Economics and religion: Globalization as the cause of secularization as viewed by Adam Smith

James E. Alvey (Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Publication date: 1 March 2005



In the Western world the voices calling for a secular society have grown ever louder over the last three centuries. This paper seeks to return to one of the founders of modernity for guidance. Adam Smith advocated globalization on economic and moral grounds.Design/methodology/approach – A discussion focusing on those calling for a secular society and, in addition to these normative advocates, various social scientists have propounded the “secularization thesis”; after analysing history from a purportedly positive view, they have argued that “modernization” leads to a secular society. Recently globalization has been seen as another cause of secularization. At the same time, the revival of various religions has cast doubt on these claims.Findings – Smith did not see secularization as an inevitable consequence of globalization. Further, despite his awareness of the arguments of the advocates of secular society (and contrary to some commentators like Minowitz), he rejected their advice. For him, a secular community was neither a necessary nor a desirable consequence of globalization.Originality/value – Provides a viewpoint on some of Adam Smith's thoughts and ideas.



Alvey, J.E. (2005), "Economics and religion: Globalization as the cause of secularization as viewed by Adam Smith", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 249-267.

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