Beyond Doubt: The Secularization of Society

NYU. May 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781479814282. pap. $30. REL
Secularization theory has been vigorously debated for many years within sociology. The question is, with the rise of modernization, does religion decline, resurge, morph into something new, or stay the same? Kasselstrand (sociology, Univ. of Aberdeen), Phil Zuckerman (sociology, Pitzer Coll.; What It Means To Be Moral), and Ryan T. Cragun (sociology, Univ. of Tampa; editor, The Palgrave Handbook of Global Mormonism) emphatically argue that when empirical measures and rigorous definitions are applied, religion declines. The authors take aim at refuting the stances of sociologists Rodney Stark, Peter Berger, Grace Davie, Christian Smith, and others who said otherwise. They also sift through the global survey data on religious beliefs, behaviors, and belonging. From this, they posit that the rationalization and differentiation of modernism has had exactly the effect that secularization theory predicted it would: that religions will decline as societies develop. While many may think of militant atheism as the marker of a secular society, the book includes descriptions of people who are completely apathetic toward religion. It remains to be seen whether the book has truly settled this dispute beyond a doubt.
VERDICT A scrappy work of scholarship and worthwhile addition to the conversation.
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