God is back, and with a vengeance. Sociologists of religion were surprised by his return. Secularization was the code word. Religion was losing its relevance, slowly but surely, they said. The impact of faith and faith organizations on society was in steady decline. The ‘godfather’ of sociology, Max Weber, had seen it correctly: rationalization had led to a ‘disenchantment of the world’ and thus initiated the process of secularization. Nothing to be done about it. Or to pay tribute to the most famous sociologist of religion of the second half of the last century, Peter Berger: The sacred canopy that had sheltered us from external threats for centuries is broken, gone. Now, we must survive under the open sky, on our own, whether we like it or not. In 1968, Berger had predicted that by the year 2000 religion would be completely marginalized in society. Only in the form of small sectarian groups, which would come together to protect themselves against the evil effects of secularization, it would survive (NY Times, Sunday, February 25, 1968, ‘A Bleak Outlook is Seen for Religion’). 
Well, scientists can be wrong. Berger freely admitted it, long before the year 2000.1

Such an analysis was not only common among scholars looking at things from the outside (sociologists) but also within the church. There, too, ‘secularization’ was the main theme.

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  1. Quote: “If I look back on my earlier work, I would say that I was wrong about secularization, but right about pluralism. I misunderstood the relation between the two: the latter does not necessarily lead to the former (vide the American case). What pluralism does (and there I was right) is to undermine all taken-for-granted certainties, in religion as in all other spheres of life. But it is possible to hold beliefs and to live by them even if they no longer hold the status of taken-for-granted verities. In other words, I would now say that pluralism affects the how of religious belief, but not necessarily the what.” (“Postscript” in Linda Woodhead, ed. Peter Berger and the Study of Religion (2001), p. 195)

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