Institute of religion in the modern era

The article considers general theoretical provisions of analysis of situation of transformation of religion institute under the influence of the processes «Entzauberung der Welt» accompanying the transition and being an integral attribute in the modern society. Particular attention is paid to the impact issues of the weakening process of generalizing mechanisms of confessional practices in the processes of legitimizing the basic components of the value systems of industrial societies, characterized on the one hand by the massization of consciousness, and on the other, by the appearance of the phenomenon of social anomie. These processes are not considered as a situation definitely provoking a crisis of confessional values, but as their inescapable transformation and, as a consequence, their weakening. Herein one of the central questions remains the question of whether the modern era will become a reference point for the death of one of the most important institutions of society or does its unique function of «ultimate reality» transferred? The position of the authors on this issue is consonant with the position of researchers who are predict the inevitability of a «renaissance» of the institution in its «individual» form, requirement of returning to religious experience in its new form, characterized for the modern societies of «invisible» and «individual» religions.


The modern era marked the beginning of a new faith — faith in a mind and science, man and progress, which contributed to the development of industry, natural (According to Auguste Comte, positive) sciences, democracy and scientific and technological progress. The new human faith in himself naturally gave impulse to the development of secularization processes, which allowed Nietzsche to write his famous «Gott ist tot», recognizing the modern man as his «killer». But is it so, has the modern age really «buried» God? Most modern scholars are of the opinion that secularization processes do not unambiguously lead to the destruction of religious institutions. These are rather processes that entailed transformations and the creation of new social forms of religion. The proclamation of the era of the rule of rational thinking, belief in a free mind did not lead, as predicted by Freud, Nietzsche and Marx, to the death of religion. The authors of the article share this point of view, putting it at the forefront in the framework of a general theoretical analysis of the problems of the development of religious institutions of Western European societies of the modern period.

Research methods (Experimental)

The methodological basis of the research made evolutionary theories of secularization of Western European countries of the modern period, as well as theories based on criticism of this approach and research positions. Due to the multidimensional nature of the research theme, in order to ensure the efficiency and relevance of the conducted theoretical analysis, an integral approach was used, which allows combine the following methods in the framework of a qualitative methodology: descriptive methods and the comparative analysis method.

Results and Discussion

The development of capitalism and new forms of production relations inevitably led to serious changes in the sociocultural atmosphere of Western European societies. A person has lost the «ascriptive guarantees» characteristic of traditional systems of a right to a place in a social structure, a right which until recently was undeniably legitimate. The individual unexpectedly got the opportunity, though limited, to which he was completely unprepared, not ready for a society in which his socio-economic positions were determined not by a guarantee of status by birth, but by his own efforts.

A person in an industrial society began to possess several characteristics at once. On the one hand, the type of industrial man is characterized as active, individual, free, on the other hand, it is a massive, unfree hostage of material consumption. The early industrial man proceeded from achievements. For him, the pursuit to improve himself, his position has become legitimate. Constant calculation of one's life, accounting and planning are present in the life of an industrial person.

Human deformation has occurred with the development of industrial relations. Society was faced with negative massization, sealing, unification. Unification has formed the mass type of the average person. A very rapid development led to the fact that a person does not have time to perceive complex cultural forms, that is, there is no proper internalization of complex ideas. A mass person masters a set of representations simple in content and method of presentation and is not able to reflect them, he accepts their absolute given. Moderate democratic non-freedom reigns in industrial society. The technical space invades the personal space and nullifies it, forming stereotypes of actions, behavior and mass consciousness in a person [1].

As T. Shibutani notes, during the process of industrialization, the whole technologically advanced world turns into a series of interconnected units [2].

The growth of the urban population led to the loss of primary ties and the formation of a new type of perception of others through external signs, such as clothing, appearance, skin color, language. The expansion of the borders of the world as a result of the development of mass media has given rise to the phenomenon of «substitute» inclusion in the life of completely strangers, personally stranger people.

