Futuribles Journal n° 260

Société, modes de vie

Le devenir de la religion en Occident. Réflexion sociologique sur les croyances et les pratiques


Whereas religion was on the wane in the 1960s and 1970s, for the last 20 or 30 years there has been a great boom in spirituality of all kinds, though admittedly now more vague and individualized. But, according to Yves Lambert, beyond these two developments, secularization then renewal, we are witnessing decline, adaptation, attempts to conserve or to innovate which he tries to clarify here from the viewpoint of a sociologist of religions.
The decline is the product, he argues, of modernity and the values associated with it: the primacy of reason, individualism and diversity. But with "ultramodernity", these same values (reason, individualism, etc.) have become relative, and this has deprived religion of its most formidable rivals but also led the Church to abandon its pretensions to hegemony. Religions have themselves become relativized: they are losing their authority and are developing "belief without belonging", a more personal form of faith.
We are thus witnessing a process of adaptation. "The crisis of rationality encourages the search for ways of expressing affects and subjective experience of the divine [...]; we are moving towards à la carte Christianity" and we are seeing a revival of belief in many forms as well as a coming together of the human and the divine. The principle of authority, of transcendance, is therefore being replaced by a spiritual quest that is more spontaneous and individualized. People no longer expect religion to provide the truth, but rather they want it to offer something in this new quest for fulfilment. Is Christianity falling apart or emerging renewed? asks the author, who concludes that by giving up its totalitarian character, Christianity is acting consistently with its original values.
However, the author recognizes that this process also provokes conservative reactions. Nevertheless, when he looks at the available studies, he notes that the fundamentalists everywhere remain in the minority and the adaptation of Christianity to modernity reveals its amazing capacities for innovation. He highlights the consequent expansion of new forms of religion typical of "ultramodernity": individualization, "autospirituality", pragmatism, mobility...
These four developments are happening but not with equal probability, concludes Lambert, and the "proliferation of religions" could give rise to quite different social changes in different regions.

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