This observation, however, runs counter to the belief that was a cultural shift in all Western societies which started in the period of the Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, which introduced a whole new set of scientific tools. Max Weber, Émile Durkheim and other early proponents of the new discipline of sociology described evidence of a shift away from religion and towards rationalisation. The term “secularization” is used to describe this change, and the “secularization thesis” is a belief that religion will slowly fade in the face of new scientific, and by implication better, ways of seeing the world. This paper shows, however, that there is evidence in the recent history and sociology of Ireland to prove that the secularization thesis does not hold, since contemporary Ireland fully reflects modern cultural trends and yet it is by no means an increasingly secular country.
In the Middle Ages, a Christian world view dominated the whole of Europe, with close links being maintained between Church and State, and other religions such as Judaism and Islam being classed as outsiders. Secular monarchs reigned in the firm belief that they had a divine right to rule, and they often used their powers to enhance the dominance of the Christian Church, leading to the Crusades and the demonization of other faiths and other nation states. The reformation polarised Catholic and Protestant branches of Christianity so that in Europe, at least, religion became associated with conflict between factions within Europe. Ireland played a decisive role in the early stages of the Christian colonisation of Europe, and Ireland’s continual loyalty to Rome in the face of British rebellion is a reflection of political differences as much as it is a religious position. The relationship between Church and State remains close in
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