TROPICAL GEOGRAPHY ›› 2015, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (4): 498-506.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.002718

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Research Progress and Directions of Religious Secularization and Its Theories in Geography of the West

NAN Ying1,ZHU Hong2   

  1. (1.School of Geography,University of Leeds,Leeds LS2 9JT,UK;2.School of Geography,South China Normal University,Guangzhou 510631,China)
  • Online:2015-07-03 Published:2015-07-03


Modern religions have increasingly developed various bonds with the secular society. However, different kinds of secular phenomena and the related theories have not been given enough attention by religious geographers in and out of China. Sometimes geographers even have big misunderstandings or one-sided interpretation. This paper reviews the huge body of western literature on secularization theories, pointing out that the modernity-religion relationships cannot be simply understood as the latter passively accept modernity’s damage or depression. In fact the two probably could be mutually enhanced and actively negotiated. This paper argues that avoiding mixed usage of Chinese and western “secularization” concept is important for avoiding wrong interpretations. Secularization theories are beneficial for geographic research by proving a powerful framework for analyzing and explaining modern religions. However, this framework has not been fully used for explaining the diversity and complexity, because the existing research is: 1) place-biased, 2) culture-biased, 3) mainly based on quantitative analysis and large-scale and lacking in-depth qualitative analysis, and 4) lacking empirical research and systemic investigation into the reasons and processes of religious change in specific geographic environments (especially the non West). Therefore, in future more research attention to religious change should be put to non-western society and its religions, using qualitative research methods to analyze processes and mechanisms of meso-scale and micro-scale religious changes. This is where geographers could use its advantages.

Key words: religious secularization, religious change, modernity, geographies of religion