Notes on a post-secular society


J├╝rgen Habermas

Both religious and secular mentalities must be open to a complementary learning process if we are to balance shared citizenship and cultural difference.

A "post-secular" society must at some point have been in a "secular" state. The controversial term can therefore only be applied to the affluent societies of Europe or countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where people's religious ties have steadily or rather quite dramatically lapsed in the post-War period. These regions have witnessed a spreading awareness that their citizens are living in a secularized society. In terms of sociological indicators, the religious behavior and convictions of the local populations have by no means changed to such an extent as to justify labeling these societies "post-secular". Here, trends towards de-institutionalized and new spiritual forms of religiosity have not offset the tangible losses by the major religious communities.

Reconsidering the sociological debate on secularization

Nevertheless, global changes and the visible conflicts that flare up in connection with religious issues give us reason to doubt whether the relevance of religion has waned. An ever smaller number of sociologists now support the hypothesis, and it went unopposed for a long time, that there is close linkage between the modernization of society and the secularization of the population. The hypothesis rests on three initially plausible considerations.

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