In Part IV of A Secular Age Taylor goes about describing different narratives of secularization. I think it might be helpful for us to split these narratives into two different discussions. In this first discussion I’d like to set Taylor up against an opponent/interlocutor – the Scottish sociologist of secularization, Steve Bruce.
Bruce, rightly famous for such books as God is Dead: Secularization in the West and Religion in the Modern World, would, I believe, be happily labeled as a proponent of the idea that the modern western world is becoming increasing a-religious. His basic argument is that the modern world, composed as it is of religious & cultural diversity, privatization, egalitarianism, relativism and rationalism, is uniquely suited to funneling people out of religion and religious commitments. Indeed, it’s not atheism that he predicts for the future, but a mounting indifference to religion within the secularized West.
Two quotes might serve us well as examples. Bruce concludes his God is Dead by saying: “We may want to explain the secularity of some elite groups (such as professional scientists) by the impact of science and rationalism, but to understand the mass of the population it is not self-conscious irreligion that is important. It is indifference. [And] the primary cause of indifference is the lack of religious socialization” (240). Here we see his charge of mounting indifference explained by the thought that people must be socialized into the particular beliefs of particular religions in order for those beliefs to be maintained. The argument then runs that, because of diversity, relativism and egalitarianism, it’s very difficult for religious socialization to happen.
Noting the difficulty of such socialization in a diffuse, pluralized environment leads to our next Bruce quote. He says: “What is at issue is the future of [diffuse] Read the rest of this entry »