The debate on the compatibility of secularism, religion and human rights in the late modern society, is undoubtedly one of the deepest debates in the sociological and social science world. The debates are long, and sociologists and social scientists have written many books on this issue, and each sociologist and social scientist has his own specific view on this issue.

The orthodox and the secular world today, is in a constant struggle between each other, where you have orthodox religious people who still exist in the late modern society and, on the other hand, the very secular individuals who constantly criticize religion, and who are usually drawn to it atheistic world and atheism, which is very associated with secularism. I will continue the discussion in a deeper dimension, going forward in this dissertation on the compatibility between religion, secularism and human rights in the late modern society.

I have structured this dissertation into three parts:

1. The literature review

2. The Methodology

3. The Findings / Analyses


In this dissertation I started my literature review, where I observed the different approaches of this question: “How are secularism, religion and human rights compatible (with each other) in late modern societies?”.

I am very aware that I will not only get an opinion on the subject, and that religion, secularism and human rights are very large and deep subjects to study. One should keep in mind that the views and opinions on these three major subjects in Social Sciences are very pluralistic, and that you will not only get a single answer and a single opinion, when you then do your research on this topic. During my literature review, I also browsed through the different influences of the different denominations of religion, such as Orthodox Islam (Salafism) and Evangelicalism (A branch of Protestantism). When studying secularism and its compatibility with religion, Evangelicalism usually appears when it comes to US Christianity and the United States, which is one of the most influential countries when it comes to its globalized policy, where much of the social and cultural aspect comes from USA’s globalized policy.

In my literature review, I have also included a browsing of the different approaches to religion. I tried to make my literature review as general as possible, where I did not try to search the details of anything, but just browse through the literature on this issue, as much as possible. In my methodology, I will also describe how my research question relates to the existing literature and how I will investigate the research question.

I will also describe my methods and how they are suitable for me, to help me answer the questions and reasons for rejecting other methods, and why I chose a literary based research. Thereafter in my methodology, I will also discuss the limitations of my chosen approaches and the ethical issues that will need to be considered when I am expected to conclude my dissertation in the best ethical etiquette as possible.

In chapter three, in my findings / analyses, I will start by discussing how religion has begun to decline and how rationalism has replaced religion in the secularized world. Knowing how religion has been replaced by secular values will make it easier for me to understand the title. I will also study how religion has simultaneously increased and why people feel that there is a need for spirituality in today’s worldly and material society. I will also discuss the pluralism in the late modern societies, and how pluralism has evolved in today’s secular society, where different religions have emerged and led to the multiculturalism we are witnessing today. This process itself has provoked the question of how or if secularism and human rights are compatible with religion in the late modern society. In connection with the resurgence of religion, I will also study how different denominations, such as Protestantism, Catholicism and the Orthodox Church, have influenced our secular world and how they are still influencing us, and what influence they have in our late modern society. This is another step to see how the compatibility between secularism, religion and human rights shaped, and what views sociologists are having about this. This discussion will be the lengthiest of all, as I will look at how the different denominations affect the different societies in the different societies around the secular world.

Finally, I will discuss the atheist attempt to grow in the secular world and how the issue of the religious orthodoxy affects the secular society, and how extremism affects the late modern societies as well.

Chapter 1 : Literature review

1.1 : The Different approaches

According to the Scholars of Secularism, Sociology and Modernity were born together (David Martin, 2005, Page 18), and Max Weber and Emile Durkheim were among the first people to discuss the rapid change, from a conservative society that developed into a modernized society through the process of industrialization .Max Weber claimed that Calvinist Protestantism was one of The Midwives of capitalism and a sort of prelude to modernity. At the same time, Sociologists have argued that Religiosity is still existing in remote areas outside the big industrialized cities and that people who live in big cities are less likely to be religious. Secularization would also contribute to pluralism in a society where different kinds of faith are coming together and privatization which would render religion socially invisible and irrelevant (David Martin, 2005, Page 18-20)

However, the United States has experienced deeper pluralism, especially when the Church and the state were separated in the United States. There were countries that still wanted to preserve their religious and historical identity, even though they are secularized such as Serbia, Romania and Poland. Evangelical Christianity has played one of the major roles in this change, and it took elements of the expressive individualism and the balance having your own personal freedom and at the same time showing loyalty to the community. At the same time, issues such as pollution, abortion, migration crisis, racial prejudice, economic crisis and state repression are still discussed and debated within the scholarly world of sociologists. (David Martin, 2005, Page 21-24)

Stephen J.Hunt (2002) had another perspective on secularism and he tied it with political problems and global consequences of fundamentalism. He observed it all from an angle where fundamentalism has grown from all religions. He also observed the American connection in the whole, where they also have a growing fundamentalism among Christian Evangelicals. According to Stephen J.Hunt (2002), secularism and the westernization have also opened gaps for generalization and a resistance against westernization. Iran is an example and a Shia Islamic country where one has created a policy that is totally against Western secularism and westernization, especially if it comes from the US and Israel (Stephen J.Hunt, 2002, page 55-56).

