Secularization Theory Unbounded

This fellow pretends the evidence in his favor, when all the evidence suggests that modernity has not in fact eroded religious faith. There may be some nostalgia, but the evidence is not suggesting the decline of religion as much he suggests.

My first reason (the increased acceptance of science) may seem counter-intuitive, especially in the US, where there seems to be a strong anti-science sentiment manifested by persistent opposition to well-established scientific theories like evolution, and a denial of the scientific case being made for global warming, accompanied by a vociferous form of general anti-science know-nothing religiosity. But those are just surface phenomena. The deeper conflict is between modernity (that is inextricably linked with science) and what can best be described as misplaced nostalgia, where people yearn for a golden past that never existed where truths about the world were unchanging and congruent with what their religions told them, and were unperturbed by scientific advances….

It is inevitable that they [young believing adults] will realize that they are way outside the mainstream. It is this routine acceptance of the basic premises of science by the more educated segments of the community is what will undermine religion, not a frontal attack on it. The frontal attacks on religion by new atheists are like violent thunderstorms that cause religious beliefs to severely buffeted and weakened. But they can still be weathered and the edifice patched up to cover the holes. Creeping modernity, on the other hand, is like a slowly rising flood that comes from all directions and strikes at the very foundations of the religious edifice and causes it to crumble from within. You cannot hold back that tide.

However much religious leaders might try to shield them, young people are going to experience a world in which facts that contradict their religious beliefs are seen as the norm among educated people. And that has to be deeply unsettling.

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  • Eh, the author just assumes that religion’s only function in human culture is to explain the observable natural world. This kind of thing is all too common: religion’s most vocal critics consistently demonstrate that they don’t really know very much about what they are criticizing.

  • “[A]ll the evidence suggests that modernity has not in fact eroded religious faith.”

    Just a bit of an overstatement, I think. Here’s a recent poll that finds a clear decline in global religiosity: Since 2005, religiosity in the U.S. has declined from 73% to 60%.

    Gallup found that only 1-2% of Americans were non-religious in 1948; in 2011, the number had risen to 13%. 91% of Americans claimed to be Christians in 1948; in 2011, the number had decreased to 75%.

  • P.

    It seems like this author assumes – incorrectly – that all religious people are Biblical literalists. In fact, a great many of us are able to distinguish symbolism from what really is meant to be literal, and therefore have no problem with science.

  • phil_style

    “y And that has to be deeply unsettling.”

    Unsettling perhaps… but what’s wrong with that? Jesus himself was deeply unsettling. Being unsettled is not some kind of unique bad is it?

  • @Kullerva, you make an important point. It seems both sides of this argument do not understand the other side – you might even argue they don’t really understand themselves, either. Christians who argue for a scientific reading of scripture do not understand that it is a book of faith. Scientists who argue absolutely against faith don’t understand what an axiom is – a statement of faith. All science is based on the scientific method – a faith-based approach. No one has tried or succeeded in proving every aspect of that process. We accept it because it works for us – by faith. What I find troubling is his lumping anyone who questions scientists – or even disagrees with their conclusions – as “a vociferous form of general anti-science know-nothing religiosity” shows his dedication to the ironic religion of science-ism.

  • Science vs. Faith is not the same thing as Science vs. Religion.

  • Marshall

    It isn’t modernism that’s eroding religious faith, it’s anachronistic premodernism. God never changes, so look around and see him at work.

  • @Ray – I do not see where your link suggests what you are indicating. He uses the wrong straw man – I am not suggesting he uses faith to know a light bulb will come on. I suggest he has faith that everything can be explained without a supernatural being. The place where atheists and Christians differ is in their foundation – meaning how they interpret evidence. I accept creationism because I have found it to be true based on my foundation – scripture. Different ‘kinds’ of animals were created by God but have adapted over time into the variety we see today – i.e. God created the ‘dog’ kind and ‘cat’ kind and although they have many similarities they are share no common ancestors. Atheists accept what is phrased ‘molecules-to-man’ evolution (dogs and humans having a common ancestor) because it works with their foundation – all things have a non-deistic explanation – not because they have some type of superior foundation. I believe this is why I accept both religion and science. I understand that both can help me understand God. Anyone who would suggest I do not accept science based on my rejection of molecules-to-man evolution only proves they do not understand what science truly is. They prove their ignorance instead of mine.