Make your own free website on

The Decline of Christendom in Western Europe, 1750–2000

The Decline of Christendom in Western Europe, 1750–2000
edited by Hugh McLeod and Werner Ustorf



Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of contributors
1 Introduction HUGH McLEOD

Part I
2 The secularisation decade: what the 1960s have done to the study of religious history CALLUM G. BROWN
3 Christendom in decline: the Swedish case EVA M. HAMBERG
4 New Christianity, indifference and diffused spirituality YVES LAMBERT

Part II
5 Established churches and the growth of religious pluralism: a case study of christianisation and secularisation in England since 1700 DAVID HEMPTON
6 Catholicism in Ireland SHERIDAN GILLEY
7 Long-term religious developments in the Netherlands, c. 1750–2000 PETER VAN ROODEN
8 The potency of 'Christendom': the example of the Darmst¨adter Wort (1947) MARTIN GRESCHAT

Part III
9 The dechristianisation of death in modern France THOMAS KSELMAN
10 The impact of technology on Catholicism in France (1850–1950) MICHEL LAGRÉE
11 Semantic structures of religious change in modern Germany LUCIAN HÖLSCHER

Part IV
12 Master narratives of long-term religious change JEFFREY COX
13 A missiological postscript WERNER USTORF

Index of people and places
Subject index


CALLUM G. BROWN is Professor of Religious and Cultural History, University of Strathclyde.

JEFFREY COX is Professor of History, University of Iowa.

SHERIDAN GILLEY is Reader in Theology, University of Durham.

MARTIN GRESCHAT is Emeritus Professor of Church History, University of Giessen.

EVA M. HAMBERG is Professor of Migration Studies, University of Lund.

DAVID HEMPTON is Professor of Church History, Boston University.

LUCIAN HÖLSCHER is Professor of Contemporary History, Ruhr University, Bochum.

THOMAS KSELMAN is Professor of History, University of Notre Dame.

MICHEL LAGRÉE was Professor of Modern History, University of Rennes. He died in 2001.

YVES LAMBERT is a member of the Groupe de Sociologie des Religions et de la La¨cit´e in the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris.

HUGH MCLEOD is Professor of Church History, University of Birmingham.

WERNER USTORF is Professor of Mission, University of Birmingham.

PETER VAN ROODEN is Reader in the Research Centre Religion and Society, University of Amsterdam.


This volume has grown out of a conference held in Paris in April 1997. It was the last of a series of three on the theme of 'The Rise and Decline of Christendom in Western Europe', organised by the History Group of the Missiology of Western Culture Project. The Group comprised Dr Neal Blough (Paris), Dr Alan Kreider (then Oxford), Prof. Hugh McLeod, and Prof. Werner Ustorf (both Birmingham ). A. Kreider (ed.), The Origins of Christendom in the West (Edinburgh and New York: T&T Clark, 2001) was the result of the first of these conferences. The second focused on the period of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

The Missiology of Western Culture Project (1992–1997) was an ecumenical attempt by western missiologists to mobilise the thinking of specialists in a variety of disciplines about the interplay of the Christian message and churches with the culture of the contemporary west. Subsidised by substantial grants, notably from the Pew Charitable Trust (Philadelphia), the project sponsored study groups in seven areas (the arts, ecclesiology, epistemology, social structures and systems, history, the individual, and health and healing), and each group organised its own study processes and colloquia. The Project ended with the groups sharing their findings with each other in September 1997 in a major international consultation at the Bon Secours Center, Marriottsville, Maryland, USA. Their learnings are gradually appearing in print. The first direct fruits came from the Epistemology Group: J. A. Kirk and K. J. Vanhoozer (eds.), To Stake a Claim: Mission and the Western Crisis of Knowledge (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1999).

The editors of the present volume would like to thank Grace Davie and Loek Halman for their generous help.

Hugh McLeod

In 312 the Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. Thus began the 'Constantinian' or 'Christendom' era in the history of Christianity. After nearly three centuries of intermittent, but sometimes very severe, persecution by the civil authorities, Christianity was now in alliance with the powers that be. By the end of the fourth century a large part of the Roman elite had converted to Christianity and other forms of religious worship were prohibited. The process by which the mass of the population became fully integrated into the Christian church was much more long drawn out. Equally, avariety of rival religions continued to be privately practised long after they were officially proscribed. But a pattern of relations between church and state and between church and society had been established. 1 It would be repeated as Christianity spread to northern and eastern Europe and, much later, to the Americas. For the next 1500 years most Christians learnt and practised their faith in the context of 'Christendom'. That is, they lived in a society where there were close ties between the leaders of the church and those in positions of secular power, where the laws purported to be based on Christian principles, and where, apart from certain clearly defined outsider communities, every member of the society was assumed to be a Christian.

Naturally 'Christendom' has been challenged by non-Christians, whether in fourth-century Rome or in modern Europe. But it has also been a subject of intense debate between Christians. At most points of Christian history there have been those who have opposed the identity between church and society or over-close links between church and state, or between the church and social elites. From the fourth century onwards there have been Christians who saw these associations as damaging to the church: 'Christendom' meant that the church was subjected to state interference, that it was forced to admit into membership those who were not true Christians, and that it was under pressure to condone contemporary customs and values which were unchristian. Since the radical Reformation of the sixteenth century there have always been Christians in western Europe who have insisted, as a matter of principle, that the church should remain independent of the state and that Christians must not use coercion to enforce their beliefs. From the later seventeenth century, religious toleration was being advocated both for pragmatic reasons, and on the grounds of the rights of the individual conscience. With the rise of Liberalism in the nineteenth century the virtues of pluralism, voluntaryism and the free market in ideas began to be argued by many Christians, as well as by religious sceptics. At the same time, members of established churches often remained loyal to the ideal of 'Christendom', even if they accepted that political realities might require some dilution of the ideal. So throughout the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, the relations between church and state and church and society were central political issues, and even today the debate has not ended, though for most people it is no longer of such burning concern. 'Christianity' and 'Christendom' can be separated. There was Christianity for three centuries before Christendom. There are parts of the world, for instance China, where there has never been a Christendom, but where there are many millions of Christians. Christendom is no more than a phase in the history of Christianity, and it represents only one out of many possible relationships between church and society. Yet in western Europe this phase lasted for more than a thousand years, and we are still living in its shadow. There are few people who can contemplate the end of this particular era with detachment. There are some who mourn the decline of Christendom, and some who see it as a cause for celebration, while most, probably, have more mixed emotions. Members of all three groups are to be found among the contributors to this book.


In 1999 a substantial majority of west Europeans claimed to be Christians. According to the figures presented by Yves Lambert in this volume, the proportion of the population describing themselves as either Catholic or Protestant wasas high as 89 per cent in Ireland, 88 per cent in Denmark and 85 per cent in Portugal. Only in the Netherlands and in the territory of the former East Germany 2 did the figure fall below 50 per cent, and France was the only other country where it fell below 60 per cent. Relatively impressive as these figures are, they should be compared with the over whel mingly high levels of nominal Christian affiliation in the early 1960s. Even in East Germany 65 per cent of the population were then Protestant or Catholic, in the Netherlands around 80 per cent. In Britain the figure was 95 per cent, and in Denmark, Switzerland and the Irish Republic it was 99 per cent. 3 Up to the 1960s this general recognition of some kind of Christian identity was also reflected in very high rates of participation in the Christian rites of passage, though the popularity of the various rites varied between countries and religious traditions. For instance, the frequency of infant baptism was especially high in Catholic countries, and confirmation was especially widespread in Lutheran countries. Christian funeral rites predominated almost everywhere. In the 1990s the great majority of west Europeans continued to be buried or cremated with Christian rites. But the popularity of the other rites had declined, sometimes quite substantially. In France, for instance, between 1958 and 1990 the proportion of babies receiving Catholic baptism fell from 91 per cent to 51 per cent and the proportion of weddings with a Catholic ceremony fell from 79 per cent to 51 per cent. 4 This reflected the emergence of a substantial section of the population rejecting any kind of Christian identity, however tenuous, whether because they belonged to another faith or, more often, because they had no religion.

While levels of nominal Christian affiliation and participation in the rites of passage were still very high in 1960, levels of participation in Sunday worship or in communion varied greatly. At one extreme, over 90 per cent of the population were regular church -goers in the Irish Republic, and very high levels of attendance at mass were also found among the rural populations of Brittany, the Basque Country, the Veneto, and other traditionally pious Catholic regions. At the other extreme, weekly attendance fell below 5 per cent in many parts of Scandinavia, as well as in the 'dechristianised' regions of central France. In the 1990s, the highest levels of church -going were still found in Ireland and in some rural regions of Italy and Portugal, but there had been a general levelling down. Quite large drops have been seen in some areas previously known for their piety, whereas there has been a more modest decline in other areas where attendance was already low. 5

The signs were that belief in various Christian tenets and doctrines declined between the 1960s and the 1990s, though there is insufficient evidence to say whether the figures for the 1960s represent a decline from a higher level at some earlier point. 6 Admittedly, questionnaires may be too blunt a tool to elucidate some of the complexities and ambiguities of individual belief. For instance, while about two-thirds of west Europeans will say when asked that they believe in God, this does not tell us very much, as conceptions of God vary so greatly. This is even more true of beliefs concerning the after-life, where the findings of surveys often appear to be contradictory. For instance, in a number of countries the proportion of respondents claiming to believe in heaven exceeds the proportion claiming to believe in a life after death. 7

The area of most evident conflict between established Christian teaching and contemporary practice is that of sexual ethics. Before the 1960s there had often been a wide divergence between the generally recognised rules of sexual morality and what people actually did. But the rules were those laid down by the churches. The 'sexual revolution' of the 1960s opened up all aspects of sex for discussion and debate, and for explicit description in books and films, leading to widespread rejection of the churches' teaching that sex was only morally right within heterosexual marriage. The 1960s and 1970s also mark a turning-point in the relationship between Christianity and the laws relating to sex, marriage and the family. Britain set the trend with the liberalisation of the laws on obscenity (1959), abortion (1967) and divorce (1969), legalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults (1967), abolition of theatre censorship (1968), and provision of contraceptives to unmarried couples through the National Health Service (1967). In Britain, Christian opinion on all of these issues was divided. While many of the leaders in the movements for change were themselves secularists, there was also a significant degree of support for these reforms from within the churches. So the forces for change were varied, including growing secularist influence, changes in Christian opinion, and also a realisation that in an increasingly pluralistic society some compromise was needed between the various and conflicting moral standards that were current. Thus the extension of the legally permitted grounds for abortion was opposed by Roman Catholics and by many evangelical Christians, committed to the 'right to life'. But it fell a long way short of granting the 'abortion on demand' for which feminists were campaigning. It was supported by many Christians on the pragmatic grounds that legal abortion was at least preferable to the widely prevalent 'backstreet' abortions. The legalisation of divorce in Italy and Ireland, and of abortion in France, Belgium and Italy, marked more unequivocally a defeat for the church in those countries. 8

One may ask, therefore, what is left of Christendom in western Europe at the beginning of the twenty-first century. 9 A considerable proportion of west European countries retain links of one kind or another between church and state. In Germany and Scandinavia there is the church tax system, which has placed the churches in those countries in a uniquely favourable financial position. In Belgium the state pays the salaries of the clergy. In England twenty-six Anglican bishops have seats in the House of Lords. In Italy the church—state treaty of 1984 contained very favourable terms for the Catholic Church. Maybe there are four other areas in which the remains of Christendom are still visible. First there are the rites of passage. Even in those countries where marriage in church and the baptism of infants have seen a major decline, they remain quite widespread, and are asked for by many couples who seldom go to church at other times. In other countries participation in these rites remains the general practice. And innearly all countries Christian funeral sare heavily predominant— whether or not, as Callum Brown suggests, this is beginning to change. Second there is education. In some countries, such as England and the Netherlands, there are considerable numbers of church schools. In most countries (France being the major exception) religious education is provided in state schools. Though this education may no longer be exclusively Christian, and though there may be an increasing emphasis on 'balance', it inevitably includes a major element of teaching on Christianity, often by teachers who are trained in theology. In some countries, including Germany and Italy, this teaching has a strongly confessional character. A third area is that of welfare and charity.

In Germany, a major part of the public welfare system is church -based. In every country a large proportion of private charities have religious origins, and religious motivation continues to be important for many of those working for them. A fourth area is the role of 'public conscience' which churches may still perform even in apparently very secular societies. This is perhaps most evident in totalitarian societies, such as East Germany where the Protestant churches were among the very few bodies enjoying some limited degree of independence and where they accordingly became a major forum for the expression of dissent and played an important part in the protest movements culminating in the fall of the Communist regime in 1989—90. 10 But even in democratic and pluralist societies the churches may have a unique role, because of their ability to mount a moral, rather than purely political, critique of government. For instance in the 1980s the British churches mounted a sustained attack on the policies of Margaret Thatcher's administration, to which Thatcher herself felt obliged to respond, and in France the Catholic Church has played an important part in speaking up for the rights of immigrants and combating racism. 11

The decline of Christendom has been a very long drawn out process, and the historian can distinguish between several distinct stages. First, there was the toleration by the state of a variety of forms of Christianity. Second, there was the open publication of anti-Christian ideas. Third was the separation of church and state. The fourth and the most complex phase has been the gradual loosening of the ties between church and society.

To begin with the rise of toleration: 12 in the wake of the Reformation, the principle was generally adopted that all subjects should follow the religion of their king, whether Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed or Anglican. But even in the sixteenth century there were some states where the application of this principle was not practicable. Several German cities, most notably Augsburg, adopted the principle of 'parity', whereby Catholics and Lutherans enjoyed equal rights. In Poland, the nobility, whose members acted as patrons to a variety of religious communities, agreed in 1573 to a regime of toleration, and this was accepted by successive monarchs. 13 During the French Wars of Religion in the second half of the sixteenth century, a politique party emerged which saw attempts to impose religious orthodoxy as a threat to the peace of the kingdom, and so tried to achieve a modus vivendi between Catholics and Calvinists. The wars ended with a Catholic victory, but the Edict of Nantes (1598) allowed partial toleration for the Protestants. During the seventeenth century, Catholicism became increasingly dominant in France and Poland. In France, especially, the rights of the Protestant minority were gradually whittled away, and then abolished entirely by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. But in various other parts of Europe the seventeenth century saw growing toleration, whether de facto, asin the Dutch Republic, or supported by law, as in Prussia (1685) or England and Wales (1689). Scotland followed in 1712. The reasons for this were mainly pragmatic. In Prussia, economic considerations were paramount. In the Dutch Republic, as it emerged from the long war against Spain, only the Reformed Church had the status of a 'public church', but with nearly half the population belonging to other religious communities, the imposition of uniformity would have been impossible. In England the chaotic conditions of civil war in the 1640s and 1650s had led to a huge growth in religious diversity, and subsequent attempts to restore religious unity were a failure. The kind of toleration that European states were prepared to allow in the seventeenth century remained limited. For instance both England and Prussia extended toleration only to certain specified groups, rather than laying down a general principle. And in England, as in the Dutch Republic, religious minorities continued to suffer political disabilities.

However, more radical experiments in toleration were taking place in some of the British colonies in North America. The Baptist founders of Rhode Island and the Quaker founders of Pennsylvania introduced freedom of religion as a matter of principle, and the Catholic founders of Maryland were required by the British crown to allow equal rights to Protestants. In the later seventeenth century important steps were also being taken in the intellectual case for toleration, notably in John Locke's Letter on Toleration. The eighteenth century saw the gradual emergence in most parts of Europe of a public opinion which favoured toleration as a matter of principle, though changes in the law were delayed until the 1770s and 1780s. In England and Ireland (1778) first steps were taken towards the abolition of the anti-Catholic Penal Laws. Toleration laws were also enacted in Catholic Austria and France (1781 and 1787) and Lutheran Hamburg (1785). In a few west European countries, only one form of Christianity was legally recognised until the middle or later years of the nineteenth century. For instance, laws on religious freedom were enacted in Denmark in 1848, in Sweden in 1860 and in Spain in 1869. More generally, however, even those states which had long allowed religious minorities freedom of worship were often slow to grant them full civic equality. The process by which Christian minorities, Jews and unbelievers gained civic equality belongs to a later stage in the history of the dissolution of Christendom. 14

Those countries, England and the Dutch Republic, where Christian minorities first gained the right to worship were also those where the open avowal of religious scepticism first became possible. In England, the abolition of censorship in 1694 was followed by the publication of a number of books advocating Deism. Deists believed in a creator God, knowledge of whom could be achieved by observation of nature and the use of reason, but they rejected all revealed religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the early eighteenth century, Deism was fashionable in England. In countries like France, where a stringent censorship continued at least until the 1740s, books attacking orthodox Christianity were smuggled in from the Dutch Republic, and there was also a growing underground literature. Indeed it was in France, the former stronghold of Catholic orthodoxy, that religious scepticism began to take a more radical turn. The first widely influential advocate of atheism in France was a country priest, Jean Meslier, who died in 1729, leaving a Testament which anticipated most of what would become the standard atheist arguments, and which enjoyed a cult status among religiously sceptical French intellectuals. 15

By the second half of the eighteenth century, Deism had become one of the standard religious options for men of the aristocracy and the wealthy bourgeoisie ; and atheism, though more daring, and indeed repugnant to many Deists as well as to devout Christians, was a recognised possibility. During this period there is considerable statistical evidence from France and Germany of a decline in various forms of religious observance, especially in the towns and among members of the middle class. For instance, in the first half of the eighteenth century it had been common for German Protestants, both in town and country, to receive communion three times in the year. But by the early nineteenth century this was rare, and there were many who did not go to communion at all. In the towns the fastest decline took place between 1750 and 1800. During that period the ratio of communions to Protestant population fell from 115 per cent to 20 per cent in Hanover, from 150 per cent to 40 per cent in Berlin, and from 100 per cent to 45 per cent in Hamburg. 16 In France, where religious statistics have been studied far more intensively than anywhere else, all the figures seem to have moved in a downward direction around 1750: recruitment to the priesthood and to religious orders, both male and female, was declining; religious books were declining as a proportion both of all books published and of those found in private libraries; the church's teachings on sex were being less widely obeyed; and fewer people wanted masses to be said for their souls after their death. Ralph Gibson, after summarising the French evidence, concludes: 'Each element taken separately is subject to major problems of interpretation, but taken together they form an impressive body of evidence. In nearly every case the middle of the eighteenth century seems to be a turning-point.' 17

A turning to what, though? The most popular answer is that we are witnessing a process of 'secularisation' and 'de christianisation'. This was the conclusion reached by Michel Vovelle in his pioneering study of wills in southern France, wherehe used this evidence to argue that major changes were taking place inattitudes to death. 18 Similar ideas have been presented by other historians, who have detected in roughly the same period the emergence of new forms of political, social and scientific thought independent of any religious reference. The bestknown example would be the Utilitarianism of Beccaria and Bentham, which aimed to devise a science of law and morals based on the principle of 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number'. Attitudes to deviant behaviour were also changing under the impact of new scientific concepts: Michael MacDonald, in another statistical study, has identified a 'Secularization of Suicide' in England between 1660 and 1800, reflected in the increasing tendency of coroners' juries to decide that those who had killed themselves were suffering from mental illness, rather than acting at the instigation of the devil, as had been previously assumed. 19 On the other hand, as Thomas Kselman argues in this volume, it is equally possible to see these developments as examples of religious change rather than religious decline. By the 1770s the French clergy themselves were bequeathing less money for requiem masses; as Gibson suggests, the most likely explanation is not a massive loss of faith, but that 'the “baroque” attitude to death that expressed itself in rich ceremony was under attack from eighteenth-century taste, which preferred less extravagant treatment of death'. 20 Lucian Hölscher goes much further down this road, arguing that the eighteenth century brought not a decline of Christianity, but a reinterpretation—and one that was entirely beneficial. He claims that 'the period saw an heroic breakthrough in the development of modern piety'. He mentions, for instance, the shift towards a more personal piety, dependent on individual commitment rather than legal compulsion; the increasing association between Christianity and schemes of social amelioration; and a more tolerant mentality, reflected in better relations between the Lutheran, Reformed and Catholic confessions. 21

In so far as Christendom depended on conformism and a degree of coercion, these developments were undermining Christendom, without necessarily undermining Christianity. In so far as they made it possible to think about various aspects of the world and various areas of life without having to presuppose the existence of supernatural powers, they potentially prepared the way for a more secular society, but they did not necessarily lead in that direction. In fact, as I shall suggest later, the nineteenth century was, from many points of view, a time of increased religious fervour, and one in which the social significance of the churches grew.

