SOC250Y1 Lecture Notes - New Age, Axial Age, Transcendental Meditation
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April 4, 12
Indications of Secularization
- Intern Social Survey Programme (ISSP) and the iWorld Values
- Religion “low importance” ranking, for Western Europe (1998):
- Family (81%), Work (53%), Friends (43%), Leisure (38%), Religion
(19%), Politics (8%)
- Views on the Bible (1991):
- “actual word of G-d”: 55% Poland, 26% Italy, 6% Denmark, 32%
USA, 25% Israel, 10% Russia
- “inspired but not literal”: 26% Poland, 51% Italy, 17% Denmark,
47% USA, 26% Israel, 16% Russia
- What kind of G-d? personal G-d – 36% Western Europe, a spirit or
vital force – 34%, there is no G-d – 11%
- 1981 European Value Survey: Only 25% affirm there is only one
- 53% agree there are value to all religions.
- Anxiety of death will not disappear in post industrial societies.
Modernity as a Second Axial Age?
- Axial Ages = Broad reshaping of the symbolic field, resulting in new
understandings of human existence, social life, the cosmos.
- First Axial Age: Brahminical Hinduism/Buddhism/Confucianism &
- Jewish monotheism Christianity and Islam Greek philosophy
- Jasper‟s identified four decisive features of Modernity:
- 1) Primacy of modern science and technology
- 2) Craving for individual freedom and self-cultivation (Romanticism)
- 3) The historic emergence of the masses – democracy, nationalism,
socialism. – The masses to make history.
- 4) Globalization, through the relentless spread of technology driven
- Modernity‟s cluster of challenges to the First Axial Age Religions:
- A focus on this-worldliness, through the wonders of technology,
- Through globalization: growing pluralism & relativism
- With rising individualism: self-spirituality/humanism [T.Paine:
“My mind is my Church”]
- Demystification, as science is applied to understanding/explaining
- and demythologization: sacred stories of creation lose
plausibility, as do accounts of the miraculous and supernatural
(=ancient fables, when human beings lacked genuine knowledge of
the world around them).
- These broad modernizing developments and trends also call forth
what has been called an “internal secularization” within the
established religious traditions, as they move to downplay or
marginalize those aspects of the faith – sin, guilt, pollution, eternal
or protacted hellish torments, sacred commandments, etc. – that
lack appeal in current social conditions. [recall Pope JP II and the
New Age Spirituality & New Religious Movements
- The dominant structural features and trends of modernity –
CAPITALISM, BUREAUCRATIZATION, SCIENCE-TECHNOLOGY, and
GLOBALIZATION – have all contributed to altering the place of
religion in society, the standing and functioning of religious
institutions, and in the nature of religiosity
- New Age Spirituality – a loose, umbrella term, conveying
practices and beliefs ranging from neo-paganism to
psychotherapies – in some ways it can be viewed as a
continuation/modernization of age-old occult (i.e., the „concealed‟
or „hidden‟) and metaphysical forms of religiosity: myscicism,
mediums, telepathy, gnosis, astrology, etc.
- But for a modern age, science and technology are adopted or
featured, and individualistic achievements are emphasized – e.g.,
the “Human Potential” movement that builds on techniques of
psychotherapy and doctrines of humanistic psychology, such as
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) and the stages of “self actualization.
- The Counter-culture of the 1960’s as a major turning point: a
youth based popular movement – centered largely in the
universities - that featured a sweepingly radical critique of the
soul-destroying pathologies of modernity… against the
ESTABLISHMENT of big business and the “rat race” world of white
and blue collar employment “drop out and turn on”, drugs as
liberation, psychedelic music.
- Authoritarian government, authoritarian religion anarchism,
communes, cultivating the “inner you”
- War and racism “make love, not war” peace and the brotherhood
- Bourgeois/middle class values and the patriarchal family sexual
- But, overall, the Establishment holds! conservative backlash,
the „silent majority‟
- Bellah and other sociologists argue the NRMs are “successor
movements” to 60s radicalism: “from slogan chanting to mantra
chanting” Yuppies replace Hippies.