Secularisation in Contemporary Ireland | Sociology

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This study will investigate whether, and in what ways secularisation is occurring in contemporary Ireland. Theories of secularisation, and arguments against the process, abound, and this is a hotly debated topic. How, and in what ways might secularisation be said to be taking place within a given society?

This study will attempt to make a contribution to this debateby looking at the situation in Ireland. Attention will also be paidhowever, to what has happened in Britain as much of the researchconcerning secularisation has taken place in that context. It will makesome comparisons between Ireland and the situation in Britain and otherEuropean countries to demonstrate the unique place of religion in Irishsociety. The study will seek to understand:

• What processes might signify whether secularization is taking place?
• Whether similarly observed processes might be said to signify that secularization is taking place in Ireland
• Whether Contemporary Ireland could be said to be a secular society or as Brewer (2005) contends, a post-Christian society.
• Whether, and in what ways religion may be said to have a unique position in Irish society.

The study will draw on statistical and documentary data, along withmedia reports to ascertain whether, and in what ways, secularization istaking place. The study will look at the relationship between religionand the state in the republic of Ireland and also in Northern Ireland.It will also look at the education system and the phenomenon ofinter-religious marriage. In this way the study treats existingdocumentation as primary data by using it together in a distinctivefashion.

Structure

The study will begin with theories of secularization and a literaturereview which will look at the process in Britain and in Europe andcontrast this with the situation in Ireland to demonstrate in what waysIreland may differ from other industrialized societies and how this mayaffect whether and in what ways secularization could be said to betaking place. Following the literature review the methodologicalapproach to the study will be outlined and attention will be paid toreflexivity in the research process. There will be an analysis of thefindings of the research and finally a conclusion that will establishwhether the research question has fulfilled its aims.

Religion is common to almost all cultures. Religious traditions andtheir teachings are, it might be argued, the result of three things,faith, theology, and culture. Anthropologist
Clifford Geertz (1966) describes religion thus:

1. A system of symbols which acts to 2. Establish powerful, pervasive,and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by 3. Formulatingconceptions of a general order of existence and 4. Clothing theseconceptions with such an aura of factuality that 5. The moods andmotivations seem uniquely realistic (Geertz, 1966:4).

Religion has many different aspects from personal beliefs aboutspirituality, to institutional structures like schools and hospitals,to the influence of religious bodies over legislation Until theEnlightenment the teachings of religion were rarely questioned becausethey were regarded as direct truth from God. Modernity, with its
implicit understanding of the absolute powers of reason,

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