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Religion and the Demographic Revolution


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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.


Makes an important contribution to our understanding of religion and identity in this period. HISTORY

An indispensible contribution to the field. The book will go a long way toward helping to bring gender as a crucial category of analysis from the periphery to the center of the secularization debate. CHURCH HISTORY

Laden with social scientific data, this work will appeal to students at all levels interested in contemporary Western religious culture, sociology of religion, and gender studies. Recommended. CHOICE


First Published: 15 Nov 2012
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843837923
27 line drawing illustrations
Pages: 320
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  The Sixties
  • 3  Religious change
  • 4  Sex and religion
  • 5  Family and religion
  • 6  The economy and women's religion
  • 7  The decision makers
  • 8  Bibliography