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Tocqueville Lecture Notes Religion in America

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th Tocqueville Lecture, Oct 28 1. Hard to Specify a. Can it be understood objectively b. What is meant by “religion”? c. Can religiosity be measured? 2. The secularization thesis – Peter Berger’s Theory 3. The secularization thesis – some evidence 4. Religion among the Huron: an enchanted world 5. Weber on the disenchantment of the world 6. Tocqueville on religion in the age of public opinion Since 1985, there’s a decline in monthly attendance of church in Canada Sacred → experienced outside of daily life: transcendent Opposite of sacred: profane Religion provides an escape (from suffering and death) (Weber is alluding to) The Poor: justification or coping with the difficulty of their social position The Rich: reason why their privilege is deserved Monotheistic: one god (Abraham religions), Polytheistic: many gods (ie Greek Gods), No gods: ie Buddhism, Animism religion: soul in non-living things When different beliefs collide → erosion happens – how can we both be right/wrong? How can what one believe something to be true when someone else believes something else? 1. Human beings react → from their cultural lenses and subjectivity a. Can it be understood objectively? ie how often does one attend religious activity? Can you measure by seeing the proportion of marriage at the church, religious burial, etc b. What is defined as sacred varies. There’s no agreement: are there angels? Gods? Aliens? It varies around each religion and some don’t have a belief system with one supreme being. c. Need an multidimensional understanding. To be religious does it mean you need to have some sort of contact with supernatural? Participating in rituals? Public Rites? Private Rituals? It’s a messy field 2. Peter Berger Secular thesis – coin in 1967 by Peter Berger in the book The Sacred Canopy. Fundamental argue of trend in modern society: religion is losing plausibility in the modern world Losing ability to compel adherence as religion is becoming a private matter/individual choice Occurring = increasing contact between religion → modernity: urbanization, literacy, education, intellectual migration, travel → Berger says: it leads to questions → how can all these religions be true? Religion loses plausibility when they don’t have one thought adhesion, if all religion seems to make the same claims, don’t they all cancel each other out? Religion intermarriage – Jewish and the gentle (non-Jewish) Ethnic mixing – through business, school, etc. Religion institutions → should they sit back? No. there are two responses to secularization a. Accommodation  Adjustment to modernity/trends in modern society  Dilution of tradition/message b. Retrenchment  Staying traditional, rejecting modernity as if nothing has changed  Remaining pure Outcome: without reaction, secularization will continue Accommodation to modernity → losing distinctiveness, will not be different for other institutions have to offer Retrenchment → results isolating/marginalization loss of relevance 3. Evidence Canadian survey: different organizations asking if God exists → 1985: 84%, 2000: 81% → roughly the same Statistic Canada: what religion do participate in? no religion: 1971: less than 1%, 2009: 23% Experience God’s presence? Same %, almost half Attendance weekly to church? 1946: 2/3 (67%) of adults, 2001: 20% → percentage drop US: seems to be more religious than Canada, 1980s – revival Evangelical Protestant – achieved political: abortion rights, popularity of presidents, school prayers, teaching creationism in schools, etc Contradiction of Berger’s Claims.  1878 – Revival of Islam, new Islamic State in Iran  Africa – increase of Catholicism  Latin America – Protestant on the rise, Catholicism still remain strong  India – revival Hindu nationalism  Politics/Warfare o Iraq: Sunni vs Shia Muslims o India: Muslims vs Hindu o China: Ongoing prosecution of the Falun Gong Seems secular thesis may not be true/taken with grain of salt. Even if Berger is right, then the road to secularization is complex/bumpy than
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