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Introduction

The secularization thesis or theory is the belief that as societies progress, specifically by modernization and rationalization, the authority of religion fades in the different aspects of life as well as governance[1]. As per this theory, when the society advances socially, economically and politically, religion becomes hollow. In addition, the theory holds that intellectual as well as scientific developments have weakened supernatural, paranormal, and spiritual ideas on which religion depends for its acceptability[2]. With the continuation of this religion becomes shallower, and survives for a short time on empty until the loss of active membership forces the religion into obscurity. Because of secularization, the function of religion in most modern and developed states becomes more restricted. Furthermore, in most of the secularized societies, faith loses its cultural authority and various religious organizations lose their social power. The proponents of the theory exhibit a widespread decline in the omnipresence of religious belief in the entire west, mostly Europe. Even though some scholars including Peter Berger and Rodney Stark continue to argue religiosity degree has not declined, other scholars including Mark Chaves and Demerath have countered the argument  the argument by introducing the neo-secularization idea, that broaden secularization definition to include the decline of religious authority as well as its ability  of influencing society[3]. This paper critically examines the secularization theory, including the reason for its emergence and the reason for changed their views among its supporters.
Instead of using the proportions of nonreligious renegades as the only assessment for secularity, modern-secularization contends that people progressively seek other social perspectives for authoritative positions rather than religion. According to most of the Neo-secularizationists, religion has a waning authority on such issues like birth control[4]. In addition, they argue that the authority of religion is diminishing and secularization is dominating albeit religious association may not be in decline in the U.S.

History and Background

Secularization is attributed to the social changes in the social order resulting from the rise of reasonableness and the advancement of science as a replacement for fallacy. At the foundational stages, the changes start with slow switch from different oral civilizations to the writing philosophy that helps in diffusion of knowledge[5]. Firstly, this declines the authority of the clerics as the custodians of the revealed insight. With the movement of the education responsibility from community and family to the state, there is rise of two consequences, that is, diminishing of collective conscience and the fragmentation of societal activities, whereby faith becomes a stuff of individual selection instead of it been a societal obligation[6]. A main concern in the secularization is the extent to which some religious trends like decreasing attendance in worship places show decline in religiosity or individualization of the religious faith, whereby religious faiths do not play a substantial role in communal life including different decision-making aspects[7]. The theory was once a dominant sociological pattern of interpretation used for describing and explaining religious change in the modern times. There are still many supporters of the theory who defend the theory partly though in revised formats and partly through appealing on the classics. The continuing conflict about the validity of secularization theory has continued to be the central controversy point in religious sociology for decades now[8]. In addition, the debate has significant impact on both empirical analyses and theoretical work.
Generally, the current supporters of the secularization theories hold that modernity tries to erode the authority, plausibility and the intensity of religion. In addition, the theories try positing the current retreat to different sacred institutions, the privatization of faith, and the advanced condensation as well a decline of religion in public life. Peter Berger, for example offers a version of the theory mainly focusing on the plausibility of religious concepts. In this case, peter argues that various changes in religious consciousness are the result of both science and enlightenment but to the expansion of social as well as cultural pluralism, which is the main characteristic of liberalizing societies.[9] The man reason for confronting pluralism is for damaging of plausibility in the religious dogma. In most of the liberal societies, many religious as well as secular groups push for influence based on ethical as well as philosophical claims, destabilizing the various claims to preponderance, and eventually leading to the denationalization of religion in civil society.[10]
In the beginning of 1960s and 1970s, most sociologists began focusing their attention on the reducing influence of religion as well as of its implications for the future [11]. From the perspective of the sociologists, with the modernization of societies the power and authority of religion has declined. Depending of different perspectives, there are many reasons for the decline of religion with the modernization of the society[12]. However, the many reasons may be attributed to rationality. For instance, during the 14th century, many people turned to religion to find answers for the many natural phenomena for which they lacked answers[13]. With the expansion of science, and offered more answers outside the context of religion, the attribution of divine intervention in human beings started losing credibility.
Many scholars have different viewpoints concerning the rise of secularization. For example, Talcott Parsons holds that secularization results when communities start assigning particular purposes as well as authorities to other institutions while there is no more a faith that is dominant[14]. According to parsons, this will ensure that communities are evolving, even after religion becomes weak and loses its place as foremost social framework.
However, it is clear that religion has become weak in most of developed nations compared to the developing states. Taking for example the case of United States,   the population of people in organized religion has reduced. Many studies show that the trust of Americans in organized religion has continued to decline[15]. For instance, even though religion was ranked first of Gallup’s confidence in institutions list,  it now ranked in position four, behind  military, small enterprises and the police. However, religion is still ahead of medical system in the list. What is more, the polls show that only 42 percent of Americans who have strong confidence in organized religions including the church[16]. This is a sharp decline from 68 percent in the 1970s.
Figure 1: Percentage of people with confidence in organized religion or the church
Derived from business Insider (2016)
The result from Gallup coincides with the increasing trend of many Americans who are not able to able to identify themselves with any specific religion. This was evident in the 2014 Religious Landscape Study by Pew Research Center.
Figure 2: American without religious affiliation
                Derived from business Insider (2016)
The same study show that the building of new churches in America is declining. For example, amount of money used for construction of churches declined has experienced 62 percent drop since January in 2002[17].
Figure 3: decline in construction expenditure in the US
Derived from (Kiersz, 2016)
In 2015, an extensive survey comprising of about 35000 Americans established that the percentage of people who have faith in God, attend church, and pray on daily basis and take place in different religious activities have declined significantly in the recent years [18]. The decrease in the religious behaviors and beliefs is attributed to the growing minority of Americans, mainly those belonging to the millennial group, who deny belongingness in any organized religion or faith. According to a research conducted by the Pew Research Center, the number of people who have confidence to say that they believe has declined from about 92% to 89%, from 2007 when it carried out its first Background Study. In addition, the percentage of people who are sure of God’s existence dropped from 71% in 2007 to about 63% in 2014[19]. In addition, the percentage of people who consistently attend religious services and value religion   as a significant part of their lives has gone down. The decline in various spiritual beliefs as well as practices coincides with various changes in religious composition of the public of U.S. The research shows that a growing percentage of Americans are not affiliated religiously, including a group that identify themselves as atheists. Generally, the total percent of “nones”, which are religiously unaffiliated, is now 23% of the population of U.S adults. This has risen from 16% in 2007 [20].
 
