Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide.

Author:Dackson, Wendy
Position::Book Review

Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide. By Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. xv+329 pp. n.p.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, philosophers and emerging social scientists traced the idea of "secularization," the replacement of traditional religious concerns by an increasing preoccupation with political, scientific, and economic activities. Traditional secularization theories indicate that the world is becoming less religious and more secular with each passing generation. Although this is generally observed in western Europe (the United States is noticeably more religious than other industrialized democracies), Norris and Inglehart argue that the world is at least as religious as it was several decades ago, and perhaps religious traditions are becoming stronger than ever worldwide.

They advance a new thesis of secularization, based on what they call "existential risk." The idea behind the claim for an existential risk examination of secularization is that those countries that experience little threat to individual or societal well-being are the ones in which religious belief and expression are in decline. The opposite is also the case: where individual and social flourishing are at risk (due to natural disasters, economic hardship, disease, political instability), traditional religious values are at least as strong as they were a century ago. This does not, however, result in a sort of religious equilibrium. On the contrary, the world is becoming more religious when the measurement used is population. Areas with high existential risk have a birth rate far above the...

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