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The challenge of modernity/post modernity in the sociology of religion

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Transformations and challenges.
  3. Why post-modernity?
    1. Post-modernity - sense or is just a passing fad.
    2. The instrumental (purposive) rationality.
    3. The fragmented group identity.
    4. The realization of crisis.
    5. Globalization.
  4. Religion in post-modernity.
  5. Fundamentalisms.
  6. Globalization and religion.
  7. The dilemma of secularization.
  8. New religious movements and new age.
  9. The rational choice theory in sociology of religion.
  10. Popular religions.
  11. Conclusion.

The rapid changes that took place in the last decades of the 20th century had a deep impact on the religious landscape as well. The new phenomena present a double challenge to the sociology of religion: on the one hand, it has to review, refine and reinterpret the classical statements in order to assess their validity in contemporary society. On the other hand, it has to relate the changes in the religious situation to the overall transformations of society.It was developed the fundamental categorical system for the sociological study of religion, and the system of categories elaborated by them constitutes the basic discourse in sociology of religion. However, these are increasingly becoming the subject of critical considerations. The main thrust of the critique is that the classical discourse represents a Western, Eurocentric bias, therefore cannot take into consideration the social, cultural and religious dynamics of non-Western societies. The secularization theory (and amongst the contemporary theories the rational choice theory of religion) are in the crossfire of critics. Even the critics operate with the same concepts as the classic theorists, at best there are efforts to reinterpret their content or demonstrate their restricted validity.

[...] The Rational Choice Theory in Sociology of Religion Rational choice theory makes inroads in sociology of religion as well. It is considered by many as a new paradigm that is capable to construct an empirically grounded general theory of religion. However, as many critics remarked, rational choice theory in general as well as in sociology of religion assumes that ?people approach all actions in the same way, evaluating all costs and benefits and acting so as to maximize their net benefits. [...]


[...] It would, however, be much too simplistic to focus exclusively on the marketplace in analyzing the consequences of pluralism brought about by modernity. The limits of choice are often not recognized, and the individual frequently does not realize that he or she has to bear the onus of the consequences of a given choice. Nevertheless, there is a vast array of choices competing with one another. As a consequence, modern/postmodern identity becomes fluid, open-ended, incommensurably more than in earlier phases of modernity. [...]


[...] In a way this is an expression of the disintegration- reintegration dialectic. It is the choice, the rupture with tradition that is new in the spiritual renewal. It is left to the individual whether he or she joins or not a religious or spiritual movement, community, congregation or synagogue. These words, indeed, describe the post-modern characteristic of religiosity. Roof mentions that there is an observable pastiche-type of spirituality, and pastiche is a typical feature of post-modernity. New Religious Movements in advanced industrial societies are products of post- modernity, not only because of the pastiche character of spirituality but also because they express the cultural mixture in postmodern society. [...]

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