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This article tests two contrasting hypotheses about changes in the electoral relevance of moral traditionalism–progressiveness, which pertains to attitudes toward matters of procreation, sexuality, and family and gender roles. While the “cultural turn” literature expects the electoral relevance of moral traditionalism to increase over time alongside that of all other cultural issues, studies inspired by secularization theory rather predict a decrease in its relevance—due to religious decline. Analyzing the data from the European Values Study (1981–2017) for 20 West European countries, we find empirical evidence for a decrease and no indication of an increase in the electoral relevance of moral traditionalism. Religious decline weakened the effect of moral traditionalism on religious and conservative voting over time due to the most traditionalist voters shifting away from these parties. Our findings, therefore, highlight the need to differentiate between different types of cultural motives behind voting choice in Western Europe.
Moral traditionalism versus progressiveness and secular authoritarianism versus libertarianism are often understood as central to the same “new” cultural cleavage in politics. Despite the often-found sizable correlations between these two cultural value divides, the present paper theorizes that this relationship is not a cross-contextual constant, but rather a specific feature of secularized contexts where moral traditionalism is relatively marginal. We test this theory by means of a two-stage statistical analysis of the data from the four waves of the European Values Study (1981–2008) for 17 Western European countries. Our findings confirm that the two value divides are most strongly connected in the most secularized contexts because the latter are least morally traditionalist. While the two cultural divides hence tend to be distinct in more religious Western-European countries, they tend to coalesce into one single “new” cultural divide in more secular ones.
In most of the social-scientific literature, New Age – or “spirituality”, as increasingly seems the preferred term – is used to refer to an apparently incoherent collection of spiritual ideas and practices. Most participants in the spiritual milieu, it is generally argued, draw upon multiple traditions, styles and ideas simultaneously, combining them into idiosyncratic packages. New Age is thus referred to as “do-it-yourself-religion” (Baerveldt 1996), “pick-and-mix religion” (Hamilton 2000), “religious consumption á la carte” (Possamai 2003) or a “spiritual supermarket” (D. Lyon 2000). In their book Beyond New Age: Exploring Alternative Spirituality, Sutcliffe and Bowman (2000: 1) even go so far as to argue that “New Age turns out to be merely a particular code word in a larger ield of modern religious experimentation” while Possamai (2003: 40) states that we are dealing with an “eclectic – if not kleptomaniac – process … with no clear reference to an external or ‘deeper’ reality”
This dominant discourse about New Age basically reiterates sociologist of religion Thomas Luckmann's influential analysis, published about forty years ago in The Invisible Religion (1967). Structural differentiation in modern society, or so Luckmann argues, results in erosion of the Christian monopoly and the concomitant emergence of a “market of ultimate signiicance”. On such a market, religious consumers construct strictly personal packages of meaning, based on individual tastes and preferences.
This article aims to move beyond media discourse about “new atheism” by mapping and explaining anti-religious zeal among the public at large in 14 Western European countries. We analyze data from the International Social Survey Program, Religion III, 2008, to test two theories about how country-level religiousness affects anti-religiosity and its social bases: a theory of rationalization and a theory of deprivatization of disbelief. Hypotheses derived from the former are contradicted, whereas those derived from the latter are largely confirmed. Anti-religiosity is strongest among disbelievers and among the higher educated in the most religious countries and among the older generations in today's most secularized countries.
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