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Religion and the Demographic Revolution

Religion and the Demographic Revolution: Women and Secularisation in Canada, Ireland, UK and USA since the 1960s

Volume: 29
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Religion and the Demographic Revolution
    Book Description:

    In the 1960s, two great social and cultural changes of the western world began. The first was the rapid decline of Christian religious practice and identity and the rise of the people of 'no religion'. The second was the transformation in women's lives that spawned a demographic revolution in sex, family and work. Both phenomena were sudden though not uniform in their impact. The argument of this book is that the two were intimately connected, triggered by an historic confluence of factors in the 1960s. Canada, Ireland, UK and USA represent different stages of secularisation for the book's study. The religious collapse in mainland Britain and most of Canada was sharp and spectacular but contrasted with the more resilient religious cultures of the United States, the Canadian Maritimes, Ireland and Northern Ireland. Using statistical evidence from government censuses, the book demonstrates how secularisation was deeply linked to demographic change. Starting with the distinctive features of the 1960s, the book quantifies secularisation's scale, timing and character in each nation. Then, the intense links of women's sexual revolution to religious decline are explored. From there, women's changing patterns of marriage, coupling and birthing are correlated with diminishing religiosity. The final exploration is into the secularising consequences of economic change, higher education and women's expanding work roles. This book transforms the way in which secularisation is imagined. Religion matters more than mere belief, practice and the churches; it shapes how populations construct their sexual practices, families and life-course. In nations where religion has been dissolving since 1960 into apathy and atheism, the process has been part of a demographic revolution built on new moral codes. Connecting religious history with the history of population, this volume unveils how the historian and sociologist need to engage with the demographic enormity of the decline of Christendom. CALLUM G. BROWN is Professor of Religious and Cultural History at the University of Dundee.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-068-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    In the 1960s, there began three of the greatest social and cultural changes of the Western world. The first was secularisation in the form of the rapid decline of Christianity, most evident in Europe, Canada and Australasia, and which may spread across the world’s peoples and faiths. The second was a demographic revolution both in those territories and elsewhere, in which family structure was revolutionised by plunging fertility and marriage rates that may lead the world eventually from population growth. The third was the revolution in women’s identities, a transformation in the social construction of gender involving the search for...

  6. 2 The sixties
    (pp. 29-70)

    The 1960s marked a major transition in the life and culture of Western societies. In three regards, the ‘long sixties’ of 1957 to 1975 may have a claim to be the most significant cultural departure in at least half a millennium. The first was the decline of Christianity. The second was the gender revolution. The third was the demographic transition to intensely low fertility accompanied by low marriage rates. For organised Christianity, the sixties constituted the most concentrated period of crisis since the Reformation; but what was at stake became perceived in many places as the very survival of Christian...

  7. 3 Religious change
    (pp. 71-126)

    The religious changes in Britain, Ireland, Canada and the United States between 1960 and 2010 have been very great. These changes have not been even, nor at the same pace, across this territory. Yet there have been many common features. The shifts within Christianity, the re-shaping of religious life and the nature of worship, the sharpening of the division between conservative and liberal, and the rise of new religious movements and spiritualities, have been most significant and, in many respects, unprecedented in scale and impact. But these have been overshadowed in magnitude by the decline in the social significance of...

  8. 4 Sex and religion
    (pp. 127-171)

    At the foundation of the modern history of demographic change is the sexual revolution. Sex in the sixties is not well covered in the literature and what there is tends to concentrate on marital sexuality. Yet, most historians agree there was a sexual revolution, but disagree about when it started, how gradual or revolutionary it was, how far it was shared across all Western countries, and of course whether it has been a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing (and what criteria are to be brought to that judgement). There is then the much thornier issue whether a sexual revolution had...

  9. 5 Family and religion
    (pp. 172-216)

    Underlying most demographic change are people making individual decisions relating to family. The decisions may be planned or spur of the moment, with or without aforethought. The principal decisions are: at what age to have sex, with whom to have sex, how many sexual partners to take, whether to have sex before marriage, whether to get married at all, whether to get married by religious rites, whether to cohabit (either prior to or instead of marriage), what if any contraceptive method to deploy, whether to have an abortion or carry a pregnancy to term, at what age to give birth,...

  10. 6 The economy and women’s religion
    (pp. 217-251)

    Many historians, rather more than sociologists or anthropologists, have suggested links between the economic and the religious. The nature and direction of such proposed links have varied considerably, and it must be said that little consensus exists. For its part, demography is founded to a considerable extent on links to the economy. Countless population indicators are affected by economic fortunes. Moreover, with structural economic change, such as where industrialisation overtakes agrarian-based commercial society, or where heavy industry is superseded by the tertiary sector, employability often alters differentially for men and women with likely impacts on marriage and birth. We have...

  11. 7 The decision-makers
    (pp. 252-268)

    Since the 1950s, across the four nations of Canada, Ireland, the four countries of the UK and the United States, religious change has been significant and in most of them of a dramatic nature. Decline of churchgoing, religious attitudes and identity has transformed mainland Britain and Canada in unprecedented ways. Whilst England & Wales and Scotland had already lost high churchgoing by 1960, they rapidly lost deeply religious customs, civil regimes and moral outlooks. Canada was remoulded from a highly religious nation, with one of the strongest levels of churchgoing in the Western world, into a nation with rapidly declining religious...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-296)
  13. Index
    (pp. 297-302)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 303-307)