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Why Do Churches Become Empty, While New Age Grows? Secularization and Religious Change in the Netherlands

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Research from the Netherlands has pointed out that the increased popularity of New Age since the 1960s by no means compensates for the dramatic decline of the Christian churches. From a theoretical point of view, however, it is more important to study why those remarkably divergent developments have occurred in the first place. This article does this by analyzing survey data collected among the Dutch population at large in 1998, focusing on a comparison of the young and the elderly. It is concluded, first, that there are no indications that the decline of the Christian tradition has been caused by a process of rationalization. Second, the decline of the Christian tradition and the growth of nonreligiosity as well as New Age are caused by increased levels of moral individualism (individualization). Implications for the sociological analysis of cultural and religious change are discussed.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands 2: Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Publication date: September 1, 2002


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