Lecture 6 – Tocqueville (Religion)
October 29, 2012
1) Hard to specify
- Can it be understood objectively?
- What is meant by religion?
- Can religiosity be measured?
- Sacred/profane: answers questions inevitably asked by humans (i.e. suffering, death)
- Monotheism vs. polytheism, animism (spirits in inanimate objects)
- Can it be studied scientifically? Objectively? Is it observable?
o Too much subjective emotion entailed with religion
- Sociologists don‟t study whether God/afterlife exists
- Measures of religiosity: number of times attended church, how often you observe
religious traditions, how much you know about the bible/Torah/Qu‟uran etc.
2) The secularization thesis: Peter Berger‟s theory
- Profane, religion in modern world loses plausibility
- Religion is private not public
- Modernity = exposure to different beliefs/customs
o More travel, globalization, media etc.
- Therefore, how can all beliefs be valid?
- New forms of social mixing: intermarriage of religions
- 2 possible strategies for religious institutions:
o Accommodation: accepting gay marriage etc. to stay relevant with the times
o Entrenchment: maintain differences to solidify identity (i.e. dig heels in)
- Both strategies will fail
o Accommodation: loses distinctiveness, becomes too mainstream
o Entrenchment: becomes marginalized, irrelevant to society
- Therefore, religion is on the decline
3) The secularization thesis: some evidence
- “if secularization is the road to modernity, it is bumpy”
4) Religion among the Huron: an enchanted world
- Animistic religion, spirits in the environment, pervades daily trade, travel etc.
- Evil spirits existed too
- No well-defined sphere of religion (no shrines, churches etc.) instead, it pervaded
every day life
5) Weber on the disenchantment of the world
- Natives knew more about their environments than Germans, science/progression
disconnects us from nature
- The world is understandable (no mysteries) - The world is disenchanted because we understand the world scientifically and we
don‟t employ religion to understand it
- Rationalization of the world = disenchantment
- Religion isn‟t ruled out completely, just plays a smaller role in society
6) Tocqueville on religion in the age of public opinion
- Religion remains in certain areas (in America)