Myth of the Month 4: Secularization…or, Send in the Nones! (Episode #66)

We examine the long-debated “secularization thesis” — ie, the notion that as societies modernize they become less religious. From Max Weber’s belief that science and rationality disenchant the world, to Charles Taylor’s and other current scholars’ argument that religious views have become relative and debatable where in the past they were taken for granted, the secularization thesis has evolved and adapted with the times. We carefully examine Pew Research data showing that education does not particularly correlate with loss of religious commitment, especially among Christians, and observe that instead, a new, younger generation of “nones” has given up on traditional institutions even as they remain interested in religious ideas and practices. We also uncover some of the long history of skeptical and even atheistic ideas in the West running back to the 1600s and earlier, which suggest that our own day is not necessarily any more “secular” than what came before.

Related content: 8 episodes On the History of Christianity

Image of abandoned church courtesy of Emma via Flickr.

Suggested Further Reading: Charles Taylor, “A Secular Age”; Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation”; Pew Research Center, “In America, Does More Education Equal Less Religion?”

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