Reflection 03/18

In chapter 8 of McGuire’s book, she explains the different theories which sociologists have proposed to answer the question of how religion has changed in the United States and how it may change in the future. The first of these theories is secularization, which suggests that we no longer live in a society dominated by religion. Reasons which have been given for this shift include differentiation, societalization, and privatization. Institutional differentiation and societalization essentially suggest that we live in a a corporate society which is made up of many large-scale institutions and corporations. Government institutions such as welfare offices have now replaced small church organizations; people look to religion less and less to solve their problems. Privatization suggests that religion plays much less of a role in an individual’s social life. Instead, it is seen as a private aspect of life, and many are against religion playing a role in public policy and government. I wondered why McGuire proposed this reasoning for why Americans may now be less religious, considering she admits that this explanation doesn’t necessarily suggest that people are against religion or are less religious. Instead, it simply suggests that they may not make it as central to certain aspects of their lives, and they view it as a separate and private role. Privatization strikes me as being one of the central concepts in Ammerman’s “Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes” book that my group and I conducted our presentation on. While she seemed to suggest that the American people have become more private in their religious life, and are less willing to accept every part of one religion, she does not suggest that Americans are less religious. Instead, she observed that many of the people she interviewed did in fact find religion to play an important role in their lives; the role was more private and tended to be separate from their political and social lives, although it did seep in at times.