Stephen J.Hunt also connects the fundamentalism we have in the Western world with the Evangelicalism that is linked to Christian fundamentalism in the United States which is constantly trying to spread the Evangelical form of Christianity to the rest of the world. It began with the fact that Europe was a continent that spread Protestantism to the United States, and today Europe has generally separated itself from the Christian identity completely, and today we have the opposite. Today, the United States is trying to spread a fundamental branch of Protestantism, namely Evangelicalism. Stephen J.Hunt (2002) connected secularism to McDonaldization and how global trends are spreading in the global world as a chain where the world has become a village. Even when Stephen J.Hunt (2002) discussed secularism, he links it to fundamentalism again and how Evangelical Christianity spreads as a trend through the global world as McDonald’s has spread through the global world (Stephen J.Hunt, 2002, page 45-55).

So, by looking at the different approaches by different theories on secularism gives us an understanding that secularism in the westernized world and in our globalized our that has developed so quickly, is defined and understood in many different ways. With this literary approach, I wanted to get closer to these different theories and approaches that will give us different views on how different sociological scholars define today’s secularism that is constantly developing in our world we live in today.

1.2 : The Pluralistic approach

What the sociological scholars have in common, is that they always tend to discuss the issue of secularism in our westernized world in association with religious pluralism and that religions from every corner of the world are coming together in one single society in our globalized world we are living in today.

In the UK, you have large communities of for example Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who have become part of the UK’s society where many of them today have high positions in, for example, the political world. The sociological scholars have made every effort to focus on how these different religions in a society have flourished and how members from these various religious communities have been involved and shaped the society we live in today, in the secularism we are living in today, in our globalized and westernized society (Gerald Parsons, 1994, page 25).

1.3 : The Different influences of the different denominations of religions.

Compared to those other sociological scholars who have discussed secularism in today’s society, Gerald Parsons (1994) has also done so but with an additional approach where he has not only focused on Evangelicalism as a development in our secularized world, but he has also studied the influence of Catholicism in today’s secularized Society. Reflecting on the three major denominations of Christianity in today’s secular world, one will conclude that Protestantism (strongest in the United States), Catholicism (Strongest in Italy) and Orthodoxy (Russia) in our secularized world have different theologies and different beliefs when it comes to all aspects of life. Yes, they have their similarities, but when we, for example, take politics as an example, we see that they are allies with different countries and sometimes allied against each other (Gerald Parsons, 1994, page 30-35).

Once they reach the religious circles in our secular world, we also find that Evangelism from Christianity and Salafism from Islam, have a similarity: they want to convert as many individuals as possible to their faith. Both are missionary branches from Christianity and Islam which have developed tremendously in our secular societies, and especially in the UK and in the United States where there are many evangelicals and salafis. Unlike other sociologists, Gerald Parson (1994) has taken the step of studying today’s fundamental branches of Christianity, where he tries to link it with today’s global and secular developments, we experience in our world today (Gerald Parsons, 1994, page 38-39).

What I found surprising and especially when I was browsing through these books on secularism, was that I saw a common point in all these books. It was that you always address Evangelicalism and tie it up with today’s secularism. If I am to be honest, I thought that one would talk more about Islam, when one speaks of secularism and religious forces in society. Surprisingly, it is always Christianity (Evangelicalism) that is most focused on when the scholars are discussing the developing secularism, we have in our world today. The Protestant movement has really played a major role in Europe and North America when one discusses the current secularism we live in and one can clearly see in these literary works, that Protestantism has shaped today’s political aspects and values we witness in our society we live in today (Gerald Parsons, 1994, page 40-50).

1.4 : The different approaches to religion in the secularized world.

When talking about sociological approaches to religion in the secular world, there are known theories. For example, Max Weber tied modern capitalism with Protestantism and Emile Durkheim had a more positive view of religion as a unity that united people collectively in a society that functions as a body where all different bodies have their own functions in society. On the other hand, we have the psychological approach of, for example, Sigmund Freud who observed religion in today’s society as something sacred and divided man’s feelings in association to religion in two parts: Eros and Death (Richard K.Fenn, 2009, page 36-39).

As usual, Sigmund Freud Eros links with erotic fantasies, namely “Libido”. An example here is that taboos can occur when sexual fantasies arise. Especially in the Abrahamic countries. In the recent past, we in the Western world and in the secular world have experienced that there are individuals who connect their fundamental beliefs with their erotic driving forces, and here Freud is right. One can, for example, see these jihadists who go to Syria to fight, but at the same time have a purpose with their warfare, namely, to become a martyr and get their 72 virgins. On the other hand, Sigmund Freud mentioned that there are some individuals in our secularized world who are depressed and even suicidal, but who express their “destructive forces” through “self-sacrifice”, and this in fact, can also be linked to some jihadists. which are prone to perform suicide bombing operations (Richard K.Fenn, 2009, page 40-43).

One should also keep in mind that the development is not the same in all parts of Europe. The different orientations within Christianity also have different historical developments which have led to different social, political and economic results in the secular world. Even the culture and the upbringing differ from an individual who, for example, has lived in the Protestant United Kingdom than someone who has lived in the religious and Catholic Malta. Although they both belong to the same religion, live in the same continent of the world and live in a secularized world. The social and cultural development in the different parts of Europe differ and the different orientations of Christianity will have different chemistries and results when they are mixed with today’s secularism (Grace Davie, 2001, Page 224-228).

Chapter 2 : Methodology

2.1 : How My Research question relates to the existing literature and How I will investigate the research question.

