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Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics) Paperback – September 27, 2004

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521548724 ISBN-10: 0521548721

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Editorial Reviews


"This book is an impressive, well-documented, systematic examination of empirical evidence from many countries and cultures. It does not claim to resolve the secularization debate, but moves it to a new, more informed, and enlightening level..."
R.L. Herrick, emeritus, Westmar University

"This is a landmark book that deserves to be read widely and closely. It is rigorously grounded, carefully researched, and cogently argued ... A rare coup de grace in the form of a sharp and elegant empirical thrust to the heart of a protracted debate... Overall, this is a landmark book that deserves to be read widely and closely. It is rigorously grounded, carefully researched, and cogently argued... While not a holy text, it merits the kind of exegesis that many such texts receive."
N. J. Demerath, American Journal of Sociology

"Sacred and Secular is a very well-structured book, enriched by valuable survey data. It engages in important debates on development and secularization with its methodological elegancy and theoretical parsimony. It is a significant source to understand the classical social scientific approach to religion and a necessary basis to locate conflicting arguments on the field."
Ahmet T. Kuru, University of Washington, Comparative Political Studies

"Norris & Inglehart's book is a pleasure to read and an inspiration for scholars for its effort to generate solid knowledge on a much-debated question. Along the way, the reader will find much fascinating material..."
Sven Gunnar Simonsen, Journal of Peace Research

Sacred and Secular is a fine reference book for statistics on trends in religious observance throughout the world." Journal of Church and State Wendy Dackson

"The book is a major contribution to the life of the idea of secularization and the larger issues about the nature and meaning of modernity bound up with that idea. It merits close study."
Daniel Silver, University of Chicago

"The book's evidence and arguments-which are likely attracting the attention of a broad reading public beyond academia-certainly merit more critical discussion and focused evaluation by religion scholars, as they bear importantly on many larger concerns in the scientific study of religion and have many potential important policy implications."
Christian Smith, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

Book Description

Sacred and Secular demonstrates that: (1) The publics of virtually all advanced industrial societies have been moving toward more secular orientations during the past fifty years; but (2) The world as a whole now has more people with traditional religious views than ever before-- and they constitute a growing proportion of the world's population. Though these two propositions may seem contradictory, they are not. The fact that the first proposition is true, helps account for the second because secularization has a surprisingly powerful negative impact on human fertility rates.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics
  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521548721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521548724
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,545,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PIPPA NORRIS is a comparative political scientist who has taught at Harvard for two decades. She is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.

Recent honors include award of the 2011 Johan Skytte prize in political science, with Ronald Inglehart, the 2011 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship, a 'special recognition' award by the UK Political Science Association, and a Doctor honoris causa by the University of Edinburgh.

Her research compares public opinion and elections, democratic institutions and cultures, gender politics, and political communications in many countries worldwide. She is currently engaged in a major new project, .

A well-known public speaker and prolific author, she has published almost forty books. This includes a series for Cambridge University Press: A Virtuous Circle: Political Communications in Postindustrial Societies (2000, winner of the 2006 Doris A. Graber award for the best book in political communications), Digital Divide: Civic Engagement, Information Poverty and the Internet Worldwide (2001), Democratic Phoenix: Political Activism Worldwide (2002) and Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change Around the Globe (with Ronald Inglehart, 2003), Electoral Engineering: Voting Rules and Political Behavior (2004), Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (with Ronald Inglehart, 2004, winner of the Virginia Hodgkinson prize from the Independent Sector), Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market (2005), Driving Democracy: Do power-sharing institutions work? (2008) and Cosmopolitan Communications: Cultural Diversity in a Globalizing World (2009, with Ronald Inglehart), Democratic Deficit: Critical Citizens Revisited (2011), and Making Democratic Governance Work: The Impact of Regimes on Prosperity, Welfare and Peace (Cambridge University Press 2012). Her latest book under development is Why Electoral Integrity Matters.

Other authored or coauthored books include On Message (1999), Electoral Change Since 1945 (1997), Political Recruitment (1995), British By-elections (1990), Politics and Sexual Equality (1986). Edited books include Britain Votes 2005 (co-edited with Christopher Wlezien, 2005), Framing Terrorism (2003), Britain Votes 2001 (2001), Critical Citizens (1999), Critical Elections (1999), The Politics of News (1998, 2nd edition 2007), Elections and Voting Behaviour (1998), Britain Votes 1997 (1997), Women, Media and Politics (1997), Politics and the Press (1997), Passages to Power (1997), Comparing Democracies (1996, 2nd ed. 2002, 3rd edition 2009), Women in Politics (1996), Different Voices, Different Lives (1994), Gender and Party Politics (1993), British Elections & Parties Yearbook (1991, 1992, 1993). Recently edited reports include Making Democracy Deliver: Governance for Human Development (for UNDP) and Public Sentinel: News Media and the Governance Agenda (World Bank 2010).

