Being able to come to a believable conclusion about this statement could be quite hard due to the many definitions of religion and secularisation in the first place. There are so many different definitions for these that defining it correctly once aren’t the case. However secularisation is overall seen to be the decline in importance given to religion. Wilson put forward the idea that religion has declined and is now less important / influential in society than it was in the past. This was known as the secularisation thesis. Wilson focuses on statistical evidence relating to religious institutions and their activity.
Church attendance statistics are used for evidence of secularisation in the UK and these vary and show big differences. The fall and rise of statistics in different areas show that religion has little influence today. Interpretive sociologists say that these statistics should be treated with caution as statistics for previous centuries may be inaccurate as data wasn’t collected as well as it is today, the golden myth is not accurate and it could be misleading. On the other hand present statistics may not either be reliable as different religious organisations could have different counting methods to one another and also previous centuries.
Bellah questions the validity of statistics, as they don’t show the full picture e. g. a person attending church doesn’t have to mean that they are religious. He says that religion is a private experience and cannot be measured for most people. Statistical evidence only tells us about participation in certain institutionalised religions, not religious belief / practice as a whole. Wilson suggests that rational thinking in the shape of science has replaced religious influence in our lives because scientific progress has resulted in higher living standards.
Science has also come up with convincing explanations for phenomena which were once given by religious organisations e. g. how the world was created. People have therefore become increasingly disenchanted with religion. However people say that Wilson maybe overemphasising the influence of rationality, evidence tells us that people at times prefer religious explanations to scientific explanations. Social attitude surveys tell us that 70% of the UK population profess a string belief in god. Many people subscribe to quasi religious concepts such as luck or fate.
There has been a decline in commitment to beliefs. Membership of high commitment organisations has generally decreased and low commitment organisations membership has increased. The popularity of some cults may be explained by the fact that they do not demand a great deal of commitment. Wilson argues that the church is no longer involved in important areas of social life such as politics. He says that politicians have no interest in making sure their policies meet with the approval of religious leaders.
The media is more likely to have an impact and direct people rather than the church. Wilson says that the church has become disengaged from the wider society and only plays a marginal role in modern society. However critics say that religion is still a major provider of education and welfare in society today. The media still shows a great interest in religious issues such as women priests or the Church of England’s attitudes to homosexuality. National religious ceremonies such as the funeral of Princess Diana suggest that the sacred might still be important.