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Around four centuries ago, Western society was deeply religious. The religious class had great influence in society, they were considered not only the guardians of the spiritual life of people and responsible for their afterlife, but also had great political powers which they used to enforce public morality and conformity to standard doctrines and rituals.

Gradually, over four centuries, the role of religion in the society has shrunk to unprecedented levels and is continually shrinking. It is not only that religion no longer has any place in forming the policies of western states but personal belief in the existence of a higher power and in a system of morals mandated by a higher power has also dropped considerably.

In a recent survey it was revealed that among the 18-29 year olds of the United States, a country considered to have one of the most religious populations in the Western Hemisphere, only 53% are certain that God exists (PewResearchCenter). In this paper we shall attempt to enumerate and examine some of the more compelling factors which lead to this incredible change in Western societies.

Religious Autocracy

Christianity first became associated with political authority with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine I (306 to 337 C.E.). Gradually a central Christian bureaucracy grew in the form of the Roman Catholic Church, which by the end of the twelfth century had complete religious control over all of Western Europe (Wylie).

The Roman Catholic Church, headed by the Pope had enormous influence over the political affairs of Western States. Western rulers were beholden to the Pope to grant them legitimacy. The Catholic Church was able to call upon European heads of state to use the coercive power of the state to crush competing ideologies by the use of force whether these completing ideologies lay outside Christianity, as in the case of the Crusades, or within Christianity such as the persecution of Cathars in the Albigensian Crusade (Roach).

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