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The Four Debates on Secularism and Secularization in the Sociology of Religion

Sindung Haryanto*

Sociology Department, Lampung University, Indonesia

*Corresponding Author:
Sindung Haryanto
Sociology Department, Lampung University, Indonesia
Tel: 081540828319

Received Date: 26/10/2018; Accepted Date: 22/01/2019; Published Date: 29/01/2019

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The debate over secularism and secularization in the sociology of religion has been taking place up to this present day. There are at least four aspects of the debate: scope/benchmark, process/ root causes, theoretical framework and the existence, impacts and prospects. This paper aims to identify and map the debate. In the context of the dynamics of globalization, the debate is expected to remain existent with regard to increasingly faster changes in socio-political constellation. Faith-based social movements and internationalized migration constitute the two important factors that sustain the debate over secularism and secularization.


Secularism, Secularization, Sociology of religion, Globalization


Secularism and secularization in the sociology of religion is an intensely debated phenomenon since the 19th century. Several social theorists, including the "Trinity of Sociology" (Mark, Weber and Durkheim) have long predicted that religion would be losing its importance with the development of industrial society. According to Mark, the main causative factor is the development of capitalism, while in Weber's view it is caused by the rationalization of "iron cage" and "disenchantment of the world". When Durkheim wrote The Division of Labor in Society (1893), he envisaged a possible reduction in the function of religion in society. According to author, despite the fact of being the exclusive phenomenon of the modern society, secularism and secularization have their roots long in the past.

Secularization is a phenomenon of the modern society that appears when the ways of thinking modernity flourished. Secularization appeared almost simultaneously with the process of waning of the various aspects of the sacred, at the level of community level, individual and religion [1,2]. In his famous work, Public Religions in the Modern World, Casanova [2] made some observations and concluded that there was a decline in church activities in Europe today. Modernity produces a new benchmark for social identity, changes in religion from its central role in Europe. Religion is increasingly marginalized in society and only serves as a complementary element. However, the premises that the tendency in Europe is global and that secularization leads to the marginalization of religion are premature.


There are several models of the division of secularism and secularization in the sociology of religion. Kuru [3], for example, makes a division of assertive and passive secularism. The difference between the two depends on the intensity of state involvement in separating religion from the public sphere. Taylor [4] distinguishes political secularization (laïcisation) from social secularization (secularisation). The former is the process by which the state declares themselves to separate from its dependence on religion, while the latter is an erosion of the influence of religious values in both the social and behavioral practices at the individual level. According to Bader [5], secularization includes three aspects: cultural, social and political. Culturally, it designates the secularization of general cognitive and normative cultural frames: views of the world, society and man. Socially, it designates a decline of religious beliefs and practices in modern societies. Politically, it Refers to a secularization of state and politics. Also Reviews These distinctions are of practical importance. Meanwhile, Karel Dobbelaere [6] distinguishes three levels of secularization, the macro-level (societal secularization), the meso-level (organizational secularization) and the micro-level(individual secularization).

Casanova [2] divides secularization into three types: secularization as differentiation of the secular aspects of religious institutions, secularization as a decline in religious beliefs and practices, and secularization as marginalization of religion to the private. These types do not take place simultaneously within a community; rather, it separates from each other and can vary with place and time. His study indicates that the three dimensions donot always emerge simultaneously. First, he accepts the validity claim that secularization includes structural differentiation of religious institutions from other institutions such as the modernization of the society in which it takes place. Thus, differentiation has a special meaning, "the emancipation of the secular sphere from religious institutions and norms". However, the second dimension often occurs hand in hand with secularization. The decline in religious beliefs and practices cannot be taken for granted, and it does not necessarily result from the first. The third dimension, which is the core of secularization thesis, is that religion will alienate itself into the private under modernity. Nevertheless, it cannot be assumed to be related to the differentiation of secular institutions. The second and third dimensions cannot be related to the first.

