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Morality and Religion: a Weakened Relationship?1

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According to the secularization theory, Western societies have witnessed a gradual but steady decline in religiosity and its impact on society, both in the public and the private realms. It is assumed that previously religion and morality were closely connected. The processes of individualization and secularization have induced a weakening of these strong ties. Since individualization and secularization did not proceed uniformly in all Western countries, partly caused by differences in social, economic and political histories and circumstances, imposing different constraints, the receipt of individualization and secularization met with different obstacles. Therefore (large) cross-national differences in the degree of religious involvement and religion's impact on other social values are to be expected. Using the survey data from the European Values Studies, fielded in 1981 and 1990, hypotheses on increasing internal and external value differentiation or value fragmentation are investigated. Internal value differentiation refers to the degree of heterogeneity within a given value dimension; external value differentiation refers to the relationships between different value dimensions. In other words, the article asks what is true of the idea that religion and morality concerning sexual issues and ethical behaviours have become differentiated, fragmented value domains? Cross-national differences between Catholic, Protestant and religiously mixed countries are further explored in the article.

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