Voas paper

I just got back from Belgium, where I was on the PhD defense committee of Maarten Boudry, a philosopher interested in science and pseudoscience and science and religion issues. He’s already done some really good work and he put together an excellent thesis. I hope those of us interested in such matters will be hearing a lot more from him in the future.

Also on the committee was Konrad Talmont-Kaminski, an Australian-Polish philosopher with overlapping interests, and we had opportunities for long conversations. He brought a few papers to my attention, which I’ll try to comment on here.

First, a 2009 paper by sociologist David Voas. If you have any interest in the state of the secularization thesis concerning Europe, this is a must-read. He presents some good evidence of a secularization trend all across Europe. Each generation is more secular—countries start with a predominantly strongly religious population, people start moving into an intermediate “fuzzy” religiosity, and later generations end up being religiously disinterested. It seems pretty clear that this is not an age cohort effect; it is real secularization.

And curiously, as Talmont-Kaminski observed, the broad outlines of the process are very similar for most European countries, which can have significantly different histories and social circumstances. This suggests a relatively simple common process underlying secularization—not something contingent on many variables as in some models. But it also seems that no one really knows what is happening in any detail.

Going beyond what Voas says, the United States may also be undergoing a similar gradual, generations-long process of secularization. It is too late, however. We’re also determined to bring civilization to a collapse before we can enjoy any significant period of sanity.

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