Why Religion Is More Durable Than Commonly Thought In Modern Society

Friday, April 28, 2017

By Tom Gjelten, NPR

Here is a proposition that may seem self-evident to many people: As societies become more modern, religion loses its grip. People separate their religion from their institutions and from parts of their lives.

Sociologists have a name for this idea. They call it the "secularization thesis." Now, research suggests the story is more complicated.

In 1822, Thomas Jefferson suggested an early version of it, predicting that Unitarianism "will, ere long, be the religion of the majority from north to south."

Some data from modern countries support the thesis. Fifty years ago, about 4 of 10 children in England attended Sunday school. Today, it's only about 10 percent. In the United States, just 5 percent of the population in 1972 reported no religious affiliation. By 2016, 1 out of 4 said they were unaffiliated.

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