The “secularisation debate” is one of the perennial themes in the sociology of religion and this chapter examining the strength of religion in society is mainly given-over to an outline and evaluation of the two main sides to the argument:
1. Evidence indicating the secularisation of society examines concepts of institutional, practical and ideological religious decline.
2. Evidence against the secularisation of society examines ideas about the overstatement of decline across different societies, the contemporary strength of religious influence and the notion of religious evolution. This includes ideas about religious pluralism and the resacrilisation of (some) societies.
In addition to the above the chapter considers two further ideas:
Firstly, the concept of post-secularisation – an acknowledgement that while religious influence has clearly declined in some areas, it still makes important cultural and moral contributions to society.
Finally, the idea that rather than see religion and religiosity in terms of pro-or-anti secularisation we need to build on the post-secularisation debate and consider whether we should move “beyond secularisation” to look at changing concepts of religiosity in terms of “competing narratives in postmodern societies”.