Abstract: Research by the Dutch Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP) has pointed out that the increased popularity of New Age since the mid-1960s by no means compensates for the decline of the Christian churches. From a theoretical point of view, however, it seems more important to study why those remarkably divergent developments have occurred in the first place. This is done in this paper by analyzing 32 in-depth interviews with New Agers and, comparing the young and the elderly, survey data collected among the Dutch population at large in 1998 (N=1,848). It is concluded, first, that there are no indications that the decline of the Christian tradition has been caused by a process of rationalization. Second, the decline of the Christian tradition and the growth of non-religiosity as well as New Age are caused by increased levels of moral individualism („individualization‟). Implications for the sociological analysis of cultural and religious change are discussed. If we have to make one element of modernization central to understanding the nature of modern religion, it would be that which explains the rise of the sect, the tolerance at the heart of the denomination, and the amorphous nature of the cult: individualism.

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hdl.handle.net/1765/22667
Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS)
Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift
Department of Sociology

Houtman, D, Mascini, P, & Gels, M. (2000). Waarom lopen de kerken leeg, maar groeit New Age?. Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift, 27(4), 1–38. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/22667