Cultural zones and existential security
Nicholson, George Bryan
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Classical secularization theory holds that societies become less religious as they modernize. Responding to empirical and theoretical critiques of the theory, Norris and Inglehart (2004) promote a modified version based on the degree of existential security experienced by a population. While their empirical analysis, using measures of human development and income inequality, supports their claims, broader analysis that addresses cultural histories, which the authors consider important, and regional variations is needed. This thesis uses an extensive cross-national dataset of religious affiliation to evaluate existential security theory cartographically and statistically, explicitly incorporating regional cultural heritage. The analysis also accounts for a nation-state’s historical or contemporary association with Communism, a factor often overlooked in the literature. The study finds some empirical support for the importance of existential security in non-Communist countries, but significant outliers exist, and consideration of a country’s cultural context, especially Communism, helps to further explain secularization and geographic variability.