The eighteenth century ended with further important steps in the direction of the decline of Christendom. In 1791 the Separation of church and state was written into the Constitution of the United States, and laws of Separation were also enacted in France in 1795 and the Netherlands in 1796. However, in France church and state were reunited as early as 1801—though in a novel form, since Protestants and Jews as well as Catholics were supported by and subjected to a measure of control by the state. 22 The defeat of Napoleon in 1815 meant that the alliance of throne, altar and château was in power again across most of Europe. But Separation returned to the political agenda in the second half of the nineteenth century, when it became a normal part of Radical and later Socialist programmes. It was enacted in Ireland in 1869, in France in 1905, in Geneva in 1907, in Germany in 1919, in Wales in 1920 and in Spain in 1931. In Sweden this happened as recently as 2000, and in several countries, including Belgium, Denmark, England and several Swiss cantons, no formal Separation has taken place. The question of the formal relationship between church and state has often had great symbolic significance. Secularists and members of religious minorities have seen the Separation as an act of cleansing, while members of established churches have often been passionately committed to retaining a formal connection with the state. But the practical significance of such laws, and the circumstances in which they have been enacted, have varied greatly. In France and Spain, for instance, the proponents of Separation were mainly militant anti-clericals who hoped by crippling the Catholic Church to weaken the forces of political conservatism. 23 In Germany on the other hand, most of the powers and privileges of the Protestant and Catholic Churches were left intact. 24 In general the formal relationship between church and state has been less significant than the role given to the churches or to religion in the schools, in the welfare system or in other public institutions. In France in the 1880s, church and state were formally united, but the government imposed a sweeping secularisation of the education system; on the other hand, in Ireland in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, where church and state were formally separated, the Catholic Church was allowed a dominant position in education and welfare, and when bishops intervened in politics, politicians felt obliged to take notice. 25

In questions to do with church and state and the role of religion in public institutions, there is no single European pattern, but there have been wide differences from country to country. In a few cases the Separation of church and state has taken a violent form, with the state changing from protector to persecutor. The prototype here was the French revolutionary 'dechristianisation' of 1793–4. One could also mention the killing of thousands of Catholic priests and nuns by the Spanish republicans during the Civil War of 1936–9, and the less violent, but more sustained and comprehensive attack on Christianity in East Germany between 1949 and 1989. But forcible dechristianisation has been the exception in western Europe. Overall the trend has been a gradual movement away from 'Christendom' towards a society whose institutions and laws reflect a pluralism in which a wide variety of religious groups, as well as other people with a more secular orientation, each have their place. Other trends have been for the state to take over functions formerly performed by the church, and for trained professionals to take over roles that once belonged to priests, nuns, or others impelled by a sense of religious vocation. But these changes have often been slow, and are by no means completed even at the present day. 26

Questions concerning the role of the church and of religious teaching in the education system were at the centre of political debate in the second half of the nineteenth century, and remained so throughout the twentieth. Although the state assumed control of education in Prussia as early as 1794, and in most other countries during the nineteenth century, this seldom meant that schooling wasinany real sense secularised. Religious teaching was generally provided in state schools; in many countries there were also church schools, partly or wholly funded by the state; and the state in many cases funded Theology faculties in the universities. For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there were large numbers of teachers who were clergymen or nuns. A striking example of the latter phenomenon was the English 'public schools' where most of the rulers of the British Empire were educated in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and which even today educate a large proportion of those who go on to leading positions in industry, commerce and the professions. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the overwhelming majority of these schools were headed by an Anglican clergymen, and still today they have a full-time chaplain and pupils are required to attend regular services in the school chapel.

The classic attempt at introducing an entirely secular system of state education was made by the French in the 1880s. Not only was religious teaching stopped and priests excluded from teaching in state schools, but Catholic schools were refused any form of state funding. Moreover, teaching on ethics and citizenship was introduced to take the place of religion, and many of the teachers were convinced freethinkers. The remarkable point is how few imitators the French system has found. In so far as there has been a 'decline of Christendom' within the education system, it has generally happened in more subtle ways. One obvious change has been the recent switch from a religious education designed to strengthen Christian identity and to train future church -members to one intended to provide information about religion and to enable students to make an informed choice as to the kind of religion they might choose to adopt. 27 Here the pioneer seems to have been Sweden, where the change to a more 'objective' religious education reflected the frequent suspicion of the Lutheran Church among members of the dominant Social Democratic party. More recently the pressure for change has come mainly as a result of the large-scale immigration into western Europe in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs from Turkey and from former colonies in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. One can also argue that even where the state provides for, or even requires, religious teaching in the schools, the subject is often given a low priority. But there is no unilinear trend. For instance, in England and Wales religious education assumed a higher profile during World War II. It was the 1944 Education Act that for the first time made religious education compulsory and also decreed that the school day should begin with a collective act of worship.

The state has also generally continued to fund chaplaincies in the armed forces and in such institutions as hospitals and prisons. Here again, the main change has been that since the 1960s and 1970s, in addition to the longstanding presence of small numbers of Jewish rabbis, there has also been a growing number of chaplains of other non-Christian faiths. In the United Kingdom, which in 1969 became one of the last west European states to abolish capital punishment, a telling example of the continuing significance of such chaplaincies was the prominent part played by chaplains in ministering to condemned prisoners—often concluding by giving them communion on the morning of the execution. 28 Again France provides an exception to the general rule, in that the secularisation of municipal hospitals in the 1870s and 1880s included the abolition of chaplaincies. 29 Only a relatively small number of military chaplains were allowed, though in World War I, when priests were conscripted, many of them doubled the roles of combatant and unofficial chaplain. 30

The most long-drawn-out and the most elusive process has been the gradual loosening of the ties between church and society. In Christendom, Christianity wasa common language, shared by the devout, the lukewarm and even the secretly sceptical, through which a wide range of social needs could be met, and which provided generally accepted concepts and symbols. These could be drawn upon by more or less everyone, especially in times of collective crisis, or in situations of personal danger or tragedy. A good example, as Thomas Kselman shows, is the general use, at least in traditionally Catholic countries, of the cross to mark the place of burial. In 'Christendom', to be baptised not only marked entry into the church: it also meant entry into society. In England, before the introduction of civil registration in 1836, the Anglican baptismal registers provided the only official record that a person had been born. Until the nineteenth century this linking of civil and ecclesiastical requirements was commonplace. In Sweden, for instance, those wishing to marry needed to provide a confirmation certificate. While Liber all egislation of ten removed such formal requirements, the social pressures towards religious conformity remained considerable.

The decline of Christendom has meant that Christianity has been gradually losing its status as a lingua franca, and has tended to become a local language used by those who are professing Christians, but not understood by others. This process began as early as the 1790s, with the short-lived but extremely intensive campaign to 'dechristianise' France. New rituals were created to replace those of the churches, and 'masquerades' were performed with the aim of discrediting Catholic ceremonies through ridicule. A new calendar was produced which had no Sundays or saints' days. 31 In the short run the dechristianisation was a failure. Indeed it helped to spark off a Catholic revival in France during the later 1790s. 32 But many of those on the French Left cherished the dream of devising a new sacred language, rooted in the ideals of 1789, which would take the place of Catholicism. In the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the dream reached partial realisation as the Socialist and later the Communist movements built up avast militant subculture, with its own rituals, symbols and celebrations, its own 'saints' and its own esoteric jargon. By the 1920s and 1930s, Paris was surrounded by a 'Red Belt', in which Socialism and Communism had become a wayof life for a large part of the working-class population, 33 and one aspect of this for many people was a thorough detachment from Catholicism. The most visible symbol of detachment was the secular funeral, with red flags taking the place of the cross, and singing of the Internationale instead of Christian hymns. 34 Although relations with traditional religion varied considerably from country to country, Socialist or Communist politics had a similarly central role in working-class communities in many parts of Europe, and frequently took on the character of a new faith. 35

Yet this new faith had its limits. Except in a relatively few places, it did not entirely succeed in dislodging the old faith. As a mainly working-class phenomenon, it was vulnerable to rising levels of social mobility in the later part of the twentieth century. It was also much more successful in appealing to men than to women. There were many households where the men talked about atheism in the pub or in public meetings while the women were passing on Christianity to the younger generation. 36 Furthermore, while priests and cadres might agree that church and party were incompatible, the rank and file often thought otherwise: adoption of the new faith did not necessarily mean a rejection of the old. In the working-class suburbs of Berlin, for instance, which were Communist and Social Democratic strongholds during the Weimar Republic, the overwhelming majority of infants continued to be baptised and adolescents to be confirmed. 37

Socialism and Communism as an alternative faith and a way of life have certainly been in decline since the 1980s, and in many respects the decline started earlier. 38 At the end of the twentieth century the signs were that a new pluralism was emerging, with many attempts being made to devise new sacred languages, but with none yet achieving widespread acceptance. In Britain the marriage ceremony has become a major field for experimentation and, as Callum Brown suggests, funeral rites may become so. The possibility of an explicitly Humanist funeral has long existed, but so far has remained relatively uncommon. It is more likely that experimentation will take the form of the mixing of language and symbolism drawn from a variety of sources, including the Christian and the more broadly 'spiritual'—reflecting eclecticism, and indeed a recognition of the different beliefs and needs of different mourners, rather than any self-conscious secularism. 39

In the nineteenth century the distancing from the church of certain social groups was reflected in declining attendance at Sunday church services. In France during the first half of the nineteenth century the most conspicuous absentees were middle-class men. There was a 'return to the church' by many of the middle class after the revolution of 1848, and the fears unleashed by the working-class uprising in Paris in the summer of that year. In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, large sections of the working class and the peasantry were giving up going to church. 40 While each country had its own distinctive patterns of church -going, the tendency for the working class to go to church less than those in other classes was common to most parts of Europe. 41 Not that absence from church necessarily meant a lack of religious belief. The phenomenon of 'believing without belonging' identified by Grace Davie in Britain in the 1990s 42 was already widespread in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Sarah Williams and others have shown, those who seldom went to church often insisted that they were believing and practising Christians, and many of them continued to take part in pilgrimages or processions, or to pray, sing hymns or read the Bible at home. 43 But their Christianity was likely to be significantly different from that of the regular church -goer. It was certainly likely to be distant from the church as an institution, and maybe also from some of the official doctrines and ethical teachings of the church.

The existence of 'Christendom' did not preclude considerable tensions between clergy and laity or between religious and secular values. Widespread anti-clericalism is to be expected in any society where the church is wealthy and influential, and is quite compatible with high levels of devotion. But the morality taught by the church was often in competition with other moral values. Among the aristocracies of eighteenth-century Europe, loyalty to family and an overriding concern with family and personal honour were powerful alternatives to religiously based morality, and found expression in feuds, duels and marriages based entirely on considerations of money or status. Equally contrary to any Christian ethic was the double standard of sexual morality, widely accepted and practised by upper-class men. Among the poor the overriding concern was with survival, and this sometimes led to infanticide, as well as to theft and prostitution. 44 All of this continued in the nineteenth century. The novelty of the situation in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and more especially in the period after 1960, lay not so much in the fact that the precepts of Christian morality were being widely ignored in practice, but more in the fact that alternative principles were being openly advocated. For instance, from about 1890 there was a growing literature advocating sexual liberation through rejection of the limits imposed by monogamous heterosexual marriage. Again it was only in the 1960s that these ideas became generally popularised, and underpinned by ideals of individual self-fulfilment and rejection of formal moral codes.


As for why Christendom has declined in western Europe, the theories are many and varied. The most widely popular of these is the secularisation thesis, according to which the decline of Christendom is just one example of a general decline of religious belief and a marginalisation of religious institutions in modern societies. This idea goes back to Emile Durkheim and Max Weber at the end of the nineteenth century, and beyond them to Auguste Comte, whose Cours de philosophie positive was published between 1830 and 1842. 45 The principle that secularisation and modernisation go hand in hand was systematically developed in the 1960s and 1970s by such sociologists as Bryan Wilson and Peter Berger, 46 and in more recent times this thesis has been defended against all comers in numerous publications by Steve Bruce. Wilson defines secularisation as 'the process by which religion loses social significance', 47 and argues that this has happened in every modern society, including those like the United States where religious institutions appear to be flourishing. Bruce, whose magnum opus on Religion in the Modern World is subtitled 'From Cathedrals to Cults', argues that, whereas religion once acted as a binding force, the 'irreversible' trend towards individualism in modern societies has caused religion to fragment, leading ultimately to a pick 'n' mix approach, where each individual buys a packet suited to her or his own tastes, and the resulting chaos neutralises religion as a social force. 48 Elsewhere, Bruce has defined the social processes which have promoted secularisation. 49 First there is 'social differentiation', as a result of which a variety of specialised institutions and professions have arisen to take the place of functions which, in earlier societies, were the preserve of the church and the clergy. Second, there is 'societalization', meaning the growing power of the state, of bureaucracies and of large corporations. According to Bruce, religion flourishes best in small communities, marked by face-to-face relationships, and bound together by shared beliefs. Third, there is 'the growth of technical rationality, which gradually displaced supernatural influences and moral considerations from ever-wider areas of public life, replacing them by considerations of objective performance and practical expedience'.

But while those historians who deal with religion only in passing have often accepted the 'secularisation thesis' as a proven fact, specialists have tended to be more sceptical. Some have argued that secularisation is a useful description of the main trends in European religion over the last two or three centuries, but that the secularisation thesis is inadequate as an explanation. Some have argued for a 'European exceptionalism', according to which secularisation describes the way in which modernisation has happened in western Europe, but the relationship between religion and modernity has taken other forms in other parts of the world. 50 Some have argued that the decline of Christendom should not be equated with a decline of religion in general: Christianity has adapted and will continue to do so, and a whole range of new religious options has emerged. 51 Others have gone much further in their rejection of the traditional wisdom. Their objections have been both empirical and theoretical. The empirical objections have been presented particularly strongly by Callum Brown and Peter van Rooden. Here and elsewhere they have argued that Christianity remained central to Scottish and Dutch society respectively until the 1950s, and that the kind of drastic erosion of Christian influence which secularisation theory predicts happened only from the 1960s. Thus they accept the reality of contemporary secularisation, but they deny that it has happened in the way that the various theories of secularisation would lead one to expect. 52 The theoretical objections have been presented by Sarah Williams and Lucian Hölscher. Both claim that theories of secularisation depend on a narrowly institutional definition of religion, and tend to overlook both popular religion (the area highlighted by Williams) and the wider diffusion through society of religious identities, symbols and values (the area emphasised by Hölscher). 53

Two overlapping alternatives to these cularisation thes is are those which focus on pluralism and on competition as defining characteristics of the modern world. According to the first view, all overarching institutions and systems of belief are vulnerable in the modern world, but religious beliefs and institutions are no more so than others. Similarly, the nature of social change in the nineteenth century meant that no institution or social group could play such a central role as the churches had done in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Thus Anthony Steinhoff, after emphasising the importance of religion and the churches in Europe between about 1830 and 1960, goes on to argue: during the modern period no single force drives the processes of social and cultural evolution. Rather, change emerges out of a bumpy, constantly shifting interplay of factors, among which are religion and confession…Indeed, the advent of modernity complicates considerably our ability to make sense of religious change, for greater room for individual autonomy emerges and the new modes for social interaction develop. 54

While many historians and sociologists have depicted modern Christianity as battling with social forces beyond its control, others have insisted that the fate of a church lies in its own hands. A second way of challenging the secularisation thesis is the 'supply-side' approach to understanding religious change, focusing on the kinds of religion that are available and the ways that these are being marketed. This approach is especially popular in the United States, and is associated with sociologists such as Stark, Iannaccone and Finke. 55 They argue that the decline of religion in any given country is due to factors specific to that country or to the kinds of religion which happen to be available in that country, and should not be attributed to the nature of modern societies in general. Members of this latter school of thought tend to be especially enthusiastic about the virtues of pluralism and competition, and they often attribute the problems faced by Christianity in Europe to the undue prominence of inflexible, monopolistic state churches, offering the consumer little choice. Eva Hamberg is sympathetic to this line of argument which, she feels, offers some clues towards interpreting the religious situation in Sweden. Writers in this school tend to take the United States as the best example of the alliance between religion and modernity, though they also tend to highlight developments in East Asia, especially Korea, where impressive economic growth has gone hand in hand with religious growth.

There are also many more pragmatic historians who have contented themselves with showing how the decline of Christendom happened in a particular country, city, region or even village, without relating this particular story to any general theory of modern religious development—except perhaps in a negative way, by showing that the general theories are oversimplified. 56

Even highly theoretical accounts usually include at least an implied chronology, and for more pragmatic historians chronology is of fundamental importance. Historians using the same concepts may have radically different ideas as to when and why the decisive changes took place. For instance, a broad distinction can be drawn between those who locate the key developments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—or even earlier; those who highlight developments in the period between the French Revolution and the Second World War; and those who argue that the most significant changes have taken place since World War II, or maybe since 1960.

Those who see the decisive changes as taking place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, or earlier, are likely to highlight changes in ideas and especially changes in the thinking of an educated elite. They emphasise the importance of the Enlightenment, especially in its non-Christian or anti-Christian phases. They also stress the many-sidedness of Enlightenment influence in such fields as politics, law and morals. This line of argument has a long history, and it has been especially influential in France, where it relates to the question of the 'intellectual origins of the French Revolution', and where, in any case, the Enlightenment took an anti-Christian form more often than elsewhere in Europe. On the other hand, it has always been vulnerable to the objection that the impact of the Enlightenment on the mass of the population was very limited, and that to focus on a few aristocratic and bourgeois sceptics is to overlook the massive social influence of the church and clergy and the strength of popular piety. Furthermore, the trend of recent scholarship has been to stress that a rational Christianity was more typical of the eighteenth-century elites than scepticism or irreligion. 57 Those who seek to trace a continuous line from Voltaire to twenty-first-century atheists also tend to overlook the fact that the first half of the nineteenth century saw a revival of more conservative forms of Christianity both among intellectuals and among the a ristocracy and bourgeoisie more widely. 58

With the rise of social history in the 1960s and 1970s, historians began to focus more on industrialisation and urbanisation as key stages in the history of modern Christianity, and a lively debate has ensued as to the role that fundamental social changes have played in the decline of Christendom. 59 This has often been linked with the long-running debate as to whether, and if so why, the working class was 'dechristianised' in the nineteenth century. At least four reasons have been suggested as to why the rise of industry and of great cities may have played a key part in the decline of Christendom. The first, and least controversial, argument is that the dramatic demographic shifts of the nineteenth century presented the churches with logistical problems which they failed to solve, or which were exacerbated by being addressed in ways that proved counter productive. Insufficient churches and schools were built, and insufficient numbers of new clergy were recruited to meet the needs of fast-growing cities and industrial regions; high rates of mobility within those regions meant that migrants to the cities found it difficult to establish links with any particular clergyman or congregation. Moreover, in order to raise the necessary funds, established churches often formed close links with employers and they protected themselves from attacks by anti-clerical Liberal politicians by forming alliances with conservative parties; the result of these links was the alienation from the church of many of the working class. 60 This argument is relatively uncontroversial and would probably be accepted by most historians as a broadly accurate account of the ways in which urbanisation and industrialisation contributed to secularisation in the specific circumstances of nineteenth-century Europe. However, some historians and sociologists have posited a more general relationship. A second argument is that great cities are by their nature pluralistic: they lend themselves to the formation of numerous discrete subcultures, as supervision of morals and religion by employers, magistrates or the church is no longer possible. This in turn leads to a relativistic outlook, in terms of which all religious and moral absolutes are called in question. 61 A third argument focuses on the major advances in living standards and life expectancy that have become possible in modern industrial societies. As a result of these advances, the range of situations in which purely human solutions to human problems are available has been greatly extended. The crises in which people feel the need to 'turn to' religion have become more infrequent. Religion consequently has become less salient to most people's lives. 62 The fourth and most ambitious argument proposes that industrialisation has brought about a mental revolution, as a result of which a rationalistic and mechanistic way of thinking has come to prevail, and all forms of supernaturalism have lost their credibility. 63 However, there is quite a lot of evidence that would call in question the last of these arguments— not least that collected by Yves Lambert, which suggests that the decline of Catholic beliefs in France has been closely paralleled by the rise of alternative forms of supernaturalism. 64

While social changes in the nineteenth century were undermining the foundations of Christendom, political changes did this more directly. In so far as Christendom was sustained by social hierarchy and by the use of coercion, it was weakened by the emergence of new Liberal elites. With the shift towards democracy and the emergence of mass politics at the end of the nineteenth century, some of their ideas were taken much further by Radical and Socialist politicians. Another chronology of Christendom in decline, therefore, focuses on the legacy of 1789 and 1848. 65

In the 1980s and especially the 1990s there was, however, a growing tendency for historians to emphasise the continuing vitality of Christendom in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. Olaf Blaschke, for instance, has called the period 1830–1960 'the second era of confessionalisation'. 66 This vitality partly reflected the fact that large parts of the European population still lived in a highly traditional rural environment. But it also arose from the durability of old beliefs and practices in a new environment and the ability of the Christian churches to adapt and innovate. In Scotland, one of the most highly urbanised and industrialised countries in the world, the influence of Christianity and the churches, according to Callum Brown, remained central until the middle of the twentieth century. This was reflected in, for instance, the huge audiences attending Billy Graham's evangelistic Crusades in the 1950s, the continuing role of sectarianism, the prominence of clergymen and devout laymen in local government, and especially the part played by the churches in defining the norms of morality, including thrift, temperance, sabbatarianism, respectability and sexual restraint. 67 Peter van Rooden, in his contribution to this volume, argues a similar case in respect of the Netherlands, emphasising the all-embracing role from the 1880s to the 1950s of confessional subcultures, and the dominant position of confessional political parties through most of the twentieth century. Even where the idea of Christendom had long been in decline it enjoyed a fresh lease of life in the 1940s and 1950s, as Martin Greschat shows in the case of Germany. The rise of Nazi Germany, and then the emergence of the Soviet Union as a postwar super-power, led many people to think that 'Christian Civilisation' had to be defended against the forces of evil. Especially in the years immediately after World War II it seemed that the way forward lay in re-establishing a Christian basis for European society. One aspect of this was the emergence of powerful Christian Democratic Parties, which dominated the political scene in many parts of Europe in those years. 68