 
 
 
Figure 4: How the United States became less religious
Derived from business Insider (2016)
It is not only in the United States where degree of religion is failing. Unlike in the past years where people used to turn for divine intervention to seek the hard questions in their lives, today most people in the United Kingdom are turning to science. The result is decline in the number of people who trust in God. In addition, the amount used for construction of churches and other places of worship has also declined. For the last 30 years, the number of people attending the mainstream churches in the U.K has halved. According to[21], the British have lost faith in religion at a faster rate and more completely that are losing faith in the existence of God. A recent survey shows that Britain now stands as one of the most irreligious nations across the globe, with on 30percent religious people. However, only 13 percent of people argue to be atheists [22]. This cannot compare to the whooping 60 percent of atheists in China. However, the reason behind the low number of atheists in the UK is that most people view atheisms as a form of religion[23]. A recent article published in the Spectator talked about “the death rattle” of Christianity in the U.K. In this article, Damian Thompson, a Catholic journalist held that by 2033 Anglicanism will have faded and disappeared from the United Kingdom.
According to a number of studies, the number of Anglicans in the UK fell from 40 percent in the 1983 to about 29 percent by 2004 [24]. However, the number reached history low at 17percent in 2015[25]. This proves the secularization theory to be true. During the early days when both the UK and the United states were behind in their economic growth, many people were affiliated to different forms of organized religion. However, with increased growth in modernization, the number of people affiliated to organized religious faiths has declined at a sharp rate[26]. The current trends show that the decline is expected to persist. Many scholars have continued to argue that growth in the field of science is among the reasons for the current decline in religion. Unlike some time back when people used to turn to religion to seek questions to complex natural phenomena. Today, science has provided answers to most of the natural phenomena and therefore no need to invest their time religion seeking answers for the natural phenomena[27].
Contrast: religion rises in China.
However, the secularization theory seems not to hold water in the present day china. Unlike in most nations where modernization is followed by decline in affiliation to organized religion, China is experiencing the opposite. Economic growth and modernization in china has resulted to increase in religious affiliation. According to [28], china is on course to becoming the globe’s most Christian nation within a period of 15 years. With the current increase in the Christian population, china is likely to have more population of churchgoers than America. Renowned sociologist Rodney Stark argues that Christianity in china is growing at about 7 percent. Research shows that by 1980, there were about 10 million Christians in china. However, the Christian population grew to 60 million by 2007. By 2015, the population of Christians was estimated to be 100 million[29]. The number is expected to rise in the recent in the future. It is worth noting that Christianity is rising at a time when china is experiencing growth in technology and modernization. In addition, for the past decades the economy of china has been increasing. This raises eyebrows on the validity of the secularization theory in the modern china.
In the past few decades, china has witnessed rapid growth in its economy. Consequently, the standards of living of the Chinese people have grown. In addition, the nation has registered impressive rates of economic growth. Studies show that china economy is growing steadily at 6.7 percent for the third quarter in row.
 
