After secularization….

At the Religious Studies Project, Dick Houtman has written a blog post titled “After Secularization: Unbelief in Europe.” Houtman has done some small-scale studies of unbelief in Europe, and relates his findings to larger intellectual trends, including the rise of “spiritual but not religious.” Houtman concludes that while this new contemporary spirituality is not old-school Christianity (which is where we get the “not religious” piece of the label), it is nevertheless a religion:

“Despite the still popular notion that contemporary spirituality is too privatized and individualized to have much social significance, this has become increasingly difficult to maintain [that’s it’s not a religion]. Surely, spirituality’s very character stands in the way of loyalty to church-like organizations and religious doctrines, but it does boast loyalty to what Campbell (2002 [1972]) has called ‘the cultic milieu’, a milieu to which the western mainstream has increasingly opened up. In the process, it has become clear that the public role of spirituality differs significantly from the ideological and political role that Christian religion used to play, and in many countries still plays. Guided by the spiritual motto, ‘One does not need to be sick to become better’, the public role of spirituality is more therapeutic than ideological and is played out in realms that range from work (Aupers & Houtman 2006, Zaidman 2009) to health care (Raaphorst & Houtman 2016, Zaidman 2017) and education (Brown 2019).”

It’s a short post, and worth reading for anyone trying to understand so-called secularization; I particularly like Houtman’s use of the word “unbelief” to name what is erroneously called “non-religiousness.”