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Evaluate the view that the extent of secularisation has been exaggerated.
Secularistion is the process of religion losing its influence. Since 1960, church attendance has halved, and since 1970, the number of weddings in a church has fallen from 60% to around 30%. Such statistics indicate secularisation is occurring, but other sociologists argue religion still plays a vital part in society through cultural reasons.
One reason to suggest secularisation is occurring is due to religion losing its plausibility. In the middle ages, the catholic church, as described by Berger, held an absolute monopoly- it was not questioned and accepted, a sacred canopy. Everyone lived under a set of beliefs shared by all- no challenges meant it was more plausible. Since then, due to an increase in religious diversity as a result of the protestant revolution, the catholic church has lost its undaobutle influence. As a result, people are less likely to trust or believe in a specific religion, due to the number of alternatives there are. This suggests religion has lost its validity and influence due to uncertainty. However, Berger has since redacted these claims and says religious diversity has helped inspire interest in religion.
Another point in favour of secularisation is due to more rational ways of thinking replacing supernatural ones. Weber argues the main cause of a decrease of religious influence is due to rationalisation and disenchantment. In the middle ages, the world was once and enchanted garden, filled with supernatural beings, and hardcore relgiious beliefs such as disease being Gods punishment. Since the protestant revolution, this has changed, and more scientific explanations have been utilised. For example, a plane crash would once have been seen as God's signal to humanity, but is now explained from a technological worldview standpoint, such as an engineering failure. Such beliefs have disenchanted the world- and any remaining belief in God regards him to be transcendent and therefore not have such an influence- lets it run according to its own principes. This suggests that due to more logical ways of thinking religion has lost its meaning and therefore secularisation has occurred.
Other theorists would argue religion still plays an important role in today's society and hence secularisation is not occuring. Bruce identifies two ways in which religion still plays a role; cultural transition and cultural defense. Cultural transition refers to the role religion plays in migration, by allowing those moving to feel at ease through providing community and support. This is evident in Malinowski's study who found religion can help in uncertain situations (ocean magic). Cultural defense refers to the unity religion can enable during times of foreign threat. An example of this is the increased popularity of catholicism before the fall of communism. Such factors suggest religion is not declining, but rather has a range of uses in today's globalised society. However, this does not mean that secularisation is not occurring, but rather argues for the use of religion in specific circumstances.
Another reason for secularisation occurring is its loss of functions. Parsons argues religion has lost influence due to structural differentiation. Complex modern society with specialisation- industrial society. He argues religion has become disengaged from wider society- institutions such as schools are now under state control, and religion has become privatised to the public sphere of the family. Religious beliefs are a matter of personal choice and religious institutions have lost their influence on society. This means secularisation has occurred as religious organisations have had less chance to transmit their ideas, meaning they have less reliance. However, religion can still have an influence over institutions, such as catholic schools etc.
To conclude, it is fair to say that although religion can still serve functions and benefits within society, it is declining due to the influence of science.