Vicarious religion is a term coined by Grace Davie to develop the discussion about religion in modern Europe. This entry discusses Davie’s definition and usage of the concept. Steve Bruce and David Voas, who are more convinced than Davie by the secularization narrative (in which religion loses social and cultural significance as a natural historical process) offer an alternative view.

The complex relationship between belief and practice is central to this debate. Currently, between two thirds and three quarters of Europeans assent to “belief in God” though far fewer attend their respective churches with any regularity—a state of affairs initially captured by the phrase “believing without belonging.” The connections between emergent patterns of belief and the institutional churches are, however, complex. Not only do the latter ...

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