Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates

Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates

Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates

Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates

Synopsis

Religion in Modern Europe examines religion as a form of collective memory. This is a memory held in place by Europe's institutional churches, educational systems, and the mass media - all of which are themselves responding to rapid social and economic change. Europe's religious memory isapproached in the following ways: as vicarious-a particularly European characteristic, as precarious-especially among young people, and as it is portrayed by the media. The memory may fragment, be disputed, and in extreme cases, disappear. Alternatives may emerge. The challenge for Europeansocieties is to affirm healthy mutations in religious memory and discourage others. The book also examines the increasing diversity of Europe's religious life. European Societies Series Editor: Colin Crouch Very few of the existing sociological texts which compare different European societies on specific topics are accessible to a broad range of scholars and students. The European Societies series will help fill this gap in the literature, and attempt to answer questions such as: Is there really such athing as a 'European model' of society? Do the economic and political integration processes of the European Union also imply convergence in more general aspects of social life, like family or religious behaviour? What do the societies of Western Europe have in common with those further to the east? This series will cover the main social institutions, although not every author will cover the full range of European countries. As well as surveying existing knowledge in a way that will be useful to students, each book will also seek to contribute to our growing knowledge of what remains in manyrespects a sociologically unknown continent.

Excerpt

This book should not be considered in isolation; it is conceived as one item in a whole cluster of new writing in the field. Together these publications represent an important undertaking: namely the reconsideration of European religion as the twentieth century gives way to the twenty-first. Such rethinking reflects a variety of factors. It is a response, first of all, to a rapidly changing European context, whether economic, social, or political; a context which remains as unpredictable as it is forceful, and in which the religious factor can operate in a bewildering variety of ways. Secondly, this series of publications forms part of a continuing reappraisal of the place of religion in the modern world, a discussion developed in some detail in Chapter 2. More specifically it calls into question at least some aspects of the process known as secularization, notably the assumption that secularization is a necessary part of modernization and that as the world m odernized it would—all other things being equal—be likely to secularize. An alternative suggestion is increasingly gaining ground: the possibility that secularization is not a universal process, but belongs instead to a relatively short and particular period of European history which still assumed (amongst other things) that whatever characterized Europe’s religious life today would characterize everyone else’s tomorrow. If the revised view is correct (or even partially correct), Europe’s religious life should not be considered in this way. It is not a prototype of global religiosity; it is, rather, one strand among many which make up what it means to be European. What then has been the nature of this strand in the latter part of the twentieth century and what will it be like in subsequent decades? It is this essentially European question that this book considers in more detail.

The approach is explicitly sociological in that the book looks at the subtle and elusive connections between religion, in all its bewildering manifestations, and the wider society; in this case a rapidly changing society but one whose history is inextricably bound up with the emergence and development of Christianity. It is not concerned with the relative truth-claims of the diverse religions that now compete on European soil. Empirically it draws on a variety of sociological sources, both quantitative—notably the European Values Study—and qualitative. Regarding the later, particular attention is given to the historical dimension, without which there can be no understanding either of Europe’s religion taken as a whole or of the religious life of Europe’s constituent nations. Martin (1978) becomes a key text in this respect, recognizing

For example Fulton and Gee (1994), Gill, D’Costa, and King (1994), Dierkens (1994), Davie and Hervieu-Léger (1996), Martin (1996b), Campiche (1997a).

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