S-Space College of Humanities (인문대학) Religious Studies (종교학과) 종교와 문화(Religion and Culture) 종교와 문화(Religion and Culture) 08호(2002)
세속화 이론과 미국 종교사
The Secularization Thesis and American Religious History
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 종교문제연구소
- 종교와 문화, Vol.8, pp. 21-41
- The secularization thesis is a theoretical framework that facilitates the interpretation of historical changes among the societies of Europe and North America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The standard thesis asserts that modernization brings in its wake the diminution of the social significance of religion. Modernization is a complex phenomenon that involves a variety of processes. Rut there are three particularly prominent aspects of modernization to be considered in relation to the thesis: social differentiation, societalization, and rationalization.
One could find abundant proofs that American religious history experienced, just like European religious history, social differentiation, societalization, and rationalization. However, critics of the secularization thesis have provided seemingly countervailing evidence. One of the most convincing was the continuing vitality of American religions. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, for instance, recently showed that church attendance have continually increased in the United States during the last two centuries. According to their study, "the history of religion in America is growth." Recent statistics also show that the majority of the American people still identify themselves as Christians or confess a belief in a deity, and conservative varieties of Protestantism have recently flourished in the Unites States. However, such statistics do not prove the continuing significance of religion. Church attendance do not reveal different motivations prompting church attendance.
In the United States about two thirds of its population still attend church, make donations, and ask priests and ministers conduct important rituals. Nevertheless, most of these people do not seek a larger role for religion in the organization and operation of society. Religion once provided legitimacy for secular authority, sustained the agencies of social control, was the center of all learning, socialized the young, and almost exclusively sponsored recreative activities. The loss of these functions is the core of the secularization thesis. American religious history, in this sense, is no exception to the thesis. Religion is a singularly resilient phenomenon. However, there seems to be little doubt that the social significance of religion in America, as well as in Europe, is declining irreversibly and inevitably.