Secularization : a European exception ? A return to the concept and discussions of it in sociology of religion
The concept of secularization has long been a central interpretative paradigm in sociology of religion, one which designates in various ways a process of religion losing social influence in modern societies. Despite ideological connotations wherein the advance of modernity is associated with a fall in of religion, and despite the fact that the United States fits poorly into this schema, the paradigm was empirically validated by European data showing a decline in religious belonging. This did not prevent critical discussion of the concept from developing in the 1960s, discussion in which some went so far as to declare secularization a « sociological myth ». The paradigm has been still more sharply questioned and criticized since the 1990s, and there is greater willingness these days to speak of a « European exception » than an American one. The article examines these discussions, concluding with a reformulation of the concept which reflects the idea that in contemporary ultramodernity modern secularization is associated with a reconfiguring of religion and religiosity.