The Rise of Secularism in a Globalized World: Is religion becoming irrelevant in the modern world?
1. Introduction
The rise of secularism in a globalized world reflects the globalization of world societies. The reasons for the rise of secularism in the modern world are closely related to the impact of the globalization process on various countries and on different religious traditions. This will leave a footprint on the cultures, values and even the religious practices and beliefs of the followers in different societies. Research about globalization and religion has long been occurred and scholars noticed that the development of secular values and the increasing secularization in modern days are result of the impact of global changes. In this article, the author examines the rise of secularism in a globalized world and the issue about whether religion became irrelevant in the modern world is discussed. The author argues that the forces of globalization and the development of a global culture sweep the world, secular values are increasingly influence in people’s life. While technology and economics are pushing the world in the direction of a single global society, religious beliefs become irrelevant in the modern world in many contexts. The article begins with an introduction that provides the background and significance of studying secularism in a globalized context. The historical perspectives on secularism are then discussed, including its origins, key historical events shaping it, and the impact of the Enlightenment. The influence of globalization on secularism is explored, including the interplay between the two and case studies on the impact of globalization on religious practices. The article also examines contemporary trends and challenges in secularism, such as its rise in developed countries and challenges faced in developing countries, as well as the role of technology in shaping secularism. It further assesses the relevance of religion in the modern world, analyzing recent surveys and data on religious affiliation, factors contributing to the decline of religious belief, and counterarguments against the irrelevance of religion. Finally, the article concludes by summarizing the findings, discussing their implications for the future of secularism, and suggesting areas for further research.
1.1 Background of secularism
The meaning of secularism has changed over time as the existence of religion has changed. When it was first coined by George Holyoake in 1851, secularism was meant to refer to a system of social and moral philosophy which sought to promote civil and social morality mainly in a non-religious, so-called rational and scientific way. This definition reflects the understanding that secularism concerns the here and now, rather than the sacred and the eternal. It also links it to the concept of progress – the secular view that today can be improved upon and that we are moving towards a time where humanity is free from what Marx would call ‘all that is solid’. However, secularism as an idea and practice can also be given a wider context. Variants of the definition that Holyoake offers would position secularism as an understanding of the world that is independent from God or religion. This is reflected in the meaning of secularization – a process of change in which religious faith, practice and institutions lose social influence. It can also be related to an individual’s or a society’s progression towards adopting more enlightened and rational understandings of the world, so putting the sacred and spiritual into the background and focusing on the lives of individuals today. Finally, secularism can be taken to express indifference and rejection of religion; in this sense, it becomes an ideology or social movement defined, in part, in opposition to religion. Lang and Geyer have recently tried to distinguish between ‘passive’ secularism, which is a term used to describe the process of secularization as a gradual erosion of the need for and value of religion, and an ‘active’ secularism. This is meant to refer to a more pro-active approach in which external pressure is exerted on religious institutions to disengage from public life, so affirming the priority of secular power.
1.2 Significance of studying secularism in a globalized world
Studying the importance of secularism in a globalized world only equally emphasizes researches in this field over the years. What scholars mean by secularism in a globalized world and is the concept actually developing any unique distinction. Terry Lovell noted that the concern of social analysts with the relationship of modern societies seemed to be decisive in the genealogy of secularization. There is a substantial amount of literature on the decline of religion in modern society. The rise of secularism in a globalized world is seen in a different dimension and a new field in secular studies is open. The knowledge of secularism with the priestly churches as an aspect of institutional oppression by theologians of liberation on the road to Protestantism identified under different thesis has been developed. Modern secularism emerged in a specific religious context even though a venerable and more general theory according to which secularism is an aspect of development. A goal that has been stressed in research is that walls that have been added along the route to secular reason in the history of western intellectual with the focus the social power and authority that remains unaffected by the current flow of secularization. As long as globalization is concerned, it is argued by the different scholars that there is a common understanding of religion that persists as the world trade and capital is spreading. However, there has been a distinct argument and an obstacle of understanding the true definition of religion as a lot of beliefs seem to contradict each other. In a world where the sovereign state is losing control over its defined territory, it is important to investigate whether new power and authority replace and if it is the case, what are the forms and features that could obtain. It has been a sociological significance for modern societies. It could be argued that no study of modern sociological significance for modern societies. It could be argued that no study of modern globalization features could be got without focusing on the chief changes that could be by the development of a global culture. The significance of studying secularism in a globalized world has a profound impact on worldwide community as it sheds light on the importance of global culture and the impact of global culture on society. The significance of such study should not be underestimated as it has a strong narrative with the contemporary discussions of secularism in relation to the concepts. The emergence of a globalized world and its impact on the state and religion relationships is what actually in the last. It is argued that due to the term of globalization, the modern religion is demanded to operate in even more varieties of environments and controls. Cultures shared ideas and values based upon religious leadership and a sense of purpose and so on especially at a local level. Political debates and decisions about the law should be made not on the basis of controversial science. As long as globalization is concerned, it is argued by the different scholars that there is a common understanding of religion that persists as the world trade and capital.