Another division model, such as that of Modood [7], is based on the modes of separation between absolute secularism and relative secularism. According to Modood [7], secularism has increasingly grown in strength and scope, but an historically evolved and evolving compromise with religion are the defining features of Western European secularism, rather than the absolute separation of religion and politics. Secularism today enjoys an hegemony in Western Europe, but it is a moderate rather than a radical, a pragmatic rather than an ideological, secularism. Here is Modood's [7] scheme of division of secularism (Table 1).

Table 1: Radical and moderate views regarding the separation of religion and the state. Source: Modood [7].

Religion-state Radical secularism Radical public 'religionism' moderate secularism Moderate public 'religionism'
Absolute separation Yes No No No
No separation No Yes No No
Relative separation No No Yes Yes

In general, secularization is conceived from the two main indicators, namely the marginalization of religion from the public sphere and a decline in religiosity. Nevertheless, secularization has unique characteristics in each country. According to Cady and Hurd [8], there are differences in secularism in France and the United States even if both are "western". Both have fundamental differences. French secularism was driven by the desire to protect citizens from religion and not, as in the American case, also to protect religion from the state. The pursuit of liberty in France stood in opposition to religious freedom, not in collusion with it. Meanwhile, Jacobsohn [9], comparing Indian and American secularism, categorizes American secularism as an assimilative model that seeks to accommodate the particularistic aspirations of Jewish nationalism in Israel within the constitutional framework of liberal democracy. Secularism in India, on the other hand, belongs to the ameliorative model that is based on social reform towards a new Indian nationalism in the context of the nation's deeply rooted religious diversity and stratification.

Many countries, especially in the aftermath of World War II, became a secular state. Turkey is one example of a secular state, despite the majority of Muslim population. According to Barker [10], secularism in Turkey is different from French and Anglo-American traditions. French laïceté tradition view religion as something that needs to be prevented from influencing its citizens, while the Anglo-American tradition sees religion as something that requires protection from the state. The tradition of secularism in Turkey sees religion as something that needs to be controlled by the state. Mustafa Kemal Attaturk constituted the leader of Turkey who most firmly stated the need to prevent religion from being used as a "tool for politics". Religion is entirely excluded, but it is only used pragmatically for legitimization or cultural homogenization of national identity. Traditional religious schools, for example, are not completely removed and all levels of education are under the Ministry of Education. The direction of secularism in Turkey is nevertheless untenable. The state in this case does not manage to take control of religion.

The scope of secularization in the practices of a country itself is not something fixed but it is subject to dynamics and redefinition in line with the times. A study conducted by Yavuz [11] in Turkey showed that Turkey experienced two fundamental changes. The first is the end of dual sovereignty or "parallel governments" in Turkey because the power of the military has been reduced. Secondly, there is the evolution of a new moral language of politics that is very much shaped by the global discourses of human rights. The meanings of state, national identity, secularism and political community are redefined as a result of four interrelated transformations: 1) economic (introduction of market conditions); 2) ideological (Islamic values and ideas are contemporarized); 3) social (urbanization, spread of higher education and higher degree of social mobility); and 4) political (democratization of the state and thickening of civil society).

The principle of laïceté that underlies French secularism is also subject to dynamics. According to Khondker [12], laïceté is not merely the separation of church (religion) from the state but, rather, a system in which the state controls the religious domain. This can be interpreted as the marginalization of religion. In the tradition of French secularism, this principle is not merely a ban on religious symbols in the public sphere, its social presence was also questioned. In 1882, religious instruction in state schools was abolished. The French brand of secularism or laïceté "found its clearest expression in the 1905 law on the separation of church and state. At the time, the enemy was the Catholic Church ('clericalism, that's the enemy!'), and Islam has now taken the place of Catholicism". Veiled women - Catholic nuns - were chased from public places in 1905. Today, the caste has changed and public schools chase the veiled Muslim girls and women.

