Sociologists and Historians Debate the Secularization Thesis
The claim that modern societies are less religious than their predecessors because modernity undermines the plausibility of religion has been almost an orthodoxy. But increasingly this `secularization thesis' is being challenged on a number of fronts. This collection brings together leading sociologists and historians who share a common interest in advancing our understanding of religious change by clarifying the key elements of the thesis and
testing them against appropriate bodies of data. The book begins with an exposition of the thesis by two sociologists and goes on to present and interpret new data on church
adherence in the nineteenth century in the USA and Europe, British church membership rates for the last two hundred years and the British 1851 census of church attendance, changes in English Roman Catholicism, and comparisons of American and European religiosity. The collection is completed with a response by Bryan Wilson, for many the chief advocate of the secularization account of religious change. Even where historians and sociologists cannot agree, Religion and
Modernization has the great value of clarifying the arguments and pointing the way toward their resolution.