1.3 Research question and objectives
In light of the fact that the world has become increasingly secular over the past 40 or so years, the really interesting question that arises is whether or not this worldwide phenomenon is an indication that religion is retreating and becoming relatively insignificant in the modern world. In order to critically and effectively address these questions, it is important to have a clear understanding of what is meant by secularism and to trace its historical development. Moreover, the relationship between globalization and secularism needs to be understood. More than simply asking whether or not religion is relevant in the modern world, an analysis of the rise of secularism as a social phenomenon in the context of globalization is timely and necessary. One of the key objectives of this article, therefore, is to critically evaluate the impact of religion on the modern world, but also assess the argument that secularization is the way of the future. In doing so, we will be guided by two sets of complementary objectives: a primary objective and a set of specific research objectives. The main goal of the article is to explore the relationship between secularization and globalization in order to understand the implications of a growing secular world. More specifically and first of all, it is important to appreciate the dynamics of secularism in a globalized world of diverse societies and complex interconnections. This objective is to answer questions on the impact and relevance of globalizing processes on cultural and social life. Secondly, it is necessary to appreciate the major theories about the relationship and impact of secularization. By doing this, we will clarify a main and central debate in the sociology of religion. But also, this set of objectives will lead to a number of anticipated research questions. For example, what are the signs and symptoms of a secularizing society? How do various theories or forms of secularism relate to modern political and cultural themes? What are the bigger-picture implications of global trends in secularization? By taking on these objectives, the reading of the article will be clear and manageable for the reader with the aims and intentions of the analysis made transparent from the outset.
2. Historical Perspectives on Secularism
Our focus in this chapter is on historical perspectives. This laboured examination of intellectual and theoretical origins is significant, since it reveals the multi-dimensional meanings and occupations of “secularism” as a concept, as practice and as a world view. Such an examination requires a certain level of intellectual rigour, and this is what provides the focus and framework for this chapter. Key areas of discussion include the early Christian era, the later early middle ages and the later medieval period in Western history, which helps us to locate the “separation” and interaction between religious and secular powers as a particular Western and Christian experience, with relevance to the formation of secularism. By the Renaissance, we can trace the separation and definition of the secular as a separate, distinct and significant arena of life and thought compared to the religious, with figures such as Dante and Petrarch providing key examples of the development of a non-religious world view and a relevant, contemporary desire for classical learning and literature, away from a total focus on scripture and Christian writing. However, it is the French Revolution and modern political history that provides the clear and most commonly used (as introduced in the last chapter) example of a “defining moment” in the formulation of secularism in western public life. In discussing the impact of the revolution and such key political and constitutional documents as the 1789 “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”, there needs to be a contemporary analysis. This involves the presentation of arguments concerning whether political and more abstract definitions of secularism as something beneficial, liberating and modern are supported or undermined by the historical connections that we have explored. The overall aim of this chapter is to provide the material, in discussion and interpretation, which can be used to bring the abstract phenomena of secularism and society in the modern world to life.
2.1 Origins of secularism
The Age of Enlightenment had a significant impact on the establishment of secularism. Enlightenment thinkers were highly critical of the existing social and political structures, the Church, and religious dogmas. They emphasized the use of reason and individualism to challenge and break away from old traditions and create new ways of thinking and new forms of politics and society. The introduction of the scientific method and the importance of empirical evidence to the accumulation of knowledge during the Enlightenment period also gave rise to a different understanding and interpretation of truth and knowledge. With the emphasis on reason and empirical evidence, authority based on religious teaching was further attacked and discredited. In addition, the separation of church and state and the promotion of new types of political theories which focused on the political authority and its relationship with the people, for example constitutionalism and democracy, as a result of the Enlightenment greatly accelerated the advent of secularism. As political philosophies developed and revolutions spread through Europe and the Americas, political leaders embraced the ideals of the Enlightenment in their efforts to offer alternatives to the established political orders. Secularism enjoyed a new wave of influence and it became a strong force in European political life since the late 18th century and has continued to the present day. Beside the ideas and values of the Enlightenment, several historic events, such as the French Revolution in 1789, have also contributed to the rise of secularism and defined its meanings and interpretations. For instance, the French National Convention introduced the Constitution of 1791 which called for France to be a secular and constitutional monarchy. The revolutionary government moved to wholly separate the church from the state and abolished the Catholic Church as the state religion in year 2 of the Republic calendar. By 1794, the first fully secular government in France was established. This event not only solidified the secular state structure in France but also provided a real life example and a model for other states to follow in Europe. The Napoleonic Code, which was enacted in 1804 under Napoleon Bonaparte and which is still influential in some legal systems today, continued the work of the Revolution and placed church under state control. Such revolutionary success in abolishing the old regime, and the ancien régime performative measurement: it means in the manner of breaking up along well defined parallelepipeds or given or having a tendency to break up into such units of the state and the church and to promote a society free from religious domination, sparked a growth in the confidence of progressive and secular ideas and the discreditation of church authority, and it further propelled the development of secularism and the decline of religious influence. These historic events have crystallized the demand for secularism, such as the separation of church and state and the establishment of a secular political system. Leaders in the early secular movements garnered support from diverse social groups, especially from the growing middle class, to effect changes in the political and social organization of societies. As secularism consolidated itself through history, its valences have expanded to encompass a myriad of beliefs in political and legal theory, with distinct contextualization in different socio-cultural and religious landscapes. It is notable that the main sources and resource of secularism in today’s world can be traced back to the ideas and values of the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries.
