Thursday, 24 December 2009

'twas the night before Christmas, et cetera, et cetera

With Christmas less than half an hour away, I thought a short post on a theme related to religion might be a good idea. So, two points relating to the role of religion in society that I've given a bit of thought to recently:

1. The link between Secularism and the historical process usually known as Secularisation is insignificant. Secularisation has seen (as we all know) massive falls in Church attendance and an apparently massive shift away from orthodox beliefs*. This has not, however, been matched by Secularist influence over the political process or even by much of an increase in genuinely atheistic views on religion (especially when you consider the great expansion in the number of people likely to be subject to atheistic and Secularist influences). Indeed, anticlericalism as a political movement (once an incredibly powerful force in the politics of many European countries, especially, but not only, France) is effectively dead. It is certainly interesting to note that most of the high profile atheist propagandists in recent years have been as aggressive-defensive in the arguments they deploy as religious propagandists have tended to be for the past fourty years or so. Individualist apathy has turned out to be dreadful news for both sides.

2. There's a stronger chronological link between the process of Secularisation and the decline of other collective cultural traditions and movements - such as mass membership political parties, Trade Unions, a whole host of clubs and societies, and, of course, the institution of the pub. The Pub appears to be in as much of crisis as The Church has been in recent decades and I would argue that the causes are in some way related.

With that out the way, Happy Christmas to all three occasional readers of this blog no matter what your faith or religious identity.

*The interesting, and unanswerable question, is whether this merely reflects changing social pressures and conventions - it is certainly possible that orthodoxy (small "o") never commanded a majority in any large Western country and that the religious beliefs (such as they are) of ordinary people have changed less than is often thought.

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