This article places Northern Ireland within the unfolding sociological debate on religion in modern Britain. It measures secularization along Casanova’s three dimensions (1994): religious differentiation, decline and privatization. It finds that Northern Ireland has, in common with Britain, high levels of religious differentiation, grey areas of religious belief and little convinced secularism. However, Northern Ireland differs in that it has higher levels of religious affiliation and practice, and religion plays more roles in civil society than it does in other parts of Britain. The article explores the role of conflict in forming these religious trends, asking if they represent a persistence of the sacred, or simply mask deeper ethnic divisions. It concludes that the social dimensions of religion are just as important as the supernatural, and that they often inform each other. Finally, it suggests that the dynamics of religious change are comparable across regions and, as such, Northern Ireland might be a useful case study for British policy makers, particularly as it becomes increasingly multicultural and religiously plural.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science