A comparative study conducted in Italy and Spain (both are Catholic countries) showed how religion has different dynamics in relation to aspects of the country's political life. A study conducted by Pace [13] concluded that there was a loss of faith from the collective consciousness both in Italy and Spain. However, both of them had different characteristics. In Spain, theend of the Francoist regime and the persistence of the new constitution led to the weakening of the relationship between Catholic identity and national identity. In Italy, a paradoxical phenomenon occurs. In the country there is an attempt to rebuild the relationship between Catholicism and collective memory, that the foundation of national consciousness is "the same religious beliefs". The myth of Catholic state unity remains a powerful symbol in Italy, but it is relatively weak in Spain. In Italy, the myth is used both by the Catholic Church and the main political parties, the leaders of which try to avoid movements that question the cultural legitimacy in the public sphere. When Bishop declared its opposing stance to gay marriage and liberalization of artificial insemination, for example, political parties appeared to be careful in addressing it. In Spain, on the contrary, the Catholic Church does not have adequate power to influence political policies. The facts demonstrate that the myth as a religious (Catholic) state remains strong in Italy, while Spain looks increasingly secular.

Process/Root Cause

In addition to the debate on the scope of secularization, there is also in the sociology of religion a debate on the factors causing secularism and secularization of society. Some theorists associate secularism and secularization with the Enlightenment of the 18th century in Europe. King [14] argues that the secular mind came into being not because the Enlightenment was a successful secular revolution, but because the Enlightenment was a failed spiritual revolution. Here lies the hidden origins of the secular mind, only comprehensible however when the religiosity of the Enlightenment, and of the West leading up to that time, is understood through the concept of spiritual difference. Meanwhile, according to Wilson [15], secularism and secularization are rooted in the assumptions adopted by the secularists that religion is largely irrational and therefore inconsistent with the principles that liberals should govern public political decision making, namely the exercise of human reason. This is related to a further assumption about religion stemming from Enlightenment thought, that religion is a primarily historical, pre-modern phenomenon. Dominant conceptions of secularism have catalyzed the emergence of an understanding of religion based on three dichotomies −institutional/ ideational, individual/communal and irrational/rational. Through the influence of secular dualism, one element of each dichotomy is subordinated to the other. This process has resulted in a definition of religion as institutional, individual and irrational.

In the view of Bruce [16] secularization is closely related to modernization. He argues that the decline of religion in the West is not an accident but is an unintended consequence of a variety of complex social changes that for brevity we call modernization. It is not inevitable. But unless we can imagine a reversal of the increasing cultural autonomy of the individual, secularization must be seen as irreversible. In a similar vein, Wilson [17] states that the postindustrial society is characterized by the loss of moral-laden social system as a social order which then shifts into being more impersonal. In work activities, its role depends on the quality of the individual. The process of impersonalization takes place as the technological advances that transform the character of the intrinsic role by facilitating mechanization. Demoralization process occurs. Human affection and attention remain existent, but the quality is reduced. Meanwhile, French sociologist Yves Lambert [18] has a different view. In his opinion, the emergence of modernity may have four effects on religion: decline, adaptation and new interpretation, conservative reaction, and innovation. Only the first effect can be said to categorically include secularization.

In the discipline of anthropological psychology, the explanatory model developed by Winkelman and Bletzer [19] may help explain the link between modernity and moral decadence. In their opinion, the modernity power of factories, bureaucracy and the state is able to change the economic and daily life, increase labor demand and generate stress and dislocation, increasing the need for drugs as "chemical adjuster". Increased work volume is positively correlated to the increasing use of stimulants (mainly coffee, tobacco, and cocaine) for increased productivity. Depressants (especially alcohol for the popular classes, marijuana for certain groups) are generated for relaxation after work. The emphasis of modernity is on reason and the replacement of religion by science and materialism, transforming acrament and treatment into commodities to reduce the negative aspects of work on the one hand and to increase comfort on the other. Capitalism drives increased production of high-value commodities of drugs, such as tobacco, coffee and alcohol. Production and commercialization of these products have even spawned new elites in the European societies that have dominant power in the country's political economic arena. Modernization makes drugs more widely available, allowing the development of the process of addiction and dependency and moral decadence.