The foundations of democratization are being formed both in political life, when politics ceases to be a private sphere of the ruling elite, and in everyday practice of social interactions, which acquires the features and characteristics of individualization. All this inevitably raises the question of the transformation of social control mechanisms. In traditional systems, society successfully copes with this function at the level of primary groups within which the individual not only predominantly functioning but also keeps in touch with them as fundamental to the whole life. In modern society, the boundaries of groups expand and become depersonalized. The individual still focuses on «significant others» forming the reference groups, but the groups themselves and their composition are becoming more and more anonymous, losing stability.

Supporting value standards, an industrial person builds his behavior, focusing on the legitimate standards of primary groups [1]. Nevertheless, the problem of social control, brought to life by global transformations of socio-economic and political relations, is beginning to take on an increasingly serious character. Increasingly, a person, already so firmly not held back by group projections, unconsciously expands the boundaries of basic norms rooted in world religions, and they gradually lose their sacred meaning, previously based on the absolute «taboo» of collective consciousness. Mechanisms for constructing individual pictures of the world remain the same, but their content is gradually changing, filling not only with unambiguously taboo collective forms of reference groups, but with alternative values that expand the boundaries of freedom of choice due to the variety of groups provided by the information field that claim to be reference. Unambiguity of choice disappears, appears illusory, but freedom, which means an alternative to the constructions of social nature.

According to D. Bell, industrial societies as producers of goods act according to the rules of the game with produced nature. «The world has become technical and rationalized. Energy creates the basis for a big jump in productivity, for the mass production of standardized goods, which is a hallmark of an industrial society. This is a planning and programming world in which separate components, interacting with each other and being in strict relationship, make up a single unit. Interacting individuals form a single whole. This is a world of organization — hierarchical and bureaucratic, in which people are related as things because managing things is much easier than managing people. This introduces the necessary distinction between roles and personalities, and this distinction is made out in the staffing and business plan» [3; 221].

A high standard of living removes excessive social discontent, reconciles a person with reality. According to the author, this situation cannot persist for a long time, so he considered the idea of the need to transform modern societies into a single systemic education based on cultural transformation and humanism.

A new type of production and production relations, based on the introduction of new technologies and creating mass production and consumption societies, entailed the formation of a «new world», a world where traditional social institutions with their well-established role representations have been transformed for centuries in almost unchanged form for almost a short time unrecognizability, obeying the new laws of production and market interests. And it's not just about economic institutions, global changes have affected everything, even such fundamental and therefore most conservative institutions as family and religion. Informatization of society has greatly accelerated these processes. The information service system ensured the reliability and stability of the functioning of a new type of society, a society that needed a new system of social relations based on a «new type of person», whose actions are no longer so much conditioned by religious taboos and which are already more based on the factor of achievement. The formation and dissemination of the «new ideology» was served by an effective information sphere in this regard, within the framework of the network channels of which individual and mass messages were stamped and distributed. Reasoning about it Toffler wrote about the similarity of information production mechanisms and factory production. Both of them use «stamping» methods. It is informational the sphere that ensures the formation of a new type of person — an economic person.

The «second wave» significantly increases the number of channels through which a person received the «material» for constructing his own picture of the world. If in a traditional society such channels were mainly the church, family (clan), nature, now the individual draws additional information from newspapers, magazines, radio, and, later, from television. Traditional institutions, united, are trying to maintain their position. The family, church, state, school, advocating the preservation of traditional moral values, use the same mechanisms for their «propaganda». And they gradually turn into the same retarder of one of the alternative ideologies. As Toffler emphasizes, gradually the media turned into a giant loudspeaker, whose energy flowed through regional, ethnic, tribal channels, turning the most popular patterns in society into social stereotypes.

Eventually, some of these stereotypes were practically «canonized», becoming the character of the icons of the era. «Lenin, with his chin extended forward, as a symbol of triumph under a developing red banner, has become the same icon for millions of people as the image of the crucified Christ. The image of Charlie Chaplin in a bowler hat and with a cane, or of Hitler raging in Nuremberg, the images of bodies folded like firewood in Buchenwald, Churchill showing the V sign — a symbol of victory, or Roosevelt in a black cape; Marilyn Monroe in a skirt raised by the wind, thousands of media stars and thousands of different, universally recognizable consumer goods — a piece of Ivory soap in the United States, Morinaga chocolate in Japan, a Perrier bottle in France — these are all standard components of the general image file» [4; 266].