 
 
Figure 5: economic indexes before and after reform of 1978
                                  Derived from (Wu-Beyens, 2016)
Today, China is the second largest economy by GDP. In addition, china is the global biggest economy by purchasing power parity. Currently, china remains the fastest developing economy, with 10 percent average growth rate for the last 30 years[30]. Studies show that china is an international manufacturing hub, and remains the globe’s biggest manufacturing economy. In addition, it is the largest goods exporter across the globe. In addition, it is the globe’s fastest growing consumer market and the second biggest goods importer across the globe[31]. However, regardless of the increasing economic growth and consequent improvement in the standards of living and quality of life among the Chinese people, religion seems to be growing at a very fast rate[32]. This goes against the secularization theory. With the theory, the rate of religion in china should have declined at faster rates with the growth in its economy and the consequent increase in the standards of living of the Chinese people.

Religion in the sub-Saharan Africa

The African continent seems nod to the secularization theory. For a long, most African nations have remained undeveloped. In addition, citizens in most of the African nations experience low quality of life, and low standards of living. Most people in these nations are considered poor and living below the poverty line. However, religion in these nations seems to be increasing at a fast rate. According to[33], Africa is going to be center for global religion boom, with both Islam and Christianity growing fastest. The report by the Pew Research Center indicates that within a period of 35 years, the number of Muslims and Christians is likely to be the same, mainly in the sub-Saharan Africa[34]. During this time, religion is expected at a fast rate from 12 percent in 2010 to 20% by 2050. Some of the probable reasons for growth is because people in these nations are still seeking answers to most of their unanswered questions. For example, there is increase of incurable diseases, corruption, and chaos for which people are seeking answers. For example, in the last few years some West African nations were faced with Ebola epidemic that swept a large number of people. In addition, war and political instability has become the order of the day. What is more, HIV/Aids prevalence in these nations is high and continued to claim large part of the population [35]. The existence of these calamities the sub-Saharan African nations has forced many people to seek divine intervention for the problems. Research shows that without the problems, religion in these nations would be fading like most of the developed nations. In addition, development of technology and science would also be another solution to increasing level of organized religion in these nations[36].
Conclusion
The secularization theory seems to hold water in most of the nations. With the development of modernization, religion in most developed states seems to have taken a back seat rather than been the foremost social framework. Many developed states have continued to experience decline in religious faith and particularly organized religion. Growth of technology and science is attributed to the decline in religion. Unlike in the old days when people used to look up to religion for the complex questions regarding natural phenomena, most people today turn to science, which seems to be more credible answers. Religion in most of the developed nations seems to be falling apart because science has provided them with answers to most of the difficult questions regarding natural phenomena. For instance, in the United States, the population of people in organized religion has reduced. Many studies show that the trust of Americans in organized religion has continued to decline. For instance, even though religion was ranked first of Gallup’s confidence in institutions list in 2005, it now ranks in position four, behind military, small enterprises and the police. What is more, the polls show that only 42 percent of Americans have strong confidence in organized religions including the church. This is a sharp decline from 68 percent in the 1970s. In addition, Damian Thompson, a Catholic journalist held that by 2033 Anglicanism will have faded and disappeared from the United Kingdom. This trend is increasing with expansion of modernization in different nations.
 
