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Title:Modernization and the Redefinition of Religion
Author(s):Young, Alan Barclay
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mirowsky, John,
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Social
Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Abstract:This study is a social psychological examination of how modernization impacts the religious beliefs of individuals. A social construction of knowledge model is used to predict that exposure to modernization will lead to a redefinition of religious faith. This redefinition can be summarized as a move from religion as a universal meaning system to religion as a compartmentalized portion of the cognitive framework. The more exposure to the processes of modernization, the more relative and contingent religious faith becomes. Traditional faith is absolutist, certain, transcendent, submissive and institutional. Modern faith moves toward relative, uncertain, immanent, independent and individualized expressions. If secularization is occurring in the United States, it is not a rejection of religious faith. It is a redefinition of the religious framework to make it compatible with the modern world.
Using the 1988 General Social Survey, individual religious beliefs are tracked to examine the nature and degree of secularization in American society. Individual exposure to modernization was measured by education, urban residence, and exposure to the mass media. The central prediction that modernization leads to the compartmentalization of religious faith was confirmed.
A number of behaviors and affiliations can weaken the impact of modernization on traditional religious frameworks. These include religious rituals, participation in networks of fellow believers, and membership in a denomination which practices adult baptism. A theoretical model based on the work of Peter Berger and Robert Wuthnow is employed to explain this effect.
This study also examines the effect of the redefinition of religion on individual ethics and psychological well-being. Compartmentalized religious faith was found to have no effect on well-being, but religious doubts did harm mental health. Compartmentalization does effect ethical beliefs. Individuals with a redefined religious faith held ethical beliefs which reflected those of the broader culture. People with a traditional religious framework were able to maintain traditional ethical values as well. These findings indicate the importance of the redefinition of religion for explaining individual level attitudes and behaviors. The implications of this research for the broader sociological literature are discussed.
Issue Date:1993
Description:283 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1993.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9329208
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1993

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