These stereotyped images, which acquired the character of social value, not only compensated for the sacred need that was not lost in such a short period of time, but also helped to legitimize the standards of a new type of system of social relations and behavior. The new «faith» tried to change the old one.

In this connection, the institution of religion, as an institution producing a value system, partially loses its monopoly in this matter and, as a result, weakens its influence. Strategically important institutions in the issue of relaying value systems, such as family, education, politics and economics. These processes have affected the economy the most.

American sociologist Peter Berger gives the following definition of secularization, describing it as «a process in which sectors of society and culture are removed from the control of religious institutions and symbols» [5; 113]. Defining religion as a «sacred veil» that hides the real world from man, while protecting him from the horrors of chaos and anomie, endowing him with meaning and warmth, the American sociologist very figuratively sees in secularization the process of tearing this veil from the world and exposing it in its natural primary ugliness. This is a process in which a person gains the opportunity to see a self-identical world as it is and to be quite clear in it without the dope of the religious cover under which he has been living for more than one millennium. But is it really necessary for a person to get rid of illusions, how truly «ra- tional»? P. Berger proceeds from the fact that a man seeks to find a «meaningful» place in the reality of his daily life [6, 7]. All human activity is oriented toward the search for meaning as a result of construction, and its result is a unique «picture» of the world, a world that opposes it in its alienity, since the «anthropological- ly necessary» alienation was originally laid in human nature. What then makes society possible? Religion connects the «fragile constructions of empirical societies» with higher reality, placing them in a «sacred space» that saves a person from chaos [6, 7]. Religion, making a person «blind», gives answers to basic questions, giving meaning to his existence. As a «social glue», religion supports the existence of every society. By producing «sacred values» and performing a regulatory function, religion legitimizes social institutions by introducing them into the cosmic structure of relations. Therefore, the most «painful» consequences of the secularization process are the anomization of social reality, the absence of sustainable legitimate social practices that protect a person from the «horrors of chaos and anomie» [6, 7].

Analyzing the processes of secularization that engulfed Western European and American societies, Peter Berger notes that in most cases, researchers tend to exaggerate its scope and significance, since for the most part secularization has embraced «public spheres», while in private life it has not lost its legitimizing value [7].

The loss of the «sacred cosmos of the social order» in the process of secularization of its fundamental function — the monopoly on the production of value models, inevitably entails a serious threat to the very existence of society. If religion loses its centuries-old undeniable right to the construction of the social world, the social world (order) loses its value and meaning, acting as binding for everyone. Therefore, these processes cause serious concern for the author and Peter Berger talks about the need to overcome the crisis and revive faith in the modern world, as a necessary condition of its existence itself. P. Berger's work «Rumors of Angels» is dedicated to this [8]. The same problem is considered in the work «Heretical Imperative» [9].

A man of the modern era, seized by faith in himself and his own rationality, becomes free from the taboos of the collective consciousnesses and ideas that limited him. He ceases to believe in fate and rock, he appeals with the categories of «I» and «choice». He is embraced by what medieval theologians called heresy, which is literally translated and means «choice». It would seem that this implies the inevitable death of religion as a social phenomenon, because initially it is associated precisely with the lack of choice. New social laws dictate a «heretical imperative», that is priority activities based on free, rational choice. Nonetheless, exactly this gives religion a new chance by marking the transition to a new type of faith — a rational faith and a new type of society — a society of «individual religions». Using the centuries-old experience of various religious traditions, a person gets the opportunity to choose faith and its confessional form, and it is no longer his inevitable ascriptive attribution, but a consequence of his own choice and preferences.

