Not secularism but pluralism

Several decades ago, sociologists were writing about how modernization was accompanied by the rise of secularism.  Today, so-called “secularization theory” has been abandoned, including by its former advocates such as Peter Berger.  I came across a trenchant quote from him that defines the new issues.  From Eboo Patel in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The 1960s-era academics who advanced secularization theory confessed their errors long ago. As the sociologist Peter Berger told The Economist in 2007, “We made a category mistake. We thought the relationship was between modernization and secularization. In fact it was between modernization and pluralism.”

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Family and Secularization

Christian scholar Mary Eberstadt has a new book entitled How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization. From the editorial description at Amazon:

In this magisterial work, leading cultural critic Mary Eberstadt delivers a powerful new theory about the decline of religion in the Western world. The conventional wisdom is that the West first experienced religious decline, followed by the decline of the family. Eberstadt turns this standard account on its head. Marshalling an impressive array of research, from fascinating historical data on family decline in pre-Revolutionary France to contemporary popular culture both in the United States and Europe, Eberstadt shows that the reverse has also been true: the undermining of the family has further undermined Christianity itself. . . .

Her conclusion considers this tantalizing question: whether the economic and demographic crisis now roiling Europe and spreading to America will have the inadvertent result of reviving the family as the most viable alternative to the failed welfare state—fallout that could also lay the groundwork for a religious revival as well.

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Government as force for secularization

Conservative Christians used to be all over the map politically, with probably more of them in the Democratic camp.  What happened?   Why are they now tending towards small government political conservatism?  I think Michael Gerson, in the context of a column on another issue, hits it exactly:

Among conservative Christians, government is often viewed as a force of secularization — a source of both bureaucratic regulation and moral deregulation.

via Michael Gerson – Obama’s new culture war over government’s role.

Government, including liberal governments as in those who followed the New Deal, left religion and traditional morality alone.  Then the government  outlawed prayer in public schools, legalized abortion, scrubbed the public square of religious references, says that homosexuality is OK, etc., etc.  Christians started seeing their government, as Gerson says, as a force for taking religion out of consideration and for promoting secularism.

I’m not saying that some of those changes might not have been necessary.  I’m just saying that this is why so many Christians are now alienated from their government.