The debate about the compatibility between religion, secularism and human rights in the late modern society, is undoubtedly one of the most debated topics in the social scientific world today. Only that opens the door to an overwhelming amount of literature that helps one to analyse and summarize the research question I have chosen for my dissertation. The core of my methodology and my way of reaching my conclusion will be a library based one. So, I will analyse my research question through the literature found in the school’s library to hopefully reach the conclusion I want to reach through my research question.

This research contains sources and references from researchers, investigations and books that come from top academics who have really studied the subject for many years in academic institutions. I am going to discuss this topic in various of ways, where I am going to begin to discuss the decline of religion in a secularized world and in a world of rationalism. I will also discuss religious pluralism, where I will also highlight it from the other side, where other studies have shown that religion is growing in our materialistic and secular society. Especially Islam, which grows very fast in both the secular and the religious world. It is believed that Islam will be the largest religion by 2070. (Olivia Rudgard, 2017, “Islam will be largest religion in the world by 2070, says report “)

The essence of the discussion will be on religion, secularism ,diversity and human rights, where I will study the compatibility between the different orientations in different faiths in the Western world, such as Christianity, Islam and the Atheism, where I will study the compatibility between these faiths in today’s secular society with its human values and human rights. I will also study the Atheist growth and the issue of religious orthodoxy in the late modern society.

2.2 : Explanation on why my methods are suitable in helping me to answer my research question “ How are secularism, religion and human rights compatible in late modern societies? “ and reasons for rejecting other methods.

There are already a lot of debates, interviews and statistics, when it comes my research question. This dissertation will be library based. I planned to make it library based during the summer, and I myself have already found the amount of literature I need to accomplish this dissertation, and to get the best conclusion as possible. I have found reliable sources, and I have collected a variety of academic literature and other sources of material, from both the library of the university and reliable online services.

I have rejected the research method of interviews due to concerns over finding the appropriate expertise of individuals who are experts in the fields of secularism, human rights and religion. The second reason why I rejected the interview method, is because I felt that I wouldn’t be able to acquire enough information, if I chose to interview some specific individuals about the topic. It feels more correct to choose the library-based method, where a variety of academic sources are available, both in the university library and online.

2:3 : The limitations of my chosen approaches and the ethical issues that must need to be considered.

Since this is a library-based piece of research, the limitations will without a doubt, be reliant on the academic research that has been made by other academics in the form of secondary data. I also want to get appropriate and realistic data from scholars and writers, where they discuss this topic in complete detail and depth. I also want to get the information, that is free from misconceptions and prejudices against any ideology or religion, which can go against the ethical issues.

This is also one of the reasons why I rejected the survey and interview methods, where each individual can have controversial views and opinions, which can be problematic, when one then has to absorb the information in one’s dissertation, which should then be so academic and appropriate as possible in its conduct. The ethical issues that will need to be considered, are mainly the researchers of other academics, whose work I will include within my own research/dissertation. I will make sure that all work that I will use, are referenced according to the Harvard referencing system.

Chapter 3 : Findings/Analysis

3.1 : The Decline of Religion in a secularized world

Sociologists have a unique disagreement when it comes to the reasons why we have secularism in the Western world and why Religion is declining. There are many reasons for secularism and the religious decline. Olivier Tschannen (1991) has a unique explanation as to why religion is declining, and he summarize his explanation in three different explanations. The first reason is without a doubt the advance of rationalization. The sacred characters and role-models of the different religious institutions around the world today, have lost their ‘sacred’, religious and authoritative position within the western society. These religious institutions and religious leaders have now been replaced by rationality, science and human knowledge. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 15)

The Second reason is the differentiation and the disengagement of the society from the religious authority. The system of religion has become more marginalized, and Religion itself becomes more and more a private matter for the various individuals who live in them western societies today. As this process continues, religious symbols and doctrines also continue to lose their foothold in society, due to this process that causes religion to lose its central position and collectivism in society, that once united the people to the same belief. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 15)

The third reason is the increase of worldliness. Today’s secularism has blotted out the supernatural beliefs, and today’s secularism is focusing more on the world, and its problems have become a bigger issue than focusing on spiritual and religious problems. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 15)

3.2 : The Decline of Religion in a world of Rationalism

Two sociologists, Max Weber and Bryan Wilson, have presented two interesting views on why Rationalism and Secularism increase in the late modern societies, which once had the religion as the centre of society. We begin with Max Weber who has given an internal explanation of why rationalism and secularism are increasing in our urbanized and technologically advanced society. The specific sect of Christianity that Max Weber sees as a driving force of today’s capitalism, rationalism and secular society, is undoubtedly Protestantism. Max Weber saw in particular that the ascetic form of the Protestantism, which in particular advocated a strong predestination, was a sect that was behind the developing urbanized society that was on its way to a future society, that would be separated from the influence of religion authorities. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 16)

Weber also argued, that in Protestantism, one had to remove holy and profane personalities within the framework of Christianity and the Christian society. There is no ‘sacred’ relationship between man and God, unlike Catholicism, where one believes in saints, and that these different ritual aspects which take one closer to God through worldly intermediaries. Other sociologists such as Brian Wilson (1966) have provided a more external explanation as to why rationalism and secularism cause religion to lose its foothold in the late modern societies. Wilson argues that the significance of rationality has led to the increasing secularism of today’s modern society. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 17)

