By The Hedgehog Review, Spring & Summer 2006 Volume Eight Numbers One & Two

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As I show below, it can be explained by fundamental features of the latter sort of society. 1 All I can do here is offer a few illustrative facts, elaborate one part of the explanation, examine in some detail one alternative to the secularization paradigm, and request that the reader make the charitable assumption that I will have dealt with the obvious criticisms in other places. 1 See my books Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996); Choice and Religion: A Critique of Rational Choice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); and God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

If the first wave provided labor for expanding industrial economies, the second filled a rather different gap. As the twentieth century drew to a close, Europeans were becoming increasingly aware that there were insufficient numbers to employ in Europe to support the rising proportion of dependent people—notably the growing number of retired. The pull factor in this case is the shifting demographic profile in Europe. A second point follows from this: all is well, or relatively well, as long as there is sufficient work for everyone in an economy able to maintain the services necessary for incoming populations.

Such attitudes have historical roots. France, for example, is the European society where the Enlightenment has been most obviously configured as a freedom from belief, an attitude which finds expression in the democratic, though not always very tolerant, institutions already described. In the United States, the Enlightenment becomes something very different: a freedom to believe. A developed treatment of this theme would reveal, however, that other European societies (much of Northern Europe, Germany, and Italy) fall somewhere between the two.

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