The crisis of a religion based on tradition, characteristic of Western European and American society, is compensated by a person's conversion to faith as an experience of «inner freedom». Of course, religious truth and the concept of inner freedom seem rather difficult to combine, but religions, like man, themselves represent social constructions. As for religious experience, it although affects the social context, but lies beyond social reality, being the object of a phenomenological description. Recognizing the powerlessness of sociology in this matter, Peter Berger notes that sociology is forced to «bracket» the problem of the ontological status of religious affirmations and should remain agnostic in the sense that sociological argumentation should not be used to obtain either theistic or atheistic conclusions [9]. In this, the author sees a complete violation of the scientific nature of the research procedures. Here we can talk more about a «non-theoretical infrastructure» that lies beyond the limits of scientific analysis and determines thinking not on the basis of specific experience, but through «symbolic patterns of interpretations» that form individual values as a transcendental image of ultimate reality that lies outside the boundaries of social reality, but subordinating it to itself. According to Peter Berger, only a researcher with «Theological hearing» can analyze these processes, able to establish a connection between the real process of social cognition and transcendence, between the secular and the sacred [7]. This, apparently, is the problem of the error of those scientists who proclaimed the era of modernity — the era of the death of religion.

Secularization does not eliminate religion itself as a social phenomenon, but only individual forms of religiosity that are clearly contrary to the new type of social reality. Max Weber convincingly substantiated this in his famous «Christian ethics and the spirit of capitalism». Analyzing the processes of development of capitalism in Western European countries, he proved the impossibility of a transition to a new type of production and production relations without the transformation of religious institutions and, in particular, Catholicism, whose ethics made the very existence of the «spirit» of capitalism impossible and whose alternative was replaced by Protestantism as an alternative. The same forms of religiosity that do not conflict with rationality and ideas of humanism do not experience any problems in modern society, but, on the contrary, even benefit from its widespread adoption. Reproaching supporters of a traditional view of secularization, Taylor writes, «the accusations made against orthodox theorists of secularization are that the latter somehow believe that the changes associated with modernity themselves undermine the faith or make it difficult; they don't see that the new structures really undermine the old forms of religiosity, but at the same time leave room for the flourishing of new ones» [10; 161].

Proponents of an orthodox position on this issue emphasize that secularization clearly separates secular and religious. The first appears as completely self-sufficient and therefore autonomous. Religion is driven out of the social world, which forces it to either die or recognize a new secular reality with its own values and meaning. They see religion as an inconsequential «hobby» of individuals, a kind of hobby, along with picking up cards or growing flowers.

And that's why theologians like Thomas Altitzer started talking about the fact that «updating the profane requires denying the sacred», that «transcendence has completely transformed into immanence» [11; 1]. Exactly this absolutist position is most often criticized.

In the context of this vision of the problem, we are talking about the formation of an absolutely secular component of society, a completely free sociality without a religious component and, as a result, a purely «religious religion» that does not affect anything that would lie outside of religiosity. Two separate realities. Is it so? How much can the social get rid of the religious and vice versa? Nevertheless, the modern era did not destroy religion, but gave society a new vision.

Secularization is not a carefully designed and implemented project aimed at the destruction of religion. This is a natural process brought to life by global transformations of all spheres of society. Moreover, Max Weber believed that it was religion in its new form that made all these transformations possible. Secularization does not imply militant anti-religiosity. The struggle did not even go on with religion as such, but with its power over society, expressed in the absolute dominant of religious institutions and, above all, with the institution and practice of the Christian church as the main religion of European societies. The task was to deprive not the religion, but the church of its social role. It was a struggle to change religious identity to civic. How successful was this process? An example is the United States of America, a highly religious, but at the same time multicultural and multi-confessional country, which, thanks to its initial data, unlike the countries of Western Europe with their dominant Christian traditions, had more fertile ground for the «victo- ry» of secularization. As a result of the processes of secularization, the United States has become a unique country of «civil religion», combining the ideologies of patriotism, citizenship, and faith. The desacralization of basic social spheres such as politics, economics and culture has led to the legitimization of ideological, cultural and religious pluralism.

Thus, secularization did not imply destruction, but a transposition of religion, its displacement from the «secular» sphere, primarily in terms of depriving absolute influence precisely in the field of culture (value system), ensuring its transition to the religious sphere. As a result, culture in the system of its basic values and ideas not only ceased to be unambiguously determined by religion, but got the opportunity to interpret it. Secularized man ceased to be determined by religion, but got the opportunity to choose it.