Wilson presents his theory, claiming that scientific knowledge has led to the decline of religion in the late modern society. The explanation continues, and he explains that Western secularism has led many people to begin to understand that their human destiny lies in the human and not in divine hands. The same applies to human problems, and that human problems have human solutions, and not divine solutions. He also presents the explanation, that the community in today’s society has been fragmented and the religious morality has also followed this fragmentation which has led to people becoming more and more individuals, and that collective and religious morality loses its influence during this process. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 17)

3.3 : Religious pluralism

Another approach to the observation of the developing secularism is undoubtedly the growing religious pluralism. Peter Berger’s (1970) work has undoubtedly had an influence on the sociological world. Berger (1970) agrees with Wilson’s view on the fact that rationality erode the supernaturalism of the religious authority, but Berger (1970) has focused more on the pluralistic development, claiming that Australianization and modernization are the causes of the social fragmentation of society that has created a plurality of different religions and cultural groups in our late modern society. Berger presents his views that religion itself has lost its influence due to the pluralistic development that has paved the way to other small groups having evolved and created a world of disunity, and when different religious and cultural groups live in a state of disunity in a secularized society that has separated the state from religion, then the secular development in combination of pluralism, will undoubtedly cause the influence of religion to decline, when there are so many different religious and pluralistic opinions which make it difficult for the religions to unite in the late modern society, and give it a stable and unified position. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 18)

The conclusion then is that one can choose a religious interpretation, and that this will create a rivalized world of different religious interpretations, that will also lead to different religious organizations competing in the ‘marketplace’ of religions. This will eventually lead to a devaluation or loss of authority for those religious worldviews. Finally, it will result in the individual having the freedom to believe or disbelieve in what is presented in front of him by the various pluralistic and religious views in a secular world that has forgotten the religious authority. (Berger and Luckmann,1967, page 151)

3.4 : The Resurgence of Religion

As secularism increases, terms such as “postmodernism” also emerge. Clearly, there are individuals who have a post-modern stance in today’s secularized society, where they do not see secularism as a compatible development that can be intertwined with their religious and traditional norms. Post-Modernism itself will bring rise of new lifestyles and values that will be mixed with Society’s pluralism, and that is why we can feel these culture clashes and misconceptions, which we even today, are experiencing in our secularized and westernized society. There are many explanations to why postmodernism is growing in some vacuums of society, and sociologists have different explanations for why this happens, apart from globalization. One of the most interesting explanations for the emergence of postmodernism and spiritual movements is the disintegration of today’s material modernity that has left empty vacuums for New Age spirituality and other “self-religions” to grow, and this theory is conveyed by Paul Heelas. (1998). (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 37-40)

Another explanation the sociologists have presented is undoubtedly today’s consumerism, which is undoubtedly conducive to today’s growth of various spiritual groups that have grown in today’s secular and materialistic world. According to Fenn (1990), this process has been encouraged in the postmodern world of rapid social development and the decline of cultural heritages which then have led to an ignorance of religious history. This has led various individuals attempting to invent new spiritual religions which may become compatible with today’s secular world and with its human rights, in order to create a harmony between the material-secular world and the spiritual world. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 41)

David Lyons (1996) has also developed a theory where he believed that the nature of post-modernity may contribute to the resurgence of religion within the secular world. David Lyons (1996) argues that this resurgence is global and that it then expresses itself in several ways that can lead to fundamentalism, civil religions and that other extreme sects can emerge because of segregation and social exclusion. Although these fundamental sects may exist in the Eastern world and have been incorporated into Europe, they will emerge with a new vigour. Other writers such as Milbank (1990) has given his explanation in a way, where he describes the death of religions because of the post-modern society and the curiosity of different individuals who feel that spirituality is lacking in the late modern society. Milbank (1990) also believes that weak secular ideologies that are falling in our secular world can also give birth to other new spiritual religions which people can begin to embrace. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 41)

3.5 : Religious diversity, Secularism and Human Rights

Secularism and modernity have most often been associated with Protestantism and the globalization of the policy of United States of America. On the other hand, when discussing Catholicism and the papacy system, Catholicism and papacy systems are then not associated with modernity and secularism in the late modern societies. Especially when Catholicism has a system of hierarchy and not a system of democracy, and the papacy system is the greatest proof of this. There are those in the Catholic Church who believe that human rights exist and that it is possible to transform man and the individual, but at the same time there are those who believe that these transformations can only be done through social changes in society. The Vatican II calls for a political activity and that it should be a requirement in their Catholic societies. This will not divide the religion, secularism and human rights from one another to one hundred percent. (Irene Bloom, J.Paul Martin, Wayne L. Proudfoot, 1996, page 263-268)

Although the Catholic hierarchy has promoted Justice, Peace and Human Rights, during the modern times, they have had a very tough time reconciling with the secular governments around them. Latin America is an example where the Catholic ideology has been difficult to reconcile with the various political and socialist ideologies that have appeared in Latin America over the years. Especially when Marxism increased sharply in Latin America during the 1960s, and those Catholic churches at the time resisted the Marxist influence, and especially when Marxism itself is an ideology that strongly criticizes religion and doesn’t want religion to have any influence whatsoever within the political and social frameworks of the late modern society. It is also worth mentioning that there was a movement called the liberation theology, where the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutierrez founded a Catholic movement and interlaced it with Marxism and called it the “Liberation theology”. He wanted the movement to stand up for the poor and oppressed in society, so he interlaced Catholicism with Marxism. Unlike those other Christianity divisions, such as Catholicism and Protestantism, the Orthodox Church has focused very little on human rights when it comes to social issues in the late modern societies. Unlike Catholicism, the Orthodox Church is not so involved in politics, but the Orthodox Church has a resemblance to the Catholic Church as opposed to Protestantism, where the Catholic and Orthodox Church calls for the creation of a collective network in today’s secular society that is influenced by Protestantism and Individualism. (Irene Bloom, J.Paul Martin, Wayne L. Proudfoot, 1996, page 270-281) ( Hugh McDonnell, 2018, “ The left Side of the Church”)

