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Current Views on Secularization Theory and Religious Decline

Session Chair: N.N. | Monday, August 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Sampsa Andrei Saarinen

Revisiting Nietzsche's reflections on the 19th century 'crisis of faith' – a case for paying attention to the interplay of moods and motivations in the history of religions

The critical attention devoted to narratives of secularization in the last decades has spawned increasing interest in 'the secular'; now understood as an important topic of study for the history of religions. This paper approaches the 'crisis of faith' among intellectuals in the 19th century, an epochal turn in european intellectual history, through the writings of F.W. Nietzsche. The reflections of this idiosyncratic thinker are singular for their interrogation of religious moods and motivations in an era of change. Herein lies their relevance for contemporary scholarship. Despite the efforts of influential scholars such as Clifford Geertz, the way specific traditions condition moods and motivations is nowadays seldom seen as a defining feature of religions. This paper argues that a renewed hermeneutics of moods and motivations is an essential task for the history of religions; a task that is especially pertinent when it comes to understanding religious change.

Carles Salazar

The decline of religiosity in Western Europe: An anthropological approach

The purpose of this paper is to propose an anthropological perspective on one of the strangest cultural oddities of the present time: the decline of religiosity in western European societies. Taking the definition of (popular) religion as a way of engaging with the world rather than a way of thinking about the world as a theoretical point of departure, the hypothesis to be developed is that neither the secularization of sociopolitical institutions nor the alleged expansion of scientific rationality can fully account for that decline, but rather it is closely related to the cultural effects of the peculiarities of European demographic development in the 20th century. This demographic development has to do with an increased life expectancy, unique in human history, and its related cultural effects refer to the new understandings of death brought about by that exceptionally long life expectancy.

Stanislovas Juknevicius

Secularization theory revised: A post-Jungian approach

The report argues that a post-jungian approach to religion can be an alternative to secularization theory. It is based on two ideas of Carl Gustav Jung. The first one is that gods don’t die but only change their names. In network society the members of each imagined or imagining community create and worship their own gods. The second idea is that compensation is a basic law of psychic behavior. A growing interest in the mysterious in arts, literature and daily life is a compensation for rapid advance of science and technologies. Institutional religiosity has decreased in most Western countries, but non-institutional one has increased. On the other hand, some decrease of institutional Christianity in the West is compensated by resurrection of Islam world-wide. In general religiosity in modern societies doesn’t decrease but only changes its intensity and forms of expression.

Cameron Montgomery

Atheist Theology and Secularization Movements

Statistics demonstrate that men are more likely to self-identify as atheists than women are. Atheist groups have more men than women and churches are attended by more women than men. Christians and atheists are often posited as opposites within a sacred/profane dichotomy, and male-dominated atheist groups are primarily concerned with the existence or non-existence of a supreme god. Women's secularization groups are less concerned with theology and more concerned with the detrimental social effects of patriarchal fundamentalism on women. Rather than extrapolating that woman are innately more 'religious' than men, my paper will argue that women are less interested in challenging an ethereal god and more focused on unsettling man as god of their everyday lives.


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