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In this lesson, we define religiosity, secularization, and civil religion. We’ll also discuss these concepts both on an individual and cultural scale.

Religion Today

Religion can be a hot topic in our society. There are so many diverse views on God, Heaven, Hell, and hundreds of other religious aspects that they seem to be constantly debated. The U.S.

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is one of the most diverse, religious, high-income nations of the world. That being said, another topic of debate – and of study for sociologists – is exactly how religious we are. The three topics most discussed in this debate are religiosity, secularization, and civil religion.

Religiosity

Religiosity is the importance of religion in one’s life. It certainly varies from person to person but also among religions and even multiple denominations of one religion. Older people tend to be more religious than younger people, and women more religious than men.But what difference does it make? Sociologists study religiosity on an individual level as well as in society as a whole. On the individual level, high levels of religiosity appear to have a strong relationship with an increase in physical and mental health as well as longevity. On the cultural level, sociologists have linked a number of social patterns to high levels of religiosity, including low rates of delinquency among young people and low rates of divorce among adults.However, even though religiosity appears to have a number of benefits, it also appears to be declining in our society.

In 2005, 73% of Americans identified themselves as ‘religious.’ In 2012, that number dropped to 60%. This may be evidence that the U.S.

is continuing to experience a rise in secularization instead.

Secularization

Secularization can be defined as the historical decline in the importance of the supernatural and the sacred. It includes religion as well as a general belief in the supernatural, such as entities like spirits or forces like karma.

Sociologists believe secularization occurs for several reasons. One is that modernization has involved the creation and growth of science, which endorses reason and systematic observation in making sense of the world. As people have turned to science for answers instead of stories and tradition, the capacity for faith in the supernatural may have gradually declined.

Although secularization has been occurring for quite some time, most sociologists don’t believe our society would ever reach a point where religion would become extinct. For one, the vast majority of people in the U.S. still say they believe in God, and more people claim to pray each day than vote in national elections. And, although individual and cultural religiosity may continue to decrease, religion has lasting effects outside of individuals.

Civil Religion

For example, one expression of secularization is what sociologists call civil religion, a pseudo-religious loyalty binding individuals in a basically secular society. In other words, although we’ve seen a rise in secularization and further separation of church and state, sociologists have noticed that religion appears to have influenced numerous non-religious aspects of society.For example, think about American customs, like singing the national anthem at sporting events or reciting the pledge of allegiance in school. These customs are similar to religious rituals. They are traditional and performed mainly for symbolic value.

Likewise, the American flag acts much like a religious totem – it’s a sacred symbol of our national identity, and we expect people to treat it with respect. Many individuals even find religious qualities in political movements, whether liberal or conservative.

Lesson Summary

One topic of debate and study for sociologists is how religious our society is. The three topics most discussed in this debate are religiosity, secularization, and civil religion.

Religiosity is the importance of religion in one’s life. A high level of religiosity has several benefits. However, it appears to be declining in our society.Secularization can be defined as the historical decline in the importance of the supernatural and the sacred.

This includes religion in addition to belief in mystic forces. Sociologists believe secularization occurs for several reasons, one of which is the increase of scientific study. Although secularization has been occurring for quite some time, most sociologists don’t believe our society would ever reach a point where religion would become extinct. One reason for this is the observation of how religion is affecting secular parts of society.

Civil religion, which is a pseudo-religious loyalty binding individuals in a basically secular society, is a good example. Civil religion can be seen in American customs that are treated like religious rituals and totems.

Learning Outcomes

Once you have completed this lesson, you should be prepared to:

  • Define religiosity, secularization, and civil religion
  • Discuss the causes of secularization
  • Give examples of civil religion in America

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