Attention has therefore been increasingly focusing on the 1960s—or perhaps on a 'long 1960s', extending from the late fifties to the mid-seventies. 69 Among the relatively few historians who have attempted an overview of religion in west European countries during this recent period, there are several major lines of division. A first difference concerns the relationship between the 1960s and preceding decades. Does the decline in church membership and attendance in the 1960s and the rise both of alternative spiritualities and of those rejecting all forms of religion represent a drastic break with the religious situation in the 1940s and 1950s, or was it a logical continuation of long-established trends? Callum Brown stands at one end of the spectrum. He believes that Christendom wasvery much alive and well in the Britain of the 1940s and 1950s, and he emphasises the radical character of the break around 1960. G´erard Cholvy and Yves-Marie Hilaire, doyens of French Catholic history, stand fairly closely to Brown on this, if on little else. They refer to the period 1930–60 as the 'thirty glorious years' in the history of French Catholicism, and though they do detect signs during the 1950s of the coming storm, they too see the 1960s as marking a radical break. 70 Brown also finds support from one of our other contributors, Peter van Rooden, who emphasises the lack of continuity in Dutch religious history, and identifies the 1960s as one of the periods of radical change. On the other hand, Eva Hamberg, while not addressing this issue explicitly, emphasises the continuities in Swedish religious history. At the opposite extreme to Brown would be Alan Gilbert, whose overview of modern British religion presents the 1960s simply as a time when long-established secularising trends speeded up a little. 71

A second difference would be between those writers who stress the role of specific events in the religious history of the 1960s and the decades following, and those who focus on broader changes in economy and society, altering the relationships between men and women, young and old, or different social classes. Here Brown stands out as the most thoroughgoing exponent of the structural approach, whereas most other historians have adopted a mainly narrative approach, highlighting, for instance, the impact of the Second Vatican Council, the radicalisation of Protestant theology, the origins of the charismatic movement, and the controversies surrounding Pope Paul VI's encyclical on birth control, Humanae Vitae. 72

This relates closely to a third kind of difference, namely in the selection of the specific individuals, social groups or impersonal forces who or which are to be praised or blamed for bringing about the events of the 1960s. For Gilbert, this is, in a sense, not really a problem, since he sees the developments in that period as the inevitable consequence of a long process of secularisation. However, in so far as this process speeded up at that time, he sees this arising partly from the influence of a 'dechristianised' working class, and partly from that of John Robinson's Honest to God and other works of radical theology, which he sees as undermining whatever religious faith still remained. The latter point would probably receive the approval of Cholvy and Hilaire, who see the crisis in French Catholicism in the later 1960s as being mainly due to overen thusiastic applications of the principles of Vatican II, misguided pastoral experiments, anti-papal feeling, and the love affair of many radical Catholics with Marxism, as well as the general crisis in French society exemplified by the events of 1968. Perhaps the most novel aspect of Brown's contribution is his central focus on gender. He is the first historian to suggest that the principal significance of the 1960s in religious history lies in 'the defeminisation of piety and the depietisation of femininity', and this is an idea that is likely to be debated for years to come. 73


The book is concerned with two basic questions. What was the state of Christendom in the latter part of the twentieth century? And, in so far as Christendom has declined, how and why has this come about? A third question is implicit in some of the contributions, though the answers will necessarily be more speculative, namely, what will western Europe's religious future be after the end of Christendom? In exploring these questions we have deliberately selected an international team of authors, with expertise on a range of different west European countries. There are contributions on England, Britain generally, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Each country has its own history, and many of the chapters emphasise these differences, but these countries also have a lot in common. An understanding of the present situation, and indeed of the history of the past two or three centuries, is better served by studying these countries together than by maintaining the isolationism that still remains so common. The advantages of our approach are particularly evident in looking at the 1960s, when, with a very few exceptions, such as Ireland, every country of western Europe experienced changes of the same kind at more or less the same time. But even in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when change tended to be slower, and national differences were more pronounced, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution of 1789 and the Industrial Revolution were all international events, affecting in greater or lesser degree all of the countries under consideration.

In Part I we review the situation at the end of the twentieth century. The contributors comprise the sociologists Eva Hamberg and Yves Lambert, and the historian Callum Brown. All agree that Christendom is at an end, but they disagree as to what is taking its place. Brown offers the most clear-cut view: the secular society, which earlier generations imagined, is now a reality—and indeed one from which there can be no escape. Hamberg reaches similar conclusions, though presenting them more cautiously. On the other hand, Lambert puts more stress on the contradictions and complexities of the contemporary situation, of which secularisation is only one among several aspects.

In Parts II and III we take the story back in time. We ask how and why the decline of Christendom has taken place. The contributors to these sections are all historians, and most are covering relatively long periods, going back in some cases as far as the eighteenth century and coming forwards in some cases very close to the present day. In Part II, the emphasis is on narrative. In the first three contributions, David Hempton, Sheridan Gilley and Peter van Rooden analyse the patterns of long-term religious change in England, Ireland and the Netherlands, focusing especially on the relationship between religion and modernisation in the nineteenth century. The familiar view that modernisation was closely linked with secularisation is found to have some validity in the case of England, but to be highly questionable in the cases of Ireland and the Netherlands. By contrast, Martin Greschat uses a detailed examination of the debates between German Protestants after World War II to illustrate the continuing tension within Christianity between acceptance of and rejection of 'Christendom'.

In Part III, several key themes have been selected, namely technology, death and language. Advances in technology, extending human control over the environment, have often been proposed as a cause of declining faith in, or at least interest in, religion, and secularist polemic has sometimes claimed that religion stands in the way of new technology. The relationship between technology and French Catholicism, the subject of Michel Lagrée's chapter, provides therefore an important area in which to explore the relationship between religion and 'modernity'. Thomas Kselman's chapter on beliefs and practices relating to death and the after-life in France identifies another area which has been central both to Christianity and to the interaction between church and society, and which may offer particularly striking evidence of the decline of Christendom. Lucian Hölscher's chapter focuses on changes in the language through which religion or the rejection of religion have been conceptualised, another important arena for studying processes of religious change. The contributors to this section eschew clear-cut narratives, emphasising the complexity of their subject-matter and the difficulties of generalisation. Their tendency is not so much to provide new answers, as to demonstrate the inadequacy of most of the familiar orthodoxies, and the need for new lines of research.

Jeff Cox would certainly agree with the diagnosis, if not with the prescription. His aim is both to demolish the prevailing master narrative of modern religious history, based on the story of secularisation, and to lay the foundations for arival master narrative. According to Cox, all historians depend on 'master narratives'—'big' stories, into which their own smaller stories can be fitted, and in terms of which a multitude of trivial and apparently meaningless incidents can begin to make sense. Secularisation has dominated this particular field, because there is no other master narrative available. In Cox's view, therefore, the most urgent task is not for more detailed research but for a new 'big story'. Having started in the present and then moved into the past, the book ends in the future. Werner Ustorf, who is both an historian and a missiologist, places the west European situation in a wider context, and asks how western Christianity should respond to the end of Christendom.


1 For contrasting perspectives, see the essays in Alan Kreider (ed.), The Origins of Christendom in the West (Edinburgh, 2001).

2 John P. Burgess, The East German Church and the End of Communism (New York, 1997), 48–9.

3 Hugh McLeod, Religion and the People of Western Europe 1789–1989 (Oxford, 1997), 174–5.

4 Yves-Marie Hilaire, 'La sociologie religieuse du catholicisme fran¸cais au vingtième siècle', in Kay Chadwick (ed.), Catholicism, Politics and Society in Twentieth Century France (Liverpool, 2000), 256.

5 For the 1950s and 1960s see the statistics provided in the country-by-country survey, Hans Mol (ed.), Western Religion (The Hague, 1972); for 1990, see Grace Davie, Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates (Oxford, 2000), 9. Hilaire, 'Sociologie religieuse', provides an overview of the extensive literature on patterns of religious practice in France.

6 See for instance the evidence relating to Britain in Steve Bruce, Religion in Modern Britain (Oxford, 1995).

7 See Yves Lambert's contribution to this volume.

8 Arthur Marwick, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy and the United States, c. 1958–c. 1974 (Oxford, 1998), provides an overview of these developments. For the role of the churches, see Ren´eR´emond, Religion and Society in Modern Europe (Oxford, 1999), 198–205; G. I. T. Machin, Churches and Social Issues in Twentieth Century Britain (Oxford, 1995); Gerald Parsons, 'Between law and licence: Christianity, morality and “permissiveness” ', in Gerald Parsons and John Wolffe (eds.), The Growth of Religious Diversity in Britain from 1945, 3vols. (Manchester, 1994), vol. II, 233–63.

9 This paragraph draws mainly on Davie, Religion in Modern Europe.

10 There is an extensive literature on this. See, e.g., Trutz Rendtorff (ed.), Protestantische Revolution? (Göttingen, 1993).

11 Henry Clark, The Church under Thatcher (London, 1993); Kay Chadwick, ' Accueillir l'´etranger: immigration, integration and the French Catholic Church', in Chadwick (ed.), Catholicism, Politics and Society, 175–96.

12 On this theme, see the excellent volumes, based on a series of conferences: Ole Peter Grell, Jonathan Israel and Nicholas Tyacke (eds.), From Persecution to Toleration: The Glorious Revolution and Religion in England (Cambridge, 1991); O. P. Grell and Bob Scribner (eds.), Tolerance and Intolerance in the European Reformation (Cambridge, 1996); Ole Peter Grell and Roy Porter (eds.), Toleration in Enlightenment Europe (Cambridge, 2000); see also Richard Helmstadter, Freedom and Religion in the Nineteenth Century (Stanford, CA), 1997. A detailed study on one state is Joachim Whaley, Religious Toleration and Social Change in Hamburg, 1529–1819 (Cambridge, 1985).

13 Jerzy Kloczowski (ed.), Histoire religieuse de la Pologne, French translation (Paris, 1987), 193–4.

14 See Rainer Liedtke and Stephan Wendehorst (eds.), The Emancipation of Catholics, Jews and Protestants (Manchester, 1999).

15 John McManners, Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France, 2vols. (Oxford, 1998), vol. 2, 709–11.

16 Lucian Hölscher, 'S¨akularisie rungsprozesse im deutschen Protestantismus des 19. Jahrhunderts', in Hans-J¨urgen P¨uhle (ed.), B¨urger in der Gesellschaft der Neuzeit (Göttingen, 1991), 244.

17 Ralph Gibson, A Social History of French Catholicism 1789–1914 (London, 1989), 8.

18 Michel Vovelle, Pi´et´e baroque et d´echristianisation en Provence au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1973). Rudolf Schlögl, Glaube und Religion in der S¨akularisierung (Munich, 1995), uses similar methods in a study of Rhineland Catholic cities c. 1770–1830 and reaches similar conclusions.

19 Michael MacDonald, 'The secularization of suicide in England 1660–1800', Past &Present, 111 (1986), 50–100.

20 Gibson, French Catholicism: 6.

21 Lucian Hölscher, 'Secularization and urbanization in the nineteenth century: an interpretative model', in Hugh McLeod (ed.), European Religion in the Age of Great Cities 1830–1930 (London, 1995), 270–3.

22 For a useful summary, see C. T. McIntire, 'Changing religious establishments and religious liberty in France, 1787–1908', in Helmstadter (ed.), Freedom and Religion, 233–301.

23 For France, see Maurice Larkin, Church and State in France after the Dreyfus Affair (London, 1972), and Jacqueline Lalouette, La Libre Pensée en France 1848–1940 (Paris, 1997). For Spain, Frances Lannon, Privilege, Persecution and Prophecy: The Catholic Church in Spain 1875–1975 (London, 1987), and William J. Callahan, The Catholic Church in Spain, 1875–1998 (Washington, DC, 2000).

24 Christoph Link, Staat und Kirche in der neueren deutschen Geschichte (Frankfurt am Main, 2000), 99–133.

25 J. H. Whyte, Church and State in Ireland 1923–1979, 2nd edition (Dublin, 1980).

26 This section is based mainly on Hugh McLeod, Secularisation in Western Europe 1848–1914 (London, 2000), 52–85, 108–17.

27 Davie, Religion in Modern Europe, 82–97; Gerald Parsons, 'There and back again? Religion and the 1944 and 1988 Education Acts', in Parsons and Wolffe (eds.), Religious Diversity, vol. II, 161–98.

28 Harry Potter, Hanging in Judgment: Religion and the Death Penalty in England from the Bloody Code to Abolition (London, 1993), chapter 16.

29 Lalouette, Libre Pensée, 276–82.

30 Jacques Fontana, Les Catholiques franc¸ais pendant la Grande Guerre (Paris, 1990), 296–300. For the more typical British situation, see Michael Snape and Stephen Parker, 'Keeping faith and coping: belief, popular religiosity and the British people in two World Wars', in John Bourne, Peter Liddle and Ian Whitehead (eds.), The Great World War, 1914–45, vol. I, Lightning Strikes Twice (London, 2000), 397–420.

31 Nigel Aston, Religion and Revolution in France 1780–1804 (Washington, DC, 2000), 264–5.

32 Olwen Hufton, 'The reconstruction of a church 1796–1801', in Gwynne Lewis and Colin Lucas (eds.), Beyond the Terror: Essays in French Regional and Social History (Cambridge, 1983), 21–52.

33 Annie Fourcaut (ed.), Banlieue rouge 1920–1960 (Paris, 1992).

34 Lalouette, Libre Pensée, 233–67; Fran¸cois-Andr´e Isambert, Christianisme et classe ouvrière (Tournai, 1961), 89–114.

35 As one example among many, see Vernon L. Lidtke, The Alternative Culture (New York, 1985), which is about the great prototype, Social Democracy in Imperial Germany.

36 Hugh McLeod, Piety and Poverty: Working Class Religion in Berlin, London and New York (New York, 1996), 167–9.

37 Jörg Kniffka, Das kirchliche Leben in Berlin-Ost in der Mitte der zwanziger Jahre (M¨unster, 1971).

38 Jean-Pierre A. Bernard, Paris rouge: les communistes franc¸ais dans la capitale 1944–64 (Seyssel, 1991), is written in the spirit of rediscovery of a lost world. (The terminal date chosen was the death of Thorez, though at other points the author suggests that an appropriate end-date might be 1968.)

39 See the discussion in Tony Walter, Funerals and How to Improve Them (London, 1990), chapter 20; and for a high-profile example of contemporary eclecticism, Tony Walter (ed.), The Mourning for Diana (Oxford, 1999).

40 G´erard Cholvy and Yves-Marie Hilaire, Histoire religieuse de la France contemporaine 1800–1880, 2nd edition (Toulouse, 1990), chapters 3, 6, 8, 9 (see note 56 below).

41 McLeod, Piety and Poverty, xxiii–xxv, 103–26, and passim.

42 See Grace Davie, Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging (Oxford, 1994).

43 S. C. Williams, Religious Belief and Popular Culture in Southwark c. 1880–1939 (Oxford, 1999). Williams' findings are broadly confirmed, while being further developed in certain respects, in Richard Sykes, 'Popular religion in Dudley and the Gornals, c. 1914–1965', PhD thesis, University of Wolverhampton, 1999. For studies of popular religion in a Catholic context, see Ellen Badone (ed.), Religious Orthodoxy and Popular Faith in European Society (Princeton, NJ), 1990; Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age (London, 1999); and numerous studies by William A. Christian, e.g. 'Religious apparitions and the Cold War in southern Europe', in Eric R. Wolf (ed.), Religion, Power and Protest in Local Communities: The Northern Shore of the Mediterranean (Berlin, 1984), 239–66.

44 V. G. Kiernan, The Duel in European History: Honour and the Reign of Aristocracy (Oxford, 1988); Keith Thomas, 'The double standard', Journal of the History of Ideas, 20 (1959), 195–216; Olwen Hufton, The Poor of Eighteenth-Century France 1750–1789 (Oxford, 1974), 245–83, 306–17, 349–51.

45 Olivier Tschannen, Les th´eories de la s´ecularisation (Geneva, 1992). Here I differ from Callum Brown. While he locates the origins of the concept of secularisation in the anxieties of early nineteenth-century Christians, I would trace it back to the hopes of nineteenth-century sceptics and secularists.

46 Peter Berger, The Social Reality of Religion (Harmondsworth, 1972); Bryan R. Wilson, Religion in Secular Society (London, 1966).

47 Wilson, Religion in Secular Society,

48 Steve Bruce, Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults (Oxford, 1995), 233 and passim.

49 Steve Bruce and Roy Wallis, 'Secularization: the orthodox model', in Steve Bruce (ed.), Religion and Modernization: Sociologists and Historians Debate the Secularization Thesis (Oxford, 1992), 8–30.

50 This is suggested tentatively by Jeffrey Cox in 'Secularization and other master narratives of religion in the modern world', Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte, 14 (2001), 34–5, but more forcefully by such sociologists as David Martin, Grace Davie and Peter Berger (the latter having substantially modified his earlier views). See Peter Berger (ed.), The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics (Grand Rapids, MI, 1999).

51 See, e.g., Adrian Hastings, A History of English Christianity 1920–2000 (London, 2001), which stresses the beneficial effects for Christianity of recent crises, and G´erard Cholvy, La Religion en France de la fin du XVIIIe à nos jours (Paris, 1991), which presents the period since 1975 as a time of religious revival because of the range of new forms of spirituality that have emerged at the same time that the Catholic Church has declined.

52 As well as their contributions to this volume, see Callum Brown, The Death of Christian Britain (London, 2000); Peter van Rooden, Religieuze regimes: over godsdienst en maatschappij in Nederland 1570–1990 (Amsterdam, 1996).

53 Williams, Religious Belief; Hölscher, 'Secularization and urbanization'.

54 Anthony Steinhoff, 'Ein zweites konfessionelles Zeitalter? Nachdenken ¨uber die Religion im langen 19. Jahrhundert', forthcoming in Geschichte und Gesellschaft.

55 E.g. Rodney Stark and Laurence R. Iannaccone, 'A supply-side reinterpretation of the “secularization” of Europe', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 33 (1994), 230–52. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America 1776–1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy (New Brunswick, NJ, 1992), apply similar ideas to the long-term trends in the religious history of the United States.

56 E.g. G´erard Cholvy and Yves-Marie Hilaire in their impressive three-volume Histoire religieuse de la France contemporaine (Toulouse, 1985–8), with its clear narrative and mastery of detail, and avoidance of any overarching theoretical framework.

57 For instance, many of the contributors to Roy Porter and M. Teich (eds.), The Enlightenment in National Context (Cambridge, 1981), stress that the anti-Christian dimension of the Enlightenment, conspicuous in France, was untypical elsewhere.

58 Mary Heimann, 'Christianity in Western Europe since the Enlightenment', in Adrian Hastings (ed.), AWorld History of Christianity (London, 1999), 478–85.

59 For overviews, see McLeod (ed.), Age of Great Cities, and McLeod, Piety and Poverty. See also reviews of the debate in S. J. D. Green, Religion in the Age of Decline: Organisation and Experience in Industrial Yorkshire 1870–1920 (Cambridge, 1996), and Antonius Liedhegener, Christentum und Urbanisierung: Katholiken und Protestanten in M¨unster und Bochum, 1830–1933 (Paderborn, 1997).

60 These points are made in many of the contributions to McLeod (ed.), Age of Great Cities, notably those by William J. Callahan on Spanish cities and by Hans Otte on Hanover. See also Kaspar Elm and Hans-Dietrich Loock, Seelsorge und Diakonie in Berlin: Beitr¨age zum Verh¨altnis von Kirche und Großstadt im 19. und beginnenden 20. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1990).

61 This is argued in Gregory Singleton, Religion in the City of Angels: Los Angeles 1850–1930 (n.p., 1979).

62 See A. D. Gilbert, Religion and Society in Industrial England: Church, Chapel and Social Change 1740–1914 (London, 1976).

63 This is argued most clearly by the Chicago urban sociologist Louis Wirth in his famous essay 'Urbanism as a way of life' (1938), reprinted in Louis Wirth, On Cities and Social Life (Chicago, 1964), 60–83. A similar view is taken by Thomas Nipperdey in 'Religion und Gesellschaft in Deutschland um 1900', Historische Zeitschrift, 246 (1988), 591–615.

64 See also Williams, Religious Belief.

65 For instance, R´emond, Religion and Society, and McLeod, Secularisation in Western Europe, which start in 1789 and 1848 respectively, and both of which give considerable attention to political developments.

66 Olaf Blaschke, 'Das 19. Jahrhundert: ein Zweites Konfessionelles Zeitalter?', Geschichte und Gesellschaft, 26 (2000), 38–75.

67 Callum G. Brown, Religion and Society in Scotland since 1707 (Edinburgh, 1997), chapters 5, 6, 7; Brown, Death of Christian Britain, 170–5 and passim.

68 David Hanley (ed.), Christian Democracy in Europe: A Comparative Perspective (London, 1994). See also Dianne Kirby (ed.), The Churches and the Cold War (Basingstoke, 2003).

69 Marwick, Sixties, defines the 'long Sixties' as extending from 1958 to 1974. In Brown, Death of Christian Britain, 188, they extend from 1956 to 1973. For a summary of the debates on the significance of this period, see Hugh McLeod, 'The sixties: writing the religious history of a crucial decade', Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte, 14 (2001), 36–48.

70 G´erard Cholvy and Yves-Marie Hilaire, Histoire religieuse de la France contemporaine 1930–88 (Toulouse, 1988).

71 A. D. Gilbert, The Making of Post-Christian Britain (London, 1980).

72 As well as Cholvy and Hilaire, other historians who adopt a mainly narrative approach to the crisis of these years include Hastings, English Christianity, and Gerald Parsons, 'Contrasts and continuities: the traditional Christian Churches in Britain since 1945', in Parsons and Wolffe (eds.), Religious Diversity, vol. I, 25–94.

73 Gilbert, Post-Christian Britain: 86–94, 121–57; Cholvy and Hilaire, Histoire religieuse 1930–1988, 282–90, 311–12, 315–24, 328–30; Brown, Death of Christian Britain, 192.