The process of modernization has transformed the entire social structure, religious institutions are no exception. The theories of secularization that have been developing in the sociology of religion state that modernization process has negative effects on the rise of religious communities and their consequences, such as religious activities. The underlying assumption of this theory is that modernization requires rationalization, whereas religious institutions have irrational, even supra-rational, values or elements. Hence, religious institutions are slowly abandoned concomitant with the modernization process. If modernization is a necessity in almost all communities, it can therefore be assumed also on the basis of secularization theory that secularization is also a necessity throughout the world.

Empirically, demoralization is evidenced by a study conducted by Inglehart [20] using data from the World Values Survey (WVS), which covers 65 countries or 75% of the world population. The conclusion confirmed the claim that modernization has led to an erosion of traditional values. Economic developments inevitably have resulted in a reduction of religion, parochialism and cultural differences. It also appears to be associated with a predictable syndrome of changes, from the absolute social norms toward increasingly rational, tolerant values, trust and postmodern values. In fact, the historically Protestant, Orthodox or Confucian people have changed into a culturalzone of very different value system when controlled by economic developments. This cultural difference is associated with a number of important social phenomena, including democratization.

A number of other researchers such as Hansen [21], Roy [22], Sansonetti [23], Baker [24] identify specific factors from the results of their case study. Hansen [21] identifies the political instability factor in India to cause the country to formulate new secular values to bind national integration. Sansonetti [23] who conducted a study in Italy concluded the emergence of higher rates of individual autonomy and more responsibility in everyday life experience-phenomenon that can be traced back to processes of individualization in the wider society. According to Roy [22], French laïcité was instituted by political choices, secularization in contrast arose from cultural processes that were not decreed, which poses the problem of the relation between explicit religion (dogma and prescriptions) and the internalization of a religious vision of the world in the form of a culture (this religious vision may even be expressed in open unbelief but preserve the intellectual framework of religion, for example, Marxist messianism, secular "saints," pan-Arabism). On a micro scale, the study by Baker [24] showed that perceptions of science correlate strongly with American secularism, particularly among atheists and agnostics.

Secularism is related to secularization. The former means the thoughts and theories that focus on the separation of religion and politics, in which the secularist groups are trying to realize internationally as their goal. Meanwhile secularization is the process of separation, either as a result of deliberate efforts or merely as a natural effect of the interaction of social factors. In the Arab world, for example, two stages can be distinguished in the development of secularism. The first appeared "during the Arab civilization's experiencing shocks due to the emergence of a superior outside force, named the "West". The second is the contemporary stage which "occurred during the last quarter of the 20th century". The first phase started from the early 19th century until the mid-20th century, and the second stage started from the late 1970s. The first stage was a response to the challenge of Western culture and the second stage was a criticism of modern Islamism and self-criticism of Arab culture [25].

Theoretical Framework

In general, secularization is the process of marginalization of religion in the public sphere that otherwise provides a bigger role to culture which is the result of human activities. In this case culture cannot be equated with religion but it is considered as a "holy" component since it serve as a code of conduct adhered to by its supporters. In the context of industrial society, for example, corporate culture becomes a sort of new "religion" in which the values contained in it may be contrary to religious values. Sacralization secular cultural values occur. The process of sanctification and of secularization do not appear suddenly but through a long process starting from its appearance, the coercion, to the diffusion into other communities.