2.2 Key historical events shaping secularism
The first key event that shaped secularism occurred in the 17th century, when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. This treaty brought the Thirty Years’ War to an end and officially recognized the sovereignty of different states within Europe. Moreover, it inaugurated a new political order in Europe by establishing a political vision of a world made up of distinct, secular and Christian kingdoms and principalities, coordinating their relations with one another. As such, by guaranteeing the rights and privileges of ruling families and by recognizing the legitimate authority of the Pope (as only one of several religious leaders), the Treaty of Westphalia ensured that the Church could not prevent a secularization of politics. It enshrined the principle of cuius regio, eius religio (“whose realm, his religion”), which meant that the current ruler of a territory could dictate the religion of that place. Moreover, in conjunction with the Westphalian principle that the Pope’s authority was no more important than any other religious authority, the treaty helped to bring about a situation in which the papacy was losing influence – thus consolidating the emergence of a more secular view of politics.
2.3 Impact of Enlightenment on secularism
Before the Enlightenment, the religious views of the European people were based upon the telescope and the Bible. The teachings of the church were often found to contradict those of the Bible, but since the work of the ancient scholar, Aristotle, they were commonly explained by science being wrong and theological teaching being correct. The Enlightenment and its philosophers led to a shift in the view of the world being in religious exploration to scientific explanation, and this could be why secularisation began. A key part of the Enlightenment was the use of reason, a rational and logical mental process that was the basis of scientific discovery – something the church didn’t support, due to the new discoveries contradicting religious teaching. Philosophers and scholars often encouraged life values such as education, personal responsibility, and freedom of thought, almost all of which are linked to a secular society as there is less need for religious doctrine and rule. As science developed and more phenomena came to be explained as part of the nature of the world rather than an act of God, secularisation became a more prominent feature of Western political thought. This idea of putting religious views aside to allow society to develop through seeking solutions to social problems through scientific theories has held out and been built upon, and as a result, secularisation is now a fully fledged political and social doctrine that changes the way people and countries interact on the global stage and how our nation and society is run.
3. Globalization and its Influence on Secularism
Globalization is a complicated economic, technological, sociocultural, and political process, which has been particularly influencing secularism since the late twentieth century. It can be defined as a change and interplay of the forces extending and intensifying the social relations across world distances. There are three main characteristics of globalization, which include stretching, that is the extensity of social, political and economic activities across the world; intensification, that is the increased velocity and impact of worldwide inter-regional social interactions and changes; and the speeding up of world history, that is the global interconnectedness and the interdependence of all societies in the world. Globalization has reduced the power of religious institutions, which are the moral guardians in society. Noticeably, globalization is challenging their supremacy and authority in imposing the moral values and the social norms. With the increasing existence of diversity in religion, religious institutions are conflicting with each other in attracting support from the believers. Consequently, not only the people may become confused in choosing the correct religion to believe in, it is also difficult for the government and the ruling powers to maintain social order, which is safeguarded by the moral laws and the religious institutions. Professor Ian Galloway of Queen’s University supports this opinion by stating that globalization has caused religious institutions to “territorialize” and distract the religiosity from the sacred land. As a matter of fact, the power and significance of religious institutions in shaping the moral norms and fulfilling the needs for social coherence are diminishing each day, with the continued expansion of globalization. Also, the interconnectedness brought forward by the acceleration of globalization may weaken the institutional supports provided between one another. Modernization is defined as a process of social change, which is initiated by new inventions, scientific discoveries, and technological development. Optimal utilization of resources and the appropriations of resources to fulfill the material needs and the social expectation can also accelerate the progress of modernization. Modernization has created a complex interplay between technology and religion. The impact of modernization in secular societies will be discussed further in the essay.
3.1 Definition and characteristics of globalization
Globalization is often defined as a complex process of worldwide interaction and integration that promotes the exchange of cultural, economic, and social interests. As such, it involves numerous elements, including technological, economic, political, and cultural factors. Technology as a whole has largely removed barriers to communication and as a result, the global context has redefined culture and its elements. The growth of the EU as a powerful block and the liberalization of trade in China and Asia in general has been especially important for globalization. These developments have fueled an increase in economic migration, the number of people traveling overseas, and the phenomena of “trans-culture” where people move from one culture to another through a variety of means or effects. This has led to a challenging of keeping cultures pure and ultimately the relative diversity and availability of such phenomena has fueled even more globalization. Such increased levels of interaction have encouraged the exchange in values and ideas. In particular, there are movements that give a religious or cultural ethic quest to “resist” the cultural hegemony of the West and its such backgrounds that show that whilst English may dominate as a “world language”, the world is not about to become one “global culture” but rather potentially at least hundreds of subcultures with a global reach. Adaptability in a culture rather than its preservation is now encouraged and this has spread even to the most traditional cultures such as that of many Serb families, for example, who have adopted Anglo-American culture. The globalization of culture is often chiefly attributed to non-Western traditions and the cultures of weaker nations being overwhelmed by those of the West. However, there are also signs that the process may be used to actually support fringe cultural elements and help protect these elements against what is seen as an overwhelming tide of westernization. For example, the popularization of Indian films dubbed into English and shown in the UK has encouraged many families of subcontinent background to hold onto their culture and at the same time help to introduce it to the British audience.
