chapter  6
14 Pages

The curious case of the unnecessary recantation: Berger and secularization

BySTEVE BRUCE

Until the 1980s, most social scientists supposed that the modern world was becoming increasingly Godless. Peter Berger was influential in developing the secularization thesis (though ‘paradigm’ might better describe what is a complex and at times only loosely articulated body of descriptions and explanations). He is also the most eminent of those who now challenge the thesis. In 1974 he began to question his own conclusions: ‘In the last few years I have come to believe that many observers of the religious scene (I among them) have over-estimated both the degree and irreversibility of secularization’ (1974b, p. 16). Two decades later his reservations had hardened into repudiation: ‘The big mistake, which I shared with everyone who worked in this area in the 1950s and ’60s, was to believe that modernity necessarily leads to a decline in religion’ (1998, p. 782).