Theoretically, proposition that underlies the theory of secularization is that religion is a private and personal affair, rather than social; thus, it is not an issue of culture, politics and the public interest. Such proposition also constitutes a cornerstone of theological theory. According to Barker [10], both theories become a challenge to religious studies. Secular theory posits that there is no reason to study religion since religion is a private and personal affair; thus, when people undertake religious studies they can only record and report but cannot learn it. Religious studies, in theological debate, do not include the worldly knowledge, but only the individual knowledge which is most unique and not representative. Similarly, the theological theory posits that communication of God's message to humans also take place in person, so that undertaking religious studies is a nonsense. Both theories marginalize the position and the role of religion and are outside the social analysis, irrelevant to the establishment of culture and social studies.

The theory is believed mainly among utilitarian economists. According to those economists, the process of secularization that span the globe is a direct result of the modernization process. This theory has been challenged by more pluralist economists who argue that it is precisely modernization that can heighten religious fervor in society. These economists assume religion as a "commodity" as is other commodities that compete in the market. Religions competing in the "religion market" will largely depend on the performance of the commodities of the religion itself and also on the conditions of competition. The fierce competition of religion market forces religions to improve performance in serving the needs of their adherents and also in seeking to gain new followers. The fierce competition forces religions to develop sensitivity and innovation which are all oriented to the needs of their "customers" or in this case their congregations. Meanwhile, at the low level of competition or, in other words, religious monopoly, religious institutions tend to be underperforming, for example in the form of religious leaders' laziness to serve their people. Diversification of religion is thus capable of stimulating religious revival and its community. It can also be assumed that religious life in urban areas are more passionate than that in rural areas since the level of religious competition is more stringent. Inability of religious institutions to survive amidst the modernization process is caused by the presence of other competing values or religions considered more rational and more "advantageous" for the life of the community.

The theory of secularization in an economic perspective can generally be divided into two sides, the demand side and the supply side. The demand side focuses on the people's need for religion. Industrialized societies tend not to respect religious leaders and also the efforts made by religious institutions and religious practices gradually decrease and communities are then interested in the spiritual that is extremely different. Meanwhile, the supply side focuses on the efforts undertaken by religious institutions. The supply side assumes that the people's need for religion is constant and the variable degree of religiosity of society is affected by the supply (competition) of religions in the religion market. Religious institutions and religious leaders have an important role in developing their religion and it greatly affects the excitement of religious life.

Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge [26] have formulated the so-called dialectic secularization theory, where the idea of secularization as a self-limiting process is a key. At the heart of their secularization theory is a general theory of religion based on "rational choice" theory. According to Stark and Bainbridge [26], individuals seek rewards or advantageous solutions for themselves, and they attempt to avoid costs in doing so. However, in some instances, they must satisfy themselves with compensation for rewards because these are not always available. According to Hamilton [27], the supply-side challenge to the assumption that pluralism undermines religion, that the past was as religious as supposed, that modernity and industrialization are incompatible with religion and the general emphasis upon the continuing survival of religious belief, have led many sociologists of religion to conclude that the secularization thesis is dead.

The theory of secularization is better known in Europe, whereas in the United States it is known as the rational choice theory which is based on economic theory. Rational choice theory emphasizes individual personal utility decisions and assume the best way a person selects to achieve his goal. Thus, a person chooses a particular religion since the religion is considered to provide maximum benefits for themselves. Similarly, a person who converted is also for the reason that the new religion is more rational and more beneficial. Both theories (secularization and rational choice) were born from a different social context. The theory of secularization was born in the context of European society who tended to adopt the view that the state institutions should be supported by religion, mainly for pragmatic purposes such as tax collection. Over time, there has been a widespread tendency in Europe of a decrease in the level of religiosity of society. Meanwhile, the rational choice theory was born in the context of American society who preferred the option of separation of state institutions from religion. With regard to degree of religiosity of society, the tendency is the opposite, where there is an increase in religious fervor among American communities (Table 2).

Table 2: Comparison between Rational Choice Theory and Theory of Secularism Source: Adapted from Stark and Iannaccone [28].