 
 
 

References

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[1] Germán, M, Interpreting Charles Taylor’s Social Theory on Religion and Secularization : A Comparative Study (Cham: Springer, 2016).
[2] Pollack, D, Varieties of Secularization Theories and Their Indispensable Core; Germanic Review, (2015), 60-79.
[3] Goetschel, W., & Roemer, Secularization Theories and Their Discontents, Germanic Review, . (2015), 2-5.
[4] Gordon, P. E, Between Christian Democracy and Critical Theory: Habermas, Böckenförde, and the Dialectics of Secularization in Postwar Germany. Social Research, (2013), 173-202.
[5] Bar-El, R., García-Muñoz, T., Neuman, S., & Tobol, Y, The evolution of secularization: cultural transmission, religion and fertility-theory, simulations and evidence. Journal Of Population Economics, (2013), 1129-1174.
[6] Bar-El, R., García-Muñoz, T., Neuman, S., & Tobol, Y, The evolution of secularization: cultural transmission, religion and fertility-theory, simulations and evidence. Journal Of Population Economics, (2013), 1129-1174.
[7] McBride, M, A rational choice theory of religious authority. Rationality & Society, (2016), 28(4), 410
[8]Lynch, A, Social Theory, Theology, Secularization and World Youth Day. New Zealand Sociology, (2008), 23(2), 34.
[9] Cahn, P, Bruce, Steve. Secularization: in defence of an unfashionable theory. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, (2011), 603.
[10] Lynch, A, Social Theory, Secularization and World Youth Day. New Zealand Sociology, (2009), 34.
[11] Kiersz, A, Religion in America is on the decline. Business Insider (2016). Retrieved 20 December 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/organized-religion-is-on-the-decline-in-america-2015-6
[12] Hay, D. A, An Investigation into the Swiftness and Intensity of Recent Secularization in Canada: Was Berger Right?. Sociology Of Religion (2014), 136-162.
[13] Kiersz, A, Religion in America is on the decline. Business Insider (2016). Retrieved 20 December 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/organized-religion-is-on-the-decline-in-america-2015-6
[14] Reeh, N, Secularization Revisited – Teaching of Religion and the State of Denmark : 1721-2006. (Switzerland: Springer, 2016)
[15] Hay, D. A, An Investigation into the Swiftness and Intensity of Recent Secularization in Canada: Was Berger Right?. Sociology Of Religion (2014), 136-162.
[16] Kiersz, A, Religion in America is on the decline. Business Insider (2016). Retrieved 20 December 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/organized-religion-is-on-the-decline-in-america-2015-6
[17] Kiersz, A, Religion in America is on the decline. Business Insider (2016). Retrieved 20 December 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/organized-religion-is-on-the-decline-in-america-2015-6
[18] Pew Research Center’s, U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious (2016) [online] Available at: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/
[19] Pew Research Center’s, U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious (2016) [online] Available at: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/
[20] Pew Research Center’s, U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious (2016) [online] Available at: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/
[21] Brown, A, Faith no more: how the British are losing their religion | Andrew Brown (2016), [online] the Guardian
[22] Brown, A, Faith no more: how the British are losing their religion | Andrew Brown (2016), [online] the Guardian
[23] Brown, A, Faith no more: how the British are losing their religion | Andrew Brown (2016), [online] the Guardian
[24] BBC News. (2016). The decline of religion in the West – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-33256561 [Accessed 21 Dec. 2016].
[25] BBC News. (2016). The decline of religion in the West – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-33256561 [Accessed 21 Dec. 2016].
[26] McKelvy, W. R, Children of the sixties: post-secular Victorian studies and Victorian secularization theory. Nineteenth-Century Prose (2012), 17.
[27] CARROLL, A. J, The Importance of Protestantism in Max Weber’s Theory of Secularisation. European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie / Europäisches Archiv für Soziologie (2009), 61.
[28] Catholic News Agency, Why is Christianity growing so quickly in mainland China? (2016).[
[29] Catholic News Agency, Why is Christianity growing so quickly in mainland China? (2016).[
[30] Chen, Baizhu, and Yi Feng, Determinants of economic growth in China: Private enterprise, education, and openness.” China Economic Review 11.1 (20), 1-15.
[31] Demurger, Sylvie. “Infrastructure development and economic growth: an explanation for regional disparities in China?.” Journal of Comparative economics 29.1 (2015): 95-117.
[32] Wickeri, Philip L. Reconstructing Christianity in China: KH Ting and the Chinese Church. (Orbis Books: 2015).
[33] Hexham, Irving. “Religious Extremism in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Writenet Paper No (2015).
[34] Ranger, Terence O. “Religious movements and politics in Sub-Saharan Africa.” African Studies Review 29.02 (2016): 1-70.
[35] Ellis, Stephen, and Gerrie Ter Haar. “Religion and politics in sub-Saharan Africa.” The Journal of Modern African Studies 36.02 (2016): 175-201.
[36] Blakely, Thomas D., Walter EA van Beek, and Dennis L. Thomson, eds. Religion in Africa: experience & expression. J (Currey: 2015).