This proposal is for a public conference that would present a new paradigm for the relation of modernity and religion. It is the result of several years of work by Peter Berger and colleagues. Its presupposition is the massive empirical falsification of secularization theory – the idea that modernity necessarily leads to a decline of religion. Instead, it proposes that modernity necessarily leads to pluralism – the coexistence in the same society of several religious communities and a secular discourse that does not edge out religion but relates to it in complicated ways. Pluralism has enormous effects on individual faith, on religious institutions, and on the political order. The paradigm intends to develop concepts that will help to describe and causally explain this historically new situation on all three of the aforementioned levels.
The authors of this proposal do not suffer from delusions of grandeur. They do not presume to present the new paradigm in total, rather to draw the outline of its major ingredients. However, in all modesty, this is a very important step forward in the understanding of religion in the contemporary world. It is hoped that the conference will be widely publicized and will influence thinking about religion among scholars, in the media, in churches and by individual believers. Much thinking in all these groups are still dominated by the erroneous assumption of secularization. This will not change overnight. Over time, as always happens, a new paradigm infiltrates the way people think. In a nutshell: The old paradigm posited a choice of modernity or religion; for most believers today the reality is modernity and religion. The purpose of the paradigm is to be able to analyze the nature of this "and".