The secularisation decade :
what the 1960s have done to the study of religious history

Callum G. Brow


I start this chapter with a series of presumptions about the state of existing knowledge in the social history of religion. (1) Britain in the 1960s experienced more secularisation than in all the preceding four centuries put together. Never before had all of the numerical indicators of popular religiosity fallen simultaneously, and never before had their declension been so steep. (2) It is clear now at the start of the twenty-first century that what commenced in the 1960s was a statistically secular (i.e. permanent) change, and not a cyclical (or temporary) one. There is currently no evidence, nor theory of human behaviour (outside of faith itself), that posits that recovery in those numerical indicators will ever take place. (3) Statistical evidence previously used to identify what was once supposed to be secularisation during previous periods of history (notably in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) can now be seen in a new context as showing nothing more than relatively minor, ambiguous, often contradictory, and short-term religious change which was, in any event, neither statistically fool-proof evidence even on its own terms, nor sufficiently broad in its coverage of what religiosity is as to offer a safe conclusion.

What happened in the late twentieth century has been unique and epochforming. Since around 1963, Britain has been in the brave new world of secular secularisation—that is, the permanent decline of religion. This decline takes two main observable forms. It is the terminal decline of virtually all of the large, organised conventional Christian churches in Britain; and it is the permanent decline of the common and pervasive Christian culture to which most Britons had adhered most of the time to greater or lesser extents for centuries (and arguably since the start of the second millennium CE). For the historian of religious decline, there is no period in history as important as the 1960s. What was different about the 1960s in the history of religion was not just the scale and suddenness of religious decline. The uniqueness of the sixties was, first, that for the first time Christian religiosity underwent a common and virtually simultaneous change within nearly all countries in western Europe. Previous change had been non-simultaneous, appearing staggered between different nations; this is certainly the conclusion from Hugh McLeod's unique international study which showed that in the period 1880–1930 secularisation took place in stages, with Berlin in advance of London, and London in advance of New York, and from some other cases. 1 Second, the change was not engineered or guided by governments, churches or elites, nor was it the product of any denominational rivalry, nor any specifically anti-religious political ideology. Third, the religious change that occurred was one of profound secularisation of—or decline in— 'conventional' religion which opened up British popular access to previously exotic, bohemian or socially circumscribed religious/spiritual movements, and allowed for the lowering, at the point of consumption, of barriers between religious and spiritual movements. Fourth, the cause of this secularisation was linked to a sweeping and spontaneously developed popular culture that became, for the first time, a dynamic for religious change in the western world as a whole. And fifth, and most contentiously, the 1960s was and remains unique because it marked the beginning in many countries of the collapse of religious culture as a whole: the religious value-system which, embedded through complex cultural formations in the family, community and state, had stewarded European civilisation for a millennium (under Christianity), and possibly longer (under pre-Christian religions).

The themes and arguments in this chapter complement a previous study of gender, evangelicalism and the secularisation of British culture between 1800 and 2000. 2 This chapter is not a restatement of that book. Instead, it focuses on the impact of the 1960s upon aspects of the academic study of the social history of religion. What it argues is that if the 1960s changed British religion, that culture-event has also changed the way in which religion and the religious past (before 1960) are comprehended in the British imagination. The 1960s have changed the ways in which contemporary culture constructs what religion 'is', what it 'was', and what the difference is between what it 'is' and what it 'was'. In short, the 1960s have changed the way in which British culture narratises religion.

This has create daninjunction to his to rians of religion that we too must change the way we construct our 'official' (academic) narratives of religion. A major factor impacting on this will be the greatest structural trend towards the fusion of conceptual approaches and methodologies between social history of religion, ecclesiastical (church) history, religious studies and cultural history—a process that is already underway. We will in the future be examining with greater clarity of terminology than ever before terms like 'religion', 'religious', 'irreligious' and 'spirituality'. In this chapter I want to look at the narrative of 'religious decline'—commonly referred to as 'secularisation'—which developed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but which has now been irrevocably altered by the 1960s. How has the narrative of secularisation been affected by the swinging sixties? And how does this leave our academic discipline?

The data on religion

The 1960s represented the majority of the decline in virtually all indicators of the Christian religion's currently quantifiable social significance in mainland Britain. Here I will speak of a 'short 1960s' of 1963–70, and a 'long 1960s' of 1956–73.

It seems irrefutable that church -going declined in mainland Britain during the 1960s, but that this was merely a continuation of an existing trend which stretched back until at least the 1890s and possibly to the 1870s. It might be fair to estimate that the proportion of the population attending church and Sunday school in mainland Britain on a given Sunday stood at around 40–45 per cent in 1851, and fell thereafter to about 30 per cent by 1900, 15 per cent by 1950, 11.3 per cent in 1979–84, and to less than 10 per cent in the 1990s. 3 Moreover, the 1960s seem to have cemented the trend for zones of relatively low churchgoing in the mid-nineteenth century (industrial zones, and highland and island rural zones) to become, by the late twentieth century, zones of relatively high church -going (not by virtue of any growth in church -going, but by virtue of a much lower rate of decline in church attendance compared to metropolitan and lowland agricultural zones). Yet, it is fair to conclude that, viewed in isolation, the decline in church -going in the 1960s was not epoch-making for the Christian religion nationally.

After church -going, the most active form of church connection in the Christian religion is celebration of the rites of passage. Between 1900 and 1997, the proportion of marriages that were religiously solemnised fell for Scotland from 94 to 56 per cent, and for England and Wales from 85 to 39 per cent. There were three main periods of decline: the First World War, the Second World War and the period after 1963. In the main, the declines of the two world wars were reversed in peacetime, and though there was a decline over the course of twentieth-century peacetime, it was the 'short 1960s' which saw the greatest permanent fall. Of the 36-point fall in religious marriage in Scotland during 1900–87, 15.6 points occurred during 1961–73. Of the 33-point fall in religious marriage in England and Wales during 1900–87, 16.5 points occurred during 1962–73. In short, of the whole fall in the proportion of religious marriages between 1900 and 1987, 43 per cent in Scotland and 50 per cent in England and Wales occurred during the 'short 1960s '—a staggering decline.

Interestingly, the other rite of passage for which there are data—baptism— started its rapid decline earlier. Infant baptisms performed in the Church of England as a proportion of live births were still rising in the first three decades of the twentieth century, from 609 per thousand in 1900 to a peak of 668 in 1927. Despite a slight decline to 621 by 1938, this was a remarkably high density of baptism in the English and Welsh population; the addition of baptisms performed by other denominations would raise this figure significantly. But after agap in the middle decades of the century (when I was unable to locate data), the figure in 1956 was still relatively high at 602 per thousand—a figure only 7/1000 points down on 1900. But decline was rapid thereafter: within two years it had attained the lowest level for the century, and then kept falling until 1970– 73 (when a brief levelling-off at 465/6 occurred) and then resuming from 1976. Of the 303-point fall in the baptism rate during 1927– 81, 174 points occurred during 1956– 76.

Data for the proportion of funerals celebrated by Christian rite are, to my knowledge, non-existent. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that there was a continuing recourse until very late in the twentieth century by more than 90 per cent (perhaps close to 100 per cent) of British families to religious celebration of lives at death (either in a place of worship, in a crematorium or at a graveside, or any two or even all three of these). A change towards secular (often Humanist) celebration of death seems to have become significant only in the 1980s and 1990s, and from anecdotal conversations with Humanist celebrants this demand grew exponentially in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In any event, it seems highly likely that there was no marked change during the 1960s.

Youth connection with religion is one of the key areas in statistical analysis of religious change in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Data from Scotland show that the peak of Sunday school enrolment was achieved in the 1890s, and there seems every reason to believe that there was a comparable peak for England and Wales. Enrolments in all British Protestant churches represented 77 per cent of children aged between 5 and 14 years inclusive at the start of the twentieth century (a figure probably inflated by multiple enrolment). 4 By the 1990s, the level of Sunday school enrolment is difficult to ascertain because of discontinued statistical series (itself a commentary on crisis), but was probably in the region of 5– 8 per cent. The greatest decline before the late 1950s occurred in the Nonconformist churches—especially in Methodist Sunday schools, where the rolls fell by 58 per cent between 1910 and 1956 compared to only 46 per cent over the same period for the Church of England. But the real crisis of Sunday schools occurred after 1956. In that year a peak of enrolment per capita unseen since 1936 was reached, but then the figures for all churches plummeted. The Scottish data are the most complete and—in terms of trend—representative. In 1956, Presbyterian enrolments represented 39 per cent of Scottish children, but then fell to 19 per cent in 1973; 20 of the 32-point fall in Presbyterian enrolments during 1903– 81 occurred in the 'long 1960s' of 1956– 73. The crisis for Sunday schools did not diminish after 1973. In the Church of Scotland it has continued unabated with a steepening in the 1990s. In 1994, enrolments stood at 60,936– compared with 167,733 in 1973. The decline is at the rate of 8–10 per cent per year in Scotland in the mid-1990s, which leads to the projection that Sunday schools will have practically ceased to exist by 2010. 5 From the available data, there seems to be little cause for thinking that the situation in the rest of British Protestantism is any different.

A second form of data on youth and religion is confirmation in the Church of England. Girls and young women made up 59 per cent of confirmations in the late 1950s. The density of female confirmation in the population was significant, standing fairly level at around 40 per cent until 1961. Male confirmations, on the other hand, were already in a slow decline. However, it was between 1961 and 1974 that the major decline occurred; female confirmation more than halved from 39.3 to 19.6 per cent in those years. This represents a major loss of the Church's primary recruitment mechanism, and one that undoubtedly contributed to the fall in church communicants.

Success in recruitment of baptised persons into full membership of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland (which took place usually between 12 and 18 years of age) was remarkably resilient until the mid-1950s, and then after 1956 plunged in the Church of Scotland, and fell significantly in the Church of England, whilst both churches experienced a sustained (and as yet unended) recruitment catastrophe from 1966 with, by the mid-1990s, only 17–20 per cent of baptised persons entering full communion. More clearly than any other statistics, these show that the two world wars did not have a permanent impact on internal recruitment—it was the period after 1956 that did. Recent studies of youth attitudes to religion have explored more fully than ever before the mechanism of youth alienation from religion—including how 'religion' and 'the church' are perceived as 'uncool', whilst 'spirituality' and the new moral agenda of environmentalism and respect between human beings can be deeply attractive, yet unfulfilled by conventional religion. 6

One of the key characteristics of Britain between 1900 and 1960 was that, though church attendance fell, passive association was strongly sustained. Both the Church of England and the Church of Scotland suffered comparatively little loss of adherence during the first half of the twentieth century, with peak of communicants as a proportion of population coming in 1911 and 1934 respectively, whilst their low points in 1947 and 1948 respectively were only marginally lower. The real fall in their constituency came after 1956. Aggregation of data across Christian denominations is nigh impossible for purposes of per capita analysis of church membership in England and Wales, but it is more possible in Scotland. Here, it is possible to construct year-on-year data on church adherence or membership between 1840 and 1994 (including Presbyterian Sunday school enrolment), expressed as a percentage of total population at annual intervals. 7 This shows that nearly all the permanent loss of church adherence per capita in Scotland since church statistics began occurred after 1956, and it was between 1963 and c. 1975 that the gradient of decline reached unprecedented proportions. All Protestant churches suffered, and only a small number (like the Baptist Church) experienced a stabilisation of membership loss in the later twentieth century. Though the decline in the Scottish Catholic Church (as measured by a variety of indicators) only started in the mid-1970s, it has since the mid-1980s experienced an accelerating decline that has reached a gradient unmatched by any other Scottish church before. In short, Catholic Church decline started late, but it is proving to be incredibly sharp.

A final major area of statistical analysis is that of opinion poll data on religious attitudes and claimed religious activities. These data largely apply to the period since the 1960s, and most of them have been extensively analysed by Clive Field. 8 He showed that there has been a marked decline in most self-claimed indicators of religious activity since the 1970s, a decline which is steepest at the end of the period. He also noted how the evidence suggests that by the 1990s the influence of religion is about the same in England and Scotland, is higher than in France and Scandinavia, is much lower in Britain than in most Catholic countries of Europe, and is very much lower than in North and South America. Overall, he agrees with the proposition that in zones previously thought to be 'highly religious' (such as Scotland) there has been a haemorrhage of faith underway in the later decades of the twentieth century.

To summarise, all of the indicators bar two ( church -going and opinion poll data) show that the period between 1956 and 1973 witnessed unprecedented rapidity in the fall of religiosity in British society. In most cases, at least half of the overall decline in each indicator recorded during the century was concentrated into those years or a smaller period within them. That in itself makes the 'long sixties' highly significant in the history of British secularisation. What heightens the significance is the fact that so many indices of religiosity fell simultaneously. Across the board, the British people started to reduce the role of religion in their lives: for their marriages, as a place to baptise their children, as an institution to send their children to Sunday school and church recruitment, and as a place for affiliation. The next generation, which came to adulthood in the 1970s, exhibited even more marked disaffiliation from church connection of any sort, and their children were largely raised in a domestic routine free from the intrusions of organised religion. Meanwhile, the long-term decline of church -going has continued, and together with the evidence from opinion poll data, there seems every reason to conclude that the data indicate little short of a 'mass' dissolution of popular faith in Britain in the last three decades of the twentieth century.

Deconstructing the data, redefining the study

If the data emphasise the suddenness of religious change in Britain in the late twentieth century, they also suggest much greater continuity in the measurable social significance of religion between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries than has long been assumed. This fits quite comfortably with trends in recent 'revisionist' scholarship that have downplayed the extent of damage to organised religion rendered by industrialisation and urbanisation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, the data also suggest that the focus of traditional social history of religion on the 1880–1930 period as a turning-point in Britain has only partial validity. Only church -going decline seems significant then, and it is counterbalanced by much evidence of the vibrancy of religious culture in both plebeian and bourgeois life in the late Victorian, Edwardian and inter-war periods. The modern puritan revolution was very far from exhausted by the 1930s, and was to revitalise in the vigour of church growth and the 'crusade evangelism' of Billy Graham in the mid-1950s.

By contrast, despite the difficulty of church -going data, the 'long 1960s' from 1956 to 1973 appear as a cataclysm for the place of religion in British society. The sheer scale of religious change in that decade puts in the shade the more equivocal change of the 1790s and 1840s and the 1880–1910 period so beloved of historical debate. The years 1963–65 appear striking as the turning-point at which virtually all indices of religious adherence, youth education and rites of passage passed below the known scale. It is from 1963 that historians have to recalibrate their barometer of religiosity.

Two important sets of interpretational points arise from these observations. First, the obvious—the 1960s can be empirically identified as the commencement of the first period of steep, multi-factorial, long-term and (statistically) secular (as distinct from cyclical) dechristianisation of Britain. Though the characteristics of a multi-faith society first become significant from the 1960s, the rise of non-Christian religions and quasi-religions (including New Religions and New Age movements) did not, have not and will not fill the void of religiosity left by the decline of Christianity. Thus, it also seems irrefutable that what Britain has experienced since 1963 is 'genuine' secularisation. Though this argument deserves much greater focus on theoretical, conceptual and empirical issues, it strikes me as as clear commonsense. This will be deeply unsatisfying to some observers, but they will mostly have flags of faith to fly.

The second interpretational point arises from the first. It is that it is only the 1960s—and our experience of it—that actually provides a sensory, empirical and conceptual understanding of what 'secularisation' is, and of what kind of society it produces. If you think of those efforts of historians to argue that secularisation started in the Enlightenment or the Industrial Revolution, then the nature of the process they are able to describe as taking place is at most merely one of 'forgetting to observe' Christianity, and the society produced out of it is a strongly self-reflectively neglectful religious society. There was nothing 'secular' whatever in nineteenth-century British society. It was a society which knew well, from top to bottom, what it knew it ought to believe and ought to do religiously, and what it was that some were alleging was being 'lost' in the midst of urban—industrial change. When members of society did not do the expected and observable 'religious' things, they were loudly harangued by moral and religious gatekeepers from pulpit, corner gossip shop and Sunday lunch table. This was the discursivity of faith-power. It was the power of late modern puritanism which enveloped British (as well as European) society until the 1950s. That power was only challenged effectively by a cultural revolt (not arevolt of neglect or secularism or politics), and it did not happen until the 1960s. The sixties produced not the end but the beginning of the revolt against the discursivity of Christian culture in Europe.

Therefore, there was no conception of what secular society was until after the 1960s had been fully absorbed into our consciousness. For this reason, each book on the subject written before or without that understanding (including most famously Bryan Wilson's Religion in Secular Society of 1966) is not a book which did or could conceptualise what secular society looked like or felt like. Our ability to conceptualise that society is dawning bit by bit as we progress in Britain through to third-and fourth-generation secularists.

The third interpretational point is potentially more far-reaching for the social history of religion. I will give a bald statement of it first and elaborate on it after. The bald statement is this: secularisation fillets the religious spine out of the body of human culture. When that happens, as in Britain since the 1960s, it is not possible to continue to study the subject by looking at the churches, church membership, religious observance or opinion polls. The basis of the academic subject has fundamentally changed. The churches are now less relevant; indeed, to be frank, they become increasingly irrelevant with every year. They are so marginal to the place of religion in society that the academic game has to change fundamentally.

Church history could once claim to encompass the social history of religion. It can't any more. Religious studies—the academic discipline, with all its research and theorising about the diversity, overlap, decentredness and fluidity of spiritual and religious experience—have done enough to convince that the study of the spiritual and religious past needs to change with it, and adopt the same conceptual challenges and diversity of empiricalin vestigation. At the same time, religious studies must change because of major weaknesses in empiricism, conceptualisation of historical change and obsession with theorising (faults drawn, I suspect, from sociology). But that is another matter. Let me be plain. Religious studies represents the future of the past. The secularisation decade in Britain has destroyed the conceptual validity of religious history as we have known it, just as it has destroyed what we once understood to be 'religion'.

Of secularisation and other concepts

'Secularisation' represents a number of different things to scholars. First, it is a theory which, broadly speaking, defines the decline in the social significance of religion as a long-term and inevitable historical process, with short-term accelerants (such as the Reformation, the Enlightenment, industrialisation and urbanisation) and also short-term retardants (generally referred to as 'revivals'). In general terms, this theory of secularisation is regarded by some scholars as now being in tatters. Intellectually and—above all—empirically, the notion that the decline of religion has been an inevitable and inexorable accompaniment of 'modernisation' is now enjoying diminishing support amongst British social historians of religion. 9 Sociologists of religion, who were the most ardent promoters of the theory in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, 10 have become since the 1980s and 1990s largely silent on the issue. 11 Even in the United States, a 'revisionist' group of sociologists have turned full square against the notion that cities secularise and, instead, have argued that cities are centres of increased religious activity. 12 The language of academic debate has now started to change from religious 'decline' to religious 'change', marking the growing acknowledgement of not merely the ability of religion to survive modern social and economic change but its ability to change and grow in parallel to it and, perhaps, because of it. 13

Second, secularisation is, as Jeff Cox has called it, a 'master narrative'. As a history, it is a narrative predominantly written of the period since the eighteenth century, and centred in the historiography between 1780 and 1914. This history encompasses most of western Europe, Great Britain and the United States, and though it varies its causative forces according to national (and sometimes regional) context, fundamentally the course, timing and scale of change is similar across this territory. Secularisation is thus an international historical development, drawn by scholars both in incredible detail at local level and in broad brush on an international canvas. 14 This history or master narrative has been fairly constantly revised, updated, qualified and empirically enriched by scholars since the 1960s. Indeed, so qualified has the secularisation story researched for the 1780–1914 period become, that many scholars seek now to replace the master narrative. 'Secularisation' has become a bête noir for revisionists who maintain that not only did religion not decline during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it could just as well have grown. 15

Many scholars have thus increasingly devalued the concept of 'secularisation' as an historical development. As a result, the demise of secularisation as a theory ('it is a social-scientific illogicality') has been accompanied during the 1980s and 1990s by the decline of secularisation as an acknowledged historical process of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ('itdidn'thappenthatway').Amongst sociologists of religion, there has been a secularisation side-show concerning debate about 'secular society', with one tradition arguing that Britain is not a secular society—or not as secular as is often thought 16 —whilst the other tradition argues that it is patently obvious that Britain of the mid-1990s was radically secular in comparison to the Britain of, say, the mid-1890s. 17 This is a debate which is poorly invested with an historical perspective; even if it is charitably classified as contributing a 'narrative', it fails critically to be interested in identifying when the transitions to secularity occurred. It resonates too much with a similarly forlorn debate in the 1960s, and neither of these really does anything to enhance understanding of historical change.

The failure in theory and in narrative gives rise to a third status to secularisation : as a postmodernist (and poststructuralist) problematic. A methodological revolution is underway in how scholars study religiosity. Much of the work of unpicking the stranglehold of secularisation theory now involves discourse analysis upon those sources (authors, institutions, media) in which were intellectualised, refined and circulated the key discourses on what it was to be 'religious' and what it was to be 'irreligious' in industrial society. These discourses (or representations) were framed within complex class, gender and ethnic structures, and they had a resilience which rendered them still relevant well into the third quarter of the twentieth century. (Thus, incidentally, they became the active discourses of analysis in most of the scholarship on the social history of religion during the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. 18 ) The effect of these discourses in the English-speaking world was to make religiosity be perceived as something intrinsically good rather than bad, Christian rather than non-Christian, rural and pre-industrial rather than urban and industrial, middleclass rather than working-class, feminine rather than masculine, and white Anglo-Saxon Protestant rather than, for example, black (or African American), Irish or Roman Catholic. This is to simplify enormously complex discourses which varied over time, country and region, but they were surprisingly common features within world Protestantism.