She served in 2006-7 as the Director of the Democratic Governance Group at the United Nations Development Program in New York. She has served as an expert consultant for many international bodies including the UN, UNESCO, NDI, the Council of Europe, International IDEA, the OSCE, the World Bank, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the UK Electoral Commission. Her work has been published in more than a dozen languages. Journals articles include those in the British Journal for Political Science, Political Studies, Political Communication, the European Journal of Political Research, the International Political Science Review, Electoral Studies and Legislative Studies, and she co-founded The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics. She has served on executive bodies for the American Political Science Association (APSA), the International Political Science Association (IPSA), the Political Science Association of the UK (PSA), and the British Politics Group of APSA. She was President of the Political Communications section of APSA and of the Women and Politics Research Group of APSA, and Co-Founding Chair of the Elections, Parties, and Public Opinion Group (EPOP) of the PSA and the Elections, Citizens and Parties group of IPSA. She has held visiting appointments at Columbia University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of East Anglia, the University of Oslo, the University of Cape Town, Otago University, Sydney University, and the Australian National University. Prior to joining Harvard in 1992, she taught at Edinburgh University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Philosophy from Warwick University, and Masters and Doctoral degrees in Politics from the London School of Economics (LSE).

At Harvard she has taught DPI 403: Democratic Governance, DPI 413 Challenges of Democratization, DPI 415 Comparative Politics in Global Perspective, and Gov1109 Comparative Institutional Design in Harvard's Government Department. Full details and publications can be found at: and she can be contacted at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Christian Smith on June 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book presents a significant re-statement of secularization theory, framing religion as declining with the advance of "existential security" through modernization and human development. Along the way, the argument interestingly contradicts with strong empirical findings Stark and Finke's "religious economies theory," in a way that will demand a response from them. The book's strengths (and perhaps weakness, in some ways) are its cross-national perspective and survey data, which are all too rare in sociology of religion (although some are skeptical of the reliablity of the World Values Survey) and its attempt to seriously empirically test hypotheses deduced from significant theories. This is an important book in many ways, but note that is also compromised by a number of apparent flaws: 1. It uses mostly cross-sectional data to make claims about historical changes. 2. It perhaps wrongly assumes cohort rather than age effects in its generational analyses. 3. It does not actually even directly measure its key variable of existential security, but relies instead on indirect measures and inferences. 4. It does not well develop theoretically the social psychological and cognitive mechanisms that would lead increased existential security to secularize, leaving the reader to imagine the connections that would make that happen. 5. The major types of societies analyzed are also strongly correlated with different kinds of religions (post-industrial are heavily Protestant, agrarian heavily non-Christian), which the analysis does not always control for well. 6. It focuses on the "mass publics" of various nations, relying on calculated national means, with little attention to potentially important diversity and complexity within cases that matter for the overall argument. 7.Read more ›
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Creel on February 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is possibly the best religion and comparative politics book out there. It ties into Inglehart's "Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy" book very well. Read both back to back if you can. (Read this second if you do)
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39 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Dolamite on October 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
The single strongest argument to be found in this book -- shown through extensive data anayis, rich evidence, and clear thinking -- is that societies where people have enough to eat, housing, healthcare, good education, and jobs are societies marked by LOW religiosity: few go to church and few believe in God or that the Bible is divine. Conversely, societies whyere life is precarious, marked by poverty, corruption, sickness, low education and unemployment, are societies marked by high degrees of religiosity. Makes perfect sense. And this book spells it all out, with lots of reliable data.

The funny things as that all the social scientists of Europe from the 1800s who predicted the detah of religion WERE RIGHT -- for their own societies. Their predictions obviously didn't hold for the rest of the world, but heck, no prediction is perfect. Religion in most of Europe is dying -- as was predicted. See the work of Steve Bruce for even more solid contemporary evidence. or Grace Davie.

Greeley, Stark, and Finke are simply wrong. This book proves much of their theories wrong. Shame on Greeley for calling secularization theory "dogma" without data. Shame on Stark for mocking sound sociological evidence.

Rife with clear data and clear theoretical articulation, this is a solid look at religion the world over. Religious faith is indeed flourishing throughout much of the world, but that is only because poverty is also flourishing throughout much of the world. And why is religion so strong in the US? Hm...let;'s see...could it maybe be that we have the highest percentage of people below poverty of any advanced industrial democracy, and we have the greatest gap between rich and poor, and no national health coverage? Well heck, at least Bush is big on prayer....
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