warning: english is not my native lenguage. excuse me if my writing is horrible
In my "Foundations and development of modern Latinamerican culture" (lol, long name) class we're studying the modern religiosity of the continent, and comparing it with that of the US and Europe. We study the US only for comparative purposes, as Europe, for historical reasons, is more important in our analisys
So first we saw the classic secularization theory (stated by Marx, Weber, and all the classic sociologists)...no need to explain that...but then we saw this other, more recent, theory that explains religion, and how is possible that one of the most developed countries in the world (and the one latinos more often look at) has always been one of the most religious ones. The theory had a name, but I can't remember it now! I know many of you must know it, but I had never heard it before :P (I'm not american btw, I'm chilean)
Well, the basic premises are:
-the religious behaviour can be explained with an economical, rational approach. the religious market must be seen as a perfect one.
-every human being needs some kind of spiritual belief
-more religions, churches, congregations, sects, etc, make for more religious people, as everyone will eventually find something that suits them (because of the need for religion presumedly all of us have). Also people (and congregations) are more inclined to "mix" religions, in their efforts to find an ideal belief.
-the competition created by the religious market will make religious organizations become more efficient, etc, just as companies do, and make them create publicity, ads, or any sort of original resource to try catch more adherents.
...those are the basic premises, but there are others, like the one that explains why won't all churches (like the Catholic) change constantly to try gain more followers. Though it sounded great, I think is flawed. It won't work everywhere. They explained the high lack of belief in modern Europe by saying that for centuries religion in there was a monopoly controlled by the State (?); but that didn't explain the high religiosity in Latin America, where there was a religious monopoly for centuries too. I asked the teacher how did it explain the existence of atheists (like me!), but it seems it doesn't...
So basically, this theory only works for the US. Since I don't live there I can't actually tell if it is 100% accurate, but it does seem to do a good work. I find the whole economics approach interesting, specially since I live in Chile, where any sort of economical explanation of religion or religiousness would be seen as highly offensive...
What do you think? How do u explain the strangeness of a developed but highly religious country? I've always been curious about this topic!