3.2 Interplay between globalization and secularism
Globalization has been defined in the preceding section in terms of the diminishing importance of geographical boundaries or distances and the rising role of supraterritorial and global-scale social relations and institutions. However, it should be highlighted that as a central secular movement or idea, globalization is a multifaceted and complex social process. There is no single consensus on what the precise consequences of globalization are. In turn, the overall influence of globalization on secularism should not be seen as a straightforward, linear process. Indeed, globalization, as a phenomenon of human social life, can be seen to create both the opportunities and the obstacles for secularism. One possible consequence of globalization appears to be the erosion of traditional sources of power, including religion, in terms of their capacity to organize or regulate social life within the nation-state. In its place, the capacity of a range of ‘new’ political and economic actors is increased, including intergovernmental institutions, transnational social movements, global corporations, and the like. This can be seen to be particularly significant where ‘religion’ is intimately bound up with the power structures of ‘traditional’ society, whereby globalization might therefore be expected to ‘unpick’ or loosen the close relation between state power and religious authority. However, it is possible to identify a countervailing tendency within globalization or within globalizing processes, and so an entirely different set of consequences may come to dominate. For instance, if the development of global interconnections and social life created by globalization continues to benefit those who are already wealthy and powerful, and if for many people the concrete experience of globalization is one of disruption or dislocation, then in such a context religion could easily become a rallying point for resistance to other consequences of globalization. Given that ‘religion’ as a potential source of identity or moral guidance becomes ever more central to people’s lives in such a context, then the powers vested in religious institutions and leaders might actually be increased as a result of the far from even social and material consequences of globalization.
3.3 Case studies on the impact of globalization on religious practices
In order to fully assess the impact of globalization on religious practices, this thesis employs a case-study approach to compare and contrast different cultures and traditions around the world. The first study takes a look at the Maasai people in Kenya. The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and Tanzania. They are known for their distinctive customs and dress as well as their fierce resistance to any form of outside influence. The Maasai have since come under threat from the rapid pace of globalization. In the name of advancements and economic development, vast tracts of land traditionally belonging to the Maasai have been annexed and parceled off to various multi-national companies in the energy and tourism sectors. “This process,” Joseph writes, “has put the Maasai in a vulnerable position regarding their own future autonomy.” In this way, we can clearly see how globalization, or the spread of market forces, has led to the alienation and disenfranchisement of religious communities around the world. The second study looks at the effects of globalization on the Rama people in Nicaragua. The Rama are an indigenous group of Native Americans who reside on the island of Rama Cay and along the shores of the Río Rama in what is Eastern Nicaragua. In contemporary Nicaragua, poverty and lack of development have prompted various governmental and non-governmental organizations to fund and support a number of social development projects aimed at the “improvement” of isolated and underdeveloped areas. As a result, significant amounts of financial aid and material resources have been integrated into the Rama community. This has allowed for the establishment of an airfield to facilitate easier food distribution and the provision of a modern water and sewage system. However, such top-down initiatives give no heed to the native traditions and beliefs of the Rama, effectively subjecting them to the changeable winds of globalized progress. Joseph comments, “the Rama people feel that the communal value of the airfield has taken over the spiritual memory of this sacred site – they lament the fact that ‘outsiders’ use the airfield when they need to visit the community.” By uncoupling an instrument of globalization from its traditional meaning and ritual, the Rama case study highlights how religious ties to the land and geography are often overlooked by those who hold the power to globalize.
4. Contemporary Trends and Challenges in Secularism
The declining influence of religion in advanced societies has spawned a wide range of theories and explanations. Known as the “secularization thesis,” this intellectual framework largely holds that as modern science, technology, and rationality have advanced, religion has gradually declined in influence and importance. Harland and Wilkinson (2013) note, for example, that the “social and cultural revolutions” brought about by advances in modern science and technology have led to increasingly secular outlooks and have diminished radically the importance of religious values and beliefs. Slone (2004) has observed that as societies modernize, the need for people to explain the natural world and other social and psychological phenomena decreases. Modernization also clearly leads to vast improvements in standards of living and well-being, factors that have been shown to correlate with lower levels of religiosity in society (Norris and Inglehart 2004). The rise of the modern nation-state has also been a factor in the proliferation of secularism in that societies increasingly promote common political and cultural values without reliance on any specific set of religious beliefs. There are two main challenges that we as humans face that have been highlighted in this approach. Firstly, the secularization thesis does not allow for diverse forms of spirituality to be of comparative significance to certain secular outlooks that have come about with modernity and postmodernity. Secondly, globalization offers a lens to challenge why a secular outlook may be limited to the idea of modernity and the rejection of religious practices or values in a public or political sphere. These aspects will be examined further in the next section.
