The secularization thesis—the argument that religious decline and modernization are inexorably linked—is arguably the most pervasive and hotly contested theme in the history of the social–scientific study of religion. This entry outlines the development of the thesis before presenting some statistics that might be marshalled to build a case for it. Next, a cross-section of perspectives is offered that critique and/or add nuance to the theory, and the entry concludes by turning to related categories that further problematize simplistic subtractionist narratives of secularization.

Secularization Theory

The development of secularization theory was dependent upon processes of modernization by which the Western category of religion was articulated in contradistinction to the secular. The concept of religion is absent in the ancient world, although we do find analogous terms ...

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