Secularisation, like religiosity itself, thus becomes a problematic requiring changes in scholarship. 19 The remainder of this section explores the impact of postmodernism on this work.

1. First, the poststructuralist agenda involves decoupling concepts of religiosity from social structures, and liberating the working classes from 'blame' in the decline of religion by a conscious effort of devaluing the class dialectics which have in the past dominated how historians understood the declining social significance of religion. The prominence previously given to workingclass alienation from the churches as the long-run cause of secularisation in Britain from the late eighteenth century to the present has been under assault since the late 1970s from studies showing the relative strength of working-class involvement in church membership and worship, 20 and from the mid-1980s by a growing awareness from experiential sources concerning the continuities in, and strength of, proletarian religiosity. 21 This must continue.

2. Second, the simultaneous postmodernist agenda stresses the importance of understanding religious experience through individuals' subjectification of discourse in negotiation with their own economic and social experience. This demands two main things: first, discourse analysis of the 'self' (in this case the religious self, as part of a wider construction of the individual), through study of circulating discourses in the dominant media (books, newspapers, popular song, sermons, and so on); and second, study of personal testimony (such as autobiography, oral history, and personal testimony reconstructed from thirdparty sources (such as judicial and ecclesiastical records)). An important and key criterion of analysis in recent years using these methods has been gender and religion—principally femininity and Christian piety. 22 Studies of England and North America in the eighteenth century have suggested that there was a complex feminisation of religion in which Protestantism especially came to play different roles in women's and men's identities in modern society. 23 Within evangelicalism, the increasing tendency to emotionalism alienated men, leading to them perceiving in the evangelical conversion a much less intimate relationship with God than was felt by women. 24 Evangelicalism focused religious discourse with increasing intensity upon the home and family, and upon the inculcation of religious and moral values in the next generation through the piety of mothers. 25 The way in which religion (specifically Protestantism) operated within personal identities, and the way in which men and women associated with the churches, diverged, and continued to diverge until well into the twentieth century. 26 Clearly, gender cannot be the only criterion for analysis in the study of the social history of religion in the way social class was for decades. To state the obvious, there are also the vital categories of race, ethnicity, geography and so on. But, I would argue that gender is emerging as possibly the single most important definer of the timing and content of long-term change to the Christian religion of Europe.

3. Third, secularisation as a concept (the decline of religion) has to be problematised as linked to the meta-narrative 'theory of secularisation' which emerged from the Enlightenment and modernity. This linkage has created particular ways of viewing religion (and irreligion and the decline of religion) which rely on social science method (principally either/or notions of religiosity, and the counting of heads). Now, the implication of poststructuralist and postmodernist theories and methods is that the historian of modern religion must contemplate the implications of 'the end of the social' in the social history of religion, and 'the rise of the self' or 'the personal'. A new twin-pronged agenda should be unfolding: a postmodernist discourse analysis of the conceptions of piety in Britain, and a poststructuralist approach to the role of religion in multifarious non-class identities. Secularisation as the decline of the social significance of religion thus becomes itself in need of deconstruction. It is a term which imputes change and which, in academic terms, urges scholars to the pursuit of revelation of that change; it does not tend to admit of the possibility of 'sameness' in religiosity over the long term. It even urges those (like the revisionists) who refute the timing of secularisation to the nineteenth century to think again about using terms like religious 'growth' or 'adaptability' or 'survival' or 'revival'. The language spawned of the secularisation debate is loaded, and in need of linguistic turn.

The postmodernist challenge to the social historian of religion is to turn on our terms (the linguistic turn), to examine discourses of religion (the social construction of religiosity as ideals and anti-ideals—their content, the manner of their circulation, and who benefited from them) and explore experiences of religion (through the rescue, commissioning, reconstruction and study of personal testimony), and thereby to reassess our accepted chronologies and understanding of the nature of change to religion, the churches, spirituality, piety and culture. This will leave secularisation under a three-pronged assault: as a 'false' theory (based on modelling by outmoded methods of sociology which do not match the empirical evidence), as a 'false' narrative (principally of the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which erroneously chronicled religious decline), and as a 'false' discourse (of the upward progress of the rational western mind evidenced in the false narrative).

4. The revelation that 'religious decline' and 'secularisation' are narratives to be discussed in the way I have attempted above, and in the way previously addressed by scholars like Jeff Cox, is a product of the postmodern condition. It is, in my view, more directly a product of the 1960s and the grievous wound inflicted by that decade upon western Europe's Christianity and culture. It may have taken time (a few decades) for scholarship to catch up with the spiritual turn of the people of that continent, but we are here now discussing the concept of religious change because 'decline' and 'secularisation' are now revealed as uncentred realities. The concept caused few problems to Christian clerics or atheist sociologists in the 1950s and 1960s (beyond some bizarre accusations that it was anti-Christian). We can see now that secularisation is a concept of Christian modernity, wholly produced to bolster the power of the salvation industry in the new rational intellectual economy thrown up by the Enlightenment, and attracting the subscription of those (like Marx and Engels) who wished the process well. The concept and theory of secularisation was intrinsic to the concept and theory of modernisation. It was intrinsic to social science itself—indeed, the latter was constructed upon the former. How can you conceive of social science without a notion of the death of revelatory premodern Christianity? How can you conceive of the concept of modernisation without a faith (yea, a faith) in the decline of a putative religiously inspired ignorance of the cosmos?

And so secularisation emerges to us now, after forty years of postmodern turning away from centred realities in white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Eurocentric, gendered supremacies, as yet another centred reality that 'is being dispersed in clouds of narrative language elements'. 27

5. This leaves unfinished business. The refashioning of the agenda in the 'post-secularisation-theory' age does not remove the issue of the cause of the new age. For all that the theory, history and discourse of 'secularisation' may be fundamentally flawed on all three counts, secularisation may still plausibly and logically exist. The theory of secularisation may be a myth, but secularisation is not. Though the theory of secularisation may be wrong, and though the secularisation discourse neglects 'the personal' in piety, the falseness of the narrative history of secularisation should lead not to its abandonment but to its correction.

There is still an empirical task to be performed. The postmodernist agenda may rightly imply greater continuity in personal piety over the centuries than the structuralist social historian has thus far allowed. But by the same token it is entirely possible that personal piety itself can undergo and has undergone enormous change. It is vital that scholars are willing and able to recognise secularisation when we see it; and if it is to be seen anywhere in British history, it is to be seen most strikingly as starting in the 1960s and continuing in the last forty years of the twentieth century.

Statisticising secularisation

So, we are 'turned back' upon empiricism. There is no conceptual difficulty with this. The decline of religion since 1960 has disturbed the stability of meaning in 'secularisation'. The decline needs to be studied. But how it is done has to change as a result of the lessons of the 1960s.

The medium is the message, 28 and statistics of religion are a striking example of this aphorism. The collection and circulation of statistics of religion have virtually always been linked to a discourse of approval of 'the religious persons' and disapproval of 'the irreligious persons' counted, have implied that religiosity is reducable to an either/or choice, and signal the message that what is being measured is the moral as well as the religious state of the nation. It seems to be self-evident and inescapable that statistics of religion are moral messages. Iwant to approach that issue through a brief discussion of the problems of religious statistics.

In the first instance, there is the measurement problem: statistics of religion measure formal actions, some of them requiring commitment, some of them requiring very little commitment but merely conformity. Statistics of church membership may not necessarily show what people are doing for their faith (such as going to church), whilst statistics of church -going may not show what people are believing religiously in what they are doing by attending worship. So, the first problem is that such statistics are not necessarily measuring what it is we actually might want to measure. And what we actually want to measure is defined by the social constructions of religiosity employed by the historian. (For the latter, see the third instance below.)

In the second instance, there are the statistical compilation problems: of reliability, comparability and continuity. Religious statistics are those compiled by diverse sources—the churches themselves, government agencies, newspapers, evangelical organisations, and (in some cases) academics. These have diverse origins, and the means of measurement vary, and in very many cases time-series data involve important elements of discontinuity (in definitions of church membership, for instance) which require careful consideration during the compilation of datasets. Such problems are not insuperable in most cases, but they require careful preparation of data.

In the third instance, religious statistics deserve problematisation in a postmodernist sense. The way in which statistics operate is by demanding the imposition of structures upon the field of inquiry, dividing people into the categories needed for counting: church -goers and non-church-goers, churchmembers and non-members, weddings into church -and civil-solemnised occasions, and so on. In this field of inquiry, one can safely say that such structures induce considerable statistical inaccuracy because (i) those counted as churchgoers on one occasion will be non- church -goers on others, and vice versa, and thus impose a false structure; because (ii) changes in the numerical balance between 'opposite' categories in a structure conceal other (sometimes unmeasurable ) continuities; because (iii) many of the ways in which religiosity can be measured have rarely been counted; and because (iv) it is clear that we now understand religiosity (from modern cultural theory, if from nowhere else) as something that is composed of characteristics and categories which are not countable.

Domestic and personal religious rituals have rarely been measured in any depth over time, and even social surveys (asking about belief in God, for instance ) require a binary structure (in this case, yes/no) which conceals rather than reveals the graduated, complex and often confused nature of faith. More fundamentally, postmodernist analysis of the sort undertaken by Sarah Williams reveals that religious statistics are measuring that which the churches (or clergymen ) take to be the gauge of religiosity; they miss the highly gendered and classbased forms of religiosity—sometimes characterised as 'superstition'—which have been prevalent in industrial society, but yet little investigated by scholars of any discipline. 29

Such examples show that statistics of religion are not 'neutral' measures. Statistics of religion (as of other, perhaps most, fields of inquiry, certainly in the social sciences) are discursively active. They are, in short, judgements which accrue power—faith-power—to those who collect and wield them. Those in use by historians, sociologists and churches since the eighteenth century are an element of a discourse, or series of discourses, on religiosity and secularisation. The churches—male-dominated institutions of a competitive capitalist society— developed categories to be counted because they could show denominational success against other denominations, organisational growth and prosperity, and success in evangelising 'the ungodly' (principally the working classes).

When national religious statistics were collected (by the state in its churchgoing census of 1851 for instance), it was to show the strength or weakness of Britain as a Christian nation in the midst of its imperial mission. Similar exercises by both individual churches and ecumenical groups in the twentieth century were concerned almost uniformly to display the failure of Christian Britain. Diverse discourses lie in these statistical series: a focus on change (in minute shifts in church membership from year to year); a preoccupation with denominational competition which seeks 'growth' in specific forms of measurement; an elite obsession with the scale of 'the lapsed masses' in the Victorian and Edwardian periods; and gendered and class-based approaches which fail to measure those forms of pious expression which were scorned or ignored by the self-appointed judges—the clergymen. Religious statistics, as one Edwardian compiler opined, are 'unimpeachable witnesses to vigour, progress and interest'. 30

In short, religious statistics are invariably circulating discourses on ecclesiastical machismo, national righteousness, class commentary or moral judgement (sometimes all at once), and require to be treated as such. The social construction of religious statistics is thus an issue for the historian, as is the historian's employment of them. The tendency and the danger implicit in that action lie in the perpetuation of that social construction—the discourses of religiosity— into scholarly understanding of the social history of religion. This leaves the social scientist with the task of justifying the conceptual validity of statistical measurement. The range of measures of religiosity needs to display a number of things. First, there needs to be an awareness of structures (of gender, class and ethnicity, for instance). The on/off binary approach of religious statistics needs to be most carefully reassessed to expose the structures imposed so cavalierly upon the past and the present. Second, there needs to be awareness of the many different ways in which piety or religiosity may be expressed (now and in the past, in Britain and other places, in different branches of Christianity and other faiths, and, very importantly, in forms independent from conventional church traditions). Third, there must be an appreciation that valid expressions of personal faith may be beyond practical forms of measurement in society (whether now or in the past). And fourth, there needs to be an understanding that the implication of 'measurement' is an imposition of discontinuities (however graduated) upon the past; in other words, statistics may not only be impersonal, but take the personal out of the past, and treat it as 'another world' which it may not be.

Advocates of secularisation theory in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s can be accused of failure in most if not all of the above points when they assessed the impact of industrialisation and city growth upon religion in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. But by the same token, there is a real danger that the postmodernist awareness of the social construction of religious statistics may lead to an overlooking of real historical change when it did occur. That remains the task.


The ways religion is studied in the periods of the 1960s, since the 1960s and before the 1960s need to coalesce. There needs to be a sharing of concept and method in the study of religion and society between historians of medieval, early modern and late modern periods, and between the historian, the anthropologist, the cultural-and religious-studies scholar. The postcolonial, the gender and the post-class perspectives of our age need to be brought to bear on all those familiar themes of nineteenth-and twentieth-century British religious history. This means active deployment of reflexivity in our work, involving amongst other things a very keen re-examination of the vocabulary of our field. This in turn needs to feed into how social-science method and postmodernist method fuse together. In such ways, the 1960s not only marked an epoch change in the social history of the religious history of the nation (and of Europe). The sixties also changed the way in which we understand religion and secularisation across human history.


1 H. McLeod, Piety and Poverty: Working-Class Religion in Berlin, London and New York 1870–1914 (New York, 1996); C. G. Brown, 'A revisionist approach to religious change', in S. Bruce (ed.), Religion and Modernization: Sociologists and Historians Debate the Secularization Thesis (Oxford, 1992), 37–58 and his 'The mechanism of religious growth in urban societies', in H. McLeod (ed.), European Religion in the Age of Great Cities 1830–1930 (London, 1995), 239–62.

2 C. G. Brown, The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation 1800–2000 (London, 2001).

3 These estimates come from a variety of sources; see C. G. Brown, 'Religion', in R. Pope (ed.), Atlas of British Social and Economic History (London, 1989), 213.

4 Discussion of Sunday school data is to be found in C. G. Brown, 'The Sunday-school movement in Scotland, 1780–1914', Records of the Scottish Church History Society 21 (1981), 3–26.

5 A fuller discussion of the crisis in youth recruitment methods to the churches is contained in C. G. Brown, Religion and Society in Scotland since 1707 (Edinburgh, 1997), chapter 7.

6 S. Wiltshire, 'Spirit of our age: dimensions of religiosity amongst Scottish youth', unpublished PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2001.

7 A full denominationally divided version of this graph appears in Brown, Religion and Society, 62–3.

8 C. D. Field, '“The Haemorrhage of Faith?”: opinion polls as sources for religious practices, beliefs and attitudes in Scotland since the 1970s', Journal of Contemporary Religion, 16 (2001), 157–75.

9 See, for instance, S. J. D. Green, Religion in the Age of Decline: Organisation and Experience in Industrial Yorkshire 1870–1920 (Cambridge, 1996); M. Smith, Religionin Industrial Society: Oldham and Saddleworth1740–1865 (Oxford, 1994); J. Morris, Religion and Urban Change: Croydon 1840–1914 (Woodbridge, 1992).

10 B. Wilson, Religion in Secular Society (Harmondsworth, 1966); D. Martin, A General Theory of Secularisation (Oxford, 1978).

11 A notable exception is Steve Bruce. See for instance Bruce (ed.), Religion and Modernization.

12 R. Finke and R. Stark, 'Religious economies and sacred canopies: religious mobilisation in American cities, 1906', American Sociological Review, 53 (1988), 41–9.

13 Brown, 'A revisionist approach'.

14 An impressive broad-brush account is Hugh McLeod, Religion and the People of Western Europe 1789–1970 (Oxford, 1981).

15 J. Cox, The English Churches in a Secular Society: Lambeth 1870–1930 (Oxford, 1981); C. G. Brown, 'Did urbanisation secularise Britain?', Urban History Yearbook 1987, 1–15.

16 The most recent advocate of the first is Grace Davie, Religion in Britain since 1945 (Oxford, 1994), and G. Davie, 'Religion in post-war Britain: a sociological viewpoint', in J. Obelkevich and P. Catterall (eds.), Understanding Post-War British Society (London and New York, 1994), 165–78.

17 Steve Bruce, 'Religion in Britain at the close of the twentieth century: a challenge to the silver lining perspective', Journal of Contemporary Religion, 11 (1996), 261–75.

18 They are most powerfully to be found in E. R. Wickham, Church and People in an Industrial City (London, 1957); K. S. Inglis, Churches and the Working Classes in Victorian England (London, 1963); and A. D. Gilbert, Religion and Society in Industrial England: Church, Chapel and Social Change 1740–1914 (London, 1976).

19 Sarah Williams, 'Urban popular religion and the rites of passage', in McLeod (ed.), European Religion, 216–36; S. Williams, 'The problem of belief: the place of oral history in the study of popular religion', Oral History, 24 (1996), 27–34; S. Williams, 'The language of belief: an alternative agenda for the study of Victorian working-class religion', Journal of Victorian Culture, 1 (1996), 303–16; S. C. Williams, Religious Belief and Popular Culture in South wark c.1880–1939 (Oxford, 1999).

20 C. D. Field, 'The social structure of English Methodism, eighteenth–twentieth centuries ', British Journal of Sociology, 28 (1977), 199–225; P. Hillis, 'Presbyterianism and social class in mid-nineteenth-century Glasgow: a study of nine churches', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 32 (1981), 47–64.

21 As well as the work of S. Williams, see H. McLeod, 'New perspectives on Victorian working-class religion: the oral evidence', Oral History, 14 (1986), 31–49, and C. G. Brown and J. D. Stephenson, '“Sprouting wings”? Women and religion in Scotland c.1890–c.1950', in E. Gordon and E. Breitenbach (eds.), Out of Bounds: Women and Religion in Scotland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Edinburgh, 1992), 95–120.

22 For the medieval period, see for instance P. Ranft, Women and the Religious Life in Premodern Europe (Basingstoke, 1996). For the early modern period, see P. Crawford, Women and Religion in England 1500–1720 (London, 1993). For the late modern period, see Brown, Death of Christian Britain.

23 Crawford, Women and Religion, 204–8; A. Fletcher, Gender, Sex and Subordination in England 1500–1800 (New Haven and London, 1995), 347–63; S. Gill, Women and the Church of England from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (London, 1994), 83–98; H. McLeod, Religion and Society in England 1850–1914 (Basingstoke, 1996), 156–68.

24 B. L. Epstein, The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT, 1981), 45–66.

25 J. Rendall, The Origins of Modern Feminism: Women in Britain, France and the United States 1780–1860 (London, 1985), 73–107.

26 Brown, Death of Christian Britain; Brown, Religion and Society, chapter 8.

27 J.-F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Manchester, 1979; 2nd edition 1984), p. xxiv.

28 M. McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge, MA, 1964; 2nd edition 1994), p. 15.

29 Williams, 'Urban popular religion and the rites of passage'.

30 R. Mudie-Smith (ed.), The Religious Life of London (London, 1904), 6–7.

Christendom in decline :
the Swedish case

Eva M. Hamberg

Available data indicate that the share of the population who adhere to Christian beliefs or who devote themselves to such traditional religious activities as prayer and church attendance declined in Sweden during the twentieth century. The decline in church attendance can easily be documented. Information on religious beliefs is available only for comparatively recent times; hence, we may run the risk of overestimating the former prevalence of such beliefs. 1 The same is true of information on prayer habits.

It should also be borne in mind that certain forms of religious practice that in the contemporary Swedish situation may be regarded as expressions of religious commitment, e.g. church attendance, formerly were part of a social and cultural pattern to which individuals were expected to conform. While nowadays the share of the population who attend public worship is considerably lower than the share who believe in God, the reverse may have been true in times when church attendance was the prevailing social norm. 2

Available data indicate a decline not only in the prevalence of religious beliefs, but also in the saliency of these beliefs. A smaller share of the population adhere to the Christian faith, and among those who still do hold on to this faith (or to certain parts of it) many seem to do so with a low degree of personal commitment. 3

According to the European Values Studies which were carried out in 1981 and 1990, Sweden is one of the most secularised countries in western Europe, in the sense that very low percentages of the population adhere to the Christian faith or attend public worship. In 1990, only 15 per cent of the adult Swedish population (aged 16–74 years) said that they believed in the existence of a personal God, 27 per cent believed in heaven, and 19 per cent in the resurrection of the dead. Only 4 per cent attended church weekly, while another 6 per cent did so monthly. A similar pattern can be found for prayer and Bible reading. In 1990 only 10 per cent of adult Swedes said that they often prayed, while 49 per cent never prayed and 10 per cent hardly ever did so. Bible reading is even less common: according to a Swedish survey undertaken in the mid-1980s, only 8 per cent of the adult population read the Bible at least once a month. Moreover, a comparison of the results of the second European Values Study, undertaken in 47 1990, with those of the first study, undertaken in 1981, shows that both church attendance and belief in God had decreased in Sweden during the 1980s. 4

Religious beliefs

Not only can Sweden be described as a very secularised country, in the abovementioned sense. In addition, available evidence indicates that a large share of those who still believe in God do so with a low degree of personal commitment: using a concept introduced by Thomas Luckmann, one might say that this belief increasingly tends to be accepted as a 'rhetorical system' only. 5 Thus, the European Values Studies show that only a minority of Swedes accord God an important role in their lives. These surveys contained a question on the importance of God in the respondents' lives. Answers were to be given on a ten-point scale, where 1 stood for 'not at all important' and 10 for 'very important'. In 1981, 10 per cent of the adult Swedish population chose the highest point on the scale, and 29 per cent the lowest. A point on the upper half of the scale was chosen by 29 per cent. In 1990, only 8 per cent chose the highest point on the scale, while 35 per cent chose the lowest. A point on the upper half of the scale, i.e. from 6 to 10, was selected by 25 per cent. 6

Thus, for many of those Swedes who still believe in God, this belief is more or less unimportant. Moreover, conceptions of divinity seem to be changing, the traditional Christian faith in a personal God being superseded by a more unspecified belief in a transcendent power. According to the European Values Study of 1981, 20 per cent of Swedes believed in a personal God and 37 per cent affirmed belief in 'some kind of spirit or life force'. 7 In 1990, the corresponding shares were 15 and 44 per cent, respectively. Evidence of this may also be found in a study of world-views and value-systems in Sweden undertaken in 1986. In this survey some of the questions were 'open', i.e. respondents were asked to answer in their own words. The respondents often expressed a vague belief that there may exist a God, a transcendent power or 'Something'. 8 The following quotations may serve as examples: 9

That there is something. Perhaps a God or some superior power, don't know. (Man, born in 1968)

Believe that there's something. Not exactly a God, but something else. Cannot say what. (Woman, born in 1968)

I believe in something, I don't quite know what. (Woman, born in 1922)

Believe that there's something divine or spiritual, but don't know what. (Woman, born in 1917)

It is noteworthy that very few respondents mentioned Jesus, even as an historical person. A connection between a decline in belief in Christ and the emergence of avague belief in 'Something' seems probable. Moreover, a connection between changing concepts of divinity and a decline in the importance accorded to God may be assumed: belief in a vaguely conceived transcendent power would probably tend to be less salient to those who hold it than would belief in a personal God. 10

While adherence to traditional Christian beliefs has reached very low levels, these seem to have been partly replaced by less orthodox ones. 11 Belief not only in the existence of a transcendent power, not understood as a personal God, but also in reincarnation, has gained ground: in 1990, 17 per cent of adult Swedes stated belief in reincarnation. 12 In particular, this position was held by young people: in the age group 16–24 years, belief in reincarnation was twice as common as in the age group 65–74 years (20 and 10 per cent, respectively).

