ABSTRACT

‘Secularization’ has been taken to mean: an institutional separation of church and state; a differentiation of the ‘spheres’ of religion and politics or economics or law or art or science; the transfer of property from ecclesiastical to non-ecclesiastical ownership. The nuances and paradoxes of secularization are sometimes masked by the fact that the English language has only one word to cover different phenomena. Philosophical and theological secularization theses have been attractive to atheists, agnostics, and religious believers alike. The comparative sociology of religion is a testing ground both for Steve Bruce’s secularization paradigm and for Richard Munch’s claims about the triumph of instrumental activism, and in fact Munch himself sees that its impact has been very different in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. Even Max Weber once said that psychoanalysis was a modern version of confession, and decades later Michel Foucault extended the thought: the confession has spread its effects far and wide.