4.1 Rise of secularism in developed countries
So the question is: How does secularism manifest itself differently now? For a start, it is often argued, including by experts such as Charles Taylor, that we are living in a ‘secular age’. In other words, the conditions of modernity suppress religious belief. And yet, whilst the UK has witnessed a mass decline in Christian affiliation and practice over the last 60 years, it is grossly inadequate to suggest this leaves a mono-culture of non-believers. There are still over 38 million people in the UK who self-identify as Christians and Christianity remains the largest religious group. However, the recent British Social Attitudes Survey suggests that non-religious people are now the largest group in Britain, constituting 53% of the population against the 38% who self-identify as Christians. These figures, and the passage from theistic woman to Emily in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’, highlight how secularism as a movement of religious decline, as it is often characterised, is not confined to statistics. Through analysis and comparison of texts, including theological, literary and art theory sources, the diversity of modern spirituality is reflected. For example, you cannot do justice to ‘the secular’ or ‘post-metaphysical thinking’ without investigating writers and thinkers beyond the realm of theology – often German philosophers like Nietzsche and Heidegger are first on students’ minds. These ideologies and foundational texts can offer an entry point into understanding the transition in academic ideas from medieval scholasticism through the Enlightenment to the present day. In short, the rise of agnosticism or atheism on the streets of Britain might very well be reflected in statistical analysis, but the lived reality of secularisation is manifold and varied, embracing not only the decline of traditionalist belief systems but also the continued negotiation between the religious and the non-religious in day to day life. This analytical approach to placing Christianity and religious studies within a context of secularisation and the diversity this brings is instructive for A Level students looking to progress. Such a nuanced understanding of the development of religion within a modern, non-religious society is not only considered invaluable by exam boards but fosters a more complete academic development of theology and related subjects at university; far better, indeed, than looking for a false simplicity of theistic pedagogy in every work encountered.
4.2 Challenges faced by secularism in developing countries
In the developing world, there are many challenges faced by secularism. One of the major challenges is the deep-rooted religious customs and beliefs in these societies. People in these societies are not widely exposed to liberal and secular ideas due to a lack of education and massive poverty. As a result, these religious customs and beliefs are passed down through generations. Therefore, in countries like Nigeria and Pakistan, where about half of the population lives in mass poverty, it is difficult for a secular lifestyle to take hold. It is often seen that corruption in politics, intolerance among different religious groups, and frequent wars and disputes come from the religious leaders and the people of religious communities. Leaders often use religious slogans to lift themselves into power. We have seen that many leaders in Muslim countries have tried to declare their countries as Islamic states. Also, in some countries, such as India, the law and the government took a long time to separate religion from the country and to form a successful secular state. This situation is commonly referred to as yet another challenge, the challenge for the establishment of a truly secular state when religion and state have been mixed together in the past. This is because people are used to having religion involved in the running of the country, and it is difficult to find a way to root religion out of politics without causing conflicts and unrest among the people. Modern secularism, unlike historical Christianity, is not necessarily missionary. But it is important to continue to promote secularism as an ideal across the world. Although the challenges are enormous, the future for secularism is promising because of globalization. As the world becomes more and more globally connected, new ideas and influences will spread rapidly.
4.3 Role of technology in shaping secularism
It is highlighted that globalization is not the only force that shapes modern society in the context of secularism. The increasingly prevalent modern technologies also act as a significant mediator. Daniel Philpott, a professor of Political Science, has introduced “covenantal pluralism” to describe the American pluralistic landscape. “One of the strategies that he suggests for dealing with religious plurality and allowing religious traditions to have something of an authentic public presence is the cultivation of what he calls ’empowering’ or what he sometimes calls ‘strong’ forms of religious tradition in public life. And one of the ways that he suggests traditions can be empowered is through various legal mechanisms and legal practices.” This blessing of historically significant religions and the fear of the societal impacts of ideologies such as ISIS and Islamic extremism may explain why the ‘Religion or Belief’ category is not exclusively used as well as becoming more comparative in the Census. Dr. Jonathan Lanman, a senior lecturer in the Cognitive Science of Religion, said that “with emerging technologies people can come together in virtual ways that we’ve not seen before and so those kinds of opportunities I think are a challenge and may well in future pose more of a serious challenge to state power.” He expresses his concerns about the prospects of technological advancements and the foreseeable challenges encountered by even the most powerful secular states like Britain. In this fast developing digitized world, technology is constantly and rapidly altering the way how both individuals and states interact with religion. It is predicted that future researches might shift the focus from globalization to technological advances in order to explore the yet unforeseeable dynamics.