Aspect Rational Choice Theory Theory of Secularism
Origin and development area America Europe
Religiosity (social context) Religious fervor Low religious vitality
State-religion relations Separate Dominance of the state over religion
Religion "market" conditions Limited (monopoly) Open (free) competition
Consequences of market conditions Varied demand for religious commodities. Attract people to worship Inefficiency and failure to provide religion "products"
Focus Religion supply side Demand side
Concentration Individual Social structure and changes in individual demand for religion

Existence and Prospects

The debate over secularization is not limited to the definition, the source or the causative factors, but also includes the scope of the impacts caused by the process of secularization itself. A number of questions arise regarding the impacts, among others, whether secularization leads to erosion of traditional values, morality, ethics and in general public trust in irrational or supra-rational matters? Does secularization have impacts on the political landscapein the form of, among others, changes in voter behavior particularly against parties with religious ideology? Does secularization have impacts on the separation of state and religious institutions? Does secularization have impacts on overall economic performance of the state and so on.

Studies focusing on the impacts and prospects of secularization cover a wide spectrum taking into account many variables. Some of the impacts of secularization identified by researchers include: Socioeconomic status of women the protection and security of the weaker sections of society [30], households, families and relationships [31], obstacles to the integration of certain groups of immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants [32], inherent power conflict between secular modernist elites and Islamist elites [33], gender inequality [34], societal dysfunction [35], social capital and democracy [36] and life satisfaction [37].

On a more macro scale, secularization is often associated with the state. A secular state is one that uses secular justifications in total. In a secular state, religion remains existent but, as noted by a classic anthropologist, Charles Taylor [4], "is in a different place in social life". The whole social actions take place in a secular space and time. Secular society do politics without taking God into account. In this case the general idea of a secular state is one where religious and political affairs are firmly separated. Religious values do not serve to guide the state in regulating the administration and community life. Secularism has a conventional view about religion, where religion is seen as a private affair. In relation to religion, the secularists calls for separation of religion from government affairs. The view was opposed by experts.

According to Beard et al. [38], the social analysts see secularism as the absence of or at least the reduction of the role of religion in national life. Several other studies associate secularism with such topics as economic development or modernization. In fact, secularism is a two-fold category and cannot be seen as the antithesis of religiosity. Is not correct to see secularism only as the absence of religiosity, since both secularism and religiosity have multiple components and the relationships are not simple. Secularism consists of two logically separate components, namely religious secularism and social secularism. Both have different motivations and impacts on political behavior. The marginal effects of social secularism are wider than those of religious secularism in all aspects. The social and religious secularists do not favor theRepublican Party, but the two have different levels of support where the social secularistsare more supportive than religious secularists. Both groups of secularists are more supportive of the Democratic Party, but again the support of social secularists is higher than that of the religious secularists.

A study conducted by Taydas et al. [39] also found the same conclusion. The emergence of the pro-religious party in Turkey (Adaletve Kalkınma Partisi, the Justice and Development Party - AKP) to gain a victory in the General Election of 2002 in Turkey is one of the evidence. In the last decade, pro-religious parties gained significant progress in elections in various countries, including India, Sudan, Algeria, and Palestine. The flourishing of religion in Turkish political arena is indeed the fruit of a complex process for many years, covering the debate on secularism and the imposition of secularism by the government when the state was newly established. Therefore, in order to better understand the emergence of religion in contemporary Turkish politics, an in-depth study on the history, politics and the source of the tension between the secularists and Islamists, is essential. Implications of the study are important for other countries, especially those having the experience with the flourishing of religion in politics and seeking to integrate parties into the democratic system.

