In his exploration of the interaction between religion and worldwide social and cultural change, the author examines the major theories of global change and discusses the ways in which such change impinges on contemporary religious practice, meaning and influence. Beyer explores some of the key issues in understanding the shape of religion today, including religion as culture and as social system, pure and applied religion, privatized and publicly influential religion, and liberal versus conservative religions. He goes on to apply these issues to five contemporary illustrative cases: the American Christian Right; Liberation Theology movements in Latin America; the Islamic Revolution in Iran; Zionists in Israel; and religiou
Chapter 3: Systemic Religion in Global Society
Systemic Religion in Global Society
Privatization and Public Influence of Religion
Since at least the 1960s, many sociologists have put forward the notion that religion, at least in the contemporary Western world, has become increasingly privatized. Most prominently, Talcott Parsons (1960; 1966: 134), Peter Berger (1967:133f.), Thomas Luckmann (1967: 103), and Robert Bellah (1970a: 43) interpreted secularization in the modern world to mean that traditional religion was now primarily the concern of the individual and had therefore lost much of its ‘public’ relevance. People were voluntary adherents to a plurality of religions, none of which could claim practically to be binding on any but its own members.
Beyond this core idea, however, there are important variants of the privatization thesis. In particular, Parsons ...