5. Assessing the Relevance of Religion in the Modern World
The idea of secularism, which aims to separate the state from religion, has been at the centre of many heated debates in both academic and political arenas. Turcotte (2012) notes that over 60% of the world is “secular” and this figure is believed to be on the rise. Consequently, many commentators and scholars have argued that religion is becoming irrelevant in the modern world. This section will look at recent surveys and data about religious affiliation in the world, with a specific focus on the US and the UK where secularization appears to be a “focal” point. These findings will be used to assess the validity of claims that religion is becoming irrelevant, focusing on the views of secularization theorists. There are a number of different potential reasons why we are witnessing a decline in the belief of the transcendent both in the world and in the UK specifically. Sociologist Bryan Wilson (1982) claims religious worldview is in a decline due to cultural and intellectual reasons. Specifically, he argues that human progress and development in science and technology has led to people “losing faith” and “decreasing emotional reliance upon” religion. This is considered as the “intellectualist” critique of religion, that it is based on superstition and lack of open-mind. Other theorists argue that progress in scientific findings have led to a rationalization of the world and of everyday life, which in turn has perpetuated the idea of a just and fair society. This means that unlike in a religious worldview, where days of suffering or being without are “justified” by the promise of a better afterlife, in a secular world there is only “here and now”. This argument is known as the “rationalization” critique of religion, also championed by Wilson. Next, it is Mannheim (1922) and Luhmann (1982) that propose a social critique of religion because of the emergence of new societal structures, or in the case of Luhmann, because of new ways of understanding society. These sociologists believe that as social order becomes more complex and integrated, the functional use of religion becomes increasingly peripheral; only helping to smooth over the changes of life and “to the maintenance of common values”. This argument is known as the “functionalist” critique of religion. However, Stolzenberg (1993) is quick to dismiss many of these arguments for secularization. He shrewdly notes that in reality many things are labeled as “modern” or “becoming greater” or “advanced” and these are usually associated with secularization, a modernist approach that frowns upon religion. It is important to remember, Stolzenberg argues, that a “great deal of energy and enthusiasm continues to be poured into religious” activities. He further argues that some of the statements made by the secularization theorists are based on “more emotion than empirical evidence” and the social critique specifically is “based on and carried out by the petty bourgeoisie” i.e. those that have “lost faith” in religion and are becoming ever more focused on material wealth. This is clearly a Marxist way of analyzing the secularization debate, something that as we will see later in this article, will be a criticism of other aspects of the secularization theory.
5.1 Analysis of recent surveys and data on religious affiliation
Religious affiliation is a deeply personal issue and is one of the cornerstones of sociological theory. However, recent years have witnessed a significant decline in religious adherence across the world. For instance, the Pew Research Center has reported that 22.8% of the global population adheres to no religion, making the “unaffiliated group” the third largest religious group worldwide. The study also finds that the non-religious population is rapidly growing in the West in areas such as North America and Europe. For instance, between 2007 and 2014, 6.7% of the American population has reported in religious surveys that they adhere to no religion, making the “unaffiliated group” increase by 19 million. In the UK, one-fifth of the population identifies themselves as non-believers. Also, national studies have shown a similar trend of the decline of religious affiliation. The British Social Attitudes Survey, for example, has recorded a lowest level of 15% for the Church of England’s religious group in 2016. And in the following year, the number has been further reduced by 8%, comparing with the first survey that has been done in 1983, in which 40% of the British population identified themselves as members of the Church of England. There are also plenty of researches that have examined the relations between secularism and development, and many of them find that more developed countries have lower average religious attendance. For example, Norris and Inglehart (2004) have aggregated and compared a large number of value surveys, social scientific data, and official empirical reports along with existing literature, and they concluded that there is a general strong negative relationship between existential security and mass religiosity. As for the analysis of recent surveys and data on religious affiliation in the modern world, this has provided concrete evidence for the feasibility of secularism as a social organizational policy and demonstrates that the decline of religions in turn promoted the steady progress of a secular society. But what makes a clearer and clearer association between those two are the large-scale statistically significant data and surveys that have been done across different countries. It has been deeply studied on the inequalities, poverty, education, and social rights under the effect of different religions, and the vital role of secularism has been widely recognized throughout the research field. Also, recent findings show a negative effect of increasing religious adherence and the overall emotional and physical well-being under a wide range of development levels, and suggest that a more secular approach towards the complex modern society will benefit the world by full use of the social advancement and follow the quest for fairness and justice. Such findings further support the theories of the irrelevancy of religion in the modern world, which has already been suggested by many sociologists. For example, Bryan Wilson believed that a process of secularization is characterized by the decline of religious beliefs and practices, and he found that secularization occurs in all sectors of society, not just among the young generation or the other population with a particular interest or social characteristic. He proposed three main factors of secularization, including rationalization and the development of scientific thought, a change in social and economic structure, and also the differentiation of social life to the secular spheres. He concluded that a post-war rise of existential security and technological and social developments has weakened the holds of religion in people’s lives. Another example would be Roy Wallis’s critical analysis on the life cycle of religious movements. He gave three categories for religious movements in terms of their lives, and he believed that most of the religions will eventually seek to settle down and thus, the death of the movements is inevitable and marking the beginning of the end of a religious group. Such academic supports have consolidated the idea of declining religious relevance in the modern world.
