Craig Calhoun says religion was central to how our society came to be.
Some people leave religion out of the account of modernity, as though religion was all about traditional pre-modern life and modernity was all new. But of course modernity is shaped by things like, in the West, the Protestant Reformation, and the way that shaped a new idea of individuals. It’s shaped by religious thinking about something like the place of happiness in this world. That wasn’t something that was anti-religious – it was religious people thinking about the way in which devotions, the way in which prayers, the way in which religious communities worked in this world that brought about some of this change that we think of as a modern society shaped by a notion of individual self, shaped by a notion of happiness as a goal. And so religion never really was absent from the story of modernity. It was always central to it.