Other types of non-traditional beliefs may be gaining ground as well. Recent survey data indicate that particularly among young persons interest in various occult phenomena, such as astrology, ghosts and extra-terrestrial beings visiting the earth, is fairly common. 13 Thus, both a decline in traditional Christian beliefs and an increase in other types of religious faith characterise Swedish society today. This process may also be described as an increasing individualisation of life-philosophies or world-views. 14

Not only is adherence to the basic tenets of the Christian faith low; the decline of traditional religion is even more evident in the very low prevalence of church attendance, prayer and Bible reading. This might be expected if, as suggested above, many of those who still hold a Christian faith do so with a low degree of personal commitment. To the extent that belief in God becomes less important to individuals and/or is replaced by a vague belief in a transcendent power, people would be less likely to engage in religious activities. In addition, these developments may be mutually reinforcing: while declining religious commitment results in declining religious practice, a decline in religious practice may contribute to a development where traditional religious beliefs are replaced by less orthodox ones. This may in turn further contribute to the decline in religious practice, etc. 15

Religious affiliation

While the level of church attendance is very low in Sweden, the overwhelming majority of the population, 80 per cent, are members of the Church of Sweden. This is true in spite of the fact that Sweden has received a large number of immigrants in recent decades. 16 Among these a considerable proportion belong to the Catholic and Orthodox churches and there are also many Muslims. Approximately 5 per cent of the population belong to one of the so-called 'free churches', including the Congregational, Baptist, Methodist and Pentecostal denominations.

Considering the low numbers of the population who adhere to traditional Christian beliefs and practices, it may seem paradoxical that eight Swedes out of ten belong to the Church of Sweden, which is Evangelical-Lutheran, and was until 2000 the state church, partly governed by the political system. In the Swedish context, however, membership of the state church need not be associated with religious beliefs or religious practice. Even a large majority of those who do not regard themselves as Christian and/or who do not believe in the existence of God are members of the church. For instance, the study of worldviews and value-systems mentioned above found that more than 80 per cent of those who did not regard themselves as Christians or who did not believe in the existence of God or a transcendent power were members of the Church of Sweden. 17 Moreover, although eight Swedes out of ten are members of this church, they express little confidence in the church. According to the 1990 European Values Study, only 6 per cent of the adult population had great confidence in the church, and 29 per cent had rather great confidence. The majority had little or no confidence in the church!

Probably several factors must be taken into account in an attempt to explain why an over whelming majority of Swedes continue to be members of the Church of Sweden, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of such beliefs and regardless of their lack of confidence in the church.

One reason for the continued high membership may be that the church is regarded as a symbol and warrantor of moral decency. This attitude may be exemplified by the statement of a respondent who, although he declared that he did not believe in God, said: 'I still belong to the Church of Sweden. It may be good from a moral point of view' (Man, born in 1917).

It has also been suggested that the high level of affiliation in the Scandinavian national churches may express a form of 'civil religion': membership in these churches may be seen as a way of expressing solidarity with society and its basic values. 18

Another factor which probably contributes to the low level of non-affiliation is that, until 1996, Swedes automatically became members of the Church of Sweden by birth, unless both parents were non-members. In many cases, membership in the church seems to be taken for granted. In a survey undertaken in 1991, 77 per cent of the respondents said that they had never considered leaving the church. A similar result was obtained in a survey in 1978. 19 Indeed, until 1951, Swedes were prohibited by law from leaving the Church of Sweden, unless they became members of another church or denomination.

Thus, several factors may contribute to explain why formal non-affiliation is comparatively rare in Sweden. While in an American context, the phenomenon of people who are 'believers but not belongers' has been discussed, 20 many Swedes might be described as 'belongers but not believers', with the important qualification that in the Swedish context 'belonging' may be of a formal nature only: most of the 'belongers' rarely engage in religious activities. 21 Obviously, the fact that an overwhelming majority of Swedes are members of the Church of Sweden cannot be seen as evidence of religious commitment.

As mentioned above, one reason why most Swedes, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of such beliefs, still belong to the Church of Sweden may be that the church is seen as representing certain moral values. This assumption is supported by many of the interviews from the previously mentioned 1986 nationwide study of world-views and value-systems. 22

In this study, almost two thirds of the respondents chose to describe themselves as 'Christians in their own personal way'. 23 When asked to give their reasons for choosing this self-description 33 per cent of the respondents answered that they adhered to certain ethical principles or lived in a certain way. For many of the respondents, being a Christian (albeit in 'one's own personal way') apparently meant doing one's best, and being honest, considerate and ready to help others. The following quotations may serve as examples:

You should be as decent as possible in your daily life. (Man, born in 1919)

To live as I consider right, to be an honest person. (Man, born in 1920)

I do my best, don't hurt anyone, try to help. I leave people alone. Cannot stand slander. (Woman, born in 1917)

The answers implied in some cases that the respondents adhered to certain ethical principles, in other cases that they lived in a certain way. The answers convey the impression that both types of answers tend to express the same thing: the respondents think that they ought to live according to certain moral standards, and they also think that they do so. Sometimes this is stated explicitly; often it seems to be implied. In many cases the ethical standards seem to be such that they should not be too difficult to live up to. The responses do not give the impression that the high ethical standards of the Sermon on the Mount were considered binding. Rather, the respondents seemed to think that one should do one's best within reasonable limits. 24

Thus, the study indicates that for many Swedes Christianity is associated primarily with certain moral standards: one should be a kind, honest and lawabiding person, and lead a decent life. Probably this is an important reason why an overwhelming majority of Swedes still belong to the Church of Sweden regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of them.

Are the Swedes 'privately religious'?

While the decline in traditional, church -oriented religion has been very pronounced in Sweden, it has sometimes been alleged that other forms of religion, often called 'private religion', have emerged. These forms have been assumed to contain such elements as belief in a transcendent power and/or belief in some form of life after death. 25 In addition, the 'privately religious' often are assumed to practise certain forms of religious behaviour, such as private prayer or meditation, and to be very interested in questions relating to religion.

Contributing to the assumption so fan emerging 'private religiosity' havebeen the results from several surveys, where a majority of the population, when asked to choose between alternatives for a religious self-description, have chosen to describe themselves as 'Christians in their own personal way'. Hence, a study of this group may shed light on the question of the prevalence of beliefs and practices which may be seen as expressions of private religiosity.

In the 1986 survey, 41 per cent of those respondents who described themselves as 'Christians in their own personal way' affirmed belief in God or a transcendent power, while 59 per cent either repudiated this belief or were uncertain. The beliefs held often seemed to be vague: rather than belief in a personal God, the respondents expressed a diffuse belief in a transcendent power of some kind. In addition, the answers convey the impression that belief in a divine power, where it existed, often played a minor role in the respondents' lives. 26

Beliefs concerning the possibility of a life after death also varied among the 'Christians in their own way'. While 23 per cent affirmed belief in a life after death, 19 per cent replied in the negative; the majority, or 59 per cent, were uncertain. As might be expected, belief in God and belief in life after death were related: of those who expressed belief in God or a transcendent power, 50 per cent believed in a life after death, and of those who did not believe in God or a transcendent power almost 70 per cent stated that they did not believe in a life after death. 27

An overwhelming majority (95 per cent) of the 'Christians in their own way' seldom or never participated in public worship. Neither did they devote themselves to private religious activities, such as prayer or meditation. The answers indicate that no kind of religious activity—either public or private-was common among those who chose this self-description. 28

Thus, the group who described themselves as 'Christian in their own personal way'was far from homogeneous with respect to religiosity. This self-description was chosen for a variety of reasons, not necessarily connected with religious faith or religious commitment. Widely differing religious beliefs—or the absence of such beliefs—were represented among this group. Hence, the fact that a majority of Swedes choose this self-description cannot be interpreted as evidence of a widespread existence of forms of religion which may reasonably be termed 'private' or 'implicit'—at least not if the term 'religion' is substantively defined.

Changing values: a result of secularisation?

Animals and human beings regarded as having equal value
Concomitant with the decline in traditional religious beliefs, other changes in values appear to have taken place. For instance, a world-view where human beings are no longer regarded as being intrinsically different from animals now seems to be fairly widespread in Sweden. In recent years, several surveys have shown that only a minority of Swedes think that human beings have greater value than animals. In the previously mentioned nationwide survey undertaken in 1986, 38 per cent of the respondents agreed that human beings ought to be treated with more respect than animals, while 43 per cent disagreed with this view and 19 per cent were uncertain. According to the European Values Study of 1990, 55 per cent held the opinion that human beings and animals are equally valuable, while 40 per cent accorded a higher value to human beings and the rest were uncertain. 29

In the 1986 survey, the respondents also were asked to explain the reasons for their answers. Those who held the opinion that human beings should not be treated differently usually considered human beings and animals to be in principle of equal value and therefore entitled to the same respect. The reasons for holding the opinion that human beings should be treated in a special way were somewhat more varied. The reason most commonly given (by approximately one fifth of the respondents) was that biological factors entitle human beings to special respect. In particular, the fact that human beings are more intelligent than animals was frequently mentioned. Other respondents referred to established custom or gave pragmatic reasons for their opinion (e.g. that we depend on animals for food), while still others were unable to give a reason for their opinion. Very few, however, only a few per cent of the respondents, justified their opinion by referring to the special status accorded to human beings in Christian doctrine. 30

Thus, only a minority of Swedes think that human beings have greater value and should be treated with more respect than animals. Of course, the fact that many Swedes regard animals and human beings as having equal value does not imply that they actually treat animals and human beings in the same way. Only a minority are vegetarians, for instance, and one may assume that almost everyone, if having to choose between saving a human being or an animal, would opt for saving a human life. Moreover, there is a tendency to distinguish between different types of animals. 31 In particular, a very high value is accorded to dogs, while insects sometimes are mentioned as exceptions to the rule, as illustrated by the following answer: 'One ought to show respect for all living beings, except mosquitoes, spiders, and flies' (Woman, born in 1950). Thus, while in fact human beings are treated differently from animals, this special treatment now tends to be based on biological or pragmatic grounds rather than on theological or ideological principles. Although we cannot be certain that the tendency to regard animals as being in principle on a par with human beings is a new phenomenon, it would seem plausible that this may be one aspect of the secularisation process. In the absence of theological reasons for ascribing a special status to human beings, people may find it difficult to base such a status on grounds of principle.

It is also conceivable that the view that animals should be treated with the same respect as human beings may be connected to belief in reincarnation, as suggested by this response in an interview: 'I don't kill an insect—you never know. The bumble-bee may be Mrs Johansson' (Man, born in 1925). If animals are regarded as possibly being deceased relatives or friends, a tendency to see animals and human beings as meriting the same degree of respect would perhaps not be surprising! Thus, changes in views concerning animals may conceivably reflect several aspects of the secularisation process.

Health as the most important value in life
Another aspect of the secularisation process may be a change in the importance attached to health. Survey data indicate that many Swedes see good health as the most important value in life. In the 1986 survey, the respondents were asked what they regarded as most important in their lives. The value most often given (mentioned by 45 per cent) was health. About a third mentioned families or friends and about a quarter of the respondents gave answers related to their economic situation. 32

While we have no means of knowing the importance attached to this value some fifty or hundred years ago, it seems probable that the concern for health has increased in recent decades. One of the reasons for this assumption is the fact that the market for health-food, magazines and other products catering to the interest in preserving or improving one's health has expanded rapidly, as has the number of health centres and institutes for physical training.

Several factors may conceivably contribute to the interest taken in health. One may be a trend towards individualisation, including such themes as selfexpression, self-realisation and personal autonomy, which tend to bestow a sacred status upon the individual. 33 Illness and death being the ultimate threat to the individual's existence, the increasing importance accorded to self-realisation and personal autonomy may well lead to a growing concern for preserving or improving one's health.

Another factor, related to individualisation, may be the declining adherence to traditional religious beliefs. As belief in a personal God becomes less widespread, fewer people hold the belief that life and health ultimately depend on a divine power. As a result, people may to an increasing extent see themselves as responsible for their health and well-being. Moreover, changing beliefs about life after death may well have an impact on the importance attached to health: the declining prevalence of belief in a life hereafter may lead to an increased interest in prolonging the present life. Hence, it seems possible that the importance attached to health may be yet another result of the secularisation process.

Factors behind the secularisation process

While Sweden is one of the most secularised countries in western Europe, in the sense that low numbers of the population adhere to the Christian faith or attend public worship, survey data indicate that Swedes, living in the modern welfare state, are on average more happy and satisfied with their lives than are Europeans in general. The possibility of a connection between these facts has been suggested: it has been assumed that the demand for religion may have declined as a result of the rise in material welfare. 34

It should be pointed out, however, that even if a correlation can be established between low levels of traditional religiosity and high levels of subjectively experienced satisfaction with life, this need not be interpreted as evidence of a direct causal relationship; for instance, such a correlation, if it does exist, may be due to underlying factors influencing both religiosity and life satisfaction. To the extent that satisfaction with life is related to material welfare, it seems more likely that both the increase in material welfare and life satisfaction and a decline in demand for traditional religion may be different aspects of the process of modern economic growth, which since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, to varyingd egrees, has been transforming western so cieties. Several aspects of this process, notably migration and urbanisation, may conceivably have contributed to the decline in traditional religiosity. 35

Such explanations assume that the present low levels of religiosity in countries like Sweden are caused by a low demand for religion, possibly related to the high levels of social welfare and subjective life satisfaction. This assumption, however, is not uncontested. While scholarly attempts to explain the low levels of traditional religiosity in many European countries often have been focused on the demand for religion, a trend in recent research has been to shift the attention to factors associated with the supply of religion.

The lack of religious pluralism as a factor contributing to the secularisation process

Although the secularisation process has gone further in Sweden than in most other European countries, the European countries in general can, with few exceptions, be described as secularised. Hence Sweden stands out less as an exception from the rest of Europe, than as a country where the European trend towards secularisation is particularly evident. Typically, European countries are characterised by low levels of religious participation. 36 This is in sharp contrast to the United States, where over the last two centuries religious participation has been increasing and where today approximately 65 per cent of the population belong to a church congregation. 37

The reasons for the difference in levels of participation in most European countries and in America have been much discussed among scholars. While previously many scholars have taken for granted that religious pluralism weakens religious adherence, a growing number of studies have suggested that high levels of religious pluralism are in fact associated with high levels of religious participation. 38

As a matter of fact, the connection between religious pluralism and religious participation was observed long ago. In the nineteenth century, American visitors to Europe were surprised by the low levels of religious activity they found there. Conversely, European visitors to the United States remarked on the high level of religious participation. Moreover, Europeans discussing the American religious situation often gave the same explanation for the difference between Europe and America: whereas Europe was characterised by religious monopolies, in America a number of churches vigorously competed in a free religious market. 39

Hence, the difference between the strong position of religion in the United States and the low levels of religious participation in many European countries can be understood as an effect of religious pluralism versus monopoly. As stated in one of the major studies in this field: 'There is ample evidence that in societies with putative monopoly faiths, religious indifference, not piety, is rife.' 40

The religious market structure in Sweden

According to Laurence R. Iannaccone, religious pluralism forces religious organisations to be responsive to their members and to make efficient use of their resources, and ensures a rich religious supply. 41 Iannaccone has also presented empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis, e.g. in a cross-cultural study of seventeen western nations, where he found the levels of church attendance and religious belief to be significantly higher in countries with high levels of religious pluralism. 42

It should be noted, however, that the absence of religious pluralism need not necessarily lead to low religious participation. 43 An obvious case occurs when regulations enable a state-supported monopoly church to enforce participation. Historically this has not been unusual in the European context. Thus, in Sweden attendance was high during the period when the Church of Sweden still enjoyed a full religious monopoly, a situation which lasted until the mid-nineteenth century. 44 The high level of attendance can be attributed not only to conformity with the prevailing social norms, but also to state regulations, which enforced a certain level of attendance. For instance, receiving Holy Communion at least once a year was mandatory until 1862, and those who abstained did not enjoy full citizenship. 45 Thus, under certain circumstances religious participation may be high even when one church has a religious monopoly. 46

While the Church of Sweden no longer enjoys a full monopoly on 'the religious market', it did so until the mid-nineteenth century. As people's religious choices tend to display considerable inertia, the effects of religious regulation and monopoly may, however, be long-lived: 'Even after a state church is disestablished and the religious market is legally opened, it may take generations for the situation to approach that of a perfectly competitive market.' 47 This inertia is attributed not only to the effects of indoctrination and habit formation, but also to the special character of religion: in order to appreciate a particular kind of religion, a person needs specific knowledge, a knowledge which may be regarded as a form of 'human capital'. As switching to another form of religion would make much of this human capital obsolete, people will be reluctant to change their affiliation. 48

Moreover, although the separation between the church and the state in Sweden accelerated during the twentieth century, full separation took place only in the year 2000. 49

Thus, the Swedish religious market, while no longer monopolistic, is in fact still of a nearly monopolistic character. It would seem to correspond rather well to Iannaccone's description of 'a heavily subsidized dominant firm, run or regulated by the state. A large number of smaller, independent, and competing firms may exist at the dominant firm's periphery.' 50 Iannaccone expects the public provision of religion in this type of market to be characterised by inefficiency, and the overall level of religious consumption to be lower than it would be if the market were competitive. Thus, 'we might predict that in countries or regions where the government's role in the provision of religion is unusually high, actual levels of religious practice and belief will be unusually low'. 51 As should be evident from the above, Iannaccone's statement would serve well as a description of the Swedish situation.

From a supply-side perspective, the religious situation in contemporary Sweden can be seen as the result of a long period of religious monopoly or near-monopoly, when almost the whole population has belonged to the Church of Sweden. With the exception of certain rites such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, the religion supplied by the dominant church appears to be in low demand.

Moreover, recent studies support the assumption that religious pluralism-or the lack of pluralism—may have important effects on religious participation. Although the overall degree of religious pluralism in Sweden still is very low, empirical studies indicate that regional differences in religious pluralism, although small, do have an impact on participation.

In two studies based on Swedish church statistics, the hypothesis of a positive relationship between the degree of religious pluralism and the level of religious participation was tested. 52 The results were consistent with the assumption that pluralism has an impact on participation: in those municipalities where the degree of religious pluralism was higher than average, religious participation also was higher. These studies indicate that the different degrees of pluralism in Swedish local religious economies may partially explain the regional differences in participation. However, the results do not indicate that the degree of pluralism can be regarded as the only factor influencing the level of religious participation. Rather, the degree of pluralism seems to be one among several factors that influence participation.

The effects of religious supply on religious participation have also been empirically studied from another perspective. In a recent study, changes in the supply of worship services and in church attendance within the Church of Sweden were studied. This study showed that attendance had developed better in parishes which had considerably increased the diversity and/or availability of worship services than in parishes which had not. Both increased availability of services and increased diversity between types of services were positively related to attendance. Thus, a rich supply of worship services seems to lead to increased attendance. Possibly, the very low levels of church attendance which generally prevail in Sweden may be due less to a general lack of demand for worship services than to a lack in demand for the types of services which usually are provided. 53

Supply and demand factors in the secularisation process
Obviously, attempts to understand the secularisation process need to take both demand and supply factors into account. For an equilibrium situation to exist, the supply of religious 'goods' provided by religious organisations should equal the demand for religion in a given 'market'. In a pluralistic religious market this can be expected to occur, at least in the long run.

In a nearly monopolistic or oligopolistic religious market, however, a latent demand for religion may exist which is not met by the existing churches or denominations. In such a market, although demand for the existing religious 'goods' may be low, there may exist a latent demand for other types of religion not supplied by the existing organisations. However, the market structure may not provide enough incentives for other religious organisations to emerge. 54

Thus, in a country like Sweden there may conceivably exist a latent demand for religious consumption, which is not met by the religious organisations presently existing. What appears to be a low level of demand for religion may be a low level of demand for the available forms of religion. Although the level of latent demand may be impossible to estimate, an attempt to understand processes of religious change needs to take both demand and supply factors into account.