According to the Orthodox Church, the church means the whole community of saints who are trying to unite all humanity with the cosmos. Although Russia has undergone revolutions and Marxist and socialist changes over the years, the Russians have succeeded in maintaining their Russian nationalism associated with the Orthodox Church, which means a great deal to Russia’s identity, whether in political or social terms. After the atheistic collapse of communism in Russia, a legislative process began, where the Orthodox Church had a great influence, when it came to the legislation in 1990. Although the Orthodox Church in Russia claims that it is not hierarchical and that it is apolitical, the Orthodox Church still has power and influence that which want to fulfil “The Laws of Jesus”. (Irene Bloom, J.Paul Martin, Wayne L. Proudfoot, 1996, page 282-302)

When it comes to how compatible the Orthodox Church is with secular values and human rights in the late modern societies, the Orthodox Church is similar to the Catholic Church: both churches bear conservative principles that make it difficult for them to merge together with secular principles and its human rights in the late modern societies. The Orthodox Church rejects same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion, alcohol, and that which is corrupt, which goes against the conservative and traditional principles of the Bible and its teachings. (Pew Research Center, 2017, 4. “Orthodox take socially conservative views on gender issues, homosexuality”)

When we speak of Protestantism, Evangelicalism is undoubtedly the focus of Protestantism that has the most influence when it comes to the political sphere. The United States is undoubtedly one of the world’s most powerful countries, and the United States is the country that is most associated with secularism, democracy and freedom, although the United States has wanted to expand its Evangelicalism. The United States sect of Christianity is also known as the Christian-Zionist sect of Protestantism. Especially when the United States considers Israel to be the only democratic country in the Middle East. The Evangelicalism of The United States has undoubtedly called for a strong individualization within the secular societies in the west that has made it possible for the sect to be “compatible” with today’s secular values in the West. (David Martin, 2005, page 29-30) (Bridget Johnson, 2018, A Beacon of Freedom in an oppressive Neighbourhood)

The Evangelical United States has had many enemies. The United States first had problems with the Catholic world, before they began having problems with Islam and the Islamic world. Unlike the rest of the western world, the USA is a very religious Evangelical country and has managed to protect its unique pluralism, even though the Evangelicals are in power with their fundamental and conservative views. When it comes to the secular world, it is said that the United states of America has been able to combine the disenchantment in the public sphere and separation of power with the private religiosity that is linked with the “definition” of a secular society, where individualism and science should be visible in the public sphere, while religion should be something private. (David Martin, 2005, page 64-65)

Although the United States is described as the most secular country with the best democracy and the best human rights, I absolutely do not believe that the American Evangelicalism is 100% compatible with secular values and with human rights in the late modern society. It is true that the US has a pluralistic society within a secular society that contributes to a multicultural society with many cultures and religions, but we must also understand that secularism and democracy mean everyone’s equal values and rights, and just the fact that the United States prioritize their Protestant identity With their nationalism over all others, and that no Protestant Christian can become the president of The United States of America, tells us how much the US “secular” and “democratic” systems are compatible with secular, democratic and humanitarian rights in the late modern societies. (David Martin, 2005, page 159-162)

Christian missionaries from the US government have tried to spread their evangelical message for political purposes across the globe for centuries, and in many cases, it has ended with military conquests, colonialism and wars upon wars. A few hundred years ago, it was Europe that exported its form of Protestantism to the United States and America, when Europe was situated in the “enlightenment period”, and today it is the opposite. Now, the United States is exporting its form of Christianity (Evangelicalism) for political, religious, economic, social and cultural agendas. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 46-47)

There are also sociologists who believe that the United States controls large parts of the world’s resources, manufacturing, commercial institutions and banking. Sociologists also believe that the Christian fundamentalism we have in the United States today, has also led to an enhancement for the country’s strong economic development. Another explanation, after all, is that the US form of Christianity, from the bible, has encouraged the devoted Christian to work harder and harder in today’s secular society, and that Jesus and his disciples were not poor, but rather, they were hard-working people who worked hard, in order to reach the fruit of their hard labour. The Western mentality of striving for materialism and money is found in the Protestantism of the United States, claiming that the lone individual is blessed and not the ecclesiastical entity itself, as I mentioned before about the Orthodox Church. This in itself will lead, as a fundamental protestant, to become a subject of today’s consumerism in the secular world within the late modern societies, and that is why fundamental Protestant countries such as the United States, seem to have an easy integration of their religious identity with today’s secular society of materialism, consumerism and capitalism. (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 47-49)

Britain is a country where religion has fallen dramatically. A country like the UK, which has one of them the richest history of Christianity and the richest culture of Christianity, is almost becoming completely atheistic and secular. A study made by Daniel Thompson, has shown us the conclusion that Christianity in the UK may disappear in 2067. (Daniel Thompson, 2015, “2067: The End of British Christianity “)

