ABSTRACT

The most influential sociological secularization theses have been criticized as grand narratives that assume an inevitable endpoint and a basic mechanism driving history towards that outcome. A stronger objection to the ‘pluralism promotes vitality’ thesis is S. Bruce’s observation that the overall diversity of religion in the US masks monopolies or hegemonies within selected regions. Religion as a tool of politics has been a staple of modern political thought, from Machiavelli’s openly instrumental attitude through Edmund Burke’s argument that their entanglement undermined the dignity of one and the nobility of the other. Perhaps the most persistent attack on secularization has come from those who say that plurality is as likely to encourage religion as undermine it. Whether Peter Berger was correct to see ‘plurality’ as something that can help explain both secularization and de-secularization is another matter