Although probably several factors contribute to explain the religious situation in contemporary Sweden, empirical data indicate that this situation may at least partly be understood as the result of a long period of religious monopoly: for centuries the religious market has been dominated by the Church of Sweden. The empirical data presented in this chapter certainly seem to support the assertion that 'in societies with putative monopoly faiths, religious indifference, not piety, is rife'. 55


1 See e.g. Karel Dobbelaere, 'Secularization: a multi-dimensional concept', Current Sociology, 29(2) (1981), 31–5; Rodney Stark and Laurence R. Iannaccone, 'A supply-side reinterpretation of the “Secularization” of Europe', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 33(3) (1994), 241–4, 249.

2 Eva M. Hamberg, Studies in the Prevalence of Religious Beliefs and Religious Practice in Contemporary Sweden (Uppsala, 1990), 55.

3 Ibid.

4 Eva M. Hamberg, 'Secularization and value change in Sweden', in Thorleif Pettersson and Ole Riis (eds.), Scandinavian Values: Religion and Morality in the Nordic Countries (Uppsala, 1994), 179–83.

5 Cf. Thomas Luckmann, The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society (New York, 1967), 88–90.

6 Hamberg, 'Secularization and value change', 188.

7 Ibid., 179.

8 Hamberg, Studies in the Prevalence of Religious Beliefs, 44.

9 The quotations cited here and elsewhere in the text have been translated from the Swedish language as literally as possible.

10 Hamberg, 'Secularization and value change', 183.

11 Similar developments can be traced in other, less secularised, European countries as well. See, e.g., Peter Ester, Loek Halman and Ruud de Moor, 'Value shift in western societies', in Peter Ester, Loek Halman and Ruud de Moor (eds.), The Individualizing Society: Value Change in Europe and North America (Tilburg, 1993), 9, and Stephen Harding and David Phillips with Michael Fogarty, Contrasting Values in Western Europe: Unity, Diversity and Change (London, 1986), 46–9.

12 Hamberg, 'Secularization and value change', 186.

13 Ulf Sjödin, En skola—flera v¨arldar: v¨arderingar hos elever och l¨arare i religionskunskap i Gymnasieskolan (Helsingborg, 1995), 80–101.

14 For a definition of the terms 'life-philosophy' and 'world-view', see Eva M. Hamberg, 'Migration and religious change: changes of life-philosophies in connection with migration', in Sven Gustavsson and Harald Runblom (eds.), Language, Minority, Migration: Yearbook 1994/95 from the Centre for Multiethnic Research (Uppsala, 1995), 153–4.

15 Eva M. Hamberg, 'Stability and change in religious beliefs, practice and attitudes: a Swedish panel study', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30(1) (1991), 63–80; Hamberg, 'Secularization and value change', 183.

16 Eva M. Hamberg, 'World-views and value systems among immigrants: long-term stability or change? A study of Hungarian immigrants in Sweden', Sociale Wetenschappen, 38(4) (1995), 86–7.

17 Hamberg, Studies in the Prevalence of Religious Beliefs, 39.

18 Göran Gustafsson, Tro, samfund och samh¨alle: sociologiska perspektiv, 2nd edition (örebro, 1997), 184–5.

19 Jonas Alwall, Göran Gustafsson and Thorleif Pettersson, Svenska kyrkans medlemmar och kyrka-statfrågan (Stockholm, 1991), 36.

20 Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney, American Mainline Religion: Its Changing Shape and Future (New Brunswick, NJ, 1987), 52.

21 Hamberg, Studies in the Prevalence of Religious Beliefs, 39. Cf. Grace Davie, 'Believing without belonging: is this the future of religion in Britain?', Social Compass, 37(4) (1990), 455–69, for a discussion of 'believing without belonging' in Britain.

22 The results of this study are reported in Hamberg, Studies in the Prevalence of Religious Beliefs.

23 The respondents were asked to choose between the following alternatives (the percentage choosing each alternative is given in parentheses): 'I'm a practising Christian' (9 per cent); 'I'm a Christian in my own personal way' (63 per cent); 'I'm not a Christian' (26 per cent).

24 Hamberg, Studies in the Prevalence of Religious Beliefs, 46–7.

25 When the term 'private religion' is used in this way, it denotes a phenomenon rather similar to what has been termed 'implicit religion'. See Davie, 'Believing without belonging', 455–7 et passim. As the term 'private religion' is used here it presupposes a substantive definition of religion. However, other definitions would be possible. With a functional definition of religion, 'private religion' might be used to denote what has been called 'invisible religion'. See Thomas Luckmann, The Invisible Religion: The Problem of Religion in Modern Society (New York, 1967) and Thomas Luckmann, 'Shrinking transcendence, expanding religion?', Sociological Analysis, 50(2) (1990), 137. For substantive versus functional definitions of religion, see e.g. Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (Garden City, NY, 1967), Appendix I.

26 Hamberg, Studies in the Prevalence of Religious Beliefs, 44, 53–4.

27 Hamberg, 'Secularization and value change', 186.

28 Ibid., 186–7.

29 Ibid., 189.

30 Ibid., 189–90.

31 Ibid., 190.

32 Ibid., 191.

33 See Luckmann, 'Shrinking transcendence', 138.

34 Thorleif Pettersson, Bakom dubbla lås: en studie av småochlångsamma v¨arderingsför¨andringar (Stockholm, 1988), 108–13; Thorleif Pettersson, 'Welfare policies, religious commitment and happiness', in Laurence Brown (ed.), Religion, Personality and Mental Health (New York, 1994), 174–92.

35 Hamberg, 'Secularization and value change', 193.

36 See, e.g., Loek Halman and Ruud de Moor, 'Religion, churches and moral values', in Peter Ester, Loek Halman and Ruud de Moor (eds.), The Individualizing Society: Value Change in Europe and North America (Tilburg, 1993), 42–7 and Harding et al., Contrasting Values in Western Europe, 35–45.

37 Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America, 1776–1990: Winners and Losers in our Religious Economy (New Brunswick, NJ, 1992), 15; Stark and Iannaccone, 'A supply-side reinterpretation', 249.

38 See, e.g., Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, 'Religious economies and sacred canopies: religious mobilization in American cities, 1906', American Sociological Review, 53(1) (1988), 41–9; Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, 'How the upstart sects won America: 1776–1850', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 28(1) (1989), 27–44; Finke and Stark, The Churching of America; Roger Finke and Laurence R. Iannaccone, 'Supply-side explanations for religious change', The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 527 (1993), 27–39; Laurence R. Iannaccone, 'The consequences of religious market structure: Adam Smith and the economics of religion', Rationality and Society, 3(2) (1991), 156–77; Laurence R. Iannaccone, 'Religious markets and the economics of religion', Social Compass, 39(1) (1992), 123–31; Rodney Stark, 'German and German-American religiousness: approximating a crucial experiment', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36(2) (1997), 182–93; Rodney Stark, Roger Finke and Laurence R. Iannaccone, 'Pluralism and piety: England and Wales, 1851', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 34(4) (1995), 431–44; Stark and Iannaccone, 'A supply-side reinterpretation '; Rodney Stark and James C. McCann, 'Market forces and Catholic commitment: exploring the new paradigm', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 32(2) (1993), 111–24; Eva M. Hamberg and Thorleif Pettersson, 'The religious market: denominational competition and religious participation in contemporary Sweden', Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 33(3) (1994), 205–16; Hamberg and Pettersson, 'Short-term changes in religious supply and church attendance in contemporary Sweden', Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 8 (1997).

39 Stark, 'German and German-American religiousness', 183.

40 Finke and Stark, The Churching of America, 19.

41 Iannaccone, 'Religious markets', 123–31.

42 Iannaccone, 'The consequences of religious market structure', 169–72.

43 See Hamberg and Pettersson, 'The religious market', 208.

44 In Sweden, church records containing both general population information and information on various aspects of religious life have been kept since the seventeenth century, making it possible to study religious participation in a long historical perspective. See Thorleif Pettersson, 'Swedish church statistics: unique data for sociological research', Social Compass, 35 (1988), 15–31.

45 Pettersson, 'Swedish church statistics', 19.

46 In contemporary Ireland and Poland religious participation has remained high despite the lack of religious pluralism. In these societies, however, the church has played an important role in the political resistance to external domination; hence, religious participation there also has served the function of expressing commitment to nationalism (Finke and Stark, 'Religious economies', 42).

47 Iannaccone, 'The consequences of religious market structure', 163.

48 Ibid.

49 Hamberg and Pettersson, 'The religious market', 206–7.

50 Iannaccone, 'The consequences of religious market structure', 160.

51 Ibid., 162.

52 Hamberg and Pettersson, 'The religious market'; Thorleif Pettersson and Eva M. Hamberg, 'Denominational pluralism and church membership in contemporary Sweden: a longitudinal study of the period 1974–1995', Journal of Empirical Theology, 10 (1997), 61–78.

53 Hamberg and Pettersson, 'Short-term changes', 35–51.

54 For a fuller discussion of this, see Hamberg and Pettersson, 'The religious market', 214–15.

55 Finke and Stark, The Churching of America, 19.

New Christianity, indifference and diffused spirituality

Yves Lambert

When theories of secularisation came to the forefront in the 1960s and 1970s, 1 western religious evolution appeared to be The Decline of the Sacred in Industrial Society, 2 especially in Europe. It is well known that the last thirty years have further complicated this pattern. We have witnessed the rise of the NRMs (New Religious Movements), the expansion of Pentecostal, Evangelical and Charismatic tendencies (throughout Christianity), the worldwide success of Pope John Paul II, the diffusion of parallel beliefs (astrology, telepathy, near death experiences, and so on), the development of religious fundamentalism, although essentially in the non-western world (especially the Islamic countries), and the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. Now we speak of desecularisation 3 and the recomposition of religion. 4 Meanwhile, in western Europe, the erosion of religious belonging paradoxically continues and the secularisation thesis remains the only master narrative, as Jeffrey Cox observes. But how can we explain both of these tendencies?

From the beginning of modernity until now, we can in fact observe five principal trends at work in current western religious evolutions: the development of secular systems, religious decline, transformations/revivals of Christianity, traditionalist-fundamentalist reactions, and innovations, especially new religious forms (NRMs, para-scientific beliefs, self-spirituality). Lester Kurtz 5 refers to: (1) the substitution of religious traditions by rationalism, scientism and individualism; (2) secularisation; (3) the revitalisation of traditional forms; (4) the construction of quasi-religious forms, such as civil religion or ideologies (the latter I personally consider as secular forms); (5) the creation of new forms of religious beliefs and practices. I propose an analytical model that can explain all of these aspects. We can construct such a model if we identify the distinguishing features of modernity and their typical religious effects. Then, we can consider the transformation of Christendom into Christianity and other ongoing changes.

Modernity as a new 'axial age':
a comparative approach to religious changes

In order to identify the features and changes previously mentioned, it is useful to treat modernity as a new 'axial age', as compared to the former one. The concept of 'axial age' was first used to refer to one historical period: the emergence of universalism, philosophy, the great religions and early science. 6 This was especially true of the fifth and sixth centuries BCE, which were a key stage in this process (Deutero-Isaiah, the era of Pericles, the Upanishads, Jain, Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tze), of which Christianity and Islam are the offspring. This age is considered as 'axial' because we continue to be its heirs, particularly through the principal religions. Jaspers regarded the turn taken by modernity in the nineteenth century as the harbinger of a probable 'second axial period' because radically new features were reshaping whole societies. 7 His only hesitation was that globalisation was not yet a widespread phenomenon when he first wrote his thesis in 1949; undoubtedly, we can assume that this is the case today. Jaspers identified modernity through four fundamental distinguishing features: modern science and technology; a longing for freedom; the emergence of the masses on the historical stage (nationalism, democracy, socialism, social movements); and globalisation. We should add to this list the primacy of reason (a point that Jaspers implicitly includes in the four features), and the development of capitalism and functional differentiation (the rise of the modern state, and Parsons' and Luhmann's concept of differentiation of the spheres of activity in society). 8 We could select a set of criteria more or less different, but the main thing is not to miss something of importance.

In a very schematic fashion, we can periodise modernity, that is, trace it historically through four periods. It starts essentially with the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which are the beginning not only of the 'modern age' according to historians, but also of modern science, capitalism and the bourgeoisie. But modernity only becomes a major phenomenon at the end of this period, with the Enlightenment, the English, American and French revolutions, and the birth of the experimental method and industry (the second analytic phase). The third phase includes the development and triumph of industrial society and of capitalism (nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries), the development of class conflicts, socialism and communism, the spread of nationalism and colonialism up to its breaking point with the eruption of the two world wars. And finally decolonisation, as well as the triumph of democracy, the affluent society and the welfare state in the west. The 1960s and 1970s are often considered as a turningpoint towards post-industrial society and the so-called knowledge-based society (information, communication, new technologies), marked by the predominance of the tertiary sector, the decline of the working class, and finally the collapse of communism, and also the development of a consumer society, the moral and anti-authoritarian revolution, new social movements (fourth phase) and full globalisation.

Are we still in the age of modernity or in a postmodernity? I share the opinion of Anthony Giddens, 9 who writes that 'rather than entering a period of postmodernism, we are moving into one in which the consequences of modernity are becoming more radicalized and universalized than before'. We can then refer to the present phase as 'ultra-modernity', following the term proposed by Jean-Paul Willaime. 10 However, if we consider modernity as a new axial period, we cannot know at what exact point we are in this process, in as much as modernity involves permanent change, even change at an accelerated pace, which could produce a kind of permanent turning-point, instead of following a prolonged phase of stabilisation.

Before returning to modernity, let us first remind ourselves of the characteristics of the religions of salvation (especially Buddhism, Christianity and Islam), when they emerged in the preceding axial age, in comparison with those of ancient polytheistic religions. One can briefly mention the following characteristics : an extension to everyone and everywhere (universalism); a major advance in the 'demythologisation' of nature (with regard to the divinisation of natural forces); consequently, the abandonment of animal sacrifice, as the once central rite of agrarian and polytheistic religions; the rejection of the notion of divine affiliation of sovereigns or of aristocracy; the unification and rationalisation of religious concepts in reference to a single God (monotheism) or to a sole principle (atman-brahman); an emphasis on ethical and spiritual aspects, especially the instilling of perfect justice for all, either under the judgement of God or under the logic of karma; post-mortem destiny (salvation) being rendered dependent on one's behaviour in this world; a pre-eminence bestowed on 'other-worldly' accomplishment in replacement of 'this-worldly' success (paradise/hell, rebirth/nirvana), thus, the human condition being perceived as an imperfect and provisional state from which one needs to be saved (hence, the expression 'religions of salvation'); a greater importance placed upon the inner faith as opposed to the scrupulous execution of religious rites; a formal equality of every individual before ethical and religious law and before salvation, to which even the sovereign is subservient; the development of theological and philosophical speculation with the emergence of clerics; proselytism as a consequence of universalism and the call to salvation.

These characteristics are to be considered in relation to general changes with which they are intertwined: a greater mastery of nature on a large scale; urbanisation; the emergence of new social spheres, in particular a middle class and clerics who claimed an ethico-spiritual wisdom; 11 the formation of vast empires, which were themselves sources of universalism owing to the encountering of different religions and the imposition of rules and destinies upon indigenous populations; the widening of the distance between extreme social conditions, which became a cause for the demands for perfect justice and compensation in the future; finally, a greater independence of individuals in relation to primary groups, which brought about a more personal religiosity. Indeed, an internal Christian interpretation would consider all these changes as the conditions leading to the time of the final revelation, but in this case we are trying to provide an explanation in the field of social sciences.

This turning-point was a radical rupture with regard to former religions. Almost all the polytheistic religions were eliminated. After their triumph, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam acquired characteristics that, in some respects, brought them closer to the preceding religions: remythologisation of nature, multiplication of mediators, ritualism, hierarchisation and institutionalisation, patriarchalism, and religious legitimisation of power. Christianity, Buddhism and Islam became agents of the symbolic unification of empires; Christianity, starting with the emperor Theodosius, also eliminated 'pagan' religions and philosophies. It placed its stamp on all aspects of civilisation, which led to Christendom.

We may assume that modernity, if it is inane waxialage, also stands as a major challenge to established religions, especially in its phase of radicalisation and generalisation. In theory, the disappearance of earlier religions is even possible. 'I am reasonably sure', said Bellah, 12 that 'even though we must speak from the midst of it, the modern situation represents a stage of religious development in many ways profoundly different from that of historic religion.' In addition, as Gordon Melton 13 remarks, during the twentieth century, the West has experienced a phenomenon it has not encountered since the reign of Constantine: the growth of and significant visible presence of a variety of non-Christian and non-orthodox Christian bodies competing for the religious allegiance of the public. This growth of so many religious alternatives is forcing the West into a new situation in which the still dominant Christian religion must share its centuries-old hegemony in a new pluralistic religious environment.

Religious declines, transformations, traditionalist reactions and innovations

Sociologists of religion generally use only three or four criteria to define modernity (rationalisation, individualisation, functional differentiation, globalisation) and do not carry out an historical analysis of their effects (and reciprocal effects) on religion; furthermore, sociologists of secularisation overestimate the aspects of decline and privatisation. Therefore, let us consider the diverse and contradictory effects of each of the seven features of modernity on religion, as well as the combination of such effects: the primacy of reason, science and technology, the longing for freedom, the emergence of the masses, economic development, modern functional differentiation and globalisation. The way these factors have historically worked could explain the religious situation in each country. Conversely, we could analyse the influence of religion on the modernisation process but, owing to space constraints, I shall not proceed to this type of analysis here. Instead, I shall summarise the main conclusions of an analysis which was originally published in 1999; 14 with some exceptions, I shall refrain from any reference to empirical data for the study of the current situation.

1. As we know, on the one hand, the exercise of reason led to the contesting of the primacy of revelation and religious authority, criticism of religion (to the point of making religion a human invention), autonomy of thought, secular ethics and philosophies, and even a purely rational vision of the world (rationalism). On the other hand, reason has been seen as emanating from God and as a powerful factor for adapting to modernity by means of rationalisation, as Ernst Troeltsch and Max Weber emphasised. Partially, in reaction against the excesses of rationalisation, ultra-modernity opens towards a relativisation of reason, a marginalisation of rationalism and a revalorisation of intuition and emotion. This change is undoubtedly by its very nature capable of creating a context that is more favourable to a religious or spiritual attitude. Knowing that other changes are moving in the same direction, as we shall see, undoubtedly contributes to explaining the expansion of a religiosity of emotional community (Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism, Charismatism), the diffusion of NRMs and the progression of self-spirituality, all typical phenomena of ultra-modernity.

2. The development of science and technology revolutionised ways of seeing and living. It could lead to religious decline (atheism, agnosticism, scientism, materialism), as well as to reinterpretations (demythologisation, critical exegesis, 'this-worldliness'), fundamentalist reactions (creationism), or religious innovations (deism, para-scientific beliefs and New Religious Movements: modern astrology, telepathy, notions of positive and negative waves, and notions of cosmic energy). Here again, ultra-modernity is synonymous with relativisation : indeed, faith in science and technology remains high but, henceforth, it runs the risk of being dangerous to mankind; in other respects, there is no longer a belief in indefinite progress and Marxism suffered the after-effects of the failure of communism. Finally, what emerges today is a renewed landscape. It is acknowledged that one cannot prove or invalidate the existence of God by science. New conflicts have emerged (genetic manipulation, euthanasia, etc.), but they do not seem to question religion itself, and they are divisive among all camps. We can obtain an indirect idea of the impact of reason and science, for example, through research data on belief in God and on the perception of the Bible, even if these are indicative of a more general effect.

3. Likewise, individual freedom may give rise to a rejection of religion, indifference, as well as to a more personal faith or to the adoption of new religious insights and practices, as the above mentioned comparatists have already highlighted. Indeed, Protestantism was the first widespread religious expression of the desire for liberty and freedom. The triumph of freedom at first had its effects on religious freedom and on freedom of thought, and then expanded towards other areas. This triumph of freedom also had effects which were rather irreligious when churches opposed it, and rather religious when they supported it: the Catholic Church did not fully recognise freedom of conscience until the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). Ultra-modernity is characterised by an individualisation that is even more advanced in conquering the areas of sexuality and family life; the longing for freedom has further inflamed the conflict between permissiveness and Christian ethics, especially sexual freedom, divorce, living out of wedlock, homosexuality, abortion. However, recent data demonstrate a decline of permissiveness and a convergence in the morals of the more and the less religious.

4. The emergence of the masses on the historical stage (nationalism, democracy, socialism, communism, fascism, social movements) has also had contradictory effects on religion, depending on the historical role of the church or religious groups (i.e., support, neutrality or opposition) and the attitude of the masses vis-à-vis religion, as David Martin 15 has already pointed out. For instance, opposition in the cases of the unification of Italy (the problem of the Papal States), the beginnings of the French Republic, socialism and communism ; support in the cases of Polish and Irish nationalism, English working-class Methodism, and democracy in other countries. Previous authors have underestimated these questions, but have noticed all the aspects concerning the lay tendency, the approach to the masses, the revalorisation of man ('poor sinner' in the past). Ultra-modernity turns the page of all these conflicts (with the exception of Northern Ireland) for the benefit of defending democracy and human rights, while communism has collapsed. Thus, even here, we observe a renewed landscape. The research data indicate that religious differences between the working class and the upper class have diminished and that, if the religious profiles of the left and right electorates remain contrasting, they are less so than before.

