Religion in New Zealand since the 1960s: Some sociological perspectives

Date Published: 2016
Ward, Kevin

Religion has been a largely neglected sub-discipline for sociology in New Zealand, particularly over the past twenty five years. Part of the reason for this has been the obvious decline of both churchgoing and Christian identity, both here and in other western societies, and the assumption based on the dominant explanation found in secularisation theory. This argued that decline in religion was inevitable in modern societies and would continue as it became increasingly irrelevant to the vast majority of people. Much recent sociology of religion has challenged this and argues that secularisation and modernisation lead to religious change, pluralisation and diversification, rather than decline. This article outlines the changing landscape of religion in New Zealand and finds this to be also true here. There has been significant decline in some forms of religion but overall there has been considerable religious resilience and emergence of other and newer forms. Many of these changes have been similar to those in other areas of human activity and association as they also have been influenced by and adapted to the significant social and cultural changes that this period has witnessed. Not only have these changes impacted the religions that still dominated the religious landscape in 1960, but are also changing the many new religions that have arrived with globalisation and the new migration. It concludes by predicting that these and other transformation will continue to occur over the next fifty years.

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