Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Religious Sensemaking and Social Exclusion in the Western World

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Religious Sensemaking and Social Exclusion in the Western World

Article excerpt

Religion and Religious Communication in Social Scientific Discourse

The relationship between modern society and religious sensemaking has, from the very beginning, been something of a neuralgic point for those working out interpretations of modernity. This is said because the dawning new era, rooted in the tradition of the enlightenment, defined itself as the very opposite of the religious view of the world. In the context of interpretation showing modernity as the process of becoming rationalised, religious sensemaking presented thereby inevitably the perspective of an earlier era. From this aspect religion expressed the worldview embodying traditionalism, an ideology that is to be defeated, one that it is time to surpass, or in other words, the world of myths (Horkheimer/Adorno 1981) endangering the 'project of modernity' (Habermas 1998). In this way the interpretation of modernity was often linked, on the one hand, to a drive to diminish the role of religious sensemaking, and on the other hand with the description of the process whereby transcendent contents referring back to an earlier historical era are gradually eliminated. Modernity was, in this way, identified as the process of secularisation.

This change in society has, also in the field of the sociology of religion in the narrow sense of the term, also brought about interpretations discussing the dying away of religion or at least the pushing aside of religious sensemaking (Wilson 1969; Martin 1978; Aldridge 2000; Bruce T00T, T011a; Dobbelaere 1004).1 The most essential change in this particular field has, during recent decades, been the very process whereby instead of questioning the role of religion in modern society, interpretations emphasising the possibilities of religious sensemaking in the circumstances of modernity, have gained ground. (At the same time, a revision of the secularisation thesis has also taken place.)2 As a consequence of the change in perspective, trying to explain the disappearance of religion from modern society is no longer the most exciting problem for the sociology of religion. Instead, researchers have been trying to find out why religion has survived in the changed social circumstances and what particular forms religion takes in a modern society (Casanova 1994, 2009; Berger 1999; Stark and Finke 2000; Hammond 2000; Hervieu-Léger 2000; Lyon 2000; Norris and Inglehart 2004; Taylor 2007; McGuire 2008).

Later on we will discuss religion's role in modernity, still on the basis of the desecularisation thesis, applying the elements of the system theory approach and, in particular, Niklas Luhmann's social theory analyses (Luhmann 1987, 1998). This study analyses the relationship between religious sensemaking and modern society in a general social theory framework, in view of the relationship between the subsystems comprising and functionally structuring modernity.3 This study is primarily an analysis of the western region of global society since this is where the functional structuring of modernity that has repositioned the role of religion in society has developed in its purest form. By focusing on a particular segment of this extensive field of study, I will scrutinise changes in the relationship between individual and religion triggered by the altered system of social relationships and in this regard I will also analyse, in more detail, the relationships between social exclusion and religious sensemaking in the western region.

Working out a definition for religion is still a very difficult task despite the hundredyear tradition of the sociology of religion. One common feature of older and more recent attempts at coming up with a definition (Beckford 2003; Turner 2006; Bruce 2011b; Woodhead 2011; Borowik 2011; Davidsen 2012) is that each of them has traditionally been dealing with the contents of religion in an action theory context. Luhmann and his followers' (Beyer 2006; Pace 2011) perspective of religion embedded in a system theory however, views religion as a particular field of social communication. …

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