5. The effects of economic development are more difficult to identify because they are more indirect, except if we consider the social consequences of the development of capitalism (proletarisation, and so on, see above). Economic development has been a factor in the rise of materialism, secular 'thiswordliness ', cynicism, and the emergence of vocationale thics (as was illustrated by the famous Weber thesis), and 'this-worldly' religious reinterpretation and commitment. The correlation between the per capita GDP and religiosity is not very conclusive; the same applies to the level of income. According to Dobbelaere and Jagodzinski, 16 among the ten countries included in the survey, the least developed have the highest levels of religiosity (Ireland, followed by Spain and Italy), while the most developed have a moderate or low level of religiosity (Germany, followed by France and Sweden). But that would no longer be confirmed if the analysis took into account Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Canada and, above all, the United States, which are among the most developed nations but have the highest levels of religiosity.

6. By functional differentiation we mean modern state building, differentiation between the public sphere and the private sphere, and the autonomisation, as described by Luhmann, of the spheres of activity (subsystems): politics, economics, science, education, law, art, health, family, religion. Functional differentiation contributed to depriving churches of their monopoly in education, culture and the legitimisation of the socio-political order. However, functional differentiation favoured a redefinition of the role of the churches in education, culture, health, social aid and welfare, human rights and peace, while keeping up with the pluralistic context that is characteristic of ultra-modernity. According to Luhmann, 17 religion has become an optional subsystem, which is a very significant aspect in the process of secularisation.

7. Globalisation could further a radical relativisation of religion (in so far as the truths of various religions are incompatible), a reinterpretation with a more pluralist view (all religions are acceptable, or give interesting clues), and expand not only the worldwide diffusion of religion (missions, NRMs, papal visits, etc.), but also ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, fundamentalist reactions, and innovations (borrowings, 'do-it-yourself', syncretism, NRMs). Each of these effects is growing increasingly acute in the current phase of accelerated globalisation. 18 According to the 1981 European Values Study, 25 per cent (17 per cent of 18–29-year-olds) of those surveyed thought that there was only one true religion; 53 per cent (56 per cent of 18–29-year-olds) said that there were interesting insights in all the great religions; and 14 per cent (19 per cent of 18–29-year-olds) said that no religion has any truth to offer. In France, those who believed that there is only one true religion decreased from 50 per cent in 1952 to 14 per cent in 1981 (11 per cent of 18–29-year-olds).

Europe at a religious turning-point

Each of these factors, and modernity in its entirety, has multiple effects, two of the most important ones being undoubtedly the production of secular systems and the transformation of Christendom into Christianity. How can we assess the religious situation in western Europe and its current evolution from the major surveys, namely the European Values Study (EVS: 1981, 1990 and 1999) and the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP: 1991, 1998)? 19 Essentially, the surveys concern Christianity, constituting 70 per cent of the population of the nine countries where figures for both 1981 and 1999 are available (85 per cent in 1981). In these countries we find that church attendance at least once a month has decreased from 36 per cent in 1981 to 30 per cent in 1999; 68 per cent in the nine countries believe in God, compared to 74 per cent in 1981. Only 7 per cent say they are 'a convinced atheist', the maximum being in France (14 per cent), the home of positivism; this rate has increased, though very slightly (from 5 per cent in 1981). The other respondents are agnostic or hesitating. When asked what kind of God they believed in, the responses were: 'a personal God' (38 per cent), 'a spirit or life force' (30 per cent), 'I don't really think there is any sort of spirit, God or life force' (15 per cent), 'I don't know' (13 per cent), and 'no answer' (4 per cent). The proportion saying they believed in 'a personal God' has increased a little since 1981, when it was 30 per cent. In order to capture these new perceptions, we should also identify God as the origin of the Big Bang, as the energy or the divine within each creature, or as cosmic consciousness. (See Table 4.1 for a country-by-country breakdown of the figures for the European Union in 1999.)

Regarding the Bible, the 1991 ISSP produced the following responses: 'the Bible is the actual word of God and it is to be taken literally, word for word', 'the inspired word of God but not everything should be taken literally, word for word', 'an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man', 'this does not apply to me', and 'can't choose'. The rates for 'actual word' and 'inspired word' were 13 per cent and 40 per cent respectively in the western European sample group, that is to say, in total only a small majority (this sample includes six countries: Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands); in the United States, the rates for 'actual word' and 'inspired word' were 32 per cent and 47 per cent respectively in 1991 The response 'the actual word' was more frequent among older people, farmers, the working classes and the lower middle classes, which suggests that this type of answer might decline in the future; this type of response is also indicative of the importance of creationism.

The research data thus show that biblical fundamentalism is very limited and, presumably, in decline in the countries surveyed. This conclusion applies also to what we could call 'social fundamentalism', defined as the desire to structure life in society according to religious principles. The 1991 ISSP allows us to identify 'social fundamentalism' through a survey of opinions on six issues: there should be daily prayers in schools; right and wrong should be based on divine law; we should ban books and films attacking religions; religious leaders should not try to influence government decisions; those who do not believe in God are unfit for public office; church and religious organisations have far too little power/far too much power. If we calculate the average percentages of extreme responses to these six issues for the six European countries, the secular focal area proves to be twice as large as the fundamentalist focal area, with an average of 24 per cent as opposed to 12 per cent respectively, and even 32 per cent as opposed to 7 per cent, among young adults; thus, social fundamentalism is characterised by the same features as biblical fundamentalism, which is an area that can be considered as a remnant of the ancient spirit of Christendom.

Regarding the after-life, 43 per cent say they believe in 'a life after death' (which may include reincarnation), the percentage being the same as that found in 1981; 38 per cent say they believe in heaven (39 per cent in 1981); 25 per cent in hell (22 per cent in 1981). It seems that the better side of the hereafter is preserved more willingly. Eighteen per cent believe in reincarnation (12 per cent in 1981) (1999 EVS). Belief in sin drops from 57 per cent in 1981 to 47 per cent in 1999; as Walter also indicates, 20 we can see that belief in heaven or in hell is not necessarily linked to belief in sin. The research data illustrate the fact that the importance formerly given to an other-worldly salvation has collapsed. The notion of salvation has become even more problematic: for example, the research group 'Religious and Moral Pluralism in Europe' had to abandon a question on the idea of salvation because, according to the preliminary tests, it was understood by only a third of those questioned.

Of course, we note great differences between countries (see Table 4.1) and across age groups. Mostly, we observe a notable change in the religious landscape in western Europe: next to the tendency towards religious decline, which wasa dominant trend, particularly among young people, we note a movement of Christian revival and the development of an autonomous spirituality, with these last two phenomena being manifested even more so among young people. Circumstances now vary according to the countries, even though in the past they were rather homogeneous. Thus, the tendency towards decline dominates in the most secularised countries, such as France, Belgium, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden, and also in Spain, but this tendency has slowed down among young people. All criteria of Christian religiosity, except for church membership, are rising in Portugal, Italy and Denmark, and among the young people in the former West Germany (Catholics and Protestants), with an increase in the belief in a personal God. Finally, among those with no religion, we note the development of a vague autonomous religiosity, which is detached from Christianity and is also characterised by an increased belief in the after-life: in 1999, 33 per cent of those with no religion 'take some moments of prayer, meditation or contemplation or something like that' (27 per cent in 1981), 31 per cent believed in God (22 per cent in 1981), and 24 per cent believed in an after-life (12 per cent in 1981). It is undoubtedly the most original phenomenon and it is among young people that it is developing the most, particularly in the least Christian countries, as if some kind of substitution were going on.

This change in the religious landscape will certainly make Europe a less 'exceptional case', to refer to the debate initiated by Grace Davie. 21 The change can be explained in two ways: there is a pendulum effect with regard to the religious fracture of the 1960s and 1970s; we can equally observe a pendulum effect with respect to permissiveness, which, as a characteristic of current ultramodernity, as we have already seen, seems to be more favourable to the religious. Concerning the return of beliefs connected to the after-life, they are part of a general reversal with regard to death, after a phase of denial, which might be explained by the general sentiment of a greater precariousness in different areas; the rebound of the overvalorisation of self-actualisation, which renders death more unacceptable; the influence of videos and games among adolescents, in which the players reach paradise or are driven to hell.

The typical transformations of Christianity in ultra-modernity

Modernity produces secularisation, as well as intense religious transformations. Besides the non-Christian innovations (New Religious Movements, parallel beliefs, diffused spiritualities), let us draw out the main new religious features that can be singled out in the case of Christianity. First, we will review what we can learn from the comparatists who analysed religious modernity by reference to what preceded it; then, we will focus on ultra-modern Christianity.

Modern Christianity according to the comparatists

Jaspers 22 confined himself to some brief but insightful remarks: 'if a transcendent aid does manifest', he predicted about completed modernity, 'it can only be to free a man and by virtue of his autonomy', for 'he that feels free lets his beliefs fluctuate, regardless of any clearly defined credo…in accordance to an unfettered faith, which escapes any specific definition, which remains unattached while retaining the sense of the absolute and seriousness, along with their strong vitality'. This faith, he adds (in 1949), 'still has not found any resonance with the masses' and is 'despised by the representatives of the official, dogmatic and doctrinaire creeds', but it has become typical of ultra-modern individualised religiosity.

Joseph M. Kitagawa 23 distinguished four related characteristics in the modern mentality: a single cosmos, this-worldly orientation, man as the centre and the search for freedom (he speaks of the scientific single cosmos as contrasted to the former dualistic cosmos: the sky, home of God/the earth, home of man). As a global consequence, 'this phenomenal world is the only real order of existence, and life here and now is the center of the world of meaning'. But 'all classical religions tended to take negative attitudes towards phenomenal existence and recognised another realm of reality', which was the most important, and 'in this life, man was thought to be a sojourner or prisoner' yearning for heaven or nirvana which would release him from suffering, sin, imperfection, finitude. So religions are compelled 'to find the meaning of human destiny in this world— in culture, society and human personality' in order to fulfil the human vocation, meaning soteriologies which are recentred on this world.

'The historic religions discovered the self', Bellah reminds us, but only early modern religion (Protestantism) concentrated 'on the direct relation between the individual and the transcendent reality', on salvation by faith alone, which 'is not to be found in any kind of withdrawal from the world but in the midst of worldly activities', hence 'especially in its Calvinist wing, a whole series of developments from economics to science, from education to law' (cf. Weber, Merton). 24 With modern religion, 'the central feature of the change is the collapse of the dualism that was so crucial to all the historic religions' (cf. Kitagawa), the dehierarchisation, which reduces the distance between the terrestrial and the celestial, the human and the divine, and hence between the laity and the clergy, thus favouring individual freedom.

The idea that all creedal statements must receive a personal interpretation is widely accepted…I expect traditional religions to be maintained and developed in new directions, but with growing awareness that it is symbolism and that man in the last analysis is responsible for the choice of his symbolism…each individual must work out his own ultimate solutions, and the most the church can do is provide him a favourable environment for doing so, without imposing on him a prefabricated set of answers. 25

He speaks of 'a much more open and flexible pattern of membership', and even, 'one might almost be tempted to see in Thomas Paine's “My mind is my church” or in Thomas Jefferson's “I am a sect myself” the typical expression of religious organisation in the near future'. Like Kitagawa, he thinks that 'the search for adequate standards of action, which is at the same time a search for personal maturity and social relevance, is in itself the heart of the modern quest for salvation', concluding that the analysis of modern man as non-religious is fundamentally misguided.

Nakamura 26 refers to similar points, adding pluralism and insisting that religions must emphasise their positive and humanistic aspects (service to people, development, human rights), including the value of the body rather than asceticism or fear of damnation.

Ultra-modern Christianity according to the latest studies

These latest studies either confirm or allow us to complete the following insights:

1. Centring on 'this-worldly' salvation. In the study of a Breton parish, I observed that Catholicism had been de facto reinterpreted as a transcendental humanism, aimed towards earthly fulfilment, while being open to an after-life devoid of eternal damnation; 27 the evocation of hell disappeared slightly after Vatican II (1962–65). The thematic of Pope John Paul II is centred not on salvation in the hereafter, but on the construction of 'civilisation of love'. The revalorisation of pilgrimages and the expansion of Evangelical and Charismatic currents proceed from this adaptation to the extent that demands for 'grace', oriented towards present life, play an important role (health, family, success); moreover, belief in miracles remains very high (ISSP 1998). On the extreme side, televangelists put forth an analogous argument by showing that the expiation of sin and fidelity to God are infallible ways of assuring heavenly grace and benediction, especially in matters of health, family and employment. The title of a book written by the televangelist Roberts, who was heard on the Euronews channel in 1998, is significant: God's Formula for Success and Prosperity. New millenarisms, proposing an earthly fulfilment (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Adventists), are expanding in popularity.

2. An important consequence of 'this-worldliness' is the dissociation between sin and one's fate after death, the desoteriologisation of guilt (hence, the collapse of the practice of confession in Catholicism?) or a more worldly interpretation: sin distances one from God and prevents one from benefiting from His grace, from being fully happy, from communicating with others.

3. The bringing together of the divine and the human, more typical of Protestantism (direct relation with God), is gradually happening within Catholicism too. Vatican II abolished the constraints required for taking communion (fasting, etc.) and emphasised the fact that God is love and father, to the detriment, we could say, of the Lord God Almighty who judges and punishes. Surveys verify this shift among Catholics and Protestants: between a God of Judgement and God of Love, and a God as King and God as Friend, the second term clearly prevails (ISSP 1998). Christianity is recentred on Christ, the incarnate God, the God who is close to us. This characteristic undoubtedly helps to explain the success of Pentecostalist and Charismatic movements, the followers of which experience the divine within themselves through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Televangelists invite people to walk 'hand in hand with the Lord'.

4. Religious individualisation has been sufficiently described. We must simply emphasise that in ultra-modernity religious individualisation can go as far as self-spirituality, whether it is about a strong autonomy within a church that is treated as a free resource, a borrowing of many sources, a rather loose link with a spiritual domain, or, up to a point, a total independence. According to a survey conducted in the United States in 1988–89 among the baby-boom generation, 31 per cent agree with the following statement: 'People have God within them, so Churches aren't really necessary.' 28 What is partially developing here is a reaction against excessive individualisation, as well as a religiosity of emotional communities. 29

5. We note a much larger religious mobility, in connection, of course, with individualisation, pluralisation and relativisation, but weaker in Europe in comparison with the case of the United States. Danièle Hervieu-L´eger has revealed the typical faces of the pilgrim and the convert. 30

6. Following Wade Clark Roof, we can refer to a culture of a spiritual quest ( seeker spirituality ). Thus, facing the alternatives, 'Is it good to explore many differing religious teachings and learn from them, or should one stick to a particular faith?', 60 per cent of American baby-boomers preferred to explore. In France, the latest Values Survey puts an alternative: 'stick to a particular faith' or 'explore the teachings of different religious traditions', with the last view clearly progressing from older (18 per cent) to younger people (34 per cent), half of whom were Catholics.

7. Religious pragmatism appears as a consequence of relativism, of the focusing on the 'here below' and of individualisation. In sum, the important thing is not for a religion to be 'true', but that it can bring something in terms of fulfilment. Religious practice is itself reconsidered in light of this criterion.

8. We will not return to relativism, except to specify that it is tempered by pragmatism and by the sentiment of the universality of Christianity, present in every continent. We must also mention 'probabilism': when questions on beliefs allow a gradation of responses of the type 'certainly yes/probably yes/probably not/certainly not', as in the ISSP survey, probable responses are in the majority, almost always among young people. The probabilist belief also originates in the culture of uncertainty, typical of ultra-modernity. Thinking that the existence of God is not certain does not prevent one from adhering, because, as we just saw, what counts the most is what this adherence can convey.

9. The phenomenon specified under the term religion àla carte is typical of ultra-modernity, to the extent that it is connected to individual freedom, pragmatism and religious pluralism. It is illuminating to examine in what proportion individuals satisfy the following four conditions at the same time: practice at least once a year (outside ceremonies), belief in God, belief in sin, and belief in an after-life, which seem to constitute a least demanding and inevitable Christian minimum. However, this minimal core does not gather more than 31 per cent of Christians, that is 60 per cent of regular church -goers and 21 per cent of irregular church -goers.


If we compare these challenges to the religious characteristics of the preceding axial age, we can put forth the following conclusions. Although reason, science and technology have helped to bring about a radical rationalisation and demythologisation, Christianity had none the less originally made great progress in this direction (ethico-spiritual rationalisation, demagification), which has effectively allowed it the opportunity to adapt to modernity, even to be purged, since Christianity had brought about a relative remythologisation. Similarly, in relation to religion, we know that modernity signifies the large autonomisation of social and political life, yet we can also acknowledge that Christianity had, in the beginning, carried out this autonomy, before becoming the instrument of symbolic legitimisation of the socio-political order, so that it might be able to adapt to this transformation. Likewise, Christianity might adapt to a large extent to individualisation, which it promoted at the beginning. Probably 'thisworldliness ', globalisation and relativisation are major challenges. But the most important global effect of modernity on religion was the loss of the monopoly of religions in the 'symbolic field' (conceptions of life and the world), which is now structured both by religions and by secular systems (science, philosophies, ideologies, values).

We can then come to the conclusion that there has been an astonishing adaptation of Christianity to modernity and ultra-modernity. But the price to pay is, as we have seen, the abandonment of what rendered religion absolutely indispensable : the reaching of eternal salvation. Can we still speak of Christianity when the Christian basic core is not shared any more? Jacques Sutter 31 sees it as a decomposition of Christianity. Is this the only possible interpretation? Could this also be a radically symbolist reinterpretation? To go even further in the analysis, we are particularly missing qualitative surveys like those undertaken by John Fulton. 32 Jim Beckford complains that we can learn little about the contemporary religious landscape from sociologists of postmodernity. But if we take account of the decisive transformations mentioned above, the main features of this landscape start to become clear. 33


Many thanks to Lina Molokotos Liederman, who was responsible for most of the translation. This is a revised and updated version of 'Religion in modernity as a new axial age: secularization or new religious forms?', published in Sociology of Religion, 60(3) (1999), 303–33 (© Association for the Sociology of Religion, Inc. All rights reserved.)

1 P. Berger, The Sacred Canopy (New York, 1967); K. Dobbelaere, 'Secularization: a multi-dimensional concept', Current Sociology, 29(2), (1981), 3–213.

2 S. S. Acquaviva, The Decline of the Sacred in Industrial Society (Oxford, 1969).

3 P. Berger, The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics (Washington, DC, 1999).

4 D. Hervieu-L´eger, Le Pèlerin et le converti (Paris, 1999).

5 L. Kurtz, Gods in the Global Village: The World's Religions in a Sociological Perspective (London, 1995).

6 K. Jaspers, Origine et sens de l'histoire, French translation (Paris, 1954); R. N. Bellah, Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-traditional World (New York, 1976); S. Eisenstadt, The Origins and Diversity of Axial Age Civilizations (Albany, NY, 1986).

7 Jaspers, Origine, 38.

8 N. Luhmann, Funktion der Religion (Frankfurt am Main, 1976); N. Luhmann, The Differentiation of Society (New York, 1982).

9 A. Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Cambridge, 1991).

10 J.-P. Willaime, Sociologie des religions (Paris, 1995).

11 Eisenstadt, Origins.

12 Bellah, Beyond Belief, 39.

13 J. G. Melton, 'Modern alternative religions in the west', in J. R. Hinnells (ed.), A Handbook on Living Religions (Harmondworth, 1985).

14 Y. Lambert, 'Religion in modernity as a new axial age: secularization or new religious forms?', Sociology of Religion, 60 (1999), 303–33.

15 D. A. Martin, A General Theory of Secularization (Oxford, 1978).

16 K. Dobbelaere and W. Jagodzinski, 'Secularisation and church religiosity' (chapter 4), in J. W. V. Deth and E. Scarbrough (eds.), The Impact of Values (Oxford, 1995); J. Casanova, Public Religion in the Modern World (Chicago, 1994).

17 Luhmann, Funktion; Luhmann, Differentiation.

18 P. Beyer, Religion and Globalization (London, 1994).

19 Y. Lambert, 'The scope and limits of religious functions according to the European Value and ISSP surveys', in J. Billiet and R. Laermans (eds.), Secularization and Social Integration: Papers in Honor of Karel Dobbelaere (Leuven, 1998), 211–12; Y. Lambert, 'Religion: l'Europe àun tournant. Les valeurs des Européens', Futuribles, 277 (2002), 129–59.

20 Tony Walter, The Eclipse of Eternity: A Sociology of the Afterlife, London, 1996.

21 Grace Davie, The Exceptional Case: Parameters of Faith in the Modern World (London, 2002).

22 Jaspers, Origine, 278–80.

23 J. M. Kitagawa, 'Primitive, classical, and modern religions', in J. M. Kitagawa (ed.), The History of Religion: Essays on Problems of Understanding (Chicago, 1967), 39–65.

24 Bellah, Beyond Belief, 36–9.

25 Ibid., 39–44.

26 H. Nakamura, A Comparative History of Ideas (London, 1986).

27 Y. Lambert, Dieu change en Bretagne (Paris, 1985).

28 W. C. Roof, 'The spiritual seeking in the United States', Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions, 109 (2000), 56.

29 F. Champion and D. Hervieu-L´eger (eds.), De l'Emotion en religion (Paris, 1993).

30 Hervieu-L´eger, Pèlerin.

31 J. Sutter, Les Franc¸ais sont-ils encore catholiques? (Paris, 1991).

32 J. Fulton et al., Young Catholics at the New Millennium (Dublin, 2000).

33 J. A. Beckford, 'Postmodernity, high modernity and new modernity: three concepts in search of religion', in K. Flanagan and P. C. Jupp (eds.), Postmodernity, Sociology and Religion (London, 1996), 30–47.

Note that the term 'Christendom' has historically applied to those lands under the control of the Papacy, specifically the Roman Catholic nations of Europe, although others may apply it to mean all of Europe including the Orthodox and Protestant nations also.
[Continue to PART II]

[ Next ]