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From Religious to Consumption-Related Routine Activities? Analyzing Ireland's Economic Boom and the Decline in Church Attendance

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Using Ireland, which experienced an economic boom in the mid 1990s, as a case study, the negative association between economic growth and religious practice is examined by testing two competing hypotheses. Secularization theory argues that the cultural changes that accompany economic growth lead to a decline in religious values. As religious values diminish, so does attendance at religious services. An alternative explanation is that economic growth increases individual purchasing power and therefore consumption-related behavior. Consumption supplants religion by providing alternative intermediaries (symbols, infrastructures, and practices) for social behavior, but only marginally affects religious values. Using data from the 1988 to 2005 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), analyses show that the economic boom in Ireland was clearly associated with a decline in religious attendance, while religious values remained stable. Thus, in Ireland the consequences of economic growth deviate from the predictions of secularization theory and therefore support the consumption argument.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of SociologyFernUniversit├Ąt in Hagen

Publication date: December 1, 2010


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