Seminal thinkers of the nineteenth century – Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud – all predicted that religion would gradually fade in importance and cease to be significant with the emergence of industrial society. The belief that religion was dying became the conventional wisdom in the social sciences during most of the twentieth century. During the last decade, however, the secularization thesis has experienced the most sustained challenge in its long history.
The traditional secularization thesis needs updating. Religion has not disappeared and is unlikely to do so. Nevertheless, the concept of secularization captures an important part of what is going on. This book develops a theory of secularization and existential security. This is tested against the systematic evidence using the World Values Survey 1981-2001 conducted in almost 80 societies worldwide. The 2nd edition adds new data drawn from the Gallup World Poll.