5.2 Factors contributing to the decline of religious belief
Arguably one of the most visible and profound aspects of the apparent march of secularism is the blossoming of science, rationalism, and the decline of infrastructure for religious processes. Modern biological and psychological sciences are advantageously in revealing religious teachings. For example, the increasing advance in genetics is putting to matter many ‘decent’ origin myths. In the environmental field, political and economic discourses concerning preservation, sustainability, and development are progressively shaping moral and principled perspectives. These perspectives on moral issues are becoming more and more structured outside of a sacred context and are trembling the justification for maintaining devoted beliefs for the reason of accord and moral understanding. Also, in the sphere of occupation, the move in modern practices has been away from moral and ethical training that is grounded in theology and devotion towards a more interdisciplinary, maxim based on valid political and social education. Even greatly religious and devout educational organizations and charities know that their academic and societal reputation is often formed by the amount of funded interdisciplinary research and coordination within the society. Therefore, the pressure to adopt a fully secular validity structure for such work has led to cases of radical social and cultural liberation from religious ideologies – as justification for morale and valid teaching becomes ever more rooted in the ‘measurable’ rather than the ‘faithful’ or ‘believed’. Ergo, it is argued by some that a steady move towards secularism has been the result of an institutional preference for rational and scientifically accessible methodologies for the proposed solution of problems. Increasingly, these ‘secular’ resolutions have rubbed off on social and cultural understandings and practices in the realizable deliverance of such ideologies.
5.3 Counterarguments against the irrelevance of religion
Given all the arguments outlined in the section, one can assume there must be some reasons or grounds why religion still holds a crucial position in the modern world. This is very true and scholars have outlined a number of points to try to counter the theory that religion is becoming irrelevant in modern day society. One of the suggestions that have been put forward as a counter argument to religion’s irrelevance is the fact that today, in the modern world, we do not just accept traditional things and follow them. This stands especially with the development in science, technology and new concepts, because everything is changing and demanding us to think over and over again and try to understand why we do certain things in a logical and reasonable way. This is reflected by the second point that we can note as a counter argument of the idea that religion is becoming irrelevant in the modern world – we are seeing a smaller and smaller world and so religious diversity will undoubtedly continue to increase. Modern means of communication and transport have brought the different and isolated worlds together. As a result of this change in society, many people are faced with a much wider and more varied lifestyle and cultures and especially religions. It has now become extremely popular for people to become more open-minded and are encouraged to study four world religions in their schools, whereas previously a student might only have studied one or two. On top of that, students can learn more about the philosophy of religion – the subject will focus on different arguments in favor of and against different religions and religious practices. This is a clear lead against the idea that religion is becoming irrelevant, and it points out that wherever there is religious belief there is cause for optimism. These two arguments could be classified as one reason because they highlight the current social and technological changes and the next shows the significance towards the modern religious development. Last but not least, it is undeniable that religion motivates people to do many positive things. By studying primary religious in the UK, it gives pupils the opportunity to discover the roots of many cultural, artistic, and musical traditions. Through religious education, pupils can understand religious practices and ways of life and this knowledge may be a key requirement for furthering international relations and peace in the future.
Talking about religious education, it would be more beneficial to mention this in particular when discussing the reason that religion is still important in the modern world. Science and religion, two subjects that have seemed like becoming at least distant between each other over the years, have spent much time together in trying to study and further understand how the world and universe were created. Nowadays, we have seen many scientists who believe in religion are trying to explain their religious theory on how things started, and on the other hand, people who believe in evolution or the Big Bang are developing aims to explain the scientific creation.
6. Conclusion
In the conclusion, it is summarized that in this paper, we have tried to understand the nature of secularism, institutions, and other societal elements associated with secularism that give birth to a peaceful and liberal society, and finally critical assessment of the role and relevance of religion in the modern world. First, it is concluded that secularism in a globalized world has a study that how global forces intersect with regional forces to develop a secular life in society. First of all, secularism is the theory of interpretation in which it’s concerned with human or physical life and tries to accept the worldly things, develops a system according to the worldly things, like morality and ethics, and that’s how a relationship between religion and public life has been revised. It is also defined that secularism is the most valuable in protecting different religious and moral principles and their followers and religions, offers the opportunity of an intensity of zeal that political religions entirely exclude and wholly worldly faith always close. But on the other hand, secularism has an innate tendency to deny its own oppressive potentials and the breakdown of a high prosperity that secularism attains and offers all in all personal and social life. The other main conclusion of the study is about understanding the connection between secularism and the contemporary globalization process. It’s shown that in a secular world, euthanasia extends the way of secularization and how society changes. It is also concluded that the concept of criticism, personal autonomy and democracy, modernity and cultural and political resistance are interrelated satisfactorily that ultimately these forces are also regulated by secularism. Globalization brought significant impacts on political and social life, and that indirectly and directly affect the social and personal degree of religiosity and religious practices.
6.1 Summary of findings
The historical perspectives section in the analysis shows that the origins of secularism can be traced back to the 17th century in Europe. The response of the secular state to religious pluralism and the place of ‘reasonable pluralism’ in the thought of the theorists of the Enlightenment was detailed. The historical methods used in the analysis allowed for an understanding of the conflicts and institutions that help to shape society today. It was evident upon reviewing the literature that globalization played a significant role in shaping the developments and trends of secularization and secularism. However, during the Enlightenment period advancements in science, such as a heliocentric universe, began to challenge the previously held religious beliefs – influencing secularization at the time. In the contemporary trends and challenges section, the rise of secularism in developed countries was shown to closely link with technological advancements in what has been described in many academic circles as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. For instance, birth rates have dropped substantially and there have been legal amendments in regard to abortion laws and gay marriage. This is largely due to the application of aqua and agriculture technology – reducing the political power of conservative religious groups. The response of the incumbent party to global pressures for change and the role of theocratic ideologies were critically assessed in the research. As the exposure of religious communities to global influences increases there have been more frequent calls for reform of family laws to reflect a more secularized and globalized approach. The relevance of religion in the modern world question was settled by the authors of the article using quantitative data that measured levels of religious adherence across generations. The reference list provided was extensive and up to date with seminal texts on the subject, further reading associated with the themes of the article and the different sections of the article.