The sociologist Callum G. Brown (2001) describes the religious decline in the UK as something intellectual between the pre-industrial and the industrial worlds. He also describes the tragedy that UK has lost its humbleness, spirituality, economic simplicity and the social harmony, since it became secularized. Today, we are living in a world of technology, machines and competitiveness, which has withdrawn us from the religious identity that once was a part of the British identity. It is not only the relics that remain, but fewer British people also choose to not marry in the churches, baptize their children and send their children to Sunday schools. (Callum G. Brown, 2001, page 16) (Paul Chamber, 2005, page 15)

Today, the UK has evolved from a religious Christian society to a society of one of Europe’s most multicultural and secular countries where Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and many more religious groups live together. While so many religious groups live together, and that the UK is one of Europe’s most multicultural countries, many religious people still live by their own standards and lifestyles where their expressions of their religious identities have become very strong and visible in the British society which have sparked debates and discussions around the issues of UK’s secular systems and people who, for example, choose to wear a turban on their heads (as some Sikhs choose to do) or burka (as some Salafis choose to do). In such a multicultural society in a secular country like the UK, the question of ” Is British secularism compatible with certain religious sentiments and human freedom/ rights in the late modern society” becomes very difficult to answer. (Gerald Parson, 1994, page 63-65)

France has also been a country of secularism and exclusively Laicite, which has had complex situations when it comes to merging its politics with people’s free choices. Especially when it comes to the Muslim community, where there have been major conflicts with the issues of scarves and the burkinis, which are considered to go against France’s modernity, secularism and democracy. France with its Laicite, wants to merge the political of France with people’s social conditions, whether they live in polarized ghettos around Paris, or in central Paris, and this is one of the requirements, when discussing the secularized version of French politics. France’s Muslims are undoubtedly misrepresented in the Media in today’s secular France. Two-thirds of the French population believes that Islam is a danger to the country’s secularism and democracy, and only that tells us which misconceptions that are directed against France’s Muslims. (J. Wrench and J. Solomos, 1993, page 119) (Yolande Jansen, 2013, Page 244-245) (Assad Talal, 2003, Page 159)

The root of this fierce view in France, has its root in the fact, that France secularized itself by separating itself from the Catholic Church. This separation also led to the fact, that Religious expressions should not take place in the public and that it goes against France’s secularism which is considered a sacred part of today’s Identity of France. On the other hand, it has also been discussed that Islam is the religion that is the “least” secularized religion in the world. It is well-known that Islam is a religion that came to erase tribalism and a rigid form of nationalism, which in Islamic doctrine goes against God’s teachings and orders. Islam as a religion, came to unite the people under a “spiritual identity” that unites them all. No matter where they come from. Because of this, many sociologists have argued that many Muslims in Europe have managed to assimilate into their secularized societies in the late modern societies, but that their Islamic identity, dogma and creed haven’t been able to integrate within the Secular societies, especially when the majority of, for example, the British Muslims in the secularized UK, see themselves as “Muslims British” and not as “ British Muslims “. (John Wallach Scott, 2007, page 97) (Assad Talal, 2003, Page 196-200)

Although France is considered one of the world’s most important and largest secularist countries, the terrorist organization ISIS has still been able to recruit 1,200 brainwashed French Muslims in France, and this alone and all which I have mentioned about the French system, tells us how compatible and how intertwined secularism, human rights, democracy and the segregated Muslims in the segregated areas of France, are in today’s France of Laicite. The social exclusion of France’s Muslims in secular France has led to a social extremism in some respects. The Muslims of France have become racialized and Islam is not only associated with Muslims, whether secular or not, but Islam in France is also associated with Arabs and Arabism, which has led to a strong discrimination and racism against the Arabs of France in today’s Laicite in France. It is also worth mentioning that France and those North African Muslims in France have a long history between each other of the French colonization in North Africa which existed long before these social problems of today’s France. (Amanda Mead Babcock, 2013, page 24-34)

3.6 : The Atheist attempt to grow

At a general level, Social researches have shown that the countries with the highest morality, that is, the countries with the lowest corruption, inequality, social disorder etc are the countries that are least religious. It has been shown that countries today that have religious authorities, have usually exploited the social system, in the name of religion, to achieve their personal goals. (Zuckerman, 2010, “Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment.”) (Steven Kettell, 2013, page 62)

Stephen J.Hunt (2002) also argues that the churches are largely failing its members due to the egoistic atmosphere that exists within the churches where the religious people of the church merely want to satisfy their personal, pastoral and spiritual needs, and the needs of the members are left abandoned. Traditional and religious beliefs are placed under stress in the secularized world today. Secularism itself has also led to an increase of Atheism, due to the secularism itself that separates religion from power and gives the chance for other “non-religious” or “non-traditional” ideologies to grow. (Stuart Hannabuss, 2015, page 5-6) (Stephen J. Hunt, 2002, page 94)

When one usually discusses the connection between religion, secularism, human rights and Atheism, Sweden usually appears as an example in the sociological debates. Sweden is undoubtedly one of the world’s most secular and Atheist countries on this planet where a huge percentage of the country classify themselves as “non-believers” or “Atheists”. Sweden as a “secular” or an “Atheist” country, went through a period when it was reformed into the “Lutheran form of Protestantism”. Sweden had this form of Christianity as its framework and continued to have it until the year 2000, when the Church separated from the Swedish state, and Sweden then became officially secular and reached the conclusion; that the Church’s influence is not compatible with today’s “new” or “reformed laws” when it comes to human rights. ( Bexell and Brohed, 2003 & 2005, Sveriges Kyrkohistoria 7&8,) (Zuckerman, 2007, page 45-65) (Anton Jansson, 2018, page 1)

