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Belief and Unbelief: Two sides of a Coin

  • Grace Davie (a1)

It is widely recognised that the process of secularisation takes place differently in different parts of the world. Less often appreciated is the wide variety of ‘secularities’ (and indeed of ‘secularisms’) that emerge as a result. This article will look at this question systematically, and will try to identify at least some of the factors that must be taken into account if we are to understand unbelief as well as belief. In so doing it builds on the author's earlier work relating to patterns of religion in modern Europe.1

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2 It is important to note that the legal and financial position of the Church of Norway is currently under review.

3 This section of the population is known as the ‘nones’, in the sense that they do not belong to any church. A significant number of them, however, continue to believe in God. See Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, ‘US religious landscape survey’, 2007, <>, accessed 29 April 2013, see also ‘“Nones on the rise’, 2012, <>, accessed 5 July 2013.

4 Davie, G, ‘Religion in Europe in the 21st century: the factors to take into account’, (2006) 47 European Journal of Sociology 271–96.

5 In the 1960s, for example, the future seemed bright for various forms of liberal protestantism; some forty to fifty years later, there are two rather different success stories: charismatic evangelical churches both inside and outside the mainstream and – less intuitively – cathedrals or city-centre churches (see Davie, ‘Religion in Europe’).

6 Wilson, B, Religion in Secular Society: a sociological comment (Harmondsworth, 1969).

7 Davie, G, Religion in Britain since 1945: believing without belonging (Oxford, 1994).

8 Kaplan, L, Fundamentalism in Comparative Perspective (Amherst, MA, 1992), p 5.

9 Davie, G, The Sociology of Religion (London, 2007), pp 195–9.

10 Marty, M and Appleby, S (eds), Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago, IL, 1994), and further books in the series.

11 See Davie, G, Europe: the exceptional case. Parameters of faith in the modern world (London, 2002).

12 Berger, P (ed), The Desecularization of the World: resurgent religion and world politics (Grand Rapids MI, 1999), p 2.

1 This article is the text of Professor Davie's paper given to the residential conference of the Ecclesiastical Law Society in Birmingham on 20 April 2013. It was previously published in Approaching Religion, vol 2, no 1 (2012), published by the Donner Institute, and is reproduced here with the permission of the editor.

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Ecclesiastical Law Journal
  • ISSN: 0956-618X
  • EISSN: 1751-8539
  • URL: /core/journals/ecclesiastical-law-journal
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