If previously spirituality was a purely religious imperative, now it has acquired a broader meaning, including, in addition to religious ethics, scientific, philosophical, educational (in its secular interpretation) and a number of other ethics. Therefore, in the literature devoted to the analysis of secularization processes, one can often find a mention of the «cultural project», the era of secularization laid the foundation for the development of the phenomenon and the concept «Culture» itself. It arose as an alternative to the absolute dominance of religious norms. «Culture is what remains after the removal of actual religiosity from the «cultural life» of a person and society, when there is nothing more in culture than «culture». In this perspective, religion itself is understood as a part of culture, that is, it is reduced to a special type of this experience, which allows us to «take everything of value from the centuries-old religious heritage of mankind», interpreting this «everything» in a culturally secularistic vein. That is, to «render harmless» religion as a religion [10; 165].

However in this situation inevitably substitution principle is triggered and culture, in its basic values, acquires the features of the sacred, partly assuming the functions of not only «maintaining», but also «pro- ducing a sample». Religion, however, retains its position outside the context of cultural norms and continues to exist relatively autonomously.

In their «sacralization», cultural norms operate according to religiously established patterns and for non-compliance with cultural ethics, social punishment inevitably follows. And just as for the believer it is unacceptable from the point of view of religious ethics not to perform religious rites, so from the point of view of culture, ignorance in the issues established by society becomes unacceptable. Vladimir Weidle called these processes «the processes of the dying of art» [11]. The processes of sacralization of culture that began at that time were stopped by the emergence of a new type of contemporary art, later called mass culture, which acquired a huge scale of spread and influence. And this has already led to the secularization of the culture itself. Great hopes were placed on the «culture» project, its values, which acquired the character of norms, were considered eternal, and the status as the «successor» of religion was unshakable. But the development of society quickly generated a new situation, which has ceased to correspond to the paradigm of culture as a kind of religion [11].


Speaking about the ideology of the modern era, it is necessary to emphasize that the historical context itself, context of objective necessity at least partial compliance with the laws of succession was of little concern. Raising the idea of the triumph of science and the human mind over nature (God) at the forefront, man devoted all his efforts to substantiation in order to maintain his position of a new way of life and type of society, which he had so hard won from religion. Having proclaimed the Enlightenment revolution and setting new rules, progressive societies did not think about the ambiguous consequences that will have such a global transformation. Like any idea, taken out of the logical flow of the historical context, the idea of Progress is static. But whether progress has a goal or is it about progress for the sake of progress and is the goal itself. The «new» faith, replacing the old, gave answers only to a number of significant, but passing questions, having lost its «cover», society gave the person a huge number of opportunities, choices and alternatives, while depriving them of protection in the form of faith «in tales». The ruffled, bewitched world, a world without windows to the miracles existing in it, could not keep a new form of faith for a long time, but it gave a person the opportunity to make his own independent choices in matters of religion as well.

We can say that in the centuries-old history of mankind, secularization is only a stage of sociocultural evolution. This is a process, the beginning and the end of which mark a certain era. This is a short period of time, but very significant for humanity, a segment of history. Although it is probably wrong to talk about him in the context of world history, after all, these processes have affected only European countries and the United States, the so-called «Christian world». Secularization affected only the Christian religious space and was accompanied not only by the rejection of the dominant role of religion in society, but also by large-scale scientific, technical, economic and political progress.

And today there are enough reasons and bases to say that, since the process of secularization is completed, the post-secular era has come (or is coming) with new rules and accents.

Religion, despite the secularization processes of the modern era, «remained alive», it «adapts» and evolves. The «gains» of secularization, which ensured the separation of the church from the state, the freedom of religious choice, the transition to secular education standards, not only managed to eradicate the need for the «sacred», but brought about new religious movements. Religion continues to perform an integrative function, religious identity has again become completely normal.



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Year: 2020
City: Karaganda
Category: History