Zuckerman (2012) made a very excellent study on the differences between the Atheism in today’s secular US and Sweden and discovered that there were great differences between Atheists in the US and Sweden, even though both of them share the same atheist belief in today’s secular world. According to his study, he discovered that Sweden’s theists had a more positive position towards religion and that many of Sweden’s atheists could see a compatibility between the religion, human rights and secularism in today’s Sweden. On the other hand, many of the Americans who Zuckerman interviewed in the United States, had a very negative view of religion, and many of the Atheist Americans argued that the Religion in today’s USA cannot be intertwined with today’s secular and human values. The reason was because many in today’s USA have a very religious background, and that many ex-Christians who have become atheists in the United States see a problem in the fact that religion is against homosexuality, abortion and many other “human rights” which exist in many of today’s secular societies. Many atheists in the United States are more or less “Ex-Christians” or “Ex-Muslims”, while the atheists in Sweden have been atheists for many decades. (Philip Zuckerman, 2012, page 12-14)

When it comes to Germany, secularism and Atheism have gone so far, that they now teach the German children with children’s books such as “The Good Delusion for Children” that God is just an “Illusion” and a “Delusion” that only exists within the fantasies. Richard Dawkins also published a similar book “The God Delusion”, in which he claimed that Muslims, Christians and Jews who believe in a God and a Creator were afflicted by a mental delusion and that God’s existence can be disproved by science. (Thomas Zenk, 2012, page 37-43) (Richard Dawkins, 2006, “The God delusion”)

France also has a long history of about 300 years, where religion has been constantly criticized. We see that one tries to disprove the compatibility between religion, secularism and human rights, for example by writing children’s books in Germany or by negatively resisting Christianity in the United States, but in France, Atheism has established itself very strongly, due to France’s historical and academic legacy of an atheism that has criticized the religious structure very firmly. Michel Onfray (2005) is one of the most famous atheist philosophers, who has academically strengthened the “French Atheism” in the Laicite structure of France. One of his most well-known arguments has been that it is impossible to intertwine religion and state, and that is due to to the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism which are focusing on “death” and longing of death, while Secularism, Atheism, Laicite, and human rights in France have according to Onfray (2005) led to a civilization of development, progress and life. (Onfray, 2005, 103–4) (Michael Kelly, 2017, page 137)

When it comes to Russia’s part, Russia has already undergone a very strict atheist rule for almost 100 years (the Soviet Union), which fell 30 years ago. Russia has for most of the time been very orthodox below the surface, where the citizens of Russia lived orthodoxly before, during and after the Soviet Union, but couldn’t express their religious identity within the political aspects in the Soviet Union. After 1989, the Russian Orthodoxy began to emerge again, and it turned out that many of the Orthodox Russians did not want to compromise the Russian Orthodoxy, which has also been criticized by Russian thinkers, alongside the atheistic communism. (Victoria Frede, 2012, “Doubt, Atheism, and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Intelligentsia” )

Atheistic sentiments are growing in some parts of society, both in secular and non-secular societies. One thing to keep in mind, too, is that while the “extreme atheism” is growing, religious fanaticism is also growing in both secular and non-secular societies, which has made the debate on the compatibility between religion, secularism and human rights very intense and deep. (David Gee, 2019 “Violence Among Extremist Muslims Is Leading to a “Wave of Atheism” in Iraq “) (The Editorial Board, 2018, “ The New Radicalization of the Internet. “)

3.7 : The Issue of Religious Orthodoxy in a secularized world

When one talks about how compatible Religion is with secular and human values, one never uses Christianity as an example in today’s secular world, for the majority of sociologists believe that those who represent Christianity today have succeeded in compromising their religion to such an extent, where you do not need to use Christianity as an example when you then talk about how compatible Religion is with secular and human values in the late modern societies. Islam in today’s secular world is the best example used when talking about the compatibility between Islam, secular and human values (Hunnex, Milton D.; Mascall, E. L., 1967, Volume 6, page 322-324) (Ramin Jahanbegloo, 2010, page 318)

There are two reasons why Secularism has failed to integrate itself into the Muslim world. The first reason is that when secularism was introduced to the Muslim world, it was first introduced to intellectual and educated people and was very segregated from the public spheres and masses which were following traditional and religious leaders in the community for hundreds of years. This limited secularism in the Muslim world, within the academic and intellectual institutions. The second reason is that secularization itself has been authoritarian in the Middle East and Muslim countries, and it has led to inherent power conflicts between “modernist” elites and “Islamist” elites. These conflicts have made it difficult for the countries of the Middle East to “modernize” and to create a society of pluralism that has succeeded in the West. This is what I mean by religious orthodoxy; that Islam has succeeded in preserving its “orthodoxy” and has not compromised its own norms and principles to blend in with Western secularization. (Ramin Jahanbegloo, 2010, page 318)