In recent decades the thesis of the death of religion got a lot of criticism and lost its luster. For decades the thesis has not been debated in scientific discourse, but a wave of criticisms has been increasing since the 1980s.Various phenomena related to the actual development of religion in different places constitute a ammunition of criticisms directed to the validity of the thesis. Those phenomena include the emergence of a new spirituality in Europe, the still high level of visit to churches, the emergence of fundamentalist movements and religion-based parties in Islamic countries, the rapid development of Pentecost in Latin America, and also the outbreak of ethno-religion-based conflicts. Peter L. Berger, Rodney Stark and Roger Finke are a series of exponents who harshly criticized the thesis. Berger stated that "this age is not one of secularization"; rather, it is the age of the fertility of religiosity, marked by numerous religionbased movements at the global level. In his article entitled The De-secularization of the World: A Global Overview, Berger [40] further stated that "the assumption that we live in a secular world is wrong". The world today is precisely far more religious than before, and in some places there is an increase. This means that the whole literature written by historians and social scientists have been misdirected.

Various new terminology appear with regard to the tendency of increased religiosity, such as de-secularization [40], respiritualization, de-privatization [2], or "return to religion" (Martin Riesebrodt). A few decades ago social scientists still believed the claim that the modernization process followed by such processes as urbanization, industrialization, rising living standards, individualization, and pluralization of culture cause a decrease in the social significance and role of religious institutions, belief systems, and the degree of religiosity of society. The claim cannot be sustained today in light of the developments that indicate rising religious fervor. Many scholars argue that religion does not only conform with modernity, but it constitutes the source of modernity itself.

A study conducted by Lukens-Bull [41] in pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Java demonstrated conformity of religion with modernity. Religious institutions are not rigid but flexible institutions and proven to have an adaptive strength with regard to the changing times. Pesantren communities turned out to have its own way of defining modernity and even seek to incorporate moral values into the cosmopolitan values compatible with modernity. Among those values of morality are ukhuwahIslamiyah (Islamic brotherhood), sincerity, simplicity and independence. Pesantren communities seek to fight the "original sin" of modernity, namely selfishness or attitudes emphasizing the importance of individual over communal interests. The values of Islamic brotherhood and sincerity constitute the shield against capitalism. Simplicity is the control of consumerism as indicated by, among others, the widespread use of credit cards. Those values are thus a way of avoiding wastefulness. Independence makes both individuals and the nation gain freedom. For individuals, independence means the ability to work alone, something necessary for economic development, despite the control by Islamic values. For the nation, independence means avoiding a center-periphery relationship, as proposed Ander Gunder Frank, which produces backwardness.

Huntington predicted that the most frightening and unavoidable clash is one between Islam versus the West. His prediction is based on the assumption that Islam and modernity are fundamentally incompatible. Efforts made by pesantren undermine the premise. Pesantren communities are aware of and try to overcome the so-called modernism effects, such as materialism, selfishness, sexual prostitution, as well as religious fundamentalism. They endeavor to construct and selectively choose identities derived from the West. For example, pesantren modify the curriculum so that their students gain the knowledge and skills required to meet modernity. Technology is not the ultimate goal of pesantren, but it is how to apply the values of Islam in a comprehensive manner while responding to the changing times. Pesantren communities undertake a "peaceful" jihad and it is extremely different from fundamentalism, and therefore it poses no threat to the West. This is important since pesantren communities constitute the Muslim majority in the largest Muslim country in the world, are committed to social change through education, follow the example of the prophet and are of course accompanied by prayer than through violent conflicts [41].

In a global perspective, it is no longer possible to maintain the obsolete thesis that religion is the periphery in social development. This is because the thesis factually does not have a strong basis of facts. Secularization is presently more of an ideology than a theory based on empirical facts. Such global media as television, mobile phones, internet, and global companies in addition to serving as providers of consumer goods, also serves as a medium of expression and spread of religions so that several religions rapidly flourish such as Islam and Pentecost. Additionally, social movements and religion-based social conflicts emerge in various parts of the world.

