A Religious Resurgence

In the mid-1990s, when Peter L. Berger declared that a religious resurgence was underway, scholars took notice. Since the 1960s, Berger was renowned as one of the leading proponents of the secularisation thesis. Briefly, secularisation describes three interrelated social processes: first, the differentiation of secular institutions (the state and the free market, for example) from religious institutions (such as the church); second, the decline of religious beliefs; and third, the privatisation of religious belief and practice. In short, secularisation describes a process of social change. It is a hypothesis that attempts to explain what is unique about modernity. For this reason, secularisation is ‘twinned’, as it were, to the process of modernisation. With respect to traditional religion (and traditional ways of life, for that matter), modernisation acts like a solvent. As a society modernises, religion loses its distinctive features—for instance, the public prominence and influence of religious institutions and leaders, the social utility of religion (as, say, a source of moral value), and epistemic claims to revelatory authority. Religion recedes from public life into the private. Its universal claims to truth are transmuted as deeply felt personal convictions.
Turns out, secularization looks like a phase receding in the rear-view mirror. China, aggressively secularized by the Communists, is flourishing with Christianity. Israel, founded by secular Jews who intended to run a modern, secularized state, is growing increasingly religious and Orthodox. The Islamic world is returning to its religious roots as well.

Whether this is good or bad depends chiefly on the effects of the particular religion on society. What we seem to see in the big picture is that religion addresses a key human need. We are coming back to it because we can't do without it. The human soul longs to know the highest things, as Aristotle wrote thousands of years ago. We investigate through science, but also through intuition. We investigate through direct experience, and through engagement with the traditions of those who came before us and investigated for themselves while they lived. Religion is at the core of what a human being is.

The key is to do it well.

1 comment:

Eric Blair said...

You realize that Marxism and "Secularism" were just new religions to replace the old ones.

But Marx was not a particularly attractive diety.