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Modern Britain As A Secular Society

1298 words - 5 pages

Modern Britain as a Secular Society

Secularisation has become more of an issue among Sociologists recently
than it has been in the past, it is the argument of whether or not
Religion is losing it's importance in today's Society. Bryan Wilson
defined Secularisation as being "The process whereby religious
thinking, practices and institutions lose social significance." This
definition itself and not just the topic alone causes problems, it
might be argued that it is not possible to measure the significance of
such a personal thing as religion and if it is possible it may not
even be true that Religion held such a significance in the first
place. It may not be true that Modern Britain is a Secular Society or
perhaps it is and it always has been. These are just some of the
problems that arise with the discussion of Secularisation.

Continuing with Bryan Wilson, he believed that Secularisation was in
fact occurring and that Religion holds less importance now than it had
done in the past. Wilson used Positivist methods such as analysing
statistics to support his claim. Apparently Wilson thought the
significance of Relgion could be measured, and so he collected data
from such 'Social Indicators' as church attendance, baptisms,
weddings, closure of churches and growth in religious Sects. The
results showed that there was a decline in Religious activity. For
example, since 1979 the attendance of Institutional Churches has
dropped from more than 5 million to less than 4 million. And a similar
decrease has occurred in non- Institutional churches also.

David Martin however disagreed with Wilson and questioned both his
methods and results. Martin argued that the statistics used as
evidence were unreliable and that the data was open to
interpretation.In the instance of measuring Church attendance there is
always the possibilty of the size of the congregation being either
overestimated or underestimated. Eg. In the Roman Catholic Church the
number of congregation might be underestimated so that more of the
Capitation can be kept for the Parish. It is also possible that more
people may 'worship' as individuals or may not be able to attend
church, surely this doesn't mean that they are not religious and
therefore evidence that Secularisation is not occurring. Martin also
argued that growth of New Religious Movements is not evidence of
Secularisation, if more people find their beliefs in Sects or Cults
then that should not count as proof that Relgion is losing
significance but perhaps that Religion is developing a new form.

Sociologists such as Demereth and Hammond believe that religious
beliefs cannot be measured by quantitative methods and should be
studied by more qualitative methods. ie. Reliosity, which is the
extent to which religious belief influences a person's actions and

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