Islam plays an increasingly important role in political and public life in many countries. It is characterized, among others, by the emergence of new Islamic countries and religious movements, including the movement of jihad. The trend suggests a "setback" or even "failure" of secularism. The above phenomena becomes a compelling reason to review the concept of secularization. According to Glassman and Neusner [42], religion will remain existent, even in a secular society, since it has an adaptive function. In particular, Burhoe's theory states that religion is a mutual altruism in the middle of the advancement of human civilization throughout history. If people are aware of their limited ability, memory, perception, personality, and motivation, "expansion of the thought" of theism cognitive would be able to help people evaluate, coordinate, and revitalize something in the context of modern society. In this new environment, communicative technology directs human consciousness through the unprecedented diversion of experience and responsibility, social changes occur far beyond biological evolution, and there is a tendency to become factionalization.

Secularization turns out to be subjected to not only the challenge of the strengthening of the role of religion in various places, but also socio-demographic factors. A study by Kaufmann et al. [43], which projecting cohort composition of religion in the US, concluded that Catholic Spain has been experiencing a rapid growth from 10 to 18 percent of the American population between 2003 and 2043. Protestants are projected to decline from 47 to 39 per cent in the same period. Liberal Protestants declined relative to other groups due to low fertility and the maturity of the structure of the population by age is caused by the declined proportion of Jews. The low fertility of the secular Americans and the immigrants' religiosity pose the threat to the strength of secularization. A study by Cimino and Smith [44] showed that the movement of secularism in the US is increasingly challenged.

In connection with the increasingly powerful globalization, secularization actually got a serious challenge in the view of some scholars. This is precisely against the secularization thesis that developed in the 19th century Europe. Robertson [45] explicates that, because globalization calls into question the identities of societies and individuals and brings different civilizations into one public square, religious traditions can become powerful sources of new images of world order. In response to global unsettling changes, there are a general nostalgia or an appetite for images of the past. This leads religious groups and movements to return to fundamentals as a way to root the individual in a nation's religious culture and to reshape the world order. Religious leaders also become global actors, engaged in global debates [45]. According to Beyer [46], the globalization of society may provide a fertile ground for the renewed public influence of religion. Yet he believes that religious actors and beliefs will have a more prominent role in the discourse about the global situation than in the institutions that shape global relations.

In addition, the presently continuing flow of migration, especially from Islamic countries to many European countries, has changed the social, cultural and political landscape in these countries. Numerous studies demonstrated it. Omoniyi [47], for example, provides an example of how the dominant Christian community with the arrival of Muslim immigrants displays new socio-cultural practices which are a mixture of those belonging to newcomers and natives, including the use of language. Kucukcan [48] also came to a similar conclusion that immigration from Mediterranean regions and Catholic Central European countries has altered the European demographic and cultural landscape.

However, migration leads to changes in not only the "trivial" aspects of religion but also the more fundamental aspects, such as the relationship between religion and state. In this regard, Levitt [49] describes that the process of change occurs through at least two scenarios. First, migrants use religious institutions to maintain the tie with their native land. Second, individuals involved in and become part of the multiethnic religious movement and organizations linking them with other faiths both locally and globally. Meanwhile, Stolz [50] noted that there are at least four mechanisms of social integration as a result of migration, namely the changes in the aspect of: "values" and "religion", religiosity, social mobility and spatial segregation of religious groups [51].


The debate over secularism and secularization is not limited to the secularization thesis about the existence of secularization at the present time but also encompasses the scope, causative factors, theoretical framework and its impact on society as well as prospects for the future. The debate continues to evolve in line with the findings of various studies conducted by scholars covering a quite extensive area. The debate over each of the dimensions of secularization still finds a difficult way to come to a common ground, leading to a difficulty in building a more comprehensive theoretical synthesis. In the context of the dynamics of globalization, the debate is expected to remain existent with regard to increasingly faster changes in socio-political constellation. Faith-based social movements and internationalized migration constitute the two important factors that sustain the debate over secularism and secularization.