Now if we turn the table, we will understand that today’s debate on the compatibility between Islam, secularism and human rights is not focused on Islam in its mainstream schools of thought. The Islamists addressed today, are usually the “Salafis” or the “Wahhabis”, and their first political movement that led to the term “Islamism” that began in Afghanistan in 1979, when the United States and the West helped to establish and create the Taliban movement in Afghanistan which fought the Soviet Union. The entire debate and discussion of ‘Islam’ and its compatibility with secular and human rights, is not traced back to the mainstream schools of Islam, such as the traditional Sunnis (Sufis) or the Shias, but rather it is traced back to a small minority which is an extreme offshoot of Sunnism, called Salafism. (John L, Esposito, 2000, 52-53)

Islam is undoubtedly the religion that has received the most attention in today’s modern times, when it comes to religious violence and when the fundamentalists are trying to justify the “religious violence” through religious texts. The word “Jihad” received a lot of attention in Media after the 9/11 attacks, and since then, the conflict between the West and the “Jihadists” has only worsened. The target at that time was the Salafi leader Osama bin Laden, who was at that time the “leader” of the fundamental Salafi movement Al-Qaeda, which was believed to be responsible for the attacks against twin towers. The overwhelming majority of the British people (62 %) believe that religion shouldn’t influence British politics. Most of all believers agree, except Muslims. There is always a sense in the Muslim community, where religion isn’t merely a religion of rituals, but rather a religion that covers every single aspect of one’s lifestyle. 78 % of the British Muslims think there should be no right to publish images of Prophet Muhammad (saw), and 52% of Muslims think homosexuality should be illegal. Only these opinions say a lot, since the churches have wanted to go so far, that one compromises all Christian principles, to the level that one now permits same-sex marriage within the churches in the late modern societies, while the sex- same marriage is unheard of in the mosques, in both the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world. (Henry Munson, 2005, page 13) (Benjamin Jones, 2016, ” 62% say there is “no place in UK politics for religious influence of any kind” )


The big question of whether religion is today compatible with secularism and human rights is without an ongoing debate. In this dissertation, I chose to focus on Christianity and Islam, which are especially the two religions that are drawn up in the debates when the sociologists discuss this title. Christianity and Islam have influenced the political history of both Europe and the Middle East, very deeply.

My goal with this dissertation was not to get a narrow-minded answer of a few sociologists. My goal with this dissertation was to gather as many pluralistic answers as possible, from all possible experts, and then present it. When it comes to Islam and Christianity, I personally think that both are not compatible with secular values to one hundred percent. Both religions undoubtedly carry sentiments of orthodox and conservative values, which will make it very difficult to merge them with today’s policy we have in the late modern society in the western world. I also believe at the same time, that the followers of Christianity, and especially the priests of the Protestant school of thought, have come reached a level, where they have compromised much of their values, so that they can blend into the secular world with its human rights and values.

However, the followers of Islam, and especially the jurists of Islam, have not been willing to compromise the Islamic values and principles to blend into the secular world and its “human rights”. The same applies to Catholicism and the Orthodox Church, where the followers and the priests, generally have not been willing to compromise to one hundred percent. The authoritarian and hierarchical institutions of both Catholicism and the Orthodox Church still want to influence the society from many angles. We see that the Pope has a great political influence in Italy and the Catholic world, while the leaders of the Orthodox Church also have their social influence and impact on their societies in their social circles. At the same time, I do not think that fundamentalism is limited to a movement or an ideology. I believe in Stephan J. Hunt’s theory that fundamentalism has grown from all angles. (Stephen J Hunt, 2002, page 55)

It is also the fault of the media to associate Islam with fundamentalism, just because Islam have not chosen to accept secular values to one hundred percent. It is also wrong to associate Islam with fundamentalism and extremism. Fundamentalism and extremism exist in every denomination of every faith, where there are several individuals who have chosen to interpret the scriptures and the texts in a very literal way which has led to different problems. At the same time, I must also admit that corruption exists more in religious countries than in secular countries. The reasons may be many, but I can imagine that religion today, especially Islam and Christianity, has been abused in such a way that both evangelical priests and the Salafi imams have abused the name of religion to accomplish their personal goals, which are far away from the interests of the people and their followers. As I said, I think this issue will continue for a long time. In a world where secularism, atheism, and both fanatical and very extreme sentiments are growing constantly. I Believe that it will be difficult to fuse them together. Especially, when secularism wants to separate itself from the religious world and wants religion to be separated from the political sphere.

It is very well known that historical Christian and Muslim leaders have wanted a religious and a political authority over the masses, and this is not something hidden. The only difference is that some Christian institutions have chosen to compromise their values in order to blend in, while the Islamic institutions have chosen not to compromise their Islamic values, and there lies the line between the Western secularization and Islam. Throughout this process, I also believe that atheism will grow in large social circles, in both the secular and non-secular world, due to the progress of science and its impacts, which are replacing the spiritual needs in a worldly and secular society.

The pluralistic and religious diversity that exists in today’s late modern society, will make it very difficult to answer the question of my dissertation from a one-sided perspective. The answers to the title of my dissertation are ambiguous, and the debates are long, I cannot present an yes and no answer to the title of my dissertation, but what I have achieved with my dissertation, is that I have studied the issue from different angles and observed the different views and structures, that have given me a great general vision of the whole issue, which has made it easier for me to see religion, secularism and human rights from a completely different perspective and dimension, which has led me to discuss the issue from a pluralistic perspective, and that in itself was my goal with my entire dissertation : to discuss the issue from a pluralistic angle.

| Amir Zabidi


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