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
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
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
Adjustment to modernity/trends in modern society
Dilution of tradition/message
Staying traditional, rejecting modernity as if nothing has changed
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
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
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
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