'The process thereby religious thinking, practices and institutions lose social significance.'
The major distinction is between inclusive and exclusive definitions of religion. Exclusive definitions, such as that of Berger, concentrate on belief in the supernatural/god, and some see a decline in these beliefs as evidence of secularisation. Berger's approach encompasses most systems of belief, which provide possible answers to questions of ultimate meaning. But he makes a distinction between religious and non-religious belief systems.
However, Berger adds another twist to the secularisation debate, because although by his reckoning, secularisation is occurring it has not led to a decline in religion. Instead, he argues that secularisation has led to a decline in the credibility of Christianity in producing a comprehensive universe of meaning, but the increasing number of sects and movements attest to the fact that religious belief still thrives.
Berger then argues that secularisation has led to religious belief being expressed in a different form, not that secularisation leads to religious decline.
Inclusive definitions are far wider than exclusive definitions. They would include political beliefs such as fascism or communism as religions, since this approach defines religion in terms of its societal function, the integration of society. Religion in this approach is the institution that achieves social solidarity. In The Invisible Religion 1967, Luckmann argues that Marxism is a religion in that any human attempt to comprehend our place in the cosmos is by its religious nature. By this standard, until the late 1980s, millions of people throughout the world could be viewed as living in states build upon the religious doctrine of Marxism.
Lyon (1985) argues that the secularisation thesis rests on the notion of the incompatibility of rational or 'scientific' thinking and religious belief. However, recent changes in science, especially in quantum...