After Secularization (special double issue)   /   Spring/Summer 2006   /    Articles

Sellers or Buyers in Religious Markets?

Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart

11xThis essay is adapted from Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (New york: Cambridge University Press, 2004).Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath in Afghanistan and Iraq, public interest in religious pluralism has grown tremendously, and the debate about secularization theory and its recent critiques have become increasingly relevant to contemporary concerns. The religious landscapes in both Europe and the U.S. are increasingly diverse in different ways, but the overall trend on both sides of the Atlantic is toward greater secularization and a multiplicity of different approaches to religion. This diversity reflects centuries-old differences among Protestant and Catholic churches, Orthodox Christians, and long-established Jewish groups, combined with growing multiculturalism from immigrant populations adhering to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other faiths, as well as those adhering to none. Many observers suggest that New Age spiritualities may also play a role, including the development of more individualized practices outside organized religion. Secular Western societies have experienced the influx of migrants and political refugees drawn from traditional cultures and developing societies in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, which has highlighted contrasts over divergent religious values and beliefs. Some traditional political conflicts between religious communities have become more muted, notably among Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. At the same time, new forms of identity politics appear to have become more salient.22xSome examples are the assassination of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands and the bombings by foreign or indigenous Muslim groups causing mass casualities in Madrid and London. We are seeing a landscape in Western societies that is becoming both more secular and more diverse.

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