuppositions in of needto be the notionof religious fixity.that is. however.Religionis the institutionof doing betterpar keep thinking .

hence it contradicts the premises of materialism. Peace. we should really of as of recognizethese expressions manifestations the "newreligion" Reason that emerged the Enlightenment. and both Sartre(1955: 185-239) and glorification 'Reason"' Lowith (1949: 33-51) also pointed to it in their critiques of "dialectical materialism" namelythat the dialectic is a spiritualhope which must be on faith. accepted so Postmodernity.It is the secularization secularism of sacrality gave Marsden (cf.They hope fora brighter stamp love emanatefromthese competingsystemsof ultimacy:'Ultimately" scienceor education solveall ourproblems.andfoundin of rationality the pursuit knowledge spiritual a of quest.Reeves1990:172-73).there are two "religious" concepts in each of these statementsthat need to be unpacked. is the Whathascometo be called"secularization" process whichsocieties by in the experienceof "modernization" createdcompetinginstitutionsfor have historicreligious is amongmultiple doingbetter. That we see a so-called"return the sacred" a resacralization the rise to or or of a new spirituality that these institutionalized alternatives that todaysuggests are the heirs of the Churchof Reasonare themselvesnot fulfillingthe quest dynamic to which we have pointed within the human Edward Bailey (1998: 18) points out . reflection of") sociocultural but that at (or is a "mere formations." . .Pluralism not only competition but it is also competitionbetweenhistoricalreligious to traditions.Peoplewho saythey"believein for education.that religion technologymultinational capitalism. religio-social the the seeks complexalways to overcomespecific sociocultural formations Swatosand Gissurarson 1996: (see 233-37. rather.just as and muchas peoplewho saythey "believein Christianity. but note that comparatively their languageis often similar.They "have faith"in our schools or in their futureand so on.hence new sacred vistaswill emerge old sacred and vistaswill be revisited.justice..however.albeitthe deusabsconditus Deism. 1994). if one "believesin"the new paradigm. that dynamicwill not go away.THEORY: COURSE A CONCEPT 225 THE OF SECULARIZATION is Sacred the bestyoucan get. But. in which at least in its earlyformsidentified withDivinity. excellence.are makingan implicitlyreligiousstatement. will Rather than speak here of secularization. in a waythat but is relativelyconsistent with the socioculturalconditions imposedby highThis is not to say.however. reflects its spiritual corein activating sacred. is nothing more than the disenchantmentof that the Enlightenment to Reason. approaches of doingbetterandothersystems doingbetter." example.placing morecontrolover outcomesat the humanlevel.MaxWeberin fact alludedto this in his remark about Robespierreas the apotheosis of "the charismaticof of (1978: 1209).even postagedoctors. called.People who '%elievein" educationor science may have lessenedthe apparentremotenessof their sacred.

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