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The Secularization of Confessional Protests: The Role of Religious Processes of Rationalization and Differentiation

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In the 1830s, a series of single-issue protests mobilized hundreds of thousands of Americans across the nation. In these protests against social problems like slavery and drinking, men and women gathered together to bear witness against what they viewed as sins, and to demand that their fellow Americans join them in confession. These confessional protests launched and linked a national wave of social movements. The origins of these movements were religious and evangelical. However, for many activists, the outcome of these protests led to a repudiation of this religious source. The development of these confessional protests reveals keys to the processes of secularization. Drawing on the letters and diaries of six white leading anti-slavery activists, we demonstrate how religious processes of rationalization and differentiation led to secularization. We present this development as a reminder to social theorists that processes immanent to religion have been fateful forces driving secularization.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2005.00293.x

Affiliations: 1: Michael P. Young is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, TX 78712., Email: myoung@mail.la.utexas.edu 2: Stephen M. Cherry is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, TX 78712., Email: scherry@flash.net

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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