There are today two opposing views of the place of religious belief: that of Samuel Huntington, who argues that there are lasting differences between the Christian, Moslem, Confucian and other civilizations which will ultimately and inevitably lead to conflict; and that which argues that the processes of modernization and postmodernization will give rise to widespread cultural changes, with a general convergence of values despite initially divergent religious beliefs.
Jean Joncheray, basing his analysis on an article by Ronald Inglehart, first demonstrates that these two views are not as incompatible as they might appear, thanks to the "growing tolerance of diversity", if for no other reason. Then, focusing more closely on the position of Christianity in Europe, he wonders whether Christianity may not be "the religion to end religions". Taking up the arguments of Marcel Gauchet, he suggests that, by abandoning efforts to impose the truth by force, Christians have opened the way to human rights, freedom of conscience and therefore, to some extent, the decline of religion.
But matters are not so simple and Joncheray ends by offering three possible scenarios for the future of Catholicism in France:
- it might become "a marker of identity" in which a tiny minority of practising Catholics take refuge;
- it might be reduced to a cultural phenomenon, as French culture continues to be shaped by Christian values which are part of the "general heritage of the past" in French society;
- there might be a "revival of a religious outlook" which would arise as a democratic, pluralist and secular society attempted to provide itself once more with shared values derived from humanism.