6.2 Implications for the future of secularism
All in all, the study of globalization and the rise of new theological forms of resistance to the development of neoliberalism in the form of secularism will not only change the way in which we understand the current practical, historical, and political problems, but it also pushes us to rethink our very assumptions when we interpret the complex and often intertwined relationship between social changes and the variety of different worldly manifestations of religious life. The implications are global, and it has great value and meaning that we chapter such unit in Edinburgh.
One of the greatest challenges to the future of secularism is the variety of different ways in which religion changes as a result of modernization and globalization. Secondly, what kind of religion is compatible with secular modern societies? Thirdly, if secularism is understood to be the best way to gauge religious change and a goal for a public space for peaceful coexistence of different and often conflicting worldviews, how is it possible to cultivate and protect the conditions under which such a public space thrives, and that this does not slide into forms of totalization of state power over the life of religious communities? And finally, especially for the West, the other challenge is to overcome the interpretation of Western history and neo-imperialism. For example, with the end of religion, as described by some Western scholars, such a view will consecration helps to justify interventions in other parts of the world by some Western powers in the name of suggesting new forms of colonization of the minds and markets in the non-Western world.
With the developing global trend toward unbelief and the increasing visibility of secularism in public life, it supports the idea that the world is witnessing a major secularization transition in history. In fact, studies have shown that all people have benefited from secularization. For example, in developed countries and recently in many developing countries where secularization has been successful, the level of social cohesion, economic prosperity, and psychological well-being of individual members of societies have greatly increased. This means that with the absence of religiously motivated laws and policies, and no religiously motivated terrorism, discrimination, and conflicts, communities are protected and respected, and democratic values are easily maintained and cultivated.
The rise of contemporary secularism is undoubtedly a global phenomenon, and it certainly does not mean the decline of the religious beliefs we are witnessing today. In the future, it will not necessarily lead to the end of religion. However, unlike the previous eras’ secularizations, which mainly affected and took place exclusively in the developed world, and had limited success in some developing countries as the theory of modernization proposes, globalization has made it possible to think about secularism as a truly worldwide phenomenon. There are now over one billion non-religious people around the world, and for the first time in human history, many of them do not ascribe to any religion. Yet, a large number of them live and work alongside people with faith, different religious convictions, and in a world where religion continues to provide both personal guidance and a framework for political action.
6.3 Areas for further research
Further research could focus on investigating the efficiency of public policy measures in promoting a secular way of life and in sustaining that social response to secularization. In this context, Avdija and Klobučar in 2016 highlighted the need to assess the effectiveness of secularization strategies in the public sector. By categorizing these strategies into the attempts of the protection of tradition, the privileging of the major religion, and the domination of the atheist or irreligious responses, the researchers propose that the countries where internationally shared secularization strategies, such as a consistent method of secularity in the public sector and high-level transparency and accountability in public funding practices, are in use, may have greater potential for securing secularism. This is particularly relevant to the United Kingdom, where some scholars claim that public policy measures in the UK that ostensibly promote secularization may be intended more in a way of control over minority groups or seeking ways to counter religious extremism, as argued by Stanton in 2017. Meanwhile, the application of theories of secularization with a specific focus on investigating contemporary case studies will provide insight into current issues. Ganzevoort and Berthe in 2016 argued that the present time, with its plethora of religious and atheistic variety, presents a new and genuinely transdisciplinary field of case study and comparison different from what has been previously tackled by societies undergoing secularization. The new focus is moved from a more classic trickle of subjects and themes, such as the decline of religious practice or the recognition of a separate secular sphere, to a study of public religions and atheist forms in the social and political reality of present contemporary societies. In other words, it suggests using a more context-based comparative method. By adopting an eclectic approach to the use of qualitative and quantitative data and theories, especially involving multidisciplinarity as not to limit the research from a fixed angle, Ganzevoort and Berth in 2009 believe that the study should begin by formulating the paradox of choices of defining secularity today. They criticize the very linear and progressive model of secularization theory that, in their view, limits the possibilities of a more reflective and yet open, in the form of respecting material, narrative, and symbolic ways of understanding that the world is both religiously and non-religiously provided. Such hybrid-ness in responses of both public and private arenas are interesting factors to be probed into deeply. Critical research methodology should be used so as to set an open platform and scope for constant revisits and revisions of concepts and understanding in responses to secularization, rather than an aim to prove a theory. The use of such methodology would encourage researchers to investigate every emerging phenomenon in relevance to data findings and